Ms Edwina Raj, Senior Dietitian, Aster CMI hospital
Junk food is the most potential element which is closely studied due to it’s high demand and consumption among all age group. Most of them have become ‘enslaved’ to junk foods since these are convenient, lip smacking foods, reduces cooking time and have a greater shelf life hence our efforts to limit the use of junk foods are going in vain. Children and adults are widely exposed to these foods which are nothing but street food, chaats, chips, soft drinks, ice creams, bakery products, chocolates, sweets, and packed foods which have been tagged as ‘junks’.
7 reasons to refrain from them?
- They are high in salt, sugar, bad fats , chemical additives and energy (calories)
- Contain little or no healthy nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, or minerals.
- According to recent research data eating such bad quality food is increasing the disease and death rate at a higher speed than smoking!
- Junk food is linked with Non-Communicable Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and few types of cancers. It increases the risk of being overweight which predisposes other diseases.
- You are prone to nutritional deficiencies and this impacts your immune system.
- It leads to poor concentration and impacts the overall development in growing children.
- Addictive: they stimulate receptors in the brain that make you feel good due to increased dopamine level and makes one get addicted to them which is similar to the use of alcohol/tobacco.
What’s the trend in India?
Packaged food in India has been ranked lowest in terms of its healthiness in a major global survey.
A survey conducted during COVID times among teenagers by our department of clinical nutrition & dietetics found that 43% of them agreed that the consumption of fast food or junk is reduced whereas, 31% replied that the they have continued eating unhealthy.
68% of individuals liked
junk foods for their taste as it was one of the predominant factor for their choice
How should we tackle this?
Different cultures or regions have their own perception about junk food – what may be junk food in one culture, may be considered nutritional food for another.
- Educating children about the harmful effects of junk food by schools.
- Reading food labels of packed foods / drinks to look for hidden jargons such as sodium, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), maple syrup, additives, trans fat and saturated fat.
- Replace aerated drinks with healthy drinks and plain water to prevent dehydration such as; buttermilk/fruit lassi, jaljeera, soups, sugarless herbal tea, aam panna, tender coconut water, fruit infused water e.t.c.
- Try choosing baked or air fried snacks made out of millets / quinoa /peas/besan/unpolished grains which are rich in protein, iron, fiber, calcium rather than just white rice/ white flour based preparation.
- It is possible to tweak unhealthy recipe to the best out of those tagged as junk foods For example –
|Masala puri chaat||Swap to channa chaat|
|Sugar based chocolates||Dark chocolates with stevia|
|Aloo tikki||Vegetable, peas sweet potato tikki|
|White flour based chicken roll/momos||Whole wheat/millet based chicken roll|
|Ready to eat noodles/pasta||Millet noodles / whole wheat pasta|
- Switch to homemade preparation and limit processed /packaged foods though claimed as healthy.
Food industry must prioritize health and contribute in the supply of healthy products more than the unhealthy products. The more you reach out to junk / processed food there is a decrease in your lifespan. Hence switch to natural and home made preparations which is a key to a healthy lifestyle.