There is no denying the convenience that is fast food. Whether you're on a road trip or need to grab a quick lunch before going back to work, there's a fast rood restaurant ready to serve your needs. But just because these stops are fast, doesn't mean they're healthy. In fact, the health risks of a fast-food burger might make you re-think your decision. These are the side effects heading your way when you choose fast food for lunch!
Fast Food Will Make You Lethargic
Anyone looking for a much-needed energy boost in the second half of the day will want to avoid fast food. Most quick meals that include hamburgers, french, milkshakes, or other speedy eats come high in fat and calories. Even salads from these places tend to come with dressings loaded with sugar and salt!
According to Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, "Those large portions often leave you feeling full and lethargic." The best practice is to order smaller sizes or avoid a burger and fries altogether.
Excessive Sodium Will Cause Bloating
Sodium is found naturally in many foods, in some cases in high levels. In many fast food items, extra sodium is added as a preservative and flavor enhancer. There's an unfortunate downside to all the salt though - bloating.
One fast-food meal can contain up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Dieticians recommend consuming no more than that amount in one day, not one meal. The more sodium you consume, the more water your body will retain, which can lead to a bloated feeling.
MSG Adds Flavors But Also Causes Headaches
Monosodium glutamate is one of the most controversial items that is commonly used in the food industry. Usually associated with Chinese food, MSG also runs rampant in fast food items, and while it adds flavor, it can also cause headaches.
MSG has been linked to migraine headaches, general weakness, nausea, heart rate changes, burning sensations on the back of the neck, trouble breathing, and wheezing. One way to avoid MSG is to avoid fried chicken on fast food menus.
Your Skin Will Pay The Price!
One of the most common side effects associated with a fast-food diet is acne. It's not the fat-filled fried components that cause skin deterioration issues, though. Amy Shapiro, the founder of Real Nutrition NYC revealed the real cause.
"It's the simple sugars, white flour, and empty carbs like French fries that can be blamed," she said. Essentially, all the empty calories fast food puts into your body end up filling your skin with problems that could easily be avoided with a different meal.
Empty Calories = Unwanted Weight Gain
Fast food contains a lot of empty calories. While eating it every now and then won't affect your overall health, including it as a weekly treat will, especially if you find yourself eating it once a day. The uptick in calories you consume per meal will become noticeable.
Jim White, RD, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios says, "The high-calorie intake can lead to obesity, which puts you at risk for developing chronic diseases."
Satisfaction Will Be Fleeting
The healthier a person eats, the longer they will be satisfied and not feel like they need to rush to another meal. This helps maintain a healthy calorie intake as well as keep the body functioning to the best of its abilities.
When it comes to the empty calories of fast food, the feeling of satisfaction is sadly fleeting. "Your body is temporarily full with empty foods that don't provide nourishment, so even though you may have eaten a lot of calories, you won't be satisfied for long."
Items With High Fructose Corn Syrup Might Be Worse Than Ones With Sugar
It's not sugars contained in fast food menu items you need to be concerned about. You also need to be careful about items with alternative sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame.
High fructose corn syrup has been medically linked to unwanted weight gain, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Fast Food Has Been Linked To Depression
In 2012, the Public Health Nutrition journal published a study linking regular fast food consumption to a greater risk of depression. The results concluded regular fast foodies were 51% more likely to develop depression than those following healthier diets.
The study also concluded junk eaters are, "more likely to be single, less active and have poor dietary habits, which include eating less fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and olive oil."
You Won't Be Able To "Go"
In order to keep your digestive tract working, you need to eat foods containing dietary fiber. This life essential is commonly found in fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables - ingredients you won't readily find in fast food items.
As one nutritionist explains, "Unfortunately, most fast foods don't contain high dietary fiber contents," which means when you have to "go," you might not be able to. If you do plan to eat fast food, make sure your meals include food high in dietary fiber.
Kidney Stones Could Form
Diets high in sodium are not good for your kidneys. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that regularly eating fast food could increase a person's likelihood to form kidney stones. According to Harvard Medical School:
"A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. So, a low-sodium diet is recommended for the stone prone.... If sodium has contributed to kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg."
Too Much Acid Will Decay Your Teeth
When you order a combo meal at a fast-food chain, be wary of the drink you choose to go with the burger and fries. Drinking heavy amounts of soda is a quick recipe for tooth decay.
It's not just the large cola that could be hurting your teeth. According to Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, fast food desserts, are full of acid, which can have a detrimental impact on your oral health. "Some of your fast food desserts, such as McFlurries or Frosty, may also add to this," she said.
All The Sugar Leads To Blood Sugar Spikes
Diets high in sugar are connected to spikes in blood sugar. Just as fast food is full of salt, it is also full of sugar. From the desserts to the hamburger bun to the salad dressing, there is no escaping how much sugar has been added to your meal.
Leah Kaufman breaks down how these blood sugar spikes can affect you this way: "Frequent consumption of these foods may lead to diseases such as obesity—which the American Medical Association has indicated is a clinical diagnosis—and diabetes."
Increased Anxiety Is Correlated To Blood Sugar Fluctuations
Some of the healthiest fats a person can put in their body are omega-3 fatty acids. Unsurprisingly, these fats are mostly absent in fast food. Having a deficiency in omega-3s can contribute to a more anxious state of mind.
This deficiency, mixed with the high amount of refined carbohydrates can lead to less than ideal blood sugar fluctuations. In turn, this can dip hypoglycemic levels, leading to further anxiety, confusion, trembling, and even fatigue.
The High Amounts Of Fats Increase Cholesterol
One look at most fast food menus makes one thing clear - there aren't many low-fat options. A high amount of foods are deep-fried, come with unhealthy dipping sauces, and are loaded with cheese. All that puts eaters at risk for higher cholesterol levels.
Jim White says, "The high-fat content in fast food can contribute to high cholesterol, which can also lead to atherosclerosis. That occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and prevents the flow of blood to the heart and organs."
The Way The Meat Is Cooked Has Been Linked To Cancer
In 2008, Nutrition and Cancer published a study that tested hundred of fast food meat samples. In over 100 samples of grilled chicken, they found PhIP, also known as 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo(4,5-b)pyridine. The chemical forms when heating meat to a specific temperature.
PhIP has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer in patients. In 2009, one chain was sued and, after settling the suit, starting putting warnings on their menu about the risks associated with their food.
Overall Heart Health Can Be Affected
Some of the most common fats found in fast food are saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are fats that are solid at room temperature. They tend to come from certain plant oils like palm oil, as well as meats.
Abundant in cheeseburgers and french fries, these fats can pose a serious risk to your heart. Jim White explains that they can increase your cardiovascular disease risk by raising your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
High Sodium Items Contribute To Weakened Bones
Amy Shapiro warns that eating fast food regularly could have a long-term impact on your bone strength. Because menu items are high in sodium, and that level is increased with combo meals, one serving could push a person well past their daily recommended sodium intake.
Too much sodium, as you might expect, could have adverse effects on your bones, including weakening them. This weakening, Shapiro says, if not addressed, can eventually lead to osteoporosis.
Increased Inflammation Could Lead To Bigger Problems
Did you know that when you order fast food, you're not just consuming the food you buy, but also the chemicals contained in the packaging? Phthalates are a chemical toxin commonly used in fast food packaging that at increased levels in the body can cause unwanted inflammation.
One study in Environmental International found that fast-food eaters had 35% higher phthalate metabolites than non-fast food eaters. This inflammation can lead to greater health risks, including nutrient deficiencies and excessive weight gain.
The Saturated Fast Might Affect Your Memory
It's no secret that fast foods, especially hamburgers, are high in saturated fats. But do you know all the impacts saturated fats have on you? Marisa Moore explains, "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."
Fast foods high in saturated fats don't just affect your memory though, they can also affect your flexibility and physical responsiveness!
Food Dyes Have Been Linked To ADHD
One trick fast food restaurants use to make food look more attractive to consumers is to use food dyes. These dyes make colors pop, easily grabbing a person's attention and swaying their lunch decision.
Be wary, though, as some commonly used food dyes like red 40, blue 1, and yellow 5, have been linked to attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Despite these alarming studies, restaurants continue to use dyes, especially for holiday-themed items, like one chain's black hamburger buns for Halloween.