The Real Effects of Eating Fast Food

You probably already know that most fast food is bad for you. Maybe you have watched a documentary about the effects of eating fast food often or you have personally experienced the negative effects of eating a lot of McDonald’s.

Whether it is because of a health class, word of mouth or a quick internet search, most everyone knows that when they go through the drive-thru for fast food, they are not getting a well-balanced and healthy meal. So why does everyone keep eating fast food? The simple answer because it tastes good and it is fast.

In the United States, it is very important for most people to save time because of the busy lifestyles they lead. This means that spending 30 minutes to an hour cooking a meal at home each day is not something that a lot of families want to do. Between heading from work to take your kid to a soccer game, it seems only logical to stop at a drive-thru for a quick dinner. But is the convenience really worth the supposed health risks? And are the documentaries and high school health teachers being honest about the real effects of eating fast food?

The Truth About Fast Food

One fast food meal here and there is not going to do much damage. However, if you opt for the drive-thru and choose a greasy option more than once a week, then you are likely to be doing some real harm to your body. This is because most fast food options are extremely high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats and low in fiber and other important nutrients.

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To be healthy and fuel your body, you need to be eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and whole grains. Unfortunately, most fast food options do not satisfy the different food group requirements in order to provide you with a balanced meal. Instead, if you order a cheeseburger, fries and a soda, then you are filling your body up with sugars and fats instead of the nutrients you need.

What Fast Food Does to Your Body

Eating foods that are high in sodium, carbohydrates and unhealthy fats (all characteristic of most fast food items) is not good for your body. In fact, it can lead to a lot of health problems. The following are all common effects of eating fast food:

  • Acne: Eating a lot of simple carbohydrates can lead to skin issues, such as acne. Carb-heavy fast food items such as hamburger buns and french fries can cause you to experience more frequent acne breakouts.
  • Bloating: When you eat too much sodium your body is more likely to retain more water, making you feel uncomfortable and bloated.
  • Blood sugar spikes: The empty carbohydrates in most fast food choices can lead to frequent insulin spikes, which causes your blood sugar levels to be irregular and may also lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Dental issues: Consuming too much sugar, whether it be from eating ice cream or drinking a soda, can be very bad for your teeth. The carbs and sugars in fast food can actually produce acids that destroy your tooth enamel, leading to more frequent dental cavities.
  • Depression: Research has found strong links between diet and mental health. Studies have shown that eating an unhealthy diet greatly increases your chances of suffering from depression and other mental health issues.
  • Headaches: A high sodium intake can increase your risk of developing headaches.
  • Heart disease and stroke: Having increased blood pressure and elevated bad cholesterol levels are the two biggest risk factors for developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. Because of the high sodium and trans-fat content found in most fast food, you have an increased chance that both your cholesterol and blood pressure levels will be in unhealthy ranges.
  • Weight gain: Eating foods with empty carbohydrates and low fiber content can lead you to overeat because it does not make you feel full. This overeating paired with the fact that most fast food options are high in calories may lead you to gain an unintentional amount of weight.

Not All Fast Food is Bad

After seeing the effects fast food has on your body, it is important to note that not all fast food is bad. In fact, there are a growing number of healthier fast food options available in the United States. It is easier than ever to order a salad or fruit smoothie through a drive-thru window.

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However, you still need to be very cautious when ordering even the healthier options at a fast food restaurant, and that is because some of the options that look healthier may not be very healthy at all. It may surprise you that some salads actually have more fat and calories than a cheeseburger (usually because they are loaded up on cheese, croutons and a high-fat salad dressing). Because of this, you should take note of the ingredients and nutritional facts before placing your order.

How to Eat Fast Food and Stay Healthy

Sure, if you go through the drive-thru often enough that the cashier knows your name, then you certainly cannot be staying too healthy. However, a fast food meal here and there is not going to have much of an effect on you as long as you are eating nutritious food the rest of the time.

Plus, there are some ways that you can still grab a quick and tasty meal without sacrificing your health. For example, make some simple swaps. Instead of the fried chicken sandwich, opt for a grilled chicken breast instead. Or, choose the fat-free balsamic dressing instead of the ranch for your salad. Even most kids’ meal options have the option to replace the french fries with apple slices instead.

Then, as long as you make sure you are getting adequate exercise and you are eating a wide variety of healthy foods from the different food groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean proteins, whole grains, etc.) you can still enjoy a fast food meal as a treat every once in a while.

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