How often do you eat fast food? Occasionally? Frequently? All the time? Chances are you consume it more than you realize. Fast food is an enormous industry, with more than $200 billion in revenue every year, compared to 50 years ago when it brought in just $6 billion per year.
Fast food has exploded in popularity for a number of reasons. It is relatively inexpensive; it is easy to find, with thousands of fast food restaurants littered throughout the country; and — thanks to typically high levels of fat, sugar and salt — it tastes good. It’s not surprising, then, that nearly half of adults in America eat fast food at least once a week.
The term fast food is often synonymous with processed food, which typically describes food that is processed, usually high in calories and contains few nutrients. An occasional fast food treat won’t do most people harm, but research shows that eating a diet high in junk food can have a number of health implications. For example, one study found that eating fast food more than twice a week increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and death from coronary artery disease.
One reason for this link is the fact that most processed food contains a large amount of carbohydrates with little fiber. When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose — or blood sugar — which is used as fuel for the rest of the body. As blood sugar increases, your body releases insulin, a hormone that allows cells to store extra glucose. The insulin processes the glucose and your blood sugar returns to normal. However, eating large amounts of carbs repeatedly can cause blood sugar spikes, which may increase your risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
In addition, a lot of highly processed food — including pizza, crackers and cookies — contains trans fatty acids, which are linked to lower levels of good cholesterol, higher levels of bad cholesterol, and an increase in your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Other research shows that a diet high in processed food increases your risk of depression and breathing issues such as asthma.
While the news about processed food is sobering, fortunately there are a number of ways you can make it easier to resist. For tips on avoiding fast food and creating healthier habits, check out the accompanying resource.
Provided by Itaki