Many people develop an unhealthy love affair with junk food at some point in their life, but just how dangerous is junk food? Unfortunately, the answer is, ‘really dangerous’. Eating junk food on a regular basis raises the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and some cancers.
Like it or not, our lifestyle behaviors and choices are major factors affecting our weight and physical health. A shocking 71% of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Eating processed and fast foods kill more people thank smoking cigarettes.
One problem is that junk food has been normalized as part of our diet. Sadly, it has been suggested that eating junk food can affect the brain in the same way as consuming addictive drugs. Thus, the unhealthy cycle of eating bad food is easily repeated.
What is junk food, anyway?
Junk food is difficult to define, but usually classified as any food that lacks nutritional value, is pre-packaged, high in calories, salty, sugary, and saturated fats.
Junk foods are becoming such a prevalent part of people’s diet that this week, nearly 200 doctors and healthcare professionals in the UK signed a letter in proposing a tax on junk food. Foods that are high in salt and saturated fat, they feel, are contributing to a culture of obesity and serious health issues.
They hope that by increasing taxes on unhealthy foods will encourage people to choose healthier snacks, like nuts, fruits, and other, more wholesome options. Their concern is grounded in the fact that a number of adults and children are using junk food to supplement the place of nutritious food. As a result, obesity and its side effects are becoming a common factor in overall public health.
How can you avoid junk food?
Aside from reading labels, avoiding the obvious temptations lurking in the checkout aisle and the fast food drive-through, it starts with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is another word for ‘being aware’. A lot of food choices are made in the moment, or while distracted or stressed by factors at work or home. We may unthinkingly grab a candy bar, a bag of chips, or a sugary drink as a way of self-soothing.
However, taking a moment to think about our choices can have a positive effect on what we put into our bodies. Ask: ‘Is this good for me?’ ‘Is there a better option?’ or ‘Why did I pick this up?’ Questions can interrupt unhealthy patterns and help to create new ones. In fact, a lot of snacking can easily be eliminated or cut down by hydrating instead, or choosing a low carb snack instead, like one of these on our website.
Junk food is not a part of a healthy diet, and our goal for excellent health should be to eat it as infrequently as possible.