Fast Food and the Deceptions that Follow It

Fast Food hamburger on a bub
Tasty? Yes. Health? Not really. Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

In our previous article, we discussed the link between processed foods and cancer. In this article, we will concentrate on the fast food industry and how some of these businesses use deceptive techniques to lure the consumers in.

Processed and fast foods are a staple dietary items in contemporary eating habits and lifestyles. They have been internalized so seamlessly that people don’t stop devouring them even after knowing the unhealthy consequences of their consumption.

Obesity tops the list of health issues faced by US citizens and the $200 billion fast-food industry plays a significant role in aggravating this problem. Therefore, these unhealthy food options, full of calories and bad nutrients can be easily quoted as ‘junk food’.   

Apart from dealing with unhealthy meals, some processed and fast food establishments also use certain unscrupulous advertising techniques to retain their customers and to sustain their revenue stream. Let’s have a closer look at what these deceptions are.  

Fat-Free Meals are Healthy Options

Fast Food
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

After the excessive demonizing of fat as an unhealthy nutrient, people have become quite careful in its consumption. Fast foods are traditionally known for their rich fat content. This new trend of avoiding fats has forced the industry to come up with the option of fat-free meal options.

These options indeed have less fat content, but there is another side to this. The extravaganza of tastes present in processed and fast foods is attributed to the presence of a high amount of fats. Meals with low fat don’t taste as good as typical fat-enriched items. Therefore, to compensate for the taste of low-fat meals, some synthetic additives are added to them.  

These substitutes are worse in their health implications as compared to the original fats. So, it’s only a fallacy that low-fat fast food options are any healthy.

No Trans Fat is Included in the Meal

Trans fat is considered one of the unhealthiest nutrients present in any food item and junk meals contain a considerable amount of them. As people have come to know about the effects of trans fats on cholesterol levels and the cardiovascular system, the fast-food industry has reduced its amount in their products.  

However, they can’t exclude them entirely because it is a necessary constituent of processed foods. As per food regulations, they are allowed to call any food product free of trans fats if it contains less than 0.5 grams per packaging. So, even if the label of any processed food product reads ‘Trans fat-free’, you can’t be sure whether it’s entirely free of this bad fat.  

Many people now know the bad effects of trans fats, but they don’t know the term ‘hydrogenated’ is also used in place of ‘trans’. The processed food industry cleverly exploits this lack of awareness by replacing the word ‘trans’ with ‘hydrogenated’ on the labels.

Processed and Fast Foods Made of Whole Grains are Healthy

Man holding hamburger in bun
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Whole grains are healthy as compared to refined variants. So, fast foods made of whole-grain should also be healthy or less harmful than the regular junk meals made of refined grains? The answer to this question should be in the affirmative, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.  

To maintain the consistency and texture of their products, processed and fast food ventures use the whole grain which is gone through ultra grinding and crushing. Even though this whole grain flour contains all the healthy constitutes (kernel, husk), but it has been ground in such fine powder that it loses its characteristic of late digestion.

Therefore, the whole grain fast food options are not very dissimilar to their fine grain counterparts because they are equally capable of raising the blood glucose level.

Gluten-free Fast Foods Have Similar Benefits

Going gluten-free is in fashion these days. One research shows that around 1.5 percent of the US population has adopted a gluten-free diet and nearly 33 percent among them don’t have wheat intolerance or celiac disease.  

Gluten-free diets are healthy and there is no harm in adopting them even if you don’t have any digestive issues. However, gluten-free fast foods are altogether a different thing. Wheat in such fast food products is replaced by different finely processed starches of corn and potatoes with a high glycemic index. Moreover, gluten-free fast food options are way expensive than traditional options.

With gluten-free fast foods, you might not be munching wheat anymore, but you will be consuming excessive glucose content in the form of starch which is unhealthy.  

Distortion of Caloric Factsheet

With the prevalence of modern diet plans, people have become more conscious of their daily calorie count. The junk and processed food industry is also aware of this. Therefore, they have made the business of the caloric value of their products pretty complex for consumers to understand. Sometimes they mention caloric value and sugar content in the product separately and sometimes merge the multiple servings in one product and only mention the calorie count of only one serving on the label.

All these tricks are played to mislead people about the real caloric value of their food products which usually reach unhealthy proportions.

Inclusion of Small Amounts of Beneficial Ingredients Makes Their Products Healthy

If you have ever noticed, ads of processed and fast foods often promote the healthy ingredients in their products, which is by comparison to the entire meal is minimal. This gimmick is done to make people think that they are eating something healthy. In reality, the inclusion of such a negligible amount of healthy ingredients doesn’t offset the bad effects of a plethora of inferior ingredients that are included in their products.  

Concealing Unhealthy Ingredients  

The fast-food industry quite often uses technical terms for the ingredients that might be unhealthy for human consumption. For instance, monosodium glutamate, a sodium salt, might be labeled as E621 on the packaging of processed foods. Similarly, sugar is mentioned with alternate terms such as corn syrup or fructose syrup.  

Sometimes, it’s intentionally done to trick people into believing that the food they are consuming is free of any detrimental ingredient.

Fast foods and processed dietary options are rarely healthy. Therefore, over-relying on such products is not a sensible thing to do. Try to maintain your diets as organic as possible to remain healthy.