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Chew on these junk food facts....

Here are some junk food facts for you. Do you love junk food or do you avoid it?  We grew up in the fifties. Our treats were Popsicles, Cracker Jacks, and black licorice. We ate these unhealthy snacks long before the term "junk food" existed.

Michael Jacobson coined the phrase "junk food" in 1972.

Jacobson is the founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a food watchdog group.

What is junk food?


Someone once said, "It's like pornography. I can't define it but I know it when I see it."

If you ask Americans to name examples of junk food, they might say candy, snack foods, and sodas. But what are the junk food facts?

There are two kinds of junk foods:
  1. Foods that have little or no nutritional value. Examples of this group are the foods named above: candy, packaged snack foods, and sodas. Even people who eat these every day know they are eating junk food.

  2. Foods that may have some nutritional value, but which also contain unhealthy ingredients. Obvious examples are hamburgers, french fries, and pizza. 
There are two kinds of unhealthy ingredients:
  1. Ingredients that are OK to eat in very small quantities but that are harmful when we eat a lot of them. Examples might be sugar, salt, oil, and white flour.

  2. Ingredients that are so harmful we should always avoid them. Clear examples are trans fats, artificial flavors, and artificial colors.

    We would add meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and all dairy products to this group. Animal foods do have some nutritional value. They are also highly contaminated. They are linked with with dozens of our most common diseases. 
The China Study
If you are a meat eater or a dairy lover, these junk food facts may be hard to swallow. We suggest you read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. for some hard facts about animal foods.

Or order the Latest in Clinical Nutrition DVD by Michael Greger, MD.

Junk food is everywhere

Do these definitions make you uncomfortable? Many people consider burgers and pizza to be something different: not 100% healthy, but somehow better than junk food.
reuban sandwich - vegan
People don't think restaurant meals are junk food either. But restaurants fry their food in oil and flavor it with oily, salty sauces. Often these meals are no more nutritious than a hamburger.

If we sit down at a table and eat a vegan reuban sandwich off a plate, does that mean it is no longer junk food?

Let's face the junk food facts. Many foods that people eat every day are actually junk foods:
  • Processed breakfast cereals that contain white flour, sugar, and salt

  • Sandwiches on white bread, filled with mayonnaise, meat, and cheese...or with highly processed vegan substitutes

  • White pasta covered with salty, high fat sauces

  • Ice cream, whether from dairy, soy, or coconut milk

Junk food, obesity, and addiction

So what is wrong with eating a little junk food once in a while?  It depends on the quantity you eat and your definition of once in a while. Are you trying to lose weight? Be aware that food companies spend millions of dollars on research to design irresistible junk food.

Here are some junk food facts that might amaze you. Scientists fed junk food to rats for many weeks. When they removed the junk food and gave them healthy rat chow, the rats refused to eat. They starved for two weeks before they finally broke down and ate the chow.

That is how addictive this stuff can be. Remember the potato chip ad that says "Bet you can't eat just one"? They aren't kidding. See our discussion on how people get addicted to food.

We find junk food everywhere: in grocery stores, gas stations, vending machines, at work, and in schools. Food companies market junk food to all of us, but especially to our children. 

If you have children, try to keep junk food out of your house. Save it for special occasions outside your home, and read nutrition labels carefully. To learn more, read the book Food Fight by Kelly Brownell, Ph.D.

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