The fast food industry appeals to our two primary tastes: salty and sweet. That’s why fast food contains so much added sugar (in its many forms) and salt. The same holds true for pre-packaged fast food, the kind you pop in the microwave. So what happens when we eat lots of fast food?
- Hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat, which is shown to be negative for human health in many ways. Trans fat occurs during food processing and is commonly found in fried foods, pastries, pizza dough, crackers and pre-packaged food. It is also in the oil that many restaurants use to cook French fries, chips and more. Eating foods that contain trans fat can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.1
- The Obesity Action Coalition(OAC) reports that the number of fast food restaurants in America has doubled since 1970. The number of obese Americans has also doubled.
- Fast foods like bacon burgers, some fried foods and milkshakes can be high in saturated fats. “It’s been long established that saturated fats can negatively impact the heart, but there’s also research that suggests high saturated fat intake may negatively impact brain function and memory,” says Marissa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD.2 She adds that higher intakes of saturated fatty acids may impair memory speed and flexibility and prospective memory (your ability to remember to do what you intended).
- Many fast-food meals have added sugar. Not only does that mean extra calories, but also little nutrition. The American Heart Association suggests only eating 100 to 150 calories of added sugar per day. That’s about six to nine teaspoons. A 12-ounce can of soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar. That equals 130 calories, 39 grams of sugar and nothing else.
- Frequent soda intake can lead to poor oral health, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN. Drinking large amounts of soda increases the amount of acid in your mouth, which eventually causes tooth decay and cavities. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the cheap sweetener most fast food restaurants use in their sodas, desserts, and many other products. Princeton University researchers linked HFCS consumption to obesity in an animal study. 3
- The combination of fat, sugar, and lots of sodium (salt) can make fast food tastier to some people. But diets high in sodium can lead to water retention, which is why you may feel puffy, bloated, or swollen after eating fast food. 4
- Some foods naturally contain higher amounts of sodium, but sodium is also added to many fast-food products. Some of these additives are monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate, which are used as flavoring or preservatives. Sodium can contribute to existing high blood pressure or an enlarged heart muscle. If you have congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease, too much salt can contribute to a dangerous buildup of fluid. A high sodium intake can cause your bones to weaken, leading to possible osteoporosis. The American Heart Association recommends adults eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. One fast-food meal could have half your day’s worth.
The good news is that palates can be trained. Once you consistently eat fresh, healthy whole foods and wean off fast foods, your body should start craving fruit instead of sugary sweets, and the desire for extra salt also abates. Nikken Silver Consultant Nancy Clyde wrote, “Well, I must confess since being on the Everyday Organic-Based Weight Management Program, I really taste the sweetness of Kenzen Ten4®. I have about 10 of the old formula and it is way too sweet. Thank you Nikken.” Welcome to a life of Active Wellness!