There’s nothing wrong with food being fast. To walk into an eatery, order a meal and get it in five minutes is great. But there’s a trade-off when commercial pressures come into the story.
Here are the seven evils of fast food. Avoid them if you can — it IS possible if you buy with care.
1. Substandard Ingredients
No, not everywhere, nor all food in a particular outlet. But large chains and the wholesale suppliers to smaller places have a grand opportunity to offload low-quality ingredients processed to make them acceptable, especially in highly-flavored food (see #2 and #3 below).
The worst ‘offenses’ involve mechanically reclaimed meat and using emulsifiers and polyphosphates to retain processing water in meat. How can you tell? When you can see a nutrition table, look for the protein to fat ratio. Lean meat will be around 3:1 protein, depending a little on the animal and breed. Highly-processes ground meat products such as sausage and kebab meat can vary from 1:1 to 3:1 fat, with a third of the weight added water. Without printed evidence, you’ll have to educate your palate!
So be aware, and look for better quality food; most Indian places use good, fresh ingredients, for example, whereas a lot of Chinese outlets buy in highly-processed partly-prepared ingredients to go with the fresh stuff. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule; use common sense to choose your store. Burger joints vary from fastidiously pure food to utter garbage in both meat and sauces — and Macdonald’s and Burger King are better than most for purity. But their desserts, shakes and soft drinks are another matter — read on!
2. Fat and Sugar For That Blobby Feeling
These are the staples of most quick preparation foods. This is particularly because frying is speedy and sugar is the core of desserts and drinks. At least the oils used today are healthier than the old saturated animal fats. You’ll already be aware that a high fat, high sugar diet is unhealthy. An occasional fast food meal should be no problem nutritionally — your body is great at dealing with infrequent overload. But do you fool yourself that your take-away every lunch and every night is ‘occasional’?
Both fat and sugar are addictive (see #7) and combine to make the best way to pick up atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, heart attacks and cancer — if that’s your choice of future.
3. Salt Can Lead To Hypertension
To most punters, tasty equals salty. But salty equals hypertension equals high blood pressure equals collapsed arteries and heart failure. Eating less salt is impossible if you major on fast food, because you don’t control salt addition and if a fast food joint left it out, most of its customers wouldn’t come back.
The result is that a fast food diet is almost always a high-salt diet.
4. Low Fiber Equals Gut Problems
By customer demand, most fries are skinless and bread, pasta and rice are white. The fiber is stripped away to give you what was once a luxury food, but now is the cheap, health-free option. Fast foods rarely include much fruit or vegetables by weight — they tend to be garnishes. When most of the other calories come from refined oils and sugar, fast food meals as a whole are very low in fiber.
This is the cause of sluggish digestion, dyspepsia and poor food absorption and poisoning from inefficient waste elimination. It’s also reckoned to seriously increase some cancer risks (especially that all too common colon cancer).
If you eat a lot of fast food and other low-fiber stuff, you’ll be liable to the usual constipation and dyspepsia. If it’s an occasional treat and you usually eat plenty of vegetables and other fiber-rich food, no problem.
5. Additives Can Mess Up Your Body
Many food additives are fine, but that’s not always the case with fast foods. Preservatives are often mild poisons, artificial flavorings can mess up your digestion’s signaling system and many commercial colours promote allergies in a large minority while they disguise bad ingredients. Watch out for places that use all of these to boost bad food.
You’ll probably know already if you are particularly sensitive to any of the more dire additives, like azo dyes or benzoates, and you’ll have the problem of finding out whether the fast food you’re looking at is free of your particular horror. Tough! The friers and counter staff usually haven’t a clue what’s in their food. If it’s a large chain, you just might find that they have a recipe book for inspection.
6. Nutrient-Poor — You get Sick
This evil is maybe the worst problem with fast food, as well as other ready meals from supermarkets and those cheaper restaurants that buy in chilled and frozen meals ready to microwave, grill and and fry for you.
Many ingredients, from oils and flour to sauces and pickles, are given a long shelf life for convenience. This involves removing the part of the food that spoils quickly and adding artificial preservatives. Problem is, the preservatives are mostly bad for you and the stuff removed is the fiber, plant sterols, vitamins and other natural ingredients that you need to eat to stay healthy.
That’s why most people today are sick in body and listless, prone to illnesses and body breakdown like diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Being like this is, for most people, a choice, not inevitable. If you choose this kind of food as your staple diet, you choose the consequences, too.
7. Addictive — You can’t Stop The Gorging
A key reason so many people major on fast food is its addictiveness — I’ve given the reasons for that above. It’s similar to that for nicotine and can have similar withdrawal symptoms. The usual result is that you eat far more food than you can burn up for energy, and it gets stored as fat. We’re a society of fatties, as you can’t avoid knowing. Type II diabetes, heart problems, rheumatic diseases like arthritis, bodily breakdown from the load you have to permanently carry and cancers are the usual consequence — and the age that the trouble begins is steadily coming down.
Be aware, and you can reduce your dependency on this kind of food, wherever you buy it.
So In Summary…
Overall, then, fast food can be a seriously quick way to Bad Health, with an unpleasant long-term future for you if you make this kind of food a way of life. But if you choose your outlet and meal carefully, fast food can be a delight and at least fairly healthy. Even the most fastidious foodie can indulge once in a while!
I ought to finish, though, by reminding you that Fast Food isn’t the only kind that has these Seven Evils! Most people in the West have sick bodies because their whole diet is based on prepacked, processed food with (as we say) all the goodness taken out. Government agencies all through Europe, North America and Oceania have been flagging up these problems for decades, yet public health steadily gets worse. You can’t have missed those Public Health campaigns, nor the media fuss over every new medical report all governments produce on ‘The State Of The Nation’s Health’.
Yet if you’re a ‘normal’ member of Western Society, you’ll have spent little of your attention on these ‘scare campaigns’, and a lot more on believing the thousands of adverts promising a wonderful lifestyle if only you’ll eat their heavily-advertised junk food. It amounts to, “Indulge yourself, and you’ll be happy,” with the suggestion that you can eat treats many times a day without any consequences to your health.
Our ancestors knew better. They called this kind of eating ‘gluttony’, and told their kids exactly what the consequences would be. And they were right.