Too much of anything can be harmful, especially when it comes to eating junk food. A can of soda contains 39 to 41 grams of sugar. That means whenever you drink a 12-ounce can of soda, it is as good as ingesting 7 to 10 tablespoons of sugar. People resort to junk food as a quick fix for hunger and thirst. However, in the long run, eating too much junk food can cause your health to deteriorate.
What is junk food?
“Junk food,” also called discretionary choices, are food and drinks that do not contain nutrients the body needs. Instead, junk food are high in calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated or trans fats.
What foods are considered junk food?
Foods that are considered junk food includes:
- Sugary drink like soda, juices, energy drink
- Processed meat such as hotdogs, bacon, ham
- Sweet desserts or treats like candies, gum, chocolates, cakes
- Fast food meals such as french fries, fried chicken, hamburger, pizza, tacos
- Instant noodles
- Ice cream
- Other processed foods with an unhealthy amount of sugar, salt, and bad fat.
The Health Effects of Excessive Consumption
Consuming too much junk food prevents the body from absorbing the essential nutrients that help it function well. Eating too much junk food can cause health problems that might lead to some serious diseases in the future. Some of the negative effects of junk food include:
One of the key factors on why obesity is still a global health problem is because of overindulgence to junk food. High levels of sugar, saturated fat, sodium, calories, and less to zero amount of nutrients (minerals and vitamins) in too much junk food can cause promote excessive weight gain. Obesity can lead to more serious diseases such as type- 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
Poor control of appetite and digestion problems
According to research, consuming an excessive amount of junk food can affect the brain, specifically the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating the appetite. Excessive sugar from junk food messes up the suppression of your appetite, causing an increase in the desire to eat more even though you’re full.
Binge-eating junk food can also cause digestion problems, as these food do not contain fiber which helps with digestion. If food is not digested well, then it might lead to constipation and other digestive problems.
Memory loss and learning problems
Poor diet, especially when consuming high-fat, high-sugar food can cause inflammation in the hippocampus which is a part of the brain responsible for memory, learning, emotion, and motivation. Damage to the hippocampus can trigger learning problems and impaired memory. If not given attention immediately, this might increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Risk of depression
A paper from Manchester Metropolitan’s Centre for Bioscience found that consumption of food which is high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and carbohydrate increases your risk of depression by 40%, as these foods cause inflammation in the brain.
Negative effects on growth and development
Junk food lacks all the essential nutrients the body needs to function and develop. When diet is comprised of discretionary choices, this might hinder growth and development. Children are at most risk of this negative effect as their bodies and organs are still growing and developing.
In the Philippines, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one out of three Filipino children under the age of five is stunted or have not grown based on their age. The other 7% percent are too thin for their height, and a tenth of Filipino adolescents are overweight. These are due to nutrient deficiency and other factors.
Healthier alternatives to junk food
Being aware of how eating too much junk food can cause health problems will urge you to gear towards healthier food choices or alternatives. Some of the healthier alternatives you can much on instead of junk food are as follow:
- Baked or air fried veggies instead of french fries. Bake or air fry carrots or sweet potatoes, and other healthier veggies when you are craving for french fries. You can get a better variety of nutrients from these veggies rather than frying a potato.
- Try sparkling water or other healthier drink in place of sweet carbonated drinks. Cold carbonated soda quenches your thirst, especially on a hot day. However, the sugar content of these drinks isn’t the healthiest. That is why, it is best to grab some sparkling water, infused with some fresh fruits, instead of gulping a can of soda. On the other, you can also have some freshly squeezed fruit juice or make a smoothie, if you are looking for something sweet.
- If you want a pizza, try making one at home. When you make your pizza at home, you can control whatever ingredients you want to put in. Instead of just having a slice of cheese pizza, you can make a healthier alternative at home. One sample recipe is using fresh tomato sauce, basil, baby tomatoes, a little bit of cheese, and a dash of olive oil. If you are concerned about the dough, you can purchase a ready-made one at the grocery.
- Use other lean meats or mushrooms when making a hamburger. As a substitute for buying a double cheeseburger, which is rich in saturated fat and cholesterol, build your burger at home using lean proteins such as chicken or turkey. You can also take it up a notch by using mushrooms as your patty, they sure taste like meat, but nutritious.
- Munch on some healthier chips or nuts rather than your regular potato chips. There are a lot of potato chip alternatives in the market. You can find kale chips, malunggay (moringa) chips, banana chips, and a lot more. Nuts are also a great substitute for potato chips if you’re just looking for something to snack on.
- Go for fresh fruits rather than sweet treats. If you have a sweet tooth, your day won’t be complete without sweet treats. Rather than eating candies, cakes, and other sugary sweets, start getting used to having fresh fruits, which are rich in nutritional benefits, to satisfy your cravings.
There are a lot of healthier food choices you can choose from, instead of just settling for something that will eventually give you a heart attack. All you need to do is research or experiment at home, so you can find your new favorites and completely eradicate junk food from your diet.
Eating junk food gives us pleasure, especially when times get rough, all you need to have is a cheeseburger. However, you cannot immediately feel the effects of the food you just ate, so you keep on eating it. When you do so, your body will slowly suffer from the consequences of your poor diet.
To prevent this from happening, always prioritize healthy food choices when you go shop for food. As much as possible, try making your food at home to make sure that you only put the freshest and healthiest ingredients in your meal. Start small, and be adventurous with your food options as you go along.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.