Do you know that the more you reach out to junk / processed food, there is a decrease in your lifespan?
Junk food is the most potent element which is carefully studied due to its high demand and consumption among all age group. Most of them have become ‘enslaved’ to junk foods since these are convenient, lip-smacking foods reduce cooking time and have a more fabulous shelf life hence our efforts to limit the use of junk foods are going in vain. Children and adults are widely exposed to these foods which are nothing but street food, chaats, chips, soft drinks, ice creams, bakery products, chocolates, sweets, and prepared foods which have been tagged as ‘junks’.
Seven reasons to refrain from them?
- It leads to poor concentration and affects the overall development of growing children.
- You are prone to nutritional deficiencies, and this impacts your immune system.
- Contain little or no healthy nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, or minerals.
- They are high in salt, sugar, bad fats, chemical additives and energy (calories)
- Junk food is linked with Non-Communicable Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and a few types of cancers. It increases the risk of being overweight, which predisposes other conditions.
- According to recent research data eating such bad quality, food is increasing the disease and death rate at a higher speed than smoking!
- Addictive: they stimulate receptors in the brain that make you feel good due to increased dopamine level and makes one get addicted to them, which is similar to the use of alcohol/tobacco.
What’s the trend in India?
Packaged food in India has been ranked lowest in terms of its healthiness in a significant global survey. A survey conducted during COVID times among teenagers by our department of clinical nutrition & dietetics found that 43% of them agreed that the consumption of fast food or junk is reduced whereas, 31% replied that they have continued eating unhealthy. 68% of individuals liked junk foods for their taste as it was one of the predominant factors for their choice
Also read: 7 Habits to Keep Yourself Healthy at Work
How should we tackle this?
- Different cultures or regions have their perception about junk food, and that is, what may be junk food in one culture, may be considered nutritional food for another.
- Educating children about the harmful effects of junk food by schools.
- Reading food labels of packed foods/drinks to look for hidden jargons such as sodium, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), maple syrup, additives, trans fat and saturated fat.
- Replace aerated drinks with healthy drinks and plain water to prevent dehydration such as; buttermilk/fruit lassi, jaljeera, soups, sugarless herbal tea, aam Panna, tender coconut water, fruit-infused water e.t.c.
- Try choosing baked or air fried snacks made out of millets/quinoa/peas/besan/unpolished grains which are rich in protein, iron, fibre, calcium rather than just white rice/ white flour-based preparation.
- It is possible to tweak the unhealthy recipe to the best out of those tagged as junk foods.
- Switch to homemade preparation and limit processed /packaged foods though claimed as healthy.
Conclusion: The food industry must prioritize health and contribute to the supply of healthy products more than unhealthy products. Hence switch to natural and homemade preparations which are a key to a healthy lifestyle.
(Medically reviewed by Ms Edwina Raj, Senior Dietitian, Aster CMI hospital)
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