Many of us love greasy and sugary foods and for those used to eating junk food - cheese, deep-fried, sweetness loaded delicacies are an obsession of sorts.
Thanks to globalization, various junk foods belonging to global cuisine have crept into your daily diet plan in the last couple of decades leading to an increase in the rate of childhood obesity and the risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc.
If you ask, which one is better from the taste point of view, the battle between healthy food and junk food never ends. Mindful eaters might argue that nutritional food items are tastier too but when it comes to choosing between the two, junk food always win the race.
But why? Well, agree or disagree cravings are irresistible and unhealthy eating habits are actually a norm. We can kill our mid-day hunger pangs with an apple or a fistful of nuts, but most of us end nibbling upon a pile of French fries or pizza and even guzzle down fizzy drinks. It in fact, has become a mammoth task for these days parents in convincing their children to pick fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, salads, soups over these unhealthy and calorie loaded recipes.
What Is Junk Food?
Junk food is the best example of an unbalanced diet categorised by a huge proportion of simple carbs, refined sugar, salt, saturated fat and with very low nutritional value. These foods are processed to a great extent where they almost lose all of their vital nutrients, fibre and water content. Junk food may be quite convenient, readily available on the go, cheap whereas healthy food is best for maintaining weight, getting an adequate amount of essential nutrients and for keeping you in good state of health.
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Why do we enjoy junk food so much when we know that it is unhealthy for us? Read through this article to get a clear view on how junk food impacts your health and the merits of consuming nutritional food items.
Junk Vs Healthy Food
Healthy food refers to a whole lot of fresh and natural products such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and good fats that deliver your body with essential nutrients for carrying out several bodily processes, combat sickness and keep diseases at bay. Some of the healthy foods include apples, greens, carrots, oatmeal, whole grain, beans and legumes, fish, eggs, avocado, milk and milk products and olive oil to mention a few.
While, junk food is a highly processed food that is made up of ‘empty’ calories foods loaded with full of saturated fat, sugar and devoid of nutrients which neither helps the body to nurture, focus and perform vital functions all through the day. It includes packaged food products like chips, cookies, cakes, pastry, candy soda, ice-cream and a list of fast food items on the restaurant menus like pizza, pasta, burgers and French fries.
Why Is Healthy Food Better Than Junk Food?
When you consume a diet that is packed with natural fresh produce, it facilitates to lower the risk of several chronic disorders like cancer, obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and many more. Furthermore, healthy foods are mostly low on calories and contain huge amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre that are well-known for promoting total well-being.
Advantages Of Healthy Foods
Healthy foods like fruits and veggies or whole grain cereals are a source of good dietary fibre. An adequate amount of fibre in the diet helps with delaying gastric emptying time, keep you satiated and prevent you from overeating. Fibre-rich foods also benefit to maintain the digestive system healthy and function effectively thereby lowering cholesterol and blood glucose level.
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Lean meat, legumes and nuts packed with a complete source of protein in a balanced meal plan promotes growth and development, maintain muscle mass, repairs and build body tissues, promotes cell regeneration and proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Healthy foods are basically unprocessed, low on calories and do not miss out on vital nutrients. Consuming a wholesome meal comprising of whole-grain cereal, legume, low-fat dairy –paneer or curd, veggies and fruit meets your daily demands of nutrition.
Natural food produce is low on saturated fat, trans fat and calories which help you to manage weight.
Incorporating a rich array of healthful foods imbued with dense nutrient profile safeguard your heart, maintain lipid profile, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, avert the risk of inflammation, boost metabolism, promote smooth digestion process, bolster immunity and keep diseases at bay.
Yes, healthy food not only provides you with needed essential nutrients but also delivers you with a spectrum of health incentives which hold a significant role in uplifting your overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.
The perks of healthy food and cons of junk food are quite clear, making mindful choices with your meals and snacks will let you to focus and concentrate well throughout the day. As the body’s needs are met by nutritionally loaded food choices it will keep you satiated and content. Moreover, this averts untimely snacking or binge eating.
When kids prefer healthy food it ensures them to be more productive and efficient with time and memorize things they have learned, rather than being sleepy and reading the same things over and over again.
High fibre foods release energy slowly, whereas sugar laden foods offer you a sudden burst of energy. You may be tempted to reach for that pack of chocolates around afternoons but choose an apple with peanut butter or banana or carrot sticks with yoghurt for conferring you with sustained energy needed to accomplish your day task.
Also Read: 5 Successful Healthy Eating Habits To Practice - Infographic
Junk food can result in long-term damage, going for unhealthy food stuffs like French fries, pizza, pastries and candy can increase your risk of developing depression, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Difference Between Healthy Food vs Junk FoodEnergy Density
Junk food tends to be high on fat, unrefined carbohydrates and added sugars, all of which up their energy density or caloric values. Consuming plenty of energy-dense foods increases your risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders. On the other hand, healthy foods are low in energy and fat content and high on nutrients, thus a diet low in calories help you lose weight and maintain good health status.Type Of Oil
One of the key variants between junk and healthy food is the amount and type of saturated and unsaturated fats they contain. Unsaturated fatty oils are healthier options like olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil etc., these oils contain the right proportion of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids which are healthier for the heart and also maintain the lipid profile. While junk foods are loaded with a high amount of saturated fats and trans fat like butter, lard, palm oil and dalda are unhealthy and harm health.Nutrient Value
Junk or fast foods are those items with empty calories, which means they only offer you a high amount of calories without providing you with needed vital nutrients. Studies have also disclosed that people who consume fast foods on a regular basis have lower micronutrient intake and may have a nutritional deficiency. Choosing wholesome foods will assure you with an increase in the nutrients per calorie making it feasible to meet the recommended dose of macro and micronutrients.Impact on Health
Eating healthy foods is the cornerstone of good health status and also lower your risk for developing health problems, on the other hand, fast food can have the opposite impact. Several pieces of evidence have revealed that fast food consumption increases the risk of metabolic syndrome by increasing triglyceride levels, triggers blood sugar and blood pressure spikes. Apart from these, there is a higher risk of obesity which can make you prone to cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 2.7 million people all over the globe succumb each year due to nutritional deficiency.
Well, fast food can be a cheaper option than adopting a healthy eating habit, however, you can still plan a nutritious meal plan by including low-cost locally available fresh natural produce that will save your money compared to convenience foods. Furthermore, the merits of eating healthy food go way beyond in maintaining your overall health, where the cost factor is often neglected when health is your top priority.
Junk food is considered to have addictive qualities as they are revolved around sugar and fat. Sugar is known to kindle the brain reward pathways, sugar, when combined with fat, becomes hard to resist. Studies observe that the blend of sugar and fat is mostly linked with addictive symptoms like withdrawal or loss of self-control over food. Well, regular or even intermittent intake of junk foods has the potential to drive the habit formation in the brain which can increase your cravings leading to overconsumption of junk food and with time results in weight gain.
Simple Ways To Eat Less Junk Food
There are a number of ways one can gradually reduce the intake of junk food. First and foremost, never stock up in your homes which can easily take away the temptation.
Secondly, stay alert and be mindful of eating chips or other snacks directly from the pack, instead, portion a small quantity into a bowl and relish. Share junk food with friends or eat with other people who will help you to slow down and enjoy good conversation and your nachos.
Staying healthy while eating junk food is possible when you have it moderation, the key mantra is don’t overdo it.
Junk food tastes delicious but not satiating, it’s packed with empty calories. Hence if you are hungry steer clear of the readily available junk foods and wait uncomplainingly for something wholesome.
If you want to eat junk food, then ensure to stay active and do include some physical activity into your routine. A brisk walk post-dinner or quick cardio can help you to stay active and keep things in balance. On the other hand, if you don’t want to move your body, then reconsider the junk food you wish to eat.
Consider junk food the exception, rather than the norm. Focus on eating a healthy diet all through the week and have a cheat day during the weekend, where you can treat yourself with favourite candy or fries, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Likewise, swap your junk food with healthier choices which includes
Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, and berries
Vegetables: Leafy greens, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
Whole Grains: Cereals, oats, brown rice, quinoa, and wheat
Seeds and Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds
Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils
Lean Protein Sources: Fish, eggs and poultry
Dairy: Curd, yogurt, cheese, and fermented dairy products like kefir
Healthy Fats: Olive oil, nut butter, avocados, and coconut
Healthy Beverages: Water, green tea, and herbal teas
Always keep in mind that is ideal to implement small changes over time to ensure long-lasting fruitful results.
Fitting Fast Food Into A Healthy Diet
A well-balanced meal plan comprises of about half fruits and vegetables, while other half consists of whole-grain cereals and legumes or lean meats. When you visit a fast-food restaurant lookout for the healthiest options, it can be a grilled or baked food instead of deep-fried stuff. Start with a soup or salad with low-fat dressing as they are low in calories and keep you filled, then get a smaller serving of your main course. Vegetarian choices are often healthier than meat-based starters, as long as they are not fried. Try to skip fattier toppings like mayo, sauces, cheese and creams.
Healthier Junk Food Options
Craving for unhealthy junk food stuff is real and powerful. Well, instead of struggling and fighting your cravings, just try to feed it with a healthier version. There are certain junk foods that are pretty good for you which include:
Popcorn baked or made at home with a drizzle of olive or vegetable oil is a source of good dietary fibre.
Ice-creams and Greek yoghurt are great options loaded with calcium and protein.
Look for dark chocolate bars that are 70% cocoa for your guilt-free indulgence for something sweet. Dark chocolates abound in antioxidants, protein and fibre.
Tortilla chips made from kale, greens are preferred choice versus traditional potato chips.
Sweet potato fries though has a high amount of carbs and calories, it is heaped with dietary fibre and a massive amount of vitamin A.
Snacking on one or two cubes of cheese will offer you a boost of calcium and protein. It is a good idea to top up the cheese with fruit or nuts for that bonus vitamins.
Oatmeal cookies is one of the best bet for a healthful snack packed with fibre, calcium and iron.
Junk food are highly processed foods loaded with calories, sugar and fat, however, it is devoid of essential nutrients like fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is believed to be a key factor in the obesity epidemic and a driving force in the development of chronic diseases. Moderation is the key mantra when it comes to food. The combination of fat and sugar make junk foods more addicting and easy to overdo. Relishing your favourite treat on occasional basis is a more realistic, healthful and sustainable approach for your health.