The definition of junk food found in the Oxford dictionary is “food that is not very good for you but is ready to eat or quick to prepare”. Nutritionists define junk food as one that only adds calories from sugar and fat without other nutrients. Our lives today are full of junk food options that are easy to get and tasty to consume, you get all the favorite brands across the globe. The problems with this junk food are that it is low in satiety, so one tends to overeat and as a result, it started to replace healthy foods made with fresh and nutritious ingredients. Many studies and research have linked the consumption of junk food to the early onset of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, BP, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Also read: 4 expert-recommended ways to control junk food cravings
The reason for this link is the ingredients that are commonly found in these foods. Let’s take them one by one and see how they affect the likelihood of increasing diabetes risk.
1. Sugars: In the 1960s, manufacturers began to replace fat calories with sugar to improve the taste of their products. The 1970s saw a boom in the consumption of sugary foods, including cookies, sugary drinks, and candy. As the population became “health conscious”, manufacturers resorted to concealing added sugars by using products like corn syrup, sucrose, artificial sweeteners, malts, etc. Ultimately, most of these products remain high in sugars. The consumption of sugar is directly linked to our brain’s center for rewards, so when we consume foods high in sugar, we feel happy and repeated use makes us somewhat dependent on them. It is more important for children; studies have shown that early childhood exposure to foods high in sugar resets the brain to craving it and makes it difficult to quit junk food. The consumption of foods high in sugars is directly linked to obesity – both frank obesity and increased deposition of fat in the abdomen. Obesity is the number one modifiable risk factor for diabetes.
2. Insulin resistance: Obesity and the central deposition of body fat are linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is used by the body to push sugar into cells for energy. When the body is not using insulin properly, the pancreas assumes that it needs more of it. This daily pressure to increase production wears down pancreatic cells and eventually leads to diabetes. Junk food, high in sugar and calories, promotes blood sugar spikes, constantly increasing insulin production. Another problem is that although the sugars are quickly eliminated, insulin remains high for some time, causing food cravings and increased calorie consumption. It is a vicious circle and must be controlled.
3. Fats: Junk food is generally high in saturated fat and may contain trans fat. These two types of fats increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood. High triglyceride levels are directly linked to the risk of developing diabetes. The bad fats found in junk food also increase the risk of CVD.
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FROM BAD DIET TO HEALTHY EATING:
Variety is the spice of life, and food is a place where we crave variety. Here are some simple tips to improve the nutrient quotient of your favorite foods:
- Snack on whole legumes, think mattar chaat, Sundal instead of a white bread sandwich loaded with mayonnaise.
- Try nut butters as a dip with fruit instead of tortilla chips and high-fat dips
- Choose a grilled chicken breast with a fresh salad instead of fried chicken wings
- Look for products that don’t contain partially hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, and ground kernels.
- A home-made attack ladoo or besan pinni is more nutritious than many “energy bars”. Limit portion sizes and portions taken.
- For kids, don’t buy what you don’t want them to eat. Make burgers and pizzas with buns and whole grain bases at home. Top them with lots of vegetables and fresh unprocessed meat or paneer and fresh cheeses.
Overall, shortcuts don’t work for health. Eating the right food at the right time in the right amount is the only way to be healthy.
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