IntroductionWe all know that junk food is unhealthy. It is rich in calories and most of those calories are not going to do any good for our body as they are nutrients deficient. Such calories if consumed on daily basis can only lead to weight gain and obesity. Even after knowing everything we still choose to eat them. We have made junk food as a part of our daily diet. Whether it is watching a movie or getting a quick snack, junk food tops our priority list. It is not true that restaurants or eating outlets do not serve healthy, nutritious food. It is we who choose those eating outlets which serve unhealthy junk foods cause we have started preferring unhealthy sources over healthy whole food counter parts. Poor nutrition is associated with heart problems, high blood pressure and depression whereas good nutrition boosts our health and its main priority is to keep health at its best. Still we crave to eat junk food which is usually processed and very unhealthy.
Here are a few facts and reasons behind our craving for junk foods-
ConvenienceFast-paced society inspires us to keep up with it. We feel that healthy nutritious meals demand investment of too much time. First we need to buy healthy. Next, we need a lot of time in preparation and cooking so that our recipes turn out to be nutritious as well as tasty. Even when we order healthy food or complete meals in restaurants, they take up so much time. Whereas fast foods are served within very few minutes of ordering. To save time, we have made this convenience as our habit. Most of us want to get our work done quickly and even consuming meals is more like a work for us. Today we do not care to spend time to prepare healthy food at home and thereby we prefer to eat unhealthy, prepacked, processed foods. However, this cutting of time will also cut down our health.
Unhealthy junk foods are easily availableWe eat junk food regularly cause it is easily available. It is difficult to find healthy food when we are outside, except at a few restaurants who care to cook and serve healthy. However, unhealthy food is just easily available wherever we go. Even on the remotest island we can see a man selling cold drinks and chips. Why can't we find vendors selling freshly cut vegetables or fruits more easily than the ones selling these junk foods? We eat what we see. Since we need a quick fix and want to satisfy our hunger, we will be lured to purchase them. Even when both healthy and unhealthy foods are made available to us, we choose unhealthy ones.
Junk food tastes goodJunk foods are high in calories, sugar, trans and saturated fat. We crave more for deep fried foods than bland foods. Foods which are fatty and the ones which carry added sugar induce release of dopamine and oxytocin. They are neurotransmitters released by brain. These neurotransmitters create feeling of satisfaction, pleasure and relaxation. This kind of satisfaction itself lures us towards junk foods. We develop a kind of addiction towards them i.e., same kind of neurochemical changes result in brain as seen in case of drug addiction. We develop physical dependence on them and are neurochemically driven to choose them.
Visually appealingJunk foods look more attractive. Added colors make them visually appealing, especially to children. Our brain always thinks that bright colors are associated with healthy foods. We feel that bright colors mean high calories and which in turn mean increased immunity which will boost our overall health. This is the reason we choose bright red apples over pale looking ones. We prefer to shop all those fruits, vegetables, cereals and pulses which show shiny bright color.
Influenced by moodOur mood is closely associated with our craving towards junk food. When we are in stress, there will be production of hormone known as cortisol. This increased level of cortisol increases rise of sugar level in blood. This will result in increased energy levels in body which will be used by cells of the body to metabolize and release essential nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. When we eat junk foods, they get digested quickly cause though they are high in calories and come in small amount. Look at a packet of chips or else bakery items like cookies, pastries, patties or even a burger. Since the portion size is small, it will get digested, but will cause increased level of blood sugar and increased level of cholesterol in body. All these result in increase in weight, obesity, diabetes, heart related diseases, high blood pressure, chronic health conditions etc.
Junk food relieves anxiety and stressFast pace in this world creates a demand for us to keep up with everyone. The fear of been left behind in this race has made our lives miserable. This fast pace has increased levels of stress, tension and anxiety in us. Increased level of mental stress causes rise in energy expenditure. When energy gets depleted quickly, body gives signals of hunger. Repeated and frequent signals of hunger make us consume all those food stuffs which are dense in calories. We then will hardly make healthy choices and often choose junk foods which are fatty and high in sugar. Our increased level of anxiety makes us to eat those foods which can provide us lots of comfort. Increased level of stress in us makes us to eat all those food stuffs which calms us. Those food stuffs which tend to comfort us and calm us are nothing but unhealthy, processed junk foods. Junk foods consumed in large amount and at regular intervals will again exert a positive effect on reward center of brain. This kind of relaxation and calmness experienced by us will make us develop craving towards junk foods and thus we prefer them to eat any time over healthy ones.
We are programmed to consume moreWhen we read the history and try to analyze everything, we will come to know that prehistoric humans did not have access to food. The way food is made available to us and we can prefer to eat it whenever we want to, such privilege was not enjoyed by them. They used to wander in search of food from one place to another and for days together would starve because of unavailability of food to them. They would wander to survive to search food which would provide them enough energy to shield them against harsh conditions. When they would get access to food, they ate it in large amount so that it remained stored in their body. We have same type of cave mentality which we have inherited from our ancestors. We are genetically programmed to eat in more amount than required by our body. We too behave like them and feel that there is no enough food around and thus try to store enough of it in the form of high calories and high sugar. Junk food is the one which caters to meet the requirements of fulfilling high calories and high sugar when compared to healthy foods and thus we are inclined towards junk foods.
Inadequate sleepSleeping for adequate hours is very essential for health and for making healthy choices. Deprived sleep makes us live an unhealthy life style. When we do not sleep for adequate hours then frontal lobes of our brain suffer from suppressed executive functions. On the other hand, there will be activation of primal reward center of brain. These changes will decrease our will-power. Now when will-power itself is decreased then we choose junk foods which are high in fat and high in sugar instead of eating healthy foods. Poor food choices which we make in turn will trigger reward center of brain. Thus, adequate sleep is very essential if we have to avoid junk food. Sleeping for inadequate hours in an unhealthy habit. Eating junk food is another unhealthy habit. One unhealthy habit gives rise to another one and thus those living unhealthy life style tend to choose junk foods over healthy food stuffs.
ConclusionJunk foods form the most sought after foods in almost all the eateries and restaurants. Even in our home, we can find them in abundant amount. Learn more about science behind cravings of junk food and healthy eating to know why we prefer unhealthy over healthy food stuffs. Although we very well know how bad they can be for our health, but still we prefer to choose them over their healthy counter parts cause we find them inexpensive, conveniently available in almost all the corners of area or city we live and less time consuming than the foods which are termed as healthy. Our anxiety level and increased stress level make us choose them. Sleep deprived state of ours demand us to makes unhealthy choices. Moreover, the taste and smell junk foods carry lure us towards them. They are visually more appealing and more tasty. All these factors make us choose unhealthy junk foods instead of preferring to eat a healthy nutritious balanced diet.
Another excuse me make when consuming junk foods is that we describe them as cheap. We feel that healthy food stuffs are expensive whereas junk foods are much cheaper than healthy ones. However, this is not true. What we are looking at is a portion size. Momentarily, we may feel that a burger, a patties or a packet of chips is much cheaper than the whole meal. However, if we do the complete shopping, we will realize that grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy all purchased on weekly basis sum up far less when compared with the total amount we spend on unhealthy junk foods.