The term junk food is often thrown around to describe a wide range of foods–how wide that range may be depends on your definition of junk food. What is junk food? Typically energy dense food that is also low in nutrients.
What is junk food doing to our bodies?
In other words, foods that contain a lot of calories, saturated fat and sugar, with very little vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA MyPlate recommendations, it’s okay to consume empty calories to fulfill your daily energy requirements, but only once all other food group requirements have been consumed.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
However, that is usually not the case for many Americans. You may know that junk food is bad for you but you might be unaware of how bad it truly is. I hope to shed some light on 5 unexpected side effects that junk food has on your body and hopefully help you reconsider some of your snack choices.
1. A healthy snack or a lifetime of prozac
This may be a no-brainer, but what you eat has the ability to influence your mood. There is truth in the expression “you are what you eat.”
A number of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins have been linked to mood enhancement, and when you eat a wholesome diet that consists of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you’re keeping your body fueled and your blood sugar levels in check.
Some studies show that the proper ratio of carbohydrates and protein in a meal can even increase the availability of serotonin in your brain – the hormone responsible for mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning.
Junk food is devoid of these nutrients. One study from the University of London found that consuming more junk food leads to higher levels of depression, when all other environmental factors are considered.
If you lack a balance of vital nutrients, you can see that it not only drains your body but alters the chemicals in your brain. So the next time you’re thinking about stopping at your local fast food joint after work, remember that a wholesome dinner is a lot cheaper than therapy.
2. Acne aggravator
Time and time again I have seen pop culture magazines point their fingers at greasy foods as the lead culprit for facial acne. There are a number of environmental and biological factors that contribute to acne, but they’re right, diet does play a role.
However, maybe the grease isn’t the only one to blame. Glycemic load is the amount of food it takes for your blood sugars to spike. When a food doesn’t take much to make your blood sugars rise, then it’s considered a high glycemic food.
These foods are the ones that are really taking a toll on your skin. Junk food often falls into this category. High glycemic foods like white rice, white bread and potatoes increase the prevalence of a hormone called IGF-1 which stimulates the body to produce more cells.
In turn, it increases skin oil production. When high glycemic foods increase insulin in the blood, they’re creating a cascade effect. Insulin is a “master hormone” that activates other hormones in the process, like androgen for example.
Androgen evokes sebum production in your skin and could be causing those breakouts. These foods might not be the be-all, end-all of your skin problems, but it’s something to consider in the larger scheme of things.
3. Adding aches and preserving pain
One thing I feel the need to point out is that junk foods are more often than not processed foods. Processed foods are full of preservatives and additives that have adverse effects on the body.
In your fridge, you may find more than one kind of processed meat. Things like deli meat and hotdogs are highly processed foods and full of preservatives to extend their shelf life for prolonged periods of time.
One groups of preservatives are called nitrates. Nitrates affect the body by dilating–or expanding–your blood vessels. When blood vessels in the brain expand, it creates the changes that are found in the early stages of a migraine attack.
Another common food additive you may have heard of is MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is the flavor enhancer found in many processed foods that the FDA labels “generally safe” but remains controversial.
MSG is known to cause diarrhea, serious cramps and can even trigger migraines. It especially triggers these symptoms in people who are susceptible to migraine attacks.
When reading your food labels, be aware of sneaky code names companies will use to disguise MSG or you might find yourself having another aura.
4. Bad to the bone
As I mentioned before, junk foods are deprived of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to perform. One mineral you’ll almost never find in junk food is calcium.
Calcium is a major constituent of bones and teeth as well as a second-messenger for cell signaling pathways. The recommendation for calcium intake for adults is 1,000-1,200 mg/day.
However, many Americans are not reaching this ballpark. As it turns out, junk foods that are loaded with sugars, salts and saturated fat are actually depleting exogenous calcium stores in the body. So much so, that saturated fats have been found to have an inverse relationship with bone density in adults.
The way they act is by inhibiting calcium absorption in the gut and preventing your body from reaping the benefits of more nutritious foods. Calcium insufficiency over time leads to bone softening which can evolve into osteoporosis in late adulthood.
Instead of turning to supplements, why not swap out the potato chips for kale chips? It’ll give your bones a boost.
5. Fatty build-up in the liver
When looking at a food label, you’ll notice that under the total fat category, lies both saturated fats and trans fats. Many people will acknowledge that trans fats are “bad for you”, yet most people don’t necessarily understand the way trans fats process in their bodies.
Trans fats are industrially modified vegetables oils that are converted to a solid. This is essential for so many processed foods to improve their texture and lengthen their shelf life.
The same is true for junk foods. Trans fatty acids found in these foods are strongly associated with increasing inflammation, triglycerides and bad cholesterol while simultaneously reducing good cholesterol in the body.
By absorbing more trans fatty acids, more oxidized fats are deposited into the liver causing a fat build up. If this persists over a period of time this issue can escalate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Treat your body right and respect it by consuming healthy fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Your liver will end up thanking you. Billions of dollars are spent on the junk food industry every year. This is not only contributing to our country’s obesity crisis but a handful of other chronic diseases.
It’s time to stop junk food corporations from dictating your health. There are so many small changes you can make throughout your day to slowly ween junk food out of your life.
You’re guaranteed to be surprised by how much better you’ll feel.