• Good Food Guide
 

Junk Foods or Fast Foods - How bad are they?

The weekend is here and you think you now have a couple of days to relax. Saturday morning - you make the coffee to start the day and then you're off shopping. You get back just before lunch and discover that you have to get the kids to their hockey practise. Too late for a healthy lunch, by the time they are organized it will be time to go. So you pick up a "junk food" hamburger on the way. Traffic is a nightmare. By the time you put your feet up; you find it is time to get the kids. It's almost supper time and you're really tired now and you're in no mood to prepare a meal so you pick up "junk food" pizzas from a well-known fast food outlet. Sunday and time to prepare brunch and you go downhill from there so you pick up some "junk food" chicken with chips and some salad...

So what is a good diet? One which contains the nutrients your body needs in the correct amounts. That is the key to a healthy lifestyle. The main things your body needs from food are proteins - for growth and repair, carbohydrates - for energy, fats - gives a store of energy and the fatty layer protects and insulates your body from impacts and temperature loss, vitamins - for good health, minerals - for the correct functioning of your body systems, fibre - aids digestion and production of faeces and water - 70% or so of the body is water.

Does the "junk food" hamburger provide all the things your body needs? Does it supply the nutrients you need? The answer is yes. The burger itself contains some meat, so there is the protein, some minerals and fat, the burger also contains fillers and those, plus the burger bun provides carbohydrate. The salad that comes with the "junk food" burger meal provides fibre, water, vitamins and minerals. The fries provide more fat and carbohydrate and the main bulk of the water comes from the drink. To our surprise, the burger meals do provide all you need!

The problem is with the quantities of these nutrients. There is usually way too much fat and carbohydrate compared with the other nutrients. There is very little fibre. The vitamin and mineral proportions are low, unless you have a shake with the meal, which will increase the proportion of dairy product based minerals such as calcium. Now you need to make sure your next meal makes up for this out of balance meal. For your evening meal you should eat a low fat, high fibre meal, plenty of vegetables cooked lightly or eaten raw so as not to destroy the vitamins. If you must eat between meals, snack on fruit or vegetables.

Another issue is the use of additives. For example, the addition of salt improves the flavour of food so naturally manufacturers put it in so eating processed food increases your salt levels - increases blood pressure and leads to heart problems. A little salt is necessary; it provides your body with the mineral sodium which is needed in small quantities. Preservatives are another issue here. In small quantities, these are not supposed to be harmful. Do you eat processed food all of the time? This is something for you to think about because you are really causing great harm to your body.

Antioxidants are so important. They help to prevent damage to the cells of your body, damage that can lead to cells becoming cancerous.

Teas are a very good source of antioxidants. Ordinary (black) tea provides some but a lot of the beneficial constituents are lost during the fermentation process. Unprocessed, pure organic teas like Green Tea or Oolong (the latter is only partly fermented) are the best. So instead of coffee in the morning, try tea, because it is more beneficial. Tea also contains the caffeine, but not as much as in coffee. You might have to drink more but think of the extra benefits to your health. Also, Green tea is thought to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. The high levels of animal fats in burgers inevitably mean more cholesterol so there is another good reason for switching from coffee.

Simple changes to your diet can make your hectic lifestyle healthier. Enjoy the odd burger or other fast food; just compensate healthier foods for the rest of the day.