Written By Salina Jivani of “The Great Word Nerd” blog
Calories have become all the rave. After McDonald’s made news on multiple occasions for its unhealthy, obesity-inducing meals, and Jared from Subway stepped out, dwarfed by his old fat jeans, claiming that “eating fresh” had helped him lose weight equivalent to that of a grown adult, it’s as though a cyclone of frenzy seized the fast food industry and calorie counts started popping up on drive through menus and nutritional fact sheets everywhere. But don’t be fooled. Although many restaurants are more calorie conscious and aim to make meals more calorie friendly, that doesn’t mean the foods they offer are any healthier for you to consume. In fact, excessive calories are just one thin layer among many others of why you should avoid fast foods like the plague.
High Sodium– If you know anything about eating healthy, you know that keeping the salt shaker at bay is a good thing. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about nine out of every 10 adults consume too much sodium, of which the AHA recommends no more than 1500 milligrams per day. Eat a single meal at a fast food restaurant of your choice and you’re likely to deplete your entire day’s worth of recommended sodium. One serving of Taco Bell’s volcano nachos (1650 milligrams) or a single serving of McDonald’s Big Breakfast with hotcakes (2260 milligrams) and you’re already over the recommended amount. Keeping that level of consumption up with even the slightest bit of regularity and you’ll make yourself infinitely more prone to fatal health concerns, including stroke, headaches, high blood pressure, kidney disease, stomach cancer, and heart failure, to name a few.
Fake ingredients- When you eat, you want to make sure you’re nourishing your body and consuming something that is healthful. After all, your body will work hard for you as long as you give it the means to do so. But many fast food restaurants don’t have the prized nutrients or vitamins your body craves. In fact, the beef used by many restaurants is not 100% real meat–nowhere even close to that percentage. According to one study, approximately 50% of beef patties are composed of water and only between 2.1%-14.8% of the entire patty is actually real. The remaining 35%-48% is composed of chemical fillers and preservatives, which basically means that on a more favorable scale, 15% of what you ingest is real, nutritional food. The remaining 85%? Fake, lab-tested chemicals. Which brings us to our next point.
Low nutrition value– Of course if you’re not eating real food, you can’t expect your body to extract real nutrients from those foods. And if you’re like the majority of Americans who depend on fast food restaurants for at least half their meals during the week, you’re doing more harm than good by depriving your body of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health and longevity. The ratio of calories to nutrient density in fast foods is baffling. In other words, eating a fast food meal pretty much means that all you’re feeding your body are harmful chemicals and a ton of extra calories with no true nutritional value to sweeten the deal.
Food safety- You wouldn’t ever entertain the thought of eating silly putty for lunch, would you? Opt for chicken nuggets from most fast food restaurants, and it’s likely that you’ll be getting a good dose of dimethylpolysiloxane—the exact chemical found in putty. In fact, according to several studies, the chicken contained in nuggets are not really even meat, but made from a sticky substance created from ground carcass and processed chicken bones. Not scared? Consider this: the chicken nuggets at many restaurants contain a chemical preservative called tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), which safeguards foods from discoloration. The downside is that while your food will appear fresh, fatal effects of TBHQ in rats include tumors and death.
So the next time you decide you’re too lazy to pack a good ol’ homemade brown-bag lunch, think about what you’re sacrificing at the cost of convenience. Although an occasional meal here and there at a local joint likely won’t harm you, it’s always a good idea to prepare home cooked meals in advance so that you’re not left tempted to turn that occasional fast food visit into a regular habit. Besides, who doesn’t want to save some money and avoid a ton of unnecessary calories?