Condemned by many as nutritionally bankrupt, junk foods continue to rule as it has loads of flavor. They are rich in sodium salts and/or sugar and fats and chemical food stabilizers to increase their shelf life. No antioxidants, omega 3 or vitamins. Everyone knows. But still comes back for more.
Lavish usage of oils, salts and/or sugar give junk food their great taste, and once addicted one finds it hard to think about the loss of nutrition. While it is the ingredients which make junk food so appealing and tasty, it is the same ingredients which pose the maximum health hazards.
 Junk food and addiction
A number of newspaper headlines carried research reports that junk food can be as addictive as hard drugs.
On of the many studies carried out on rats to determine the links between processed foods and addiction at Wisconsin University found that a high-fat diet appears to alter the brain biochemistry in a similar way to drugs such as morphine. The report said that this is due to the release of opioids - chemicals in the brain - that reduce the feeling of being full.
From the findings the researchers assumed that it very plausible that humans can become addicted to high-sugar and fatty foods. The fat and the sugar are responsible for the behavioral changes that occur, the obesity and also the brain changes that look like addiction.
In similar study into sugar addiction at the Princeton University, rats were gradually fed a diet with increasing amounts of sugar. The more sugar given, the quicker the rats ate it and when it was suddenly withdrawn from their food, they experienced "addiction-type" reactions, such as chattering teeth, anxiety and shaking.
According to the researchers, sugar triggers the production of the brain's natural opioids, and is a key to the addiction process. The brain gets addicted to its own opioids as it would to morphine or heroin. It is essentially the same process as drugs, but drugs give a bigger effect.
 Fostering poor eating habits in children
Good nutrition is a high priority for children. What they eat affects their growth and basic food education is a must for children to ensure good growth and survival. With lifestyle changes taking place traditional food skills are not passed on from one generation to the other.
Fast food addicts need to be reminded that the primary reason for eating is nourishment. Changing lifestyle is propagating unhealthy eating habits. TV dinners, attractively packaged take-aways, supermarket counters are all structured to foster poor eating habits.
Studies have shown that continuous diet of junk food can result in arteries blocking from the age of 30, laying the groundwork for future heart attacks. Children’s diet during puberty affects their risks of prostate and breast cancer. When lifelong eating habits are formed in the early years, they lead to diseases such as osteoporosis and hypertension. Among children poor diet can slow down growth, decay new teeth, promote obesity and sow the seeds of serious major diseases in future.
Most colors in fast food are often inedible, carcinogenic and harmful to the body. They can affect the digestive systems, and can lead to hyperactivity and lapses of concentration in children. Children suffering from Learning Disabilities are often advised against eating food with artificial coloring.
 Talking children, bypassing parents
The food manufacturers are talking directly to children, bypassing their parents, bringing in associations for certain brands with sugary, fruitless, "fruit" snacks. Kids are exposed to one such commercial every 5 minutes during their cartoon shows. The companies sponsor contests in schools, place messages in websites, movies, stores etc.
The US Federal Trade Commission recently found that 44 major food and beverage marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children under 12 and adolescents ages 12 to 17. in the United States. The report stated that the advertising campaigns combined traditional media, such as television, with previously unmeasured forms of marketing, such as packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes, and Internet. These campaigns often involve cross-promotion with a new movie or popular television program.
 The junk appeal
The time appeal
Junk food is simplicity. Simple to cook, yet very tasty. It is not necessary to set aside a time to eat junk food. You can have it even while watching TV. It is more convenient when items like pizzas and burgers are served at your doors, hot and ready, at super speed.
The taste appeal
Great taste, along with time, is a great influencer. But the taste comes from lavish usage of oils, salts and/or sugar. And once you get into the junk food addiction cycle, you tend to overlook the loss of nutrition aspect of the food.
The advertising appeal
Junk food companies spend billions of dollars every year to attract the food buffs. This way it plays a major role in influencing junk food behavior.
 'Healthy' junk food
Our bodies have enough stamina to take care off occasional junk food eating. Its danger lies in its addiction. Realizing that our younger generation is not taking its daily dozes of fruits and veggies, major companies, such as Kraft and Frito Lay, have decided to help by making a healthy version of chips. Though ‘healthy versions’ they still fall in the category of junk food. They are still highly processed and are not a stand-in for fresh fruit and veggies by any means.
Once you know that these healthy chips are made from dehydrated and ground up fruits and vegetables, which is nothing like the real produce, they don't sound like a very healthy snacking alternative. Is eating apple powder really the same as eating a real apple?
 'Greenwashing' Junk food
Recently there is a new trend to greenwash junk food with products such as chips, sugary cereals, breakfast bars, cookies sporting the "organic" label. According to some reports these organic products are growing in popularity. But often reading the labels on the packaging give them away. These products marked “all-natural" or "organic ingredients" doesn't necessarily make them healthy.
Though they come in earthy-looking brown packs, organic junk food has the same fat and calorie counts as their regular counterparts.
 Harmful effects of junk food
Lack of energy
Lack of energy is the short-term effect of eating junk foods. As they lack essential nutrients, even though they can be very much sufficing, you feel weakened.
Loss of concentration
This is either immediate or mid-term effect. As junk food is rich in oil you feel drowsy and fail to concentrate. Over sustained periods fat accumulates in the body resulting in drop in blood circulation. Lack of vital oxygen, nutrients and proteins particularly can stale your grey (brain) cells temporarily.
Junk food diet causes plaque formation in the arteries which requires the heart to put extra effort to pump blood on the down stream. On the up stream, there is lack of returning blood to heart. This continuous extra effort causes heart fatigues and affects oxygen supply.
The long-term effect of junk food is high cholesterol which strains liver and damages it eventually.
 Avoiding 'junk'
If you are serious about avoiding junk food, the best option is not to have them at home. Keeping them at home increases the craving. Drinking a glass of water whenever the craving is there tends to make you feel fuller and make your craving less intense.
Another way to avoid being a junkie is keeping a healthy treat near you at all times especially at work. Things like a half of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, 100 calorie pack snack, or two handfuls of grapes can help curb your appetite and urge of junk food. It is also a good idea to carry such snacks with you when you leave home to avoid the temptation of buying junk snak on the way.
 Home-made 'junk food' substitutes
If you are off junk food and feeling low about it, try making a substitute at home. They not only taste as good but are nutritious and healthy.
Satisfy your craving for chocolates with organic dark vegan chocolate. If the kids are pestering for cookies you can make one at home which is not loaded with sugar and chemicals whose names you can’t pronounce.
If while watching a movie on TV the old hankering for potato chips and dip reappears, consider low-fat brown rice crackers or rice chips or pretzels dipped into hummus or home-made guacamole. Add some celery and carrot sticks to really increase the nutritional punch.
A whole grain crust, available at the health food market, or whole wheat pitas covered with tomato sauce and fresh veggies can serve as a healthy alternative to the regular pizza. You can even add more flavor with some vegan parmesan. Try and get hold of raw food recipes for raw pizzas. But this will require dehydrating the crust well in advance.
To counteract the salty taste of the chips don’t go for a junk food soft drink but consider some plain fruit juice diluted half-and-half with fizzy water. It’ll feel like a soft drink in your mouth. And try sorbet or frozen grapes or frozen bananas with healthy toppings for dessert.
Even if these don’t take care of your cravings for junk food completely, you can go and have the ‘real stuff’ – but in moderation.
 Did You Know?
- Sometimes drinking just one soda, which has over nine teaspoons of sugar, in most sodas. gives you more added sugar than it's recommended you have in an entire day
- There are over 500 calories, and about 40% of your daily recommended fat, in some quarter-pound cheese burgers. In large fries there are 570 more calories, plus 47% of your daily recommended fat.
- There can be almost 400 calories in one fried chicken breast. Crispier it is, the more calories it contains.
- Meat-topped pizza can have over 300 calories per slice.
- There are over 450 calories in a blueberry muffin. A chocolate chip muffin has over 600 calories.
 Strange food facts
- French fries are not from France. They were first made in Belgium in 1876. The term “french” refers to the way of cutting the potatoes before cooking.
- Chop suey did not originate in China but was created in America by a Chinese cook who worked in a California mining camp in the 1800s. He stir-fried a variety of vegetables, called it tsa sui, Mandarin Chinese for “various things,” so people called it chop suey.
- Though potatoes are normally associated with Ireland, they are from Peru, and were brought to Europe by explorers.
- Educating Your Kids About Junk Food Advertising
- If You Are a Junk Food Junkie This is for You
- Dangerous food facts
- Children and junk food
- Junk food: Did you know?
- Junk Food Doesn't Have To Be a Nutrition Disaster
- Is junk food addictive?
 Additional Information
- 10 Ways To Quit Eating Junk Food