Friday, October 07, 2005
Junk Food: An analysis
By Sanket D. Kambli
Any food that is perceived to be unhealthy and has low or poor nutritional value can be termed as junk food. Similarly anything attractive but negligible in value can too be slotted here. Different groups over the years including opponents of fast food industries and environmentalists have used the term. And here, fast food is food prepared and served quickly at a fast-food restaurant or shop at low cost, noting that, fast food may or may not be junk. Junk foods are made up of empty calories. Empty calorie describes a calorie with little or no marked nutritional value, typically from simple carbohydrates and/or fats. An "empty calorie" has the same energy content of any other calorie but lacks accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, minerals or amino acids. For the same reasons, a diet rich in junk food is not favorable for maintaining a "balanced diet", as suggested by various government and non-profit health organizations. A diet high in junk food is widely considered by the medical community to substantially increase the risks of health problems such as obesity, osteoporosis and heart disease. A diet composed entirely of junk food may lead to malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies and other serious health problems. Junk food nevertheless remains popular because it is relatively cheap to manufacture and/or buy, is convenient to consume, and has a lot of flavor because of its typically high fat, sodium, or sugar content. Some junk foods, such as potato chips, contain a combination of nutritious calories (from the potatoes) and empty calories (from the fried fats).Common sources of empty calories include sugar, white flour, and fat. Junk food also may contain numerous food additives, which are used to enhance flavor, adjust texture, alter color, and prevent spoilage. For this reason many junk foods are also convenient in that they stay good for long periods of time. Due to its inherent attractiveness, junk food has evolved into a huge, world-wide industry. Standard industrial manufacturing and marketing techniques have been successful in increasing consumption of "unbalanced" junk food diets to the extent that many consider it to be a serious health problem in some countries. It is heavily advertised to young people, who often favor taste over nutritional value. But we can see all these changes as examples of economic adaptability. Where yesteryear's field hand hungered for roti and vegies to keep him going from dawn until dusk, today's techie is looking for brain food. Here it not about something that boosts your I.Q., instead it means something that will supply an uninterrupted power source for your system, so you can get as much processing done before your body goes into lethargy mode. So the active ingredients hungered for today are sugar and caffeine. Starch is also valued for its staying power, and salt also serves as a sort of accelerator. So this technological boom has been a dream come true for the junk food barons.
Technological advances have greatly extended the average life span. So a person who lives on junk food may not live as long as his or her peers, but chances are they will live longer than the average person from a generation or two earlier. It's the rare person who doesn't crave something sweet, salty, fatty, or doughy once in a while. Even the most health conscious among us so-called "health freaks" are apt to depart from our whole foods regimen occasionally. Junk food is also the only source of food for many lying somewhere near the poverty line. The decision regarding what to eat or what not should be left to one’s own intellect. We all are aware of its harms and goods. Therefore it should be left for one to judge what is right. It is commonly said by nutritionists that there is no such thing as a bad food, just a bad diet. What they mean is that any food can be incorporated into a diet as long as it is in the right proportion. "We really hate to say there's a good food or bad food. There are just better choices to make," says Tammy Newport, an Indianapolis dietitian. "I think the term junk food is something we need to get away from. I think it sets up failure for some people."