A complete guide to healthy food and junk food

Diet
Coach Shivani
January 10,2023

We all know the negative impacts of junk foods on our health. But still, we all love grabbing the bites of junk food very often due to their tempting taste. In the last few decades, junk foods have been linked to higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. The difference between healthy food and junk food is a widely discussed topic and it is becoming harder to tell the difference, thanks to creative marketing of many junk foods as healthy foods. In this article, we will discuss the difference between healthy food and junk food, the effect of junk food on weight loss and how to develop mindful eating habits.

What is junk food: A brief overview?

Junk Food” are foods that lack healthy nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. This type of food is so-called because it does not play a significant role in healthy eating. Junk foods are high saturated fats, sugars, salts, and kilojoules.

Put differently, junk food is any food with little to no nutritional value. A simple way to think of junk food is ‘empty calories’.

 

Junk foods have calories but are ‘empty’ in terms of their nutritional value.

 

Most people ask why junk food is not good for health. The following harmful effects of junk food will highlight why you should avoid eating such foods;

  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
  • Higher risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Potential addictive behavior causing uncontrollable cravings

Junk foods have a tempting taste that can satisfy your taste buds but may severely affect your well-being. Undoubtedly, cravings are irresistible, and many of us prefer nibbling upon fizzy drinks, pizza, and fries to kill our hunger pangs.

What is healthy food: A brief overview?

Healthy food is not about strict limitations and depriving yourself the delicious foods. It is about staying healthy, boosting your mental and physical health, and increasing energy levels.

“Healthy Food” perfectly balances proteins, healthy fats, calcium, fiber, and carbohydrates. It gives energy while supporting physical and cognitive functions and mood. In simple terms, healthy food is any whole and minimally processed food. This includes grains, vegetables, fruits, lentils, legumes, dairy, oils, nuts & seeds.

Healthy Vs. junk food: The differences

The key difference between healthy and unhealthy junk food mainly depends on fat content and calories. The following key points will help you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy junk foods;

Difference 1: Junk foods are loaded with fats, sugar & salt which are unhealthy to eat. In comparison, healthy foods have a low amount of these nutrients.

 

In fact, you will find that fat, sugar & salt are never present together in natural foods.

 

Difference 2: Healthy food contains essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Junk foods have very little or none of these nutrients. In fact that is the reason why most junk food is fortified with vitamins and minerals.  It is because the food itself does not contain any nutrition, so these have to be added artificially.

Difference 3: Junk foods have additional ingredients like preservatives, emulsifiers and colors to improve shelf life and taste. Healthy foods do not contain such ingredients.

Also Read: How To Stop Craving For Junk Food?

Why is healthy food better than junk food?

Mindful eaters always prefer eating healthy foods to live happier and healthier lives. Healthy foods have natural and unrefined ingredients that do not harm your body. When you provide your body with essential and beneficial nutrients, it tends to work more efficiently. It helps you avoid the risk of obesity and other chronic conditions while keeping you satiated in a natural way.

Your body and mind function best when you give them the nutrition they require – like energy, protein, fats, water, vitamins & minerals. Healthy foods can provide all of these in the required amounts and thereby help to keep you in good physical and mental health.

healthy food

Advantages of healthy foods

Healthy foods provide your body with numerous benefits, discussed below.

Improved heart health

A report by the American Heart Association (AHA) reveals that half of the adults in the United States experience the symptoms of cardiovascular diseases. Some conditions, like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, are growing concerns in the United States. While we do not have such precise data for India, it is likely that it is at similar levels.

Researchers say you can prevent 80% of premature heart diseases by adopting mindful and healthy eating. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension ((DASH) diet recommends eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and dairy products to maintain good heart health.

Better mood

People eating high amounts of processed and junk foods have a higher risk of experiencing the symptoms of fatigue and depression. Healthy food, such as whole grains and fruits can help you reduce fatigue and chronic anxiety and improve your mood.

Reduced risk of cancer

Healthy foods have a high content of antioxidants which help reduce the risk of cancer. The free radicals in your body can impose severe health conditions, including cancers of several types. Antioxidants flush out these toxic free radicals, preventing the risk of cancer.

A report from the National Cancer Institute, US highlights that eating foods rich in antioxidants such as pumpkin, carrots, leafy greens, and berries can help remove free radicals and lower the likelihood of chronic diseases. Another study revealed that eating fruits can decrease the risk of developing upper gastrointestinal tract cancer.

junk food and belly fat

Also Read: Bad Effects Of Junk Food

Healthy and unhealthy foods chart

Our following healthy food and junk food chart will help you differentiate the two types and help you maintain a healthy balance in your diet.

 

Healthy Foods Unhealthy Foods
Vegetables Alcoholic drinks
Whole grains Sugary drinks
Fruits Oily snack such as fries and chips
Dairy products Processed meat
Nuts & seeds Cakes and biscuits
Eggs and lean meats Fast foods such as burgers, hot chips, and pizzas

Tips to spot junk food disguised as healthy foods

It has become a mammoth job to prevent ourselves from eating unhealthy foods and nibbling on healthy snacks. Statistics reveal that about 36.6% of adults in the U.S. consume fast foods daily. While we do not have data for India, given India’s rapid development and the rise of fast-food and food delivery options, it is likely to be at similar or greater levels. Apart from certain fast foods, a variety of other foods are branded as healthy but may have drastic effects on your health.

The following tips will help you spot junk foods disguised as healthy foods.

  • Sugary breakfast cereals, muesli, biscuits and health bars.
  • Sugary health drinks, mixes, shakes and juices.
  • Energy drinks, jams, sugary nut butters, instant noodles and flavored yogurt.

 Also Read: Healthy Foods That Are Actually Junk Foods

The bottom line

Despite admitting the bad effects of junk foods on our health, we prefer eating them as our mid-day or evening snacks. People who love eating greasy and sugary foods have higher risks of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity.

Unlike junk foods, a healthy diet combines the perfect balance of proteins, unrefined ingredients, fibers, and other essential nutrients. You can live a happier and healthier life by developing mindful and healthy eating habits.

Even if junk food is tempting, you should limit your intake as much as possible. The most practical way is to schedule your treat meals each week so that you have discipline around it. This way you will get your treats but also not overdo it. This is crucial for weight loss and weight maintenance.

We do not advise completely giving up junk food either, especially if you really like them. You can delight your taste buds while avoiding its negative effects by occasionally consuming junk food in moderation.

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