Posted on July 17, 2019

Category: Healthy Habits

It’s no secret that regular physical activity can have a dramatic impact on your overall health, but living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t stop there. Another major component of the health equation is the food (fuel) you put into your body. Most people believe that their diet is fairly healthy, but you’d be surprised the impact that your favorite sweet or salty snacks could be having on your body. Whether you’re regularly fighting sickness or coping with chronic aches and pains, changing what’s on your plate might be your simplest solution and your first step toward a healthier lifestyle.

Read on to learn more about the roll snacks play in sickness and what you can do to de-junk your diet.


What’s on Your Plate?

When you hear “junk food,” what do you think of? This phrase is often used in reference to food’s nutritional value and generally refers to any food that isn’t particularly good for you. “Fast food,” on the other hand, is a specific type of junk food that you might find at drive thru chain or sitting under a warmer at a gas station. Junk foods are typically composed of high levels of salt, sugar and artificial colors—which make them an appealing option for those that are looking for a quick meal that tastes good. Unfortunately, though these foods may taste good, they do next to nothing for your body from a nutritional standpoint. As effective as they might be at satisfying your hunger, consuming too much junk food can ultimately do far more harm than good. In light of all of this, it becomes particularly concerning that, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 40% of Americans eat fast food or junk food on any given day.

Now, it’s around this point in the conversation where people start to think to themselves “so what if I eat unhealthy foods? As long as I’m not overweight, I can eat whatever I want.” This can be a very dangerous way to think. Check out this video from The Doctors on the health hazards of junk food:

Short-Term Effects

Most people think of their diet as exclusively affecting their long-term health, but an unhealthy diet can have significant impacts on how you feel day-to-day as well. We’ve listed out some of the most common short-term symptoms of diets filled with fat, salt and sugar:

Decreased Energy & Focus

When it comes to focus, energy and overall productivity, food can have a substantial impact on your day-to-day life. Your body processes different foods in different ways, and choosing the wrong foods (junk foods) can leave you feeling groggy and sluggish. The Harvard Business Review explains it like this:

“Some foods, like pasta, bread, cereal and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high fat meals (think cheeseburgers and BLTs) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy.”

Can you remember a time when you felt groggy or sluggish in the afternoon? Odds are good that you had junk food for lunch that day.

Bloating

It’s a well-known fact that too much salt and fat are bad for your diet, but not everyone knows exactly why that is. In addition to the sluggishness caused by too much junk food in your diet, you may also experience feelings of physical discomfort associated with your food choices—namely bloating and headaches. When you eat too many salty foods, the cells in your body start to hold excessive amounts of water and, when that happens, you begin to look and feel bloated.

Sugar “Crash”

Sometimes referred to as “Reactive Hypoglycemia,” sugar crashes are a common sign that your diet has been overloaded with sugars. In a sugar crash, your blood has too much glucose (sugar) in it, which triggers your body to begin producing massive amounts of insulin to compensate. Insulin works to lower the amount of sugar in our blood and, when it is over-produced, it can lead to headaches, nausea, sweating and faintness.

Acid Reflux & Indigestion

Anyone can experience acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion, but these conditions can also each be caused by overeating fatty foods. Fatty foods can stick around in your stomach for far longer than other foods, which can cause your stomach to produce more acid. More acid means you have a greater chance of experiencing acid reflux and, in turn, heartburn. Additionally, too many fatty foods can lead to a constant, nagging pain in the upper abdomen, often referred to as indigestion.

Poor Sleep

Sleep remains one of the more mysterious parts of the human experience and we’re far from cracking the code on why, exactly, we need sleep, what sleep does to our minds and what prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep. However, there is some research out there that points to the role that our diets play in our ability to start snoozing. Some studies have found that those who consume less fiber and more saturated fats and sugars through the day risk enduring significantly worse sleep than those with a more balanced diet.

Long-Term Effects


People often think of the same small handful of long-term impacts their diet can have on their health but, in reality, the list of conditions and associated complications for diet-related health issues is essentially endless. With that being said, we put together a list of some of the most common long-term conditions plaguing junk food junkies:

Top Foods and Beverages to Avoid

At this point, you may be convinced that a better diet could be beneficial, but significant changes to your diet can be hard to make. To help you get started here’s a list of some of the biggest roadblocks you’ll face on the road to proper dietary discipline.

1. Soda


Cutting out soda has been increasing in popularity over the last decade—and with good reason. For those who haven’t already done so, cutting soda from their diet is an excellent way to drastically reduce the risk of dangerous diseases such as liver, kidney and heart disease as well as stroke and diabetes. When you drink soda, even if it’s diet, you can raise your blood pressure, your glucose levels and your bad cholesterol levels.

2. Packaged Sweets


Whether it’s a brownie, a cookie or a Twinkie, packaged sweets are loaded with sugars and trans fats. When you regularly consume trans fats, it can lead to cancer, infertility and cognitive disorders. Still looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try baking your sweets on your own at home so you know exactly what’s in them.

3. Energy Drinks


Energy drinks are a sweet, caffeinated sensation that many people turn to for added energy throughout the day. However, the things that make these drinks so effective at keeping you awake also make them particularly bad for your body. They are loaded with sugar, carbs and caffeine that can collectively lead to heart palpitations, dehydration, headaches, insomnia and high blood pressure.

4. Fruit Drinks


Fruity drinks are deceptive. The labels are often covered with images of fresh strawberries, oranges or grapes but, inside, they contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup, which can greatly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. When it comes to fruit juice, stick with beverages that are 100% fruit juice. Otherwise, water and a bowl of fresh fruit would be your healthiest bet.

5. Chips


When you say “junk food,” chips are the image that jump into most people’s heads. Their greasy, salty exterior and satisfying crunch make them the go-to snack food for many people, but they come loaded with saturated fat, salt and sugar. If you’re looking for a snack with some crunch, try air-popped popcorn, carrots or celery sticks.

The food we eat, and the quantities we eat it in, play a massive role in our overall health, but we can’t always see the impacts our diet is having. It’s possible to have a slim waste and obstructed arteries, which is why it’s so important to make responsible decisions about what’s on our plate.

Sources

Brissette, C. (2018, March 01). This is your body on fast food. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/sneaking-a-little-junk-food-doesnt-mean-all-is-lost/2018/02/26/828b75fa-1b36-11e8-9de1-147dd2df3829_story.html?utm_term=.7f553d03bdb3

Chi, A. (n.d.). How Does a Poor Diet Affect Your Digestive System? Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/435030-how-does-a-poor-diet-affect-your-digestive-system/

Ducharme, J. (2018, October 03). Almost 40% of Americans Eat Fast Food on a Given Day. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://time.com/5412796/fast-food-americans/

Friedman, R. (2019, March 27). What You Eat Affects Your Productivity. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity

Harvard School of Public Health. (2019, January 04). Healthy Eating Pyramid. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-pyramid/

Howard, J. (2018, October 03). Here's how much fast food Americans are eating. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Johnson-Greene, C. (2019, January 29). Junk Food Effects: Stay Away from These 6 Foods and Beverages. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/junk-food-effects-stay-away-from-these-6-foods-and-beverages/

Lehman, S. (2019, June 24). The Reasons Why Americans Consume a Lot of Junk Food. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.verywellfit.com/why-you-eat-junk-food-2507661

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, March 22). Heart Disease. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118

Noncommunicable Diseases Alliance. (n.d.). Unhealthy Diets and Obesity. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://ncdalliance.org/unhealthy-diets-and-obesity

St-Onge, M., Roberts, A., Shechter, A., & Choudhury, A. R. (2016, January 15). Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4702189/

The Doctors. (2013, June 25). Health Hazards of Junk Food -- The Doctors. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXynlliFyC8

Van De Walle, G. (2019, February 25). Should You Completely Avoid Junk Food? Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/avoiding-junk-food