All That Junk in the Trunk: Why Junk Food Is Appropriately Named So

In this day and age, many of us are so used to get everything instantly. We want everything fast and easy. We don’t want to waste time and effort. This even applies to how we want our food. We don’t take time to make meals made with love. We don’t take time to actually have a nice relaxing meal and just enjoy the food. And finally, we just want to eat and run. And that’s where junk food comes in.

Junk Food Defined

So what is junk food, really? Loosely speaking, it is food that has very little to no nutritional value. It’s cheap food that’s easily obtainable. It’s also food that contains high levels of sugar, calories, and fat.

According to author Andrew F. Smith, he defines junk food as “those commercial products, including candy, bakery goods, ice cream, salty snacks, and soft drinks, which have little or no nutritional value but do have plenty of calories, salt, and fats. While not all fast foods are junk, most are. Fast foods are ready-to-eat foods served promptly after ordering. Some fast foods are high in calories and low in nutritional value, while other fast foods, such as salads, may be low in calories and high in nutritional value.”

Whether we like it or not, junk food is available in all parts of the globe. They’re in groceries, convenience stores, fast-food chains, even on television. They are usually food that looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye. And yes, they taste wonderful too.

History of Junk Food

The actual term junk food dates back to the early 1950s. It was first spotted in an article in a Lima, Ohio, newspaper. However, others say the term was coined by Michael F. Jacobson in 1972. He was the director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

There is a close link to the creation of this unhealthy food and the industrialization of the United States. Before the 1800s, food was usually exclusively prepared at home by doting mothers who made sure to provide the family with healthy meals. The ingredients used also underwent minimal processing and were grown locally and harvested seasonally. Bottom line is back in the day, people ate healthier.

With the 1820s came the introduction of flour mills. And with that came the launch of the junk food era. Improvement in the milling industry and improvements in transportation brought inexpensive white flour to everyone. And up until today, cheap white flour is the main ingredient of most “junk food.”

The first junk food created in America was the Cracker Jack, introduced in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. Also in the 1890s, soft drinks were introduced to the masses as well as a healthy drink to aid digestion.

And from there, junk food has never looked back. It has exploded in popularity and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Effects of Junk Food

So what does eating too much junk do to your body? There’s plenty, and most of them are on the negative side. Here are just a few of them you need to know.

Introduces Digestive Problems

Eating too much junk will eventually lead to issues in digestion, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A lot of this food type is deep fried. All this oil sticks to the walls of the stomach lining. This then leads to an increase in acid production. Also, junk food does not contain healthy fiber. A lack of fiber in a daily diet hampers digestion, and this increases the possibility of constipation and hemorrhoids.

Promotes Overweight and Obesity

A study shows that the ingestion of too much junk food is linked with many precursors for obesity. People tend to consume a higher amount of fat, calories, carbohydrates, and also added sugars. In addition, they consume less fiber and other nutrients present in vegetables and fruits. Let’s put it this way: the more you eat junk food, the more the unhealthy and not-easy-to-digest components stay in your system. These are what adds to excess weight. Junk food is also highly addictive, which causes problematic food-eating habits as well.  

Affects Energy Levels

As stated above, junk food does not provide you with the necessary nutrients your body needs in order to function properly. As a result, you will feel lethargic, lazy, and lacking energy. The high sugar levels in junk food stresses out your metabolism. And since you don’t have the right amount of protein and good carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will drop suddenly. This leaves you feeling tired and weak.

Decreases Brain Function

A study shows that people eating too much junk perform poorly on cognitive tests that involve attention, speed, and mood. Unhealthy food deteriorates your memory and has a bad effect on learning and memory formation.

For teenagers, it can cause depression. During this age, plenty of hormonal changes occur. This makes teenagers susceptible to mood swings as well as behavioral changes. A healthy diet plays an important part in maintaining hormonal balance. As junk food is missing those necessary nutrients, the risk of teenagers experiencing depression spikes up by 58 percent.

Increases Risk of Diabetes

Fast food and junk food is one of the main contributors to the fast-rising diabetes epidemic. This food is very high in refined sugar, and too much puts stress on your metabolism. Refined sugar makes the pancreas produce more insulin in order to prevent a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels. Because this food only has a small amount of good carbs and proteins, the blood sugar levels will drop suddenly after eating. And eventually, over time, the high levels of sugar and unhealthy carbs in junk food will lead to type-2 diabetes.

Ups the Possibility of Heart Disease

The high fat and sodium content in junk food increases blood cholesterol levels and contributes to arterial plaque buildup. The saturated fats and trans fats present in them also increase triglyceride and LDL levels in the blood. They also damage the linings of the blood vessels. This causes chronic inflammation. The inflammation then makes the bad cholesterol stick to the arterial walls, which blocks blood flow to the heart.

Damages the Liver

Did you know that over time, the consumption of junk food can do the same damage to your liver as alcohol consumption does? That’s right. Studies show that people who ate too much junk showed changes in liver enzymes. These changes are similar to those people with alcohol abuse.

Also, the high levels of trans-fatty acids in this type of food result in fatty liver deposits. Over time, this causes liver dysfunction and disease.

Causes Kidney Disease

Another study shows that a diet that is comprised of mostly junk food causes long-term damage to the kidneys. The high sodium content in unhealthy food overloads the kidneys and will cause kidney malfunction. The phosphate content also results in excessive cellular and tissue damage, which greatly worsens kidney problems.

And finally, junk food can lead to kidney stones.

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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