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Junk Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, And More Miserable. Here’s How To Fight Back


Junk Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, And More Miserable. Here’s How To Fight Back

Not only is highly processed food killing us, but it’s also making us sicker, fatter, and more miserable.

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, eating more ultra-processed food—basically junk food—raises the risk of cardiovascular death by 50% and increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 12% between 2009 and 2023.

According to the report, diagnoses for mental health issues, including depression, increased by 53% and those for anxiety by 48%.

Evidence that was less compelling but still very suggestive connected it to a 21% higher all-cause death rate.

Unsurprisingly, there were 40% more wheezing episodes, 55% more obese cases, and 41% higher risks of sleep disturbances.

Here’s the bright side, though. Reducing your intake of ultra-processed food can have significant health benefits, even over the course of two weeks, according to studies like this one.

Long-term, developing it as a habit can have enormous health benefits.

Ultra-Processed Food: What Is It?

You could be wondering, “Is this ultra-processed?” as you stare at your lunch. Yes, if you’re having a hamburger with fries and ketchup. It depends if it’s a tuna sandwich.

Five or more ingredients or additions, such as emulsifiers, sweeteners, preservatives, or artificial colors, are frequently found in ultra-processed foods.

These provide the food with shelf stability and enhance its appearance, palatability, and taste. Examine the ingredients of your meal if you’re not sure if it’s highly processed.

It’s extremely processed if you see a lengthy list of chemicals or non-specific ingredients (such natural flavors).

You may come across guar gum, stevia, aspartame, or soy lecithin. High-fructose corn syrup and most other compounds ending in -ose are dead giveaways. Health claims made on the packaging, such as “low sugar,” which is code for artificial sweetener, are another red flag. Foods like cereals, granola, salad dressings, and canned soups that are marketed as “nutritious” are frequently loaded with added sugar, preservatives, and chemicals.

Therefore, your tuna sandwich is not overly processed if it is made with whole-grain bread, canned tuna free of preservatives, and a small amount of homemade condiments. However, your tuna sandwich is a deadly, highly processed dish if it contains store-bought mayo that is loaded with artificial flavors and preservatives, processed cheese, canned tuna that has additives, and white bread that has been treated with preservatives and added sugar.

What Makes Ultra-Processed Foods So Hazardous?

There isn’t a single theory that explains why ultra-processed food is so harmful in general. Unlike arsenic, they do not become poisonous right away. But numerous explanations have been put forth.

First, some substances cause negative reactions in our bodies that worsen chronic inflammation because our bodies are unable to adequately digest them.

Chronic inflammation harms healthy cells, organs, and tissues, in contrast to acute inflammation, which happens, say, when you sprain your ankle. It damages the DNA of healthy cells and causes internal scarring.

Foods with extensive processing have fewer nutrients. This takes the place of better-for-you, nutrient- and fiber-rich foods.

Foods high in nutrients contain helpful bioactive components, such as the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables.

Foods high in fiber help to decrease cholesterol and support a healthy digestive system.

Ultra-processed food also has a negative impact on the intestinal bacteria in your stomach, known as the gut microbiome.

Your gut-brain axis is the conduit via which your microbiota communicates with you when you can’t stop overindulging in cookies.

Harmful chemicals are also created during the ultra-processed food manufacturing process.

Acrylamide and advanced glycation end products are among the substances that are liberated from food when cooking at high temperatures.

These are recognized carcinogens. Contaminants including bisphenols, microplastics, and phthalates can potentially seep into your food via the container.

While highly processed foods are linked to negative health consequences, they are not usually the root reason. Science has difficulty understanding studies that relate eating behaviors to results.

Many factors can cause confusion. For instance, it’s possible that those with low incomes have additional stressors that lead to poor health outcomes and are more prone to consume highly processed foods.

Most likely, a combination of all these factors led to the significant adverse consequences reported in the BMJ study. It’s time to reconsider some of your dietary decisions in light of these discoveries.

Here are some suggestions. Replace your sugar-filled, diet, and energy drinks with unsweetened tea or sparkling water.

Examine food labels and choose items with the fewest ingredients.

Steer clear of meals that include substances you are unsure of. A free website called assists you in choosing the least processed items at the supermarket.

If you’re trying to lose weight, think about following a Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, seafood, nuts, and seeds.

In the end, it’s more important to gently encourage yourself to make healthier food choices that you can gradually form into habits rather than drastically altering your eating patterns overnight.

When you gradually alter your eating habits, this will improve your overall well-being and possibly lengthen your life.

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