What Is Junk Food? Why Is It Bad For You?

   |  Updated: November 07, 2017 18:36 IST

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What Is Junk Food? Why Is It Bad For You?
Highlights
  • Calorie dense junk food does look mouthwatering
  • Ideally, junk foods are defined as processed foods
  • We often confuse fast foods with junk foods
Picture this: a plate of hot French fries and a huge burger with hot cheese oozing out of it, and a large serving of any aerated drink; looks like a treat! This calorie dense junk food does look mouthwatering, but is known to be nutritionally poor. Junk food or fast food has become an increasingly popular food choice to grab when on the go. Ideally, junk foods are defined as processed foods with negligible nutrient value and are often high in salt, sugar and fat. But we often confuse fast foods with junk foods. How are they different? Or what is junk food really ? We have got the answers for you!

What is junk food?

Junk foods are processed foods consisting of high calories, but that is considered only as a broad umbrella. These foods are prepared in a way that they look appealing and are enjoyable so you are chemically programmed to ask for more. According to Dr. Sunali Sharma, Dietician & Nutritionist, Amandeep Hospital, "Commercial products including but not limited to salted snack foods, gum, candy, sugary desserts, fried fast food, and sweetened carbonated beverages that have little or no nutritional value but are high in calories, salt, and fats may be considered junk foods. Though not all fast foods are junk foods, but a great number of them are. For instance, a salad may be fast food, but is definitely not junk food. Some foods like burgers, pizzas, and tacos may alternate between junk and healthy categories depending on the ingredients, calories and process of manufacturing."
 
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Junk foods are processed foods consisting of high calories​

Why are junk foods bad for you?

Frequent consumption of junk food increases the intake of excess fat, simple carbohydrates, and processed sugar which may lead to a higher risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases among other chronic health problems. The resulting obesity may begin clogging up the arteries and lay the basis of an impending heart attack. It has also been suggested that eating junk food affects the brain in the same way as consuming addictive drugs. An addiction to junk food may even result in rejection of healthier food options like fruits, vegetables, salads etc. leading to further lack of nourishment.

How should you really avoid junk food?

According to Dr. Sharma, the red flags that you should look out for and avoid bringing home include trans-fats, refined grains, salt and high fructose corn syrup. Avoid foods that say corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated, fractionated, or hydrogenated on their label.
 
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Avoid foods that say corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, etc.

So next time you want to know if what's on your plate is junk or not, ask yourself these 3 crucial questions: 

1. How many calories am I consuming in this one serving? 
2. What are the healthy nutrients I am taking in with this meal? 
3. What's the quality of ingredients used; how fresh is this food item? 

Do note that quitting junk food is a gradual process. If you are someone who is accustomed to daily doses of junk, then quitting may not be way. The first few days could be tough as you may experience some of these symptoms: irritability, headaches, dip in energy levels and so on. An occasional treat never hurts, what you have to look out against is consistent consumption of junk foods, especially at the cost of healthy nutrition. 

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