The disadvantages of junk food may include that processed foods can be very high in calories while also being low in nutritional value. The cons of junk foods are that excessive consumption may lead to overeating or consuming excessive amounts of calories, sodium and saturated fat.
Fast food or highly processed junk foods are typically high in calories, sodium and fat while being low in nutritional value.
The Disadvantages of Junk Food
The American Heart Association states that some of the most common unhealthy foods are highly processed, such as fast foods. These are typically low in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, while also being rife with empty calories and refined flours, sodium and sugar. To combat the potential risk, try to keep your intake of saturated fat low and avoid sodium and added sugars.
For better health, the American Heart Association recommended in their 2013 heart disease prevention guidelines consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, carefully choosing processed foods, along with avoiding sodium from the most common salty foods. These foods include bread/rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, pizza, burritos/tacos, soup and sandwiches.
For those without heart conditions, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults.
Be sure to carefully read food nutrition labels and steer clear of items with sugar added, excess sodium and fat. Or, there are ways to make fast food healthier, as well as healthier fast food breakfast options, such as opting for lean meats with less percentages of fat.
Why to Ditch Fast Food
According to the Mayo Clinic, calories that come from sugar are more dangerous than calories from other carbs. Added sugars were linked to poor insulin levels, blood sugar and fat storage around the belly, which can lead to inflammation and high blood pressure.
In a January 2016 study published in Health Promotion Perspectives, fast food consumption may be a main risk factor in lower diet quality, higher calorie and fat intake and lower nutrient density in diets. Frequent consumption of fast foods was thought to be linked with being overweight, abdominal fat gain, impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis, lipid and lipoprotein disorders, induction of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Higher fast food consumption may also increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Healthier Alternatives to Junk Food
Harvard Health says that eating a diet high in fried food may lead to a higher risk of serious medical issues, such as heart disease and diabetes. Oil-laden junk foods can be high in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can be mainly empty calories. This may have negative effects when exercising by draining energy and slowing metabolism levels, increasing belly fat, which can lead to inflammation and high blood pressure.
Fast food often has an unbalanced ratio of fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates compared to its nutrient count. While it may be filling, fast or junk foods are mainly empty calories that hold no real nutritional value, according to a study published in June 2014 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead, opt to consume alternatives that are less processed and have enough protein or healthy complex carbohydrates.
- American Heart Association: "Unhealthy Foods"
- Mayo Clinic: "How Junk Food Wrecks Your Body"
- NCBI: "Fast Food Pattern and Cardiometabolic Disorders: A Review of Current Studies"
- Harvard Health: "Eating Fried Foods Tied to Increased Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease"
- American Heart Association: "Sugar"
- American Heart Association: "Sodium"
- NCBI: "Where are Kids Getting Their Empty Calories?"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Salt Should I eat"