You’d think New Yorkers would know this already, and many probably do. But this warning bears repeating: Among the greatest correctable risks to American health is a diet of unhealthy processed food. It leads invariably to obesity, which is becoming a national epidemic. Obesity has been proven to encourage — not merely increase the risk, but actually encourage — heart disease, diabetes and a host of other chronic health issues.
One fast food chain made the news recently by telling its employees: “While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.” Yet millions of Americans eat a fast food meal every day.
The Bad News Burger
Red meat in moderation isn’t necessarily bad for your body. New York City gastroenterologists recommend eating red meat no more than three or four times a week. But a fast food meal of a burger, fries, and a soft drink typically has lots of fat and almost no fiber. In fact, this one meal contributes nearly all of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fat and sodium without supplying any of the vital nutrients and complex carbohydrates your body craves.
Complex carbohydrates, as found in starchy vegetables and whole grain bread, help lower your cholesterol, improve your digestion and reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. A healthy diet includes a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables, and a serving of dairy. Fast food provides none of these.
Salt in the Wound
As if fast food wasn’t bad enough for you already, it’s also loaded with sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and strokes. Sodium may compete with calcium in the body, so too much salt can lead to an increased risk for osteoporosis. In addition, fast food, like many processed foods, often contains trans fat. Eating trans fats raises your bad cholesterol (the low-density lipoproteins or LDLs), which increases your risk of heart disease.
Fast food is tempting. It’s quick, inexpensive, and perfect on the go. Many fast food chains offer a “super-size” option, where you can get more for your money. But this option just adds more of the same unnecessary calories.
Make Better Choices
Ideally, you should strive to eat a balanced meal every time, but that’s not often realistic. If you increase the complex carbohydrates in your diet while lowering the fat, you will help your digestion, keep your weight in check and improve your health. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains feed your body. These foods can give you energy when you need it, too. If you must eat a fast food meal once in a while, make better choices. Instead of the usual, try one of the salad options if available. Instead of a soft drink or coffee, choose milk or water. You’ll feel better, have more energy throughout the day and improve your health.
Obesity is a major health problem in the U.S., and the epidemic affects children as much as adults. To decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic cardiovascular illnesses, switch to a healthier diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat more whole grain breads. Enjoy those complex carbohydrates. And don’t forget to exercise. You’ll live longer and feel better.
Contact NYC Gastroenterologist, Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, to learn more about how your diet affects your digestive system.