The purpose of food is not just to fill the empty, hungry stomach. Its purpose is to provide essential nutrients to your body for your survival and to improve your quality of life by improving your physical and mental health. Healthy eating helps the body to get enough nutrients to provide energy for activity, growth, and all functions of the body like digestion, breathing, etc. Unhealthy eating that includes overeating of fatty and greasy food, sweet foods, etc. can contribute to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other health problems. Unhealthy eating habit means, you are not getting enough nutrition that you need from your food every day. These foods are low in fiber, or high in fat, sugar, or salt. This habit can impair your health and well-being and reduce your ability to lead an enjoyable and active life.
Today’s lifestyle is so hectic that people get very less time to make food for themselves, so their food habits have changed and many go for processed junk foods. They are not very concerned about their health and the effects of eating junk food. So, before you completely ignore the health benefits you get from healthy eating, understand some foods that are considered generally unhealthy and also their bad impact on your health.
- Sugary Drinks: Sugary drinks are particularly harmful and some sugars are worse than the others. When you consume sugary drinks in large amounts, it can drive insulin resistance and it is also strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Besides, it is associated with various serious conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Instead of having sugary drinks, replace it with water, tea, or coffee (avoid a lot of caffeine).
- Processed Pastries: They are made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, unhealthy trans fats and a whole bunch of other chemicals and artificial ingredients. Trans fat increases the risk of coronary heart disease, sudden death from cardiac causes and diabetes. So, if you have a craving to eat pastries, try making them on your own or buy ones that are homemade.
- Foods that are Fried, Grilled or Broiled: These methods are the unhealthiest cooking methods but food prepared in these ways is often highly palatable and calorie-dense. When cooked in high-heat, several types of unhealthy chemical compounds are formed. These include acrolein, heterocyclic amines, oxysterols, etc. The chemicals formed during high-heat cooking will lead to increased risk of cancer and heart disease. You can avoid these unhealthy ways of cooking and choose cooking methods like boiling, blanching, stewing, and steaming.
- French Fries and Potato Chips: Whole white potatoes are healthy, but it is not healthy when consumed in the form of potato chips or French fries. These foods are tasty and easy to consume in excessive amounts. According to several studies, French fries and potato chips contribute to weight gain. When fried, baked or roasted, these will contain a considerable amount of acrylamides, substances that are carcinogenic (that have the potential to cause cancer). To consume potatoes, it is best to consume them boiled rather than fried.
- Processed Meats: All meat that has been smoked salted, cured, dried, or canned is considered processed. Processed meats like hot dogs, smoked meat, canned meat, sausages, salami, cured bacon, salted and cured meat, etc. are foods that are harmful for your body. People who are not health-conscious tend to consume more processed meats. It is believed that N-nitroso compounds (cancer-causing substances) are responsible for some of the adverse effects of processed meat consumption. They are formed from sodium nitrate that is added to processed meat products to:
- preserve red/pink color of meat
- enhance flavor by suppressing fat oxidation
- prevent bacteria formation, and to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
Processed meat will increase your risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bowel and stomach cancer. However, consuming such food occasionally is fine but make sure that they don’t dominate your diet; also, avoid eating them regularly.
- Ice Cream: Of course, it is delicious. It is loaded with sugar and also high in calories. When you eat it as a desert, you are usually consuming extra calories more than your normal intake. You can choose to have it from healthier brands or prepare it yourself using fresh fruit and less sugar.
- Processed Cheese: When consumed moderately, cheese is healthy. It is loaded with nutrients and a single slice has all the nutrients that are present in a glass of milk. Processed cheese is nothing like regular cheese. Processed cheese is prepared with filler ingredients that are engineered to have a cheese-like appearance and texture. Consider having real cheese, and healthy types include mozzarella, cottage cheeses and feta.
- Most Fast Food Meals: Generally saying, most fast food chains offer junk food. They are mass-produced and are low in nutrients. They contribute to the risk of many diseases and harm your general wellness. Now, as a result of mounting pressure, many fast-food chains have started offering healthy food options.
- Low-Fat Peanut Butter: Nut butters are great for you because they contain beneficial unsaturated fats, but when you start to take out the fat in peanut butter, you are lowering the amount of heart-healthy fats that you are getting and also end up getting a product with additional sugar and filler ingredients. These ingredients are added to compensate the fat that has been removed. So, when buying peanut butter, make sure it is natural and should contains ingredients like peanuts, oil, and a little bit of salt, says Amy Gorin, M.S, R.D.N, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.
- Packaged Donuts: Donuts are usually made from refined carbs and provide no nutritional value. They are deep fried that makes them high in trans fats which can raise your bad cholesterol level and lower your good cholesterol level, according to the American Heart Association. The high amount of sugar present in it will make your body pump out loads of insulin to try to accommodate. For better health and weight, donuts should be avoided as much as you can.
Even if you cook for yourself, it is crucial to understand that the above food items and food that is fried, grilled or broiled are generally unhealthy. Avoiding these foods will help prevent excess weight gain and chronic illnesses. If you want to have them, have them moderately or during special occasions without causing any permanent damage to your health; but always remember that healthy eating and physical activity are very important for your physical as well as mental health.