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Health Tips
Stay healthy by reading wellness advice from our top specialists.

The name 'fast food' comes from the fact that it can be prepared and served in a jiffy and not to mention, tastes delicious. Fast food is easily prepared processed food served in snack bars and restaurants as a quick meal or to be taken away. Don't be fooled by the smell and the taste, they have such little to no nutritional value that they can hardly be called food. They are rich in calories, fat and sugar that lead to various kinds of health conditions. Popular junk foods include gums, sweets, carbonated drinks, desserts, dried foods; you probably love them now but after knowing their effects on your health you might want to eliminate them from your diet. Here are some of the conditions which can be caused by consumption of excessive fast food:

Heart diseases: Fast food contains high amounts of trans or saturated fats that can clog your arteries and lead to high level of cholesterol later in life. People who have junk food more than four times a week increase their risk of dying by 80%.

Obesity: Adolescents who have poor eating habits are at high risk of being obese. Gaining a lot of weight beyond a recommended proportion can cause many health problems. Junk foods have sugar and calories that lead to weight gain. It has also been noticed that people who are prone to eating more fast foods are less likely to consume fruits and vegetables and this further weakens their immune system.

Peptic Ulcer: Peptic ulcer is a disease that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract; it is acidic in nature and causes extreme stomach ache. Spicy oily and salted food combined with stress and alcohol can lead to this condition.

Diabetes: Busy work schedule prevents many people from cooking at home and they take resort in fast food but it is advisable not to let work get in the way of your health. Consuming regular fast food coupled with poor lifestyle and lack of exercise lead to obesity which in turn cause Type 2 diabetes.

Cut down on junk foods and incorporate fruits and vegetables and also make time to include a daily exercise routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

A high-fat, high-sugar diet of processed food and confectionery during pregnancy may be linked to symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children who show conduct problems early in life, a study says."These results suggest that promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children," said one of the researchers Edward Barker from King's College London.

Early onset conduct problems (for example, lying, fighting) and ADHD tend to occur in tandem and can also be traced back to very similar prenatal experiences such as maternal distress or poor nutrition.In this new study of participants from the Bristol-based 'Children of the 90s' cohort, 83 children with early-onset conduct problems were compared with 81 children who had low levels of conduct problems.

The researchers assessed how the mothers' nutrition affected epigenetic changes (or DNA methylation) of IGF2, a gene involved in fetal development and the brain development of areas implicated in ADHD - the cerebellum and hippocampus. Notably, DNA methylation of IGF2 had previously been found in children of mothers who were exposed to famine in the Netherlands during World War II.
The researchers from found that poor prenatal nutrition, comprising high fat and sugar diets of processed food and confectionery, was associated with higher IGF2 methylation in children with early onset conduct problems. The epigenetic change was also associated with higher ADHD symptoms between the ages of seven and 13, but only for children who showed an early onset of conduct problems, showed the study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

"Our finding that poor prenatal nutrition was associated with higher IGF2 methylation highlights the critical importance of a healthy diet during pregnancy," Barker said.

Fast Food, by and large, is detrimental to the health. Multiple studies have shown this in the past decade. It aggravates many diseases and is responsible for medical conditions such as obesity, respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. Amidst multiple negative qualities, many fast foods are actually not that bad for the body. If taken in right proportions, some of the fast foods mentioned below can be extremely useful for the body.

Popcorn- Apart from being one of the best accompaniments for movies, popcorns greatly helps in curbing hunger. Home-made popcorns have fewer calories and are a very good antioxidant. The good part about popcorn is the fact that it is not heavy as other fast foods and doesn’t make you feel lethargic. However, it should be ensured that more than one bowl of popcorn is not consumed at a time.

Baked snacks- Baked snacks are a much-preferred choice in the snacks category these days. Owing to their low fat and carb content, they not only serve as tasty snacks but are good for the overall health as well. The fact that baked snacks are made up of whole wheat, makes it a more attractive offering. Baked snacks, when prepared with a dash of spice, can be a good alternative to other unhealthy snacks in the market.

Processed Cheese- Processed cheese contains Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The latter is found to have anti-carcinogenic properties. A recent study showed that the CLA found in processed cheese is much more than other dairy products. Processed cheese is also a good antioxidant. This being said, too much intake of processed cheese can be harmful to the body.

Dark chocolate brownie- If dark chocolate is consumed with whole wheat brownie, it acts as a good ingredient for patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. When consumed with a few nuts, dark chocolate brownie becomes a power house of fibre. People with a sweet tooth can find this preparation a good alternative for other fast food items such as chocolate, ice cream and pastries.

Chocolate Bars- This is another treat for a person with a sweet tooth. Dark chocolate bars are rich in antioxidants. It brings down blood pressure level and is found to be effective for the heart. This should not be consumed more than 100 grams per day.

Stout Beer- Dry stout beer with its rich creamy content is as good as a dose of aspirin. This form of liquor improves blood circulation level and reduces the risk of cardiac arrests. One pint of this beer every alternate day will serve the purpose of quenching your alcohol thrust while ensuring that no harm is caused to your health.

So, you have been good all the week. Refrained from fried foods, chose to pick a salad over the fatty steak. And, let's not forget the cheesecake cravings that you successfully managed to ignore! When it comes to food, not giving into the impulses is a task. A task, that calls for a due reward from time to time. Cheat meal is one such incentive you can treat yourself with, after a spell of eating clean and staying active. Don't worry; your nutritionists would not mind this occasional binge either.But Why Cheat?

Cheat meal could help you in your weight loss goals. Yes, you heard us. These meals do not have an adverse impact on your fitness goals, provided they are taken in regulated quantities. Finding yourself an incentive may motivate you more in your fitness journey. Let us explain how.

Weight loss has lot to do with psychology. Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta explains, "The simple logic behind these occasional meals is that it makes you very happy. We are all human beings at the end of the day, the positive effect is mostly psychological than physiological. We are good eighty percent of the time, and for a good 20 percent we like to put the guards down. Eating burgers, pizza, pastas gives us that kind of satisfaction. In moderation, even these indulgences don't harm.

Cheat meal may also impact your metabolism in a good way. Dr. Rupali says, "Any change is good for the body, if practiced in moderation. When we talk about cheat meal, there are two aspects of it. One is that we have eaten clean and healthy for the whole week and want to take it easy on one last day of the week. Second is when we are on a specific diet plan for a week and take a day off to satiate our taste buds with our favourite foods. In the former case, a cheat meal is more of 'feel-good' factor, a reward for yourself. If you are on a weight reduction program, a cheat meal, in addition to being a psychological boost, also helps shake up the metabolism. Try something new and enjoy."

When you have reached your weight loss plateau, a cheat meal lets your metabolism to awaken to something new. This revived metabolism helps you to lose weight. But, make sure, the cheat meal is regulated, cautions Dr. Datta. If you end up noshing more calories than those you have saved in your diet and workout. You defeat the entire purpose of even being on weight reduction diet.
Research shows that cheat meals boosts your metabolism by warding off feelings of depravation. The spike in metabolism levels may also be due to increased levels in leptin - the anti-starvation hormone. The hormone responsible for sending hunger messages to the body. Your body has a mind of its own. When it senses a calorie deficit, leptin levels drop. This prompts your metabolism to conserve energy. And, it starts burning fat stores for energy. Eating cheat meal temporarily boosts leptin and aids weight loss.

But, a cheat meal doesn't mean you go all out and forget about the calorie count you are required to keep track of.

Things To Keep In Mind Before You Cheat.

1. Plan Your Cheat Meals Better

If your cheat day falls on a Sunday, and you have a party to attend on Saturday, make sure you appease your cravings to your heart's content on a Saturday only. Going on binge spree again on Sunday, would defeat all the good you have done the past whole week.

2. Don't Cheat When You Are Starving

It is not the best idea to go on a binge spree when you are starving or are famished. Not only would end up eating much more, but will also forget about the buffer of calories you have created for yourself, and go overboard.

3. Make Sure You Make Up For What You Eat

Conveniently skipping your workout after all the indulging is a strict no-no. Make sure you burn up all the calories at the gym the very next day.

4. Allow Yourself A Cheat Meal, Not A Cheat Day

Eat anything you like to your heart's content. But, don't overindulge. And, definitely not keep indulging the entire day. If your lunch was a mix of pastas and pizzas make sure your supper is light.
Cheat as much you want, make sure you don't nullify all the hard work in the process.

Dr. Amar B.  Shah
Dr. Amar B. Shah
ND, Ophthalmologist, 25 yrs, Pune
Dr. Akash Grampurohit
Dr. Akash Grampurohit
MS - Allopathy, ENT Specialist, Dharwad
Dr. Deepti Shukla
Dr. Deepti Shukla
MD - Allopathy, Dermatologist Trichologist, 12 yrs, Mumbai
Dr. Neha Sawant
Dr. Neha Sawant
BPTh, Orthopedic Physiotherapist Physiotherapist, 11 yrs, Pune
Dr. Mahesh Gupta
Dr. Mahesh Gupta
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Ayurveda Family Physician, 4 yrs, Pune