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Who doesn't like instant foods – it's cheap, tasty, and quick for busy people who have little time preparing for a meal. However, its practicality may actually cost our well-being in the long run. Many people who consider this as a comfort food need to be aware about its effect on overall health. Therefore, on this week's journal, we will be explaining a few plausible reasons why instant foods may be detrimental for health, especially if you're consuming it habitually. Read on!
1. High sodium content
Like most types of processed foods, instant foods are loaded with salt. You can immediately notice this as you read through the nutrition facts written on its packaging. Often times, it reaches two-thirds of the daily recommended sodium intake. You can definitely exceed this easily, even if you just consume one portion of instant food.
While your body needs a certain amount of salt/sodium to function properly, excess sodium intake can be detrimental for health. A study conducted in 2014 has shown that high sodium consumption contributes to higher death rates, as it elevates risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
2. Contains flavor-enhancing additives as well as preservatives
Instant foods also contain a heap of additives, including MSG or monosodium glutamate, which is used as flavor enhancer. Even though it is usually used in food production and touted as fairly safe, MSG may cause health problems. This includes increasing risk of obesity. On sensitive individuals, MSG consumption may cause headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, muscle stiffness, to chest pain. Although when consumed in moderation, these occurences are quite rare.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and t-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) are also frequently used in making instant foods. Their role as preservatives help prolong the shelf life of these products. However, these chemicals are considered carcinogenic, and may cause other symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal discomfort when we are exposed for a prolonged period.
3. More difficult to be digested
Some studies have shown that instant foods may take more time to be digested, plus it doesn't quite have the same effect when consuming complex carbohydrates. Some highly processed foods may also strain our digestive system, cause blood sugar imbalances and disrupt insulin levels.
4. May mess with your metabolism
Some highly processed food contains ingredients that are fully synthetic and rarely natural. For example, instant foods like instant noodles involve deep-frying in the process, causing it to contain high levels of saturated fat. One pack of instant noodles usually contains around 14 grams of saturated fat, at least 40% of the recommended daily fat intake.
Due to this fact, research have shown that individuals who consumed a large amount of instant foods may have increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, stroke as well as being more at risk of getting heart disease. Meanwhile, women who consumed instant foods regularly also have bigger risk of getting metabolic syndrome, regardless of their dietary or exercise habits, compared to those who don't.
5. They’re low in nutrition
It's no secret that most instant foods contain a load of calories, yet lacking in nutrients that are beneficial for the body, such as protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also not recommended if you're trying to lose weight, as lack of protein and fibre would not keep you full for long. Plus, low fibre diet may also trigger constipation and reduce healthy gut bacteria.
Some people try to compensate for this lack of nutrients by adding vegetables and protein, like egg, vegetables, kimchi, and other condiments. However, this effort of enhancing nutritional value may not be enough, as the negative health effects of instant foods itself are far greater.