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Here’s How Much Junk Food It Takes To Actually Damage Your Health

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on March 9, 2018 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

Fast food and junk food are bad for you but many people eat it anyway because the effects of one or the occasional bad choice are far from catastrophic. They don’t feel a respiratory or digestive problem coming on immediately after, therefore the food can’t be as deadly as it’s often made it out to be. According to Gallup polls, approximately 30% of Americans eat fast food at least once a week. No matter how much scientific data on the risks of unhealthy choices is released, the fact that people are able to feel okay after eating fast or junk food makes the act seem less and less dangerous.

But as anyone with a mild interest in nutrition knows, the damage done by unhealthy food isn’t always palpable. Contrary to popular belief, the occasional unhealthy meal could indeed have an impact on your health, even if you eat fairly healthy most of the time.

What Is Junk Or Fast Food?

The terms “fast food” and “junk food” can be used interchangeably. They typically refer to highly processed food that is high in added sugars, high in salt, high in calories, high in saturated and trans fats and low in essential nutrients. An increasing number of fast food chains are currently attempting to offer more healthy items but based on their ingredients, most fast food items still fall under the “junk food” umbrella. Potential long-term effects of eating a lot of junk food include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and various digestive conditions.

A 2015 study found that the risk for some of these effects is higher than average for people who eat fast food more than twice a week. But what about short-term effects?

A Rough Couple Of Days

Let’s say you eat a string of unhealthy meals or a considerable amount of junk over the span of a few days. You would likely experience digestive problems like constipation due to a lack of fiber. Recent research suggests that your metabolism would change as well. Your muscles would have a harder time converting glucose into energy, which is associated with diabetes. So, it’s not hard to see how insulin resistance and diabetes could become a reality if you were to maintain this habit for years to come.

Most people would likely observe a noticeable difference in mood and physical well-being after eating unhealthy food consecutively. They’d have less energy and be more irritable. The outcome of one unhealthy meal, however, varies from person-to-person.

One Slip Can’t Be Too Bad…

A single fast food meal has the potential to narrow your arteries, increase inflammation throughout the body, and raise your blood pressure. The second effect concerns people with inflammation-related conditions, like asthma or allergies. Symptoms from either could become more likely. The high sugar content can also raise your insulin levels, causing your blood sugar to drop. This might not make you physically ill but one effect almost everyone will feel from a single fast food meal is hunger.

It’s rare to feel full immediately after a fast food meal. The fullness instead comes later on, so until then, you must overcome the urge to eat more.

The Good News

The most important takeaway is that if a single unhealthy meal can have such a negative impact, a single healthy meal can be just as significant. You will likely feel much better, both physically and mentally, if at least one healthy meal becomes part of your daily routine. Every meal is your chance to make a positive or negative change to your health.

Read also: Green Tea – Goodness in a Cup

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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