The Effects of Fast Food on our Health

White Castle was the first fast food establishment to open its doors in back in 1921 in Wichita Kansas. This fast food restaurant served only 100 percent beef hamburgers to their customers. Today even burgers that are labelled “all beef” may also contain fillers, chemicals and binders which add flavour and texture [1].

In 2013 fast food chains generated approximately 191 billion U.S dollars. By 2018 this figure has been forecast to exceed $210 billion!  Americans seem to have a love affair with fast food. It’s fast, cheap and tasty!

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While fast foods may be fast, cheap and tasty there is a trade off for eating them regularly as these foods are high in empty calories, sodium, refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats all of which are hazardous to our health.  The higher incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers we now see is likely to be somewhat associated with the boom in the fast food industry. Simply put, fast food is not good for you.

Dangers of High Sodium

Our bodies require an intake of approximately 1500 mg of sodium per day for optimal function. This amount is less  than that found in one teaspoon of salt!   One Big Mac contains 970 mg of sodium, more than half of our daily needs.  Consuming high amounts of sodium can lead to hypertension and stroke.

High in Calories

Unless your fast food meal consists of a plain hamburger and a small order of fries with water you can end up consuming all the calories your body needs for the day or more in just a single meal! Some of us spend one hour at the gym and are sedentary the rest of the day. We are better off when we can add some additional activity such as taking a walk after lunch or dinner.

Currently two-thirds of the population is overweight and one-third of that figure is obese according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

fast food is not good_2

High levels of Saturated and Trans Fats Can be Deadly

Fast foods are also high in saturated and trans fat. Consuming large quantities of these fats is known to raise cholesterol levels, cause plaque to build up in the arteries leading to a blockage in blood flow therefore increasing our risk of heart attacks and strokes [2]

Refined carbohydrates and its effects

One of the culprits for weight gain is overconsumption of refined carbohydrates which are abundantly found in hamburger buns, fries and sodas found in fast food outlets.  Eating a lot of these foods causes spikes in blood sugar and can lead to insulin resistance especially in people who are overweight.    Insulin resistance often leads to Type 2 diabetes. This population should limit or avoid refined carbohydrates as much as possible as we all should.

Empty Calories

Fast foods are full of empty calories, lacking in essential nutrients.  Eating large amounts of these foods can lead to nutrient and vitamin deficiency which is of great concern for growing children.  Both children and adults can become malnourished even if they look healthy or are overweight. Consuming a lot of foods high in empty calorie  replaces healthier foods that would otherwise be eaten if fast foods were not so readily available.

Summary

The negative health effects associated with regular consumption of fast foods are an increased incidence of hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity.  Having knowledge of this information is a good reason to limit our intake of these foods.  Looking over the nutrient charts required by law to be located near the point of purchase can help us in selecting meals wisely or alarm us enough to discontinue eating fast foods altogether!

To read more from  Susanne Winchester visit her Expert Profile.

References:

1. healthyeating.sfgate.com

2. webmd.com

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