Everybody has their own comfort food that they know is bad for them but eat in because they enjoy it too much. “Junk” food seems unfairly labeled for foods that we like to eat, however “junk” works in saying that we would be better off eating something else. Speaking in terms of nutrition, junk foods are ones that have low nutritional value relative to the amount of calories. These foods tend to have lots of sugars (most in calories and no nutrients), starches or fats (again mostly calories and few nutrients).
Junk foods are highly profitable because of the cheap ingredients, giving companies the urge to sell more of them. Junk foods are a type of food that should only be eaten on occasion, however they can be controlled according to Serving Sizes (how often is it that we eat only 11 chips from a bag of Wavy Lay’s Chips…..I know that don’t only eat 11 chips!). Often with these junk foods we encounter high amounts of salt and sometimes sugar/sweeteners.
In our everyday eating, we manage to encounter some sort of sugar or artificial sweetener in our food. These artificial sweeteners come across in many junk foods, sodas, and occasional fruit juices. The most common sugars we come across when reading food labels are fructose, sucrose, and glucose/dextrose. Sugars are simple carbohydrates, composed of a single sugar, glucose or fructose, or two single sugars linked together (i.e. sucrose, which is linked by a single molecule of glucose and a single molecule of fructose). After it is eaten, sucrose is split into the constituent pieces during digestion by numerous enzymes (sucrases). Such things as fructose must be taken to the liver to be broken down in order for metabolism to occur. Sugars of any kind add about 4 calories per gram to the average human diet. Sugar is not poison, but is better off in small amounts if eaten. Trying to avoid these sugars as much as possible can make significant changes in health. However, it is hard to avoid the sweet taste of these sugars as we are born with a fondness for sweetness to stimulate sucking reflexes.
Not only do we come about sugars but we also encounter artificial sweeteners. These artificial sweeteners are food additives that duplicate the effect of sugar in taste. These artificial sweeteners are used for several different things including cost (usually cheaper than sugar) and avoiding processed foods. The most common products in which these artificial sweeteners are found are diet sodas, cereals, and sugar-free deserts (i.e. ice cream). These sweeteners are used because of their low or no caloric characteristics. Artificial sweeteners convert drinks to diet drinks, because they are able to reduce the calories from sugar.
With all of this known regarding the sugars and sweeteners we encounter, we can determine for ourselves what is healthy for us to eat and how much of it we should eat. By paying attention to the amount of calories, reading ingredient labels, and paying attention to portion sizes can help to reduce the amount of sugar/artificial sweetener intake. Junk food is something that is very hard to avoid. Everyone has their own food that they have a secret love for that will be impossible for them to avoid. Ultimately, we will never be able to resist the junk foods that we have a craving for once in a while. Avoiding these foods all together is not realistic at all, but compromising theses foods with a healthier food every so often, can help in the continued unhealthiness of eating these junk foods every time.