Fast Food Health
Why is fast food so unhealthy? Although healthier items are being added to fast food menus, many food choices remain high in calories, sugar, cholesterol, saturated fat and/or sodium. These unhealthy choices can lead to weight gain and numerous health problems such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and Type II diabetes.
McDonald’s double quarter pounder with cheese has 730 calories, a medium French fry has 350 and a 12 ounce (small) chocolate triple thick shake has 440. This typical meal contains a total of 1520 calories - an average person should consume about 2000 calories a day. A taco salad & salsa with shell at Taco Bell has 850 calories and a chicken sandwich at Burger King has 660.
Excess sugar intake can cause weight gain, possible nutritional deficiencies and other health problems like Type II diabetes. The 12 ounce chocolate triple thick shake from McDonalds has 63 grams of sugar. This is about 20 percent of the daily recommended carbohydrate intake. For a healthy diet, the majority of carbs should come from starch and fiber (complex carbs).
Cholesterol and Saturated Fat
The body needs cholesterol (and even makes it own) but too much can clog arteries, increasing ones risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Saturated fat can raise “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood and trans fats, a type of saturated fat, are especially dangerous and have been banned in some countries because of their harmful effects.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), less than 300 mg of cholesterol should be consumed in one day. People with heart disease should consume less than 200 mg a day. McDonald’s double quarter pounder with cheese has 160 mg and their California cobb salad with grilled chicken has 145 mg. Burger King’s double whopper with cheese has 170 mg and Taco Bell’s double bacon & egg burrito has 400 mg.
The AHA also recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 7 percent of total daily calories. For a 2000 calorie diet, no more than 140 calories should be from saturated fats - that is roughly 16 grams. The same McDonald’s meal mentioned above (double quarter pounder with cheese, medium French fry and 12 ounce chocolate triple thick shake) has 28 grams of saturated fat.
Hydrogenated oils, a trans fat, is an ingredient commonly used in some restaurants. For instance, McDonald’s French fries are prepared in hydrogenated oil and some foods like their regular buns contain it.
According to the AHA, diets high in sodium have been linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, it is recommended that no more than 1500 mg of sodium be consumed in one day. McDonald’s double quarter pounder with cheese has 1330 mg and their California cobb salad with crispy chicken has 1150 mg. Burger King’s double whopper with cheese has 1460 mg and Taco Bell’s big chicken burrito supreme has 1660 mg.
So why is fast food unhealthy? Some are bad for you because of the ingredients they include. Whether you are choosing foods to prepare at home or you are choosing foods at a restaurant, it is always good to know what you are going to put into your body. Research the ingredients and nutrients before eating.
American Heart Association - https://www.americanheart.org/
Fast Food Nutrition - https://www.fastfoodnutrition.org/
McDonald’s USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items - https://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/ingredientslist.pdf
Photo by Camemberu (CC/Flickr)