Introduction : Food for the body is like petrol for a car. It is a prime requirement for our body as it is essential for the attainment of growth (by making new cells) and for repairing of the body, as it replaces damaged cells. Every human should eat a balanced diet, which should comprise of proteins, or body-building foods; fats and carbohydrates, energy-giving foods; crucial vitamins and minerals; fiber or roughage, and water in a particular quantity; so that their bodies can function properly.
Junk Food : But when we eat a diet which is not rich in any of these nutrients or contains a huge amount of a nutrient, we can suffer from many diseases as everything in a very less or in an enormous amount can be dangerous. As the name suggests, such food items which are like ‘junk’ or ‘waste’ for the body are termed as ‘junk foods.’ They can be healthy or junk. Some example of junk foods are soda, chicken, pizza, soft drinks, nachos, french fries and milkshakes. Junk foods do no good to our body and are therefore, unimportant and it is better to avoid intake of these food items in larger quantities. These foods are generally high in saturated and trans fats, sugars and salts but lack other important nutrients and fibres. Now the question is that, why are junk foods termed as ‘no nutrient’ foods when they contain fats and sugars (both of which are a part of a balanced diet)? The answer to this is that junk foods provide us with fats, which are very necessary for our bodies, but excess of anything can be harmful, and thus, the excessive amounts of fats in junk foods is dangerous to health as the excess fats are deposited in the body and lead to obesity. Saturated and trans fats are important to our body and yet are harmful: everything has its pros and cons. Excess sugars can lead to heart disease. Fibres are good for our digestive system as they keep our gut healthy, helps slow down digestion which leads to more proper and not fast but less breaking down of food and helps in many hemorrhoidal, cardiac and digestive diseases. As junk foods have lots of fats and sugars, and less fibre, they can be termed as ‘junk’ or ‘bad’ food.
The term ‘Junk food’ : Many, in fact most, people use the terms fast food, junk food and street food interchangeably, even when they are scientifically different things. Fast food is a pre-prepared, quick and easy-to-cook food item which is generally junk too, but it can also be healthy if it has vegetables and fruits present in it. For example, Ready made 2-minute Oats are fast food, but are very healthy. Junk food is a food item which has no nutritional value, no calories and the nutritional value is poor. Street food is quick food prepared on a cart or truck parked on a street.
Fast Food : The word fast food literally means a kind of meal that can be prepared quickly. Most people prefer these foods because most of them are pre-prepared and thus, save time.
As everything has its own pros and cons, fast and junk foods also have advantages and disadvantages –
Advantages : They have only some benefits —
- In this busy world, many people live in a rush and have lots of work to do. Thus, it’s difficult to find time to cook a meal. As fast foods are ready in a few minutes, they solve this problem.
- Additionally, the restaurants which sell these foods can be found easily. If you are out somewhere and you are hungry, there will be at least one or two fast/junk food restaurants at a short distance. Here, you can get a meal in a matter of seconds as the food is already prepared and just needs to be packed.
- But the main reason why people prefer junk/fast foods are because of their amazing taste. Since most of them like pizza, pasta, spaghetti, chips, burgers them are fried or baked, they develop a very pleasant taste; and who doesn’t want something tasty to eat?
Disadvantages : Since I have been telling that these foods are generally unhealthy, they are naturally going to have many disadvantages –
- The fast foods have pre-prepared base ingredients and thus they can also be referred to as ‘partially stale or old’ food.
- Fast/junk foods are mixed with many artificial (and harmful) preservatives like sodium benzoate and sulfites, to resist them from getting expired or staling. These preservatives have many side effects on human health. Preservatives are a good thing for food manufacturers because products can be made, shipped and stored until purchase without going bad, meaning they don’t lose money from spoiled food but their effects on health can be lethal – they can cause an increased risk in cancers, leukemia, brain tumors, diarrhoea, muscle weakness, fainting, skin irritation and asthma.
- Since these foods are tasty, they cause a sudden increase in our energy levels and lures us to eat more amounts of these foods causing more harm to our health.
- These foods can cause stress and decrease in concentration.
- The high levels of sugar and fat in these food can lead to an enlarged risk of obesity. Extra calories are stored as body fat. The cooking oils and preservatives make it difficult for our body to utilize this fat, thus, making us obese. Obesity further causes many other diseases like
- The high-levels of sodium, sugars and oils cause damage to the cardiovascular system. Extra cholesterol is stored inside our arteries and clogs them. Thus, the heart needs to pump harder and this increases the danger of heart diseases.
- Liver damage is also another risk of consuming junk/fast food. They are often filled with trans-fat, a type of artificial fat. It builds up in our liver and thus, can cause damage to it.
- These foods don’t contain much of proteins, dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals and thus, eating too much of them can lead to a weak immune system. We can be affected by deficiency diseases cause by these deficient nutrients in our diet.
As one can see, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and thus, we should avoid these types of foods and not eat them on a regularly basis. But the main question is even after when we know the cons of eating fast and junk foods, why do we eat them? It is a human tendency to always want to eat something tasty, and thus, we console ourselves by saying that just one more meal would not effect us so much and we tend to eat these foods every time by pledging to ourselves that we will not eat them in the next month or so. Thus, we always want to eat these foods, and many times, even if we are full and cannot eat more, we still eat more junk/fast food because of their peasant taste. Besides the taste of the food, the catchy visuals and advertisements of fast (or junk) food companies also encourage us to want to try a new type of fast/junk food dish. These restaurants use technology to make the real images of food into more appealing images. What may seem to be a normal slice of cheese in reality, may look like an enormous, rich, pure yellow, perfect slice of absolutely yummy cheese; and all the vegetables seem very fresh and energetic, which in itself is enough to compel their customers to want to eat the food. Also, these brands use catchy titles and new types of arguments to support the eating of more fast food (which is actually harmful to the eaters’ health but the companies dont care about that, they care about business and money!) like “Packed with extra vegetables, a purfecctllyy delicious yet healthy complete bonanza!” or “Eat like a Maharaja: Maharaja McBurger!” According to me, we should ignore all these false descriptions and stay away from eating too much of fast/junk foods. It is advisable to eat three-four junk/fast food meals in a month at the maximum.
Fats and misleading facts about them : The word ‘fat’ has two meanings: the energy-giving nutrient ‘fat’ and the adjective one meaning stout – ‘fat.’ The nutrient fat is very important to our body as it provides us with energy. Energy is very essential as it is required to perform all life processes! But in the current world, people believe that fats are bad and they should be consumed in a very less quantity since fats make us ‘fat’ or stout and being obese has its own disadvantages like diabetes, sugar, hypertension, high blood pressure, etc. Many people start avoiding fats and dont even touch fat containing foods. This can be harmful for health since fats provide us with energy and we may suffer from low-energy or fat deficiency diseases. It is another misleading rumor about fats (especially saturated fats) that they can get stored in our blood vessels and cause heart disease. But the reality will only be understood if we forget some flawed science rumors. Most people believe that they should avoid eating fats because they cause cholesterol and cause heart disease. But the truth is that there is no relation between fats and heart disease. Sugar is the actual culprit in blood vessel blockage. Saturated fats do increase LDl A (bad) Cholesterol but these LDL Type A cholesterol do not cause heart disease and its the LDL Type B (carbohydrate-made cholesterol) which causes it. Fats also help white blood cells to recognize viruses or bacteria and thus, are important for a good immunity system. But fats too have their own cons. If we consume them in a large quantity, the excess fats are stored in our body cells and this leads to obesity (but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat them at all).
Conclusion : To sum up, I believe that as fast foods and junk foods are generally unhealthy we should keep our taste buds in control and control our intake of these foods, because their disadvantages outweigh the advantages; after all Prevention is better than Cure!