Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fast Food & Processed Foods

Fast food and processed foods

Fast Food Consumption Linked to Obesity

Studies show that practically one-third of children aged 4-19 in the U.S. consume fast food every day. This has each kid packing on six extra pounds per year and increasing their risk of obesity. A study of 6,212 youngsters by Dr. David Ludwig (Director of the Children's Hospital Boston’s obesity program) is alarming but not startling as billions of dollars are used up every year on fast food ads targeted at children. .

Fast-food fares offer more sugar, fat, and carbohydrates and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables than proper meals cooked at restaurants or at home. Another study assessed the dietary habits and physical activity of 3,301 black and white adults in the 18–30 age bracket. It included how often the subjects ate meals at places like Burger King, McDonald's, Arby's, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut.

Persons who ate fast food more than twice a week put on an extra ten pounds and had a doubly bigger increase in insulin resistance than subjects who ate less than once a week at one of these fast food places. Since fast food is designed to encourage consumption of the highest number of calories in the least amount of time, this may confuse the mechanisms we have that control the appetite and intake of food.

Healthy Fast Food, Anyone?

For the health-conscious, a fast food restaurant is not the best place to get a healthy meal. But there are ways to make the most of the healthier choices (salads, grilled fares, juices, etc.) now offered by some fast food restaurants.

  • Skip on add-ons like cheese, bacon bits and creamy salad dressings. Request for low calorie or fat free dressings, order them on the side, and use them in moderation.
  • Get rid of the sour cream on the baked potato and the mayonnaise on the sandwich. Opt instead for the vegetables—extra onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
  • Rather than order fried or breaded meats, choose grilled. Fish and chicken burgers are also healthier choices. Take wheat bread over white.
  • Junk the soda. Switch to water, juice, and milk.

Processed Foods: Myths & Facts

Myth: Processed foods are not as healthy as fresh foods.

Fact: A lot of processed foods are exactly as nutritious or in some cases even more nutritious than fresh foods depending on the processing method.

Frozen vegetables are typically processed within hours of harvest. There is not much nutrient loss in the freezing so frozen vegetables keep their high vitamin and mineral content. Breads and breakfast cereals have vitamins and minerals included for extra nutrition. Processing can also make several nutrients more available. As in the processing of tomatoes into a tomato paste or sauce to boost the amount of lycopene (an antioxidant).

Myth: All food additives are synthetic.

Fact: Some of the best food additives are sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

Food additives come from many diverse sources, with fruits and vegetables are a frequent one. For example, thickening agents are frequently extracted from fruits, seeds, and seaweeds. Tartaric acid from fruits is used to make several foods more acidic. Some food additives are prepared from the fusion or biosyntheses from nature-identical products—ascorbic acid (fruits) and tocopherol (vegetable oils). Both are used to keep foods from turning rancid.

Myth: The additives and preservatives in processed foods are not required.

Fact: Food additives play a significant role in maintaining the freshness, taste, appearance, safety, and texture of foods.

Food additives are added for a specific purpose whether it is to guarantee food safety, to add dietary value or to enhance food quality. For instance, antioxidants stop fats and oils from turning rancid. Emulsifiers prevent peanut butter from breaking up into solid and liquid parts. Food additives keep bread mould-free.

There are national regulatory bodies charged with food safety in each country that pre-approve all food additives in processed foods.

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