When you're in a hurry or don't feel like cooking, fast food often becomes an option for just about any meal. While not all fast food chains or menu items are unhealthy, fast food restaurants are notorious for offering not only larger-than-healthy portion sizes, but also foods that are stacked with saturated fat, sodium and calories. By removing, or at least limiting, your intake of unhealthy fast foods options like burgers, french fries and pizzas, you'll start to see and feel many healthy benefits outside and inside your body.
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One of the most noticeable impacts that quitting fast food can have on your body is a reduction in weight. Fast foods are typically high in calories, with portion sizes that are too large to maintain a healthy diet. By reducing your fast food intake and replacing fast food with healthier meals from home, you decrease your total calorie intake, helping create the calorie deficit needed for your body to lose weight. Pair removing fast food from your diet with exercise to see even better results.
Many fast foods contain high levels of saturated fat, especially hamburgers and foods that are breaded and fried in oils containing saturated fat. Foods high in saturated fat typically increase your consumption of bad LDL cholesterol. As LDL cholesterol levels get too high in your bloodstream, the excess cholesterol can calcify, or harden, into cholesterol plaque. Plaque restricts and clog the flow of blood through your blood vessels. As your blood vessels become more clogged, your blood pressure increases, along with your risks for developing heart diseases.
Cutting back on your fast food can significantly decrease your overall sodium or salt intake. Most restaurants overuse salt, which can quickly increase your daily consumption above the American Heart Association's recommended limit of less than 1,500 mg per day. When you consume too much salt, you increase the salt content of your blood. Salt attracts water, which can increase your blood volume. The higher your blood volume goes, the higher your blood pressure becomes. High blood pressure over time damages your cardiovascular system, putting you at a higher risk of heart disease. Lowering your sodium intake by cutting out fast food can help reduce these risks.
Many fast foods have ingredients that are high on the glycemic index, such as white potatoes and buns made from processed white flour. The glycemic index is a tool used to determine how much of an impact a certain food will have on your bloodstream. High glycemic foods introduce glucose into your bloodstream much faster than foods that are low on the index, like whole grains or most vegetables. When glucose is introduced too quickly, it can create a spike and then a crash in your blood sugar levels. Too much glucose at once is also dangerous for those with insulin resistance, such as diabetics and prediabetics.
- MSN; By Any Other Name, It's Still a Supersize; Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.; October 2007
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- American Heart Association: Shaking the Salt Habit
- Oregon State University: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load