You know it’s not good for you, but here are a few reasons it’s even worse than you thought
Sugar, bad fats, processed carbohydrates. These dietary devils are what make up the bulk of all junk food—and bulk isn’t the only thing they cause. According to Jim White, R.D, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, VA, foods like processed “white” carbs, packaged cookies, potato chips, sugary sodas, and high-fat burgers and fries not only pack on pounds, they can cause physical symptoms and conditions that make you look and feel like, well, crap. These seven potential side effects of a diet high in junk food just might inspire you to make a beeline for the nearest Whole Foods.
What’s bad for your waist is also bad for your face. Sugars, trans fats (used to extend the shelf life of some packaged foods), and starches can cause insulin to surge and trigger an inflammatory response, the end product of which is called glycation. This speeds the aging process (gives you wrinkles) by deactivating the body’s own age-fighting antioxidants, making you more prone to sun damage and premature aging.
There is a ton of sodium in processed junk foods, and sodium is a big cause of bloating. How? The purpose of sodium is to regulate the amount of blood in your vessels, but it also attracts water. High concentrations of sodium pull water from your cells, causing your body to hang on to extra fluid to compensate. If you’re a fan of diet soda, which many body-conscious girls are, it can make matters even worse: The combination of bubbles (which trap air) and artificial sweeteners (which can cause gas) is bloat central.
White bread, white rice, and other “white” (read: processed) products can cause constipation because they contain little to no fiber, and fiber moves everything through the body. Dehydration can make constipation worse as well, and if you’re coupling your white bread with booze—knocking back beers and hot dogs at a Sunday afternoon ball game—you’re not looking at a regular Monday morning.
Too many high-fat meals are a recipe for acid indigestion. Foods high in saturated fat take longer to digest; when you haven’t fully digested last night’s cheeseburger and fries, excess stomach acid can splash back into your esophagus the next time you eat, causing heartburn.
Foods alone don’t actually cause PMS, but some can certainly make it worse. Sugar and starches can cause insulin to spike and then drop, which affects brain chemicals and may exacerbate mood swings. Sweet coffee drinks are one of the worst things you can indulge in when your hormones are raging—the combination of sugar and the simulant effect of caffeine (and the subsequent crash) can push you over the edge.
Tyramine, a chemical formed in the breakdown of a certain protein in food colorants, dyes, and nitrates (found in hot dogs and other processed meats) is a known headache inducer; experts believe it increases blood flow to the brain, causing vascular changes that result in pain. If the snack you’re about to eat has a hue that’s not found in nature, you may want to steer clear.
Studies show that people who eat a lot of junk food are more likely to experience depression. Even if you don’t fall into a serious funk, pigging out on food that’s not good for you will make feel lousy—and when you don’t feel great your mood is bound to be lousy as well.