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It’s no secret, we are all living very busy lives nowadays. Whether you are rushing to get to your next meeting, or time is getting away from you and you’re too tired to cook, the option to swing into the local fast food restaurant is often the solution to get those well earned calories after a hard day’s graft. 

However, these foods are often highly processed & contain large amounts of sugar, saturated fats and sodium chloride (salt). The net result is a product that is very high in calories, with reduced levels of the nutrients that the body craves. Now of course, the occasional night of indulgence on junk food won’t hurt but what are the effects of habitual eating of fast food on the human body? We take a closer look at the implications of regular consumption of these foods that might just make you think about the choices you make moving forward.

The net result is a product that is very high in calories, with reduced levels of nutrients

Bloating

Picture the scene. It’s a Saturday night, and you are watching a well known Geordie duo make people laugh on the TV as you tuck into your favourite takeaway. Minutes after your last bite you lean back and say ‘Wow, I feel really full now’. Other than the volume of food you just ate, the reason you feel so bloated is because of the high level of Sodium that is present in your meal. Sodium causes the body to retain water which increases the feeling of fullness and bloatedness that you experience. Flavourings or preservatives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite & sodium saccharin are generally the culprit when it comes to bloating. Dietary limits of sodium in the average adult suggest you should not exceed 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day, whereas the average fast food meal will exceed that number in a single sitting.

Constipation

‘You’re not having any dessert until you finish your vegetables’. The dreaded line as a youngster but it turns out they were right. Dietary fibre is an essential nutrient when it comes to looking after your digestive system. Commonly found in vegetables, fruits & whole grains, fibre is like the bodyguard of your digestive system, helping to kick out the waste through the appropriate avenues. If you are going down the fast food route, try to seek out whole wheat or whole grain options to claw back some of that goodness.

Blood sugar spike

You are probably familiar with the phrase ‘a sugar rush’ – the idea that you have elevated levels of energy after eating a sugary snack or having a sugary drink. What is actually happening when you consume these foods that contain high levels of refined sugar is that the blood running through your body has a sugar spike, prompting your body to release insulin to counteract the effects of the excess sugar. The net result is actually a feeling of lethargy, fatigue and reduced levels of alertness. Frequent consumption of fast foods can lead to the body’s natural insulin response being altered, leading to conditions such as Diabetes.

Fats & Cholesterol- they go somewhere…

A  study in 2020 found that the majority of adults in the UK were either overweight or obese, with 67% of men and 60% of women being in the overweight category & 26% of men and 29% of women in the obese category. Fast foods often contain large levels of saturated fats and refined sugars that drastically increase the amount of calories that are consumed in a meal. The net result is an increase in fat stores on the body and around the organs. With high levels of bad cholesterol, fatty deposits develop in your blood vessels which makes it more difficult for blood to flow through your arteries. Studies show that obesity is a leading cause in heart disease, stroke and premature death.

In the UK in 2020, 67% of men and 60% of women were classed as being overweight

Tooth decay

After the first lot has fallen out, you only have one set of teeth left. It is obviously no secret that sugar is bad for your teeth. A typical can of fizzy energy drink contains up to 14 teaspoons of sugar, 14! But it’s not just the blood sugar spike you need to consider. Excess sugar on the teeth will cause dental plaque to build up, which will in time lead to tooth decay and cavities. Aside from the hefty dental bills and potential pain this could cause, it’s also worth noting that it can make your breath smell bad. Nasty.

It can make you sad – honestly!

This ones a bit harder to measure, but studies have shown that regularly eating fast food causes a higher rate of depression. For example, obesity can cause poor self image, low self esteem & social isolation, all of which are well known contributors to depression.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that you have the ability to control what you eat and drink and there are endless possibilities for healthy, nutritional meals and snacks that taste great and are very affordable. See the links below for some great recipes and ideas that you can try.

https://www.eatingwell.com/gallery/13723/20-healthy-meals-you-can-make-in-20-minutes/

https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/g3733/healthy-dinner-recipes/