If you have to ask, you’re probably eating it. Even small amounts can contribute to a body’s harm and pathology—no, not just emotionally, but physiologically. In fact, eat some junk food that has zero fat, and 50 percent of it can turn to stored body fat. And as most people know, junk food is a primary cause of the worldwide overfat epidemic that’s affecting the full spectrum of individuals, from the poor to the most serious athletes.
In addition to its contribution to increased body fat, junk food may be the number one cause of the most common diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, not to mention the problems that significantly contribute to low quality of life such as intestinal conditions, hormone imbalance, chronic inflammation, fatigue, and much more (even hair loss). For this reason, some health authorities want to refer to junk food as pathogenic food. But that won’t happen soon enough thanks to the ongoing mult-million-dollar marketing campaigns waged by the food industry—the image of these bad foods is now being portrayed as harmless rather than the poison it really is.
However, pathologic food better refers to its capability to cause pathological conditions, including those with excess body fat.
In all its many disguises—it’s amazing how easy it is to fool even the very careful consumer—junk food, including soda, chips, candy, is one of the world’s most successful business ventures. Large amounts of it are in almost all Western households, and in the East as well, including China, Japan and Southeast Asia. It’s even widespread in the Third World, where in only one generation, millions of starving people have now become overfat, thanks to junk food.
It’s widely believed that the phrase junk food was coined in 1972 by Michael Jacobson, director of the American Center for Science in the Public Interest (a consumer advocacy organization that focuses on health and nutrition). But defining junk food has been a difficult task, partly because the numbers of items are alarmingly high, and also because the food landscape is always changing with new and improved products coming and going almost daily.
In defining junk food, the worst ones are most obvious—chips and cookies, coke and colas, and other sugared liquids, candy, and most other snacks. The biggest offenders are sugar (including sucrose, white table sugar, and others such as high fructose corn syrups) and flour, and the thousands of products made from these two deadly ingredients (from ketchup and mayonnaise to energy bars and sports products, and almost all liquid refreshments).
For those on the go, junk food is synonymous with fast food, and includes almost all burgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken and foods that are battered or coated or have sauces. Included are the popular “salads,” such as tuna and chicken salad, and even those low-cal dressings. Most international foods are not exempt from the junk food category: Chinese food (high in sugar, starch and or flour), sushi (white rice with added sugar), sweetened teriyaki foods, deep fried fish and chips, and others.
Going to a deli for lunch? The popular ham and American cheese on a roll is all junk food. As is that pasta salad with crackers (almost all pasta, noodles and similar items are junk). Of course, a plain bagel and diet coke is all junk food too. Instead, have some leaf lettuce with tomatoes, red peppers, carrots and slices of real roast beef or Swiss cheese. Hold the mayo and ketchup, but mustard (after reading the ingredients) or olive oil and vinegar would be OK.
As you push a shopping cart down the food store aisle, it’s almost guaranteed that if the food is in a can, frozen, or wrapped in a package, it’s probably junk food. Consider a can of peaches, which may seem healthy—but most are packed with high amounts of sugar. Instead, buy fresh fruit in season. Even most trendy bulk foods found in health stores and other retailers, with their funky image of pure and natural, is junk food too.
It’s not only conventional foods available to consumers everywhere, but most organic items are junk too (see, “Shopping at Whole Foods”). In fact, organic junk food is one of the fastest growing segments of the natural foods industry.
It’s simple—there are two kinds of foods:
– Healthy food. It’s real, naturally occurring, unadulterated and unprocessed, and nutrient-rich. If you can grow or raise it, it’s real. Included are fresh fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans, eggs, real cheese (see, “Milk proteins: The Good and the Bad”), whole pieces of meat (such as fish, beef, chicken), nuts, seeds, and similar items. Consuming these foods provide a great potential for both immediate and long-term health benefits.
– Junk food is everything else. It’s deceptively inexpensive to buy and unhealthy to eat. These items are processed, manufactured, have added chemicals, sugars and other unhealthy ingredients that can immediately, and long term, adversely affect health. Unhealthy versions of healthy foods noted above include canned fruit in sugar-syrup, processed vegetables (canned, frozen or from fast food outlets) with sugar, flour or chemicals, baked beans in a sugar and flour sauce, powdered and processed eggs with trans fats, processed cheese and cheese spreads, cold cuts (bologna, salami, chicken and turkey loaf, fish sticks), peanut butter (typically containing sugar and trans fat), and roasted nuts (often with ingredients you can’t even pronounce). Of course, genetically altered items, which are not allowed in certified organic foods or in many countries of the world, would also be considered junk food.
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