Giving the body a natural diet that contains different sources of all the essential nutrients is perhaps the most beneficial habit for health. However, we are currently confronted with a crisis of unhealthy lifestyles and bad habits. According to recent research, the United States has the ninth world's largest proportion of overweight and obese persons. This problem has a detrimental impact on the youth as well. Between the years 2017 and 2018, the obesity rate among American youth aged 2-19 years was about 19.3%. Research also shows that if there are no changes in the current obesity trends, over 85% of American adults may be overweight by the year 2030.
We often emphasize the benefits of eating healthy, however, enough focus is not placed on the major causes and effects of poor nutrition. A lot of people are informed about the good benefits of a plant-based diet and the risks associated with consuming ultra-processed foods. However, this knowledge does not affect their eating habits. This group of people is often addicted to junk foods and unaware of certain things that keep them glued to that lifestyle or they do not have easy access to plant foods.
Poor nutrition typically means a deficiency, excess, or imbalance in a person's intake of calories and nutrients. Under- or overeating, not eating enough of the healthy foods that contain essential nutrients, or consuming too many types of food and drink that are low in fiber or heavy in fat, salt, and/or sugar are all examples of poor eating habits. Unhealthy eating habits often have negative effects on our nutrient intake as well as the amount of fiber and fluids we put into our bodies.
We often find ourselves yielding to our junk-food cravings, but it's no coincidence that these foods are so difficult to resist. Every year, food corporations and fast-food businesses spend billions of dollars on targeted advertising to influence our eating habits. Children are one of the target demographics as advertisers know that their marketing influence can have long-term effects on the younger population. Some advertisers have even gone so far as to target certain minority groups they believe are especially vulnerable to influence.
According to a recent study, certain television shows with a large minority audience contain much more commercials for hamburgers and soft drinks when compared to shows that have a low minority audience. In 2019, fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, and Taco Bell, spent over $1.5 billion on TV ads to target Black and Hispanic kids.
In addition to targeted advertising, the fast-food industry also engineers foods to taste as good as possible to overcome our internal “stop” signals. Naturally, when we consume more of a particular food flavor, our taste buds gradually grow bored till we eventually derive no pleasure from that flavor and we stop eating the food. When we find a food with a new flavor, we get more reward from it, and so we continue eating. However, fast-food businesses have found a way to hack this natural occurrence by tricking our taste system with engineered foods that have the right amount of salt, fat, and sugar. The more we consume these ultra-processed foods, the more we crave them.
Another factor that contributes to poor nutrition is the lack of easy access to organic foods. Some Americans in tribal and rural areas, as well as low-income urban neighborhoods, do not have easy access to healthy foods. Hence, they turn to fast-food or cheap foods which are often over-processed. In the long run, this could lead to an increased risk of poor nutrition among low-income families.
Depriving our body of essential nutrients by eating little to no fresh foods and overeating processed junk food have both short and long-term effects on our overall health. Poor nutrition can contribute to stress and affect our ability to function in the short term. In the long run, it can increase the risk of chronic conditions and diseases such as:
The above side effects are the major reasons foods high in calories and low in nutrients are the real “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in our communities. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans die from heart and obesity-related conditions. We cannot also ignore the disability that comes with diseases like stroke, diabetic amputation, and arthritis. These are huge problems in our society and a real threat to our national security.
The food we consume provides our bodies with the information and fuel they require to perform effectively. Our metabolic systems can suffer and our health can deteriorate if our body is not well nourished. Ultra-processed foods such as fast foods lack nutrients and contain high amounts of sugar and salt that puts us at risk of overeating. These aggressively-marketed low-nutrient foods are a driving force behind the onset of some chronic diseases and are a major contributor to the rise in obesity. The only way to prevent these adverse effects is to take our diet seriously and invest more in plant foods that contain the essential nutrients that our body needs to function properly.