When Hippocrates wrote ‘Let food be thy medicine’, he certainly wasn’t referring to fast foods.  With the burgeoning of fast-food joints in the metros, our health is in jeopardy.  Food has become a lovable enemy, which is what makes controlling it even more difficult.

The Main Problem with Fast Food

To put it simply, it generates disease.  Burgers, pizzas, grilled sandwiches, chicken rolls, cakes, pastries, French fries, brownies, pav bhaji, and samosas are high in white flour (maida), sugar and hydrogenated fat.  Consuming such foods over a period of time makes us (especially the children) chronically unwell.  These foods are low in nutrients. Children consuming such foods get malnourished (as they need more nutrients during their growth phase) when they subsist on a diet of fast foods.

If the body is unable to meet its demand for nutrients, the immune system gets affected and the child gets prone to frequent colds, allergies, asthma, boils on the body, acne, premature greying of hair, irregular menstrual cycle in girls, low energy levels, difficulty in concentration, poor performance in school, excessive hunger, constipation, mood swings, depression, irritational behaviour and the list is endless.

A body with a depressed immune system can be compared to a country with a weak military force.  The enemy (read disease) can come in easily and reside thus leading to many serious degenerative problems.

How toxins enter your body?

Acidic juices like canned orange juice, soft drinks, tomato juice, pineapple juice stored in lead-glazed cans may lead to lead poisoning.  Lead is a neurotoxin that affects learning capacity in children. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is another remarkably potent neurotoxin. It has the capacity to cause swelling of the nerves only after 90 seconds of contact in laboratory cell cultures. It is believed to be responsible for the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ in which those who are sensitive to MSG experience headache, bloatedness and sometimes numbness in the extremities after eating a Chinese meal.

A few feel highly uncomfortable after consuming MSG whereas it does not affect others.  But in my opinion, MSG is an unnecessary addition to food and is not worth even the slightest risk. Caffeine is another ingredient common in soft drinks. Children consuming large quantities of soft drinks containing caffeine may experience hyperactivity, learning disability, concentration problems, and mood swings.  And what about the sugar!

Excessive sugar intake can lead to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity and degenerative diseases like diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease.  Moreover, children tend to eat mainly those foods advertised on television.  Nearly all the models in these commercials are thin.  The message that children get whilst watching fast-food ads is that you will be thin and no matter what you eat.  This attitude can get them addicted to fast foods and that is when the real problem begins.

Consuming these foods once in a way is acceptable if they are otherwise eating healthily.  But when it becomes an addiction, it may lead to deficiencies, ironically resulting from being overfed.

Health is our most precious commodity.  As parents, one of the most important gifts you can give your child is a wise way of eating.  It will help all his faculties to develop better and you as parents will be contributing to the making of a whole new generation, which may be the best in the world.

(As published in Hindustan Times, dated July 29, 2019)

July 29, 2019

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