Because fast food is so convenient and cheap, it's hard to resist at times. Many people also crave the taste of their favorite fast food burgers or fries, which makes it even harder to pass up. Unfortunately, fast food can be one of the unhealthiest options out there when it comes to your diet. It's important to understand the impact that eating fast food can have on your health, especially because it has been linked to serious conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Read this article to learn more about the health risks of the fast food you're eating and how to make healthier choices at the drive-thru.
Nutritional Content Of Fast Food
Many people underestimate how bad a fast food meal can be for their health. With so many components of typical fast food fare being fried or greasy, it doesn't take long for the calories and fat to add up. Most fast food items are very high in sodium and cholesterol as well. On top of that, these meals contain very little fiber, vitamins and other nutrients the body needs to properly function.
Take the Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese for example. This one sandwich contains 1,020 calories and 65 grams of fat, says the Rhode Island Cancer Council. That's over 50 percent of the recommended caloric intake for one day, and 100 percent of the recommended fat intake. Meals like this can be extremely detrimental to a person's health, particularly if they are consumed on a regular basis.
What's worse is that this nutritional content information is not readily available to consumers. While some fast food restaurants offer nutrition-related information on their websites, very few actually have this information on-hand at their restaurants or on their menus. For this reason, consumers need to be well aware of the health hazards involved with eating fast food.
Risk For Illness And Disease
Eating fast food has been linked to the following health conditions:
- Type 2 Diabetes: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), fast food consumption is strongly associated with insulin resistance. This greatly increases an individual's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Obesity: The NIH also explains that fast food consumption may lead to obesity. One study found that a personal who eats fast food at least two times a week will gain at least 10 pounds of extra weight.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Having an unhealthy diet is a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. This condition is caused by the build-up of plaque in the arteries and may lead to heart failure.
- Stroke: A poor diet like one obtained from fast food often leads to high blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke.
- Cancer: According to Corporate Accountability International, one-third of cancers are related to poor diet. This is often paired with the fact that obesity is closely linked with cancers of the colon, kidney and esophagus.
Risk For Growth And Development
Health risks associated with fast food aren't just for adults. Children who regularly consume fast food often suffer even more than adults because their conditions only worsen with age. Like adults, children have an increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes when eating fast food, says the NIH. Some studies have also shown that children who eat fast food regularly also have a higher risk for developing asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol.
These factors, combined with the lack of complete nutrition offered by fast food, may lead to improper growth and development in children and teens. In fact, diet is one of the main factors that contribute to proper growth and development. This is especially important for toddlers and young children who are developing and growing at a very fast rate. In these early stages, lack of complete nutrition may stunt brain development, physical growth or motor skill development.
Tips To Avoid The Health Hazards Of Fast Food
Eating fast food once in a while shouldn't be too detrimental to your health as long as you don't make it a habit. You can further restrict the health risks of eating fast food by making smarter choices when you eat at these establishments. The following are a few tips to cut down on your calorie, fat and sodium intake while eating fast food:
- Don't be fooled by seemingly harmless salads listed on fast food menus, these can also be health hazards. In many cases, salads are almost as bad for you as burgers, fries and other more obviously unhealthy options thanks to the inclusion of fatty dressings and ingredients like fried chicken or bacon. If you do get a salad, get one without any fried ingredients and choose a light dressing.
- Avoid increasing your portion size. This is a common offering at many fast food restaurants where bigger items are priced only slightly higher in order to encourage patrons to purchase more. Generally, even the smallest size available is a more than enough on its own. A good example is soda, which at 16-to-20 ounces for a small, is already enough for two servings.
- Look up nutritional information online before visiting a fast food restaurant. Simply seeing that a large order of fries has three times the calories of a small order may encourage you to order differently.
- Choose grilled chicken over crispy chicken, skip the mayo, choose apple slices over fries or go for a wrap instead of a sandwich. Smart choices like this can really add up.