Kids, Bunk the Junk Food: Why It’s Bad for You?

Updated on February 20th, 2020
Bunk the Junk Food

Fast food or junk foods refer to all kinds of processed food items rich in energy, but low in nutritional value. Junk food contains too much fat, sugar, and salt but a small number of other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, protein, or minerals. So, why is fast food a quick favorite with kids? Entirely only because it contains all the fat, sodium, and glucose!

Additionally, it is cheap and convenient, making it an ideal choice for parents hard-pressed for time. So, let’s learn more about why kids should bunk junk foods and opt for healthier alternatives.

Fast Facts

  • The average US consumption of burgers annually is 13 billion, which is enough to circle the earth’s circumference 32x times!
  • Junk food is a favorite with low-income groups who cannot afford a long-term, expensive, but healthy diet.
  • Consuming junk food changes brain waves like addictive drugs, heroin(1), and cocaine.
  • 4 in 5 kids recognize the McDonalds logo by three years of age before they even know their names.
  • Over 1 million pizzas are delivered in the US annually.
  • Chick-fil-A sells 1.6 billion chicken nuggets each year, averaging five nuggets for each American citizen.
  • Consuming fast food regularly impacts the liver, just like jaundice.
  • Pizza Hut uses over 3 hundred million pounds of cheese in a single year!

Junk Food Versus Healthy Foods

The differences between healthy and junk food are linked to calorie and fat content. Let’s see how processed, artificial, synthetic fast foods(2) are a contrast to healthy, nutritious items.

Nature of Difference JUNK FOOD HEALTHY FOOD
Oil Difference: The critical difference between junk and fast foods are the amount of unsaturated and saturated fats. Junk food contains high levels of saturated fats such as palm oil, butter, and lard. Nutritious food uses oils low in saturated fat like sunflower, and olive oil.
Nutrient Capacity: Another difference is the number of nutrients and minerals found in healthy foods, as opposed to junk food. Junk foods are processed, artificial, and synthetic, which means they do not contain adequate minerals or micronutrients. Healthy, nutritious foods are rich in micronutrients like vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber. Veggies and fruits provide vast amounts of fiber. Dairy products and leafy greens are rich in calcium.

Vegetables and fruits like cucumber and bananas contain potassium. Eggs and fortified milk contains vitamin D.

Refining: This marks a sizable difference between refined junk foods and unrefined natural foods. Junk foods are refined. During the refining process, vitamins, minerals, fibers, and enzymes are lost. To increase an oil’s shelf life, it is partially hydrogenated, especially vegetable oil added to junk foods.

The oil formed turns into harmful trans-fat associated with adverse or LDL cholesterol.

Natural healthy foods are unrefined and contain oils that are low in saturated fats. Therefore, they retain their minerals and micronutrients, making them a healthier option for your kid.
Antioxidant content: Antioxidants are nutrients that undo free radical damage and preserve health. Junk food is low in antioxidants. Natural, nutritious, and healthy fruits are antioxidant-rich and undo oxidative stress.
Sugar content: Diets loaded with added sugar are terrible for health. Junk foods contain vast amounts of added sugar. Healthy foods are rich in fructose but contain no added sugar.
Sodium content: Diets high in salt can cause high blood pressure and hypertension. Junk foods are sodium-rich and at times, containing multiple sources of salt through additional ingredients. For example, mayo and sauce in burgers. Healthy foods are not high in sodium and contain just the right amount of salt for required daily intake.
Complex Carbs and Fibers Simple carbs contain sugar, and these carbs are generally found in junk foods. Complex carbs include starch and foods with high fiber content. These are energy-boosting and nutritious; healthy foods are generally fiber-rich.
Type of Meat Used Junk foods use meats with high fat, breaded, or fried fish and meats. Nutritious foods contain healthy meats like skinned chicken, extra-lean cuts, low-fat meats like turkey.

Side Effects of Junk Food

Regular intake of junk foods triggers long-term, chronic health problems such as obesity. They are also associated with low self-esteem and poor emotional health, as well as chronic illnesses later in life.

Consider that a single junk food meal can add anywhere from 160 to 310 additional kilocalories in terms of daily intake for young kids. Besides, lack of vitamins and minerals cause deficiency and diseases like osteoporosis. Dental caries results due to high sugar intake. Junk foods also contain trans-fat, preservatives, and chemicals which compound health issues in kids.

1. Increased Risk of Atopic Disorders

Fat-rich junk foods more than three times in a week are linked to the high instance of atopic disorders like eczema, rhinitis, or asthma. Asthma’s severity is 25% higher in young children who regularly eat junk food. Eating such foods 4-6 times a week also impacts reading comprehension and concentration.

2. Fast-Food Addiction and Mental Health Issues

Eating plenty of junk foods in childhood is related to later medical problems. Binge eating, emotional or impulsive eating, overeating, and associated issues come about. Children become addicted to processed food items like burgers, chips, and colas.

3. Lower Energy Levels

Fast food also does not provide adequate nutrients for physical or mental activities, impairing physiological, psychological, and emotional health. Lower energy levels impact academic and extracurricular activity performance.

[Read: Tea for Lower Blood Sugar]

4. Sleep Disorders 

sleep disorders
Image: ShutterStock

Caffeinated drinks like pop soda and cola disrupt cycles of sleep and wakefulness, leading to problems in circadian rhythms and sleep disturbances.

5. Hyperactivity

Essential fatty acids are not present in junk foods. Absence of essential fatty acids like omega-three and omega-six polyunsaturated fatty acids, which cannot be produced by the body, is necessary for cell membrane manufacture and higher concentrations of neural growth within the brain and retina. Research is pointing to how the absence of such fatty acids can be associated with hyperactivity. Increased caffeine intake can also cause kids to become overactive.

[Read: Meditation for Sleep]

Developmental Issues

Your kid’s physical body is undergoing growth and development. Nutrients are needed to reach developmental milestones, especially in terms of bone structure and dental regions. High levels of trans-fat and zero nutrients can, therefore, harm your kid’s health. Excessive levels of sodium and sugar trigger hypertension and adversely impact blood circulation.

Kids are being harmed through increased intake of junk foods. It’s time to change the attitude towards nutrition, not just in kids, but in their parents, too. As a responsible guardian or parent, do educate yourself about the damage to health resulting from junk foods and get your kids to eat healthily.

[ Read: Zero Carb Foods ]

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