Junk Food Essay
What is Junk Food?
Junk food refers to foods with low to no nutritional value to the consumer. They are categorized as either pre-prepared or packaged. Pre-prepared junk foods are usually cooked before the customer makes the order. They include, but not limited to pizzas, burgers, tacos, fried chicken and French fries.
Packaged junk foods are processed by companies and packaged in tins, bottles and wrappers and treated with preservatives to make them have a long shelf life. Some packaged junk foods include, salted snacks, carbonated drinks, pastries, cake, chocolate, gum and candy. Junk foods have become very popular around the world, because they are cheaper and very convenient in this fast paced world.
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It is actually easier to order pizza, than to go through the whole process of preparing one. Also, the fact that they are usually sweet and greasy makes them tastier than healthy foods.
Junk Food vs Healthy Food
Now that we understand what junk foods are, it will be wise to know what healthy foods are, before we do a head to head comparison of the two. Healthy foods are the ones that have nutritious value to our bodies. They are grouped into the following categories:
- Carbohydrates– these are energy giving foods. All the grain family falls in this category, such as rice, wheat, corn, oats, etc.
- Proteins– these are body building foods. Most of the human body structure is made up of proteins. Amino acids in protein molecules help the body’s metabolism functions. Sources of proteins include animal meat, milk and legumes.
- Fats– fats perform the same function as carbohydrates. In fact, they produce more energy than carbohydrates. Excess fats are stored in the body and when the body undergoes starvation, it turns to the fats reserves and breaks them down to produce energy. Sources of fats include vegetables and seeds.
- Fibre– their chemical composition is not different from carbohydrates and they therefore perform the same functions. Fibre is divided into two: soluble fibre, which can be metabolized and insoluble fibre, which is composed of cellulose. Soluble fibre is absorbed by the body to produce energy. Insoluble fibre cannot be digested by human body. Its functions include, smoothening the movement of food through the esophagus and intestines (peristalsis) and reduces risk of colon cancer. Sources of fibre include, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- Minerals– these refer to chemical components that are very essential to our bodies. They can be acquired through natural foods or as additives like iodized salt. They include calcium, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, sulphur, phosphorus, iron and zinc.
- Vitamins– these nutrients are needed in the body to maintain good health. Their only source is fresh vegetables with the exception of vitamin D, which is synthesized from the sun. Lack of vitamins can lead to various diseases, such as goiter, scurvy, weakened immune system and osteoporosis.
A healthy meal, otherwise referred to as a balanced diet will comprise all the categories of healthy foods listed above. While junk foods taste better, they have no much importance to our bodies, aside from the fact that they take away our hunger. Most fast foods have a lot of calories, fats and salts and as a result, they are very unhealthy to our bodies. The excess calories and fats are stored as adipose tissues in the body, resulting to obesity, which increases the risk of getting obese related illnesses.
Furthermore, the excessive sugars in soft drinks, snacks and candy raises the blood sugar levels. The body responds by producing excess insulin to break the excess sugar, which may result to type 2 diabetes in the long run. They are also very addictive and people consume them continuously even when they are not hungry. The excess sugars also interfere with the functioning of the brain and may increase chances of dementia. People who consume a lot of junk food have also been associated with depression.
On the other hand, healthy foods are what we need for our bodies to function properly. They improve our immune systems and our bodies are capable to ward off disease causing vectors, before they wreak havoc. Our bodies also become strong and athletic. Look at all athletes and compare them with fast food junkies.
There is clearly a big difference between the two groups. While the former look beautiful with symmetrical bodies, the latter are usually out of shape and not quite appealing to the eye. Apart from heavy workouts, athletes maintain a strict diet of healthy foods. Also, there are no diseases associated with healthy foods, with the exception of red meat which is detrimental to our health when taken in large quantities.
Are there healthy junk foods?
Not all junk foods are actually bad for our health. Contrary to what most people believe, a bit of junk food can do us no harm, if we do it in moderation. After munching a large burger with several cans of sodas, we may feel like we have committed a serious sin, but it does not have to be that way.
Throw away that guilt conscience and spoil yourself with a bit of junk. The first junk food that is actually good for our bodies is chocolate. Indeed, chocolate has a lot of fats and sugars. However, when the chocolate melts in our mouths, it helps our bodies release serotonin, a chemical that makes us feel happy. The healthy varieties are the darker chocolates or the ones with higher purity.
Another good junk food snack is ice cream, although this may come as a surprise. Ice cream is a dairy based product and is therefore a source of various dairy based nutrients, such as calcium which is crucial for born development. Ice cream is also a source of carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins and fats and above all, it makes us happy.
Burgers are also not bad, only if they are prepared at home. Obviously a homemade burger will lack the basic ingredients that have made fast-food chain burgers infamous, such as additives and transfats. A healthy burger can be made with good quality bread, fresh vegetables and some good lean meat.
There is also beef jerky, which is a great source of proteins. The reality of the matter is that most of them have little or no serious effects on our bodies when taken under strict moderation. They only become a health hazard to us, if we over-abuse our cravings.
Is there junk food for Vegans?
Vegans also have junk foods. There are fast-food chain restaurants that serve vegan food, with the same cooking procedures as junk food. Just know that for each junk food that is made, there is replica of it made for vegans using the same procedures, but with different ingredients.
Furthermore, there are many processed foods with no nutritional value made specifically for vegans. The assumption that all vegans are healthy is therefore not true, because they are also exposed to the same challenges as non-vegans. Examples of vegan snacks include Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili, Fritos, Original Oreos cookies and Ritz Crackers.
How to stop eating junk food
Quitting junk food can be very tricky considering the fact that they are very addictive. However, with enough courage, will and discipline you can beat these cravings that may lead you to serious health problems. The first step of beating the junk food craze is to always plan.
Whether you are going to work, a vacation or any place that will take you away from home for a substantial amount of time, then it will be best if you carried nicely prepared home snacks on the way. You are less likely to order a burger when you have a nice meal tucked in somewhere in your bag.
Also, when you go shopping stick to the fresh produce sections, where you can find fresh vegetables, meat, dairy, fish, fruits, grains etc. Avoid the processed food sections, as you feel the urge to try the snacks.
You should also consume enough proteins to keep you full, because they have a slower rate of digestion than other nutrients. With a full stomach, you are less likely to look for unhealthy snacks on the way. However, the proteins should come from healthier alternatives, such as fish, legumes, nuts and vegetables.
Consuming a lot of red meat may lead to health complications, such as cancer, high cholesterol levels and heart diseases. And if you crave for some sugary foods, consume fruits. The natural fruit sugars are very nutritious to the body. You will also be getting other nutrients, such as water, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants in the process.
You may also experiment with different types of food. Eating the same meals over and over again will make you crave for junk foods. There are many recipes of healthy meals you can use, just make sure your kitchen is as fun and colorful as possible.
Another important step is to keep yourself busy with activities that help manage stress. Emotional stress has been linked to junk food cravings, just the same way a drunkard will embrace the bottle when he is feeling low. Go for walks or runs, do meditations or yoga or join a gym membership club.
Whenever the cravings start to show, do something that will distract your mind. Lastly, have quality sleep each day. Sleep keeps the mind refreshed and rejuvenated. Lack of sleep is linked to physical and mental fatigue, which results to stress and depression. These to emotional disorders are the culprits for junk food cravings.