Junk food: A recipe for health disasters

While the market for junk food and soft drink is big nowadays, what is even bigger is the threat that these products pose to human health.

In today’s fast-paced world, junk food has become a convenient option for those looking for a quick bite on-the-go. We often see popular figures, such as Indian film actors and cricketers, endorsing such products. From Salman Khan promoting Pepsi to Hrithik Roshan featuring in Mountain Dew ads, or Mahendra Singh Dhoni appearing in the ads encouraging children to eat YiPPee! instant noodles. These pre-packaged foods often contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fat, making them a significant source of excess calories. Our understanding of the detrimental effects of excessive junk food on health continues to grow. Therefore, it is essential to consider the potential consequences of our food choices.

Decoding the dangers of soft drinks

Dr Samrat Shah

Dr Samrat Shah, MD (Medicine) and Metabolic specialist, said, “Soft drinks typically contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin. It also contains high doses of caffeine.” He further explained that these ingredients can result in serious illnesses like heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. “Excessive consumption of soft drinks can also lead to issues like dementia, stroke, and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Despite the potential dangers, the high content of caffeine and artificial sweeteners in soft drinks trigger the release of dopamine, or the ‘happy hormone’. This creates a temporary sense of pleasure and energy, which can lead to a craving for more,” he said.

Instant noodles: A dangerous convenience food?

In 2015, Indian authorities banned Maggi, a popular instant noodles brand, after tests revealed the presence of lead and monosodium glutamate in the product. The company was accused of increasing the quantity of lead in its product to cater to its consumers. Nestle, the company that produces Maggi, was slapped with a fine of Rs 640 crore. The Haridwar Food and Drug Administration even sent a legal notice to Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit for endorsing the product. However, it was back on the shelves in no time, after an emotional campaign designed to regain the consumers’ trust.

In a similar incident, the Food Safety and Security Authority of Uttarakhand sent a legal notice to YiPPee! noodles in 2015. However, its parent company ITC insisted that the product was safe for consumption.

Falling for the lies

The marketing tactics employed by these products often lure in unsuspecting consumers. Celebrities who endorse these products in advertisements receive compensations for the same. It is important to question whether one should put their own health at risk based solely on the endorsements of famous individuals.

Dietitian Divya Sharma

Dietician Divya Sharma said, “Soft drinks are classified as carbonated beverages due to their high carbohydrate content. They also contain artificial sugars and colours, and have no nutritional value.” While personal food preferences are subjective, it is important to understand the significance of well-balanced and nutritious diet. Children, in particular, should be shielded from junk foods. This is because foods like instant noodles, pizza, and cold drinks have become immensely popular at children’s parties. Overconsumption of junk foods can affect your health increasing the dangers of various digestive and oral diseases, among other serious health conditions.

Experts’ advice on diet

Dietician Priyamwada Dixit

Chief dietician and diabetes educator Dr Priyamwada Dixit said, “People must ensure that the food they eat has high nutritional value. It has been said in the report by National Institute of Nutrition’s ‘Meri Aaj Ki Thali that one must take adequate amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients in their diet. In a day, a person needs to eat 350 grams of vegetables, 150 grams of fruits, pulses, 90 grams of egg or non-vegetarian food, 30 grams of dry fruits and seeds, 27 grams of fat and oil, and 240 grams of cereals and millets. It is also advisable to avoid flour, which is a refined form of wheat and contains no nutrients.”

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