Junk It!

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In modern times, we favor factory and industrial processing, which gives us the convenience of a quick meal. Processing destroys the nutrients in food rather than increasing them, and makes our food more difficult to digest. Furthermore, industrial processing depends upon products that have a negative impact on our health, such as sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, colorants, synthetic vitamins and an extrusion processing of grains – which are the tools of the food processing industry.

Fast food has very high energy density (about 65 percent higher than a typical diet) which makes us eat more than we otherwise would. Energy density refers to the amount of calories an item of food contains in relation to its weight. Foods with high energy density confuse the brain's control systems for appetite, which are based solely on portion size i.e. food intake is assessed by the size of the portion. A typical fast food meal contains many more calories than a similar-sized portion of a healthy meal.

These may be tasty, but doctors have long warned against consuming them too often because of their hefty doses of both sodium and saturated fats.

McDonald’s French Fries (Medium 114 g):
Total Calories: 380
Total Fat: 20 g (% Daily Value = 31)
Saturated Fat: 4 g (% Daily Value = 20)
Trans Fat: 5 g
Sodium: 266 mg

Ingredients that are not good for health: Saturated Fats & Trans Fats
Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, transfat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad  cholesterol,” levels, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the  National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes CHD one of the  leading causes of death in the United States. [Source: FDA Consumer Magazine, Oct 2003].

Additionally, according to the recommendations of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, 1,200 – 1,500 mg of sodium is the daily sodium requirement for adults. Keeping these figures in mind, you should also know that the regular table salt that we consume contains 40% sodium, and a single teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.

Although the body requires minimum quantities of sodium, too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure. Sodium can also lead to building-up of fluids in people who suffer from congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease.

In 2006, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition further concluded that both potatoes and French fries seem to lead to an increased risk in the development of Type II diabetes. The risk was higher among women who were already obese.


This is formed naturally when starch-rich foods are fried, baked, grilled, toasted or microwaved at high temperatures. For e.g: Chips, roast potatoes, crisps and bread. It has also been found in a variety of other foods. It has caused cancer in rats in laboratory tests and its presence in some foods may harm people’s health. Acrylamide has not been found in any raw or boiled foods.

Generally, French fries and potato chips are usually cooked at 190 oC (374 oF) – a temperature high enough to cause the formation of acrylamide.
According to some studies, in foods like French fries and potato chips, Acrylamide is present to the tune of about 300 times more than the “safe” limits recommended by WHO (World Health Organization).


Surprisingly, the details of ingredients in their products is available on their website -www.kfc.com. Here’s what’s in KFC’s Grilled Chicken (finger lickin’ flavour) Fresh Chicken Marinated With Salt, Sodium Phosphate, and Monosodium Glutamate. Seasoned With: Maltodextrin, Salt, Bleached Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Garlic Powder, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Extractives of Turmeric, Dehydrated Carrot, Onion Powder, and Not More Than 2% Each of Calcium Silicate and Silicon Dioxide Added As Anticaking Agents.

Ingredients that are not good for health:
According to the Sugar Association (U.S.), it is "a short chain of molecularly linked dextrose (glucose) molecules", manufactured by a process that breaks down starches found in common cereals such as rice or corn, as well as in starchy vegetables such as potatoes. The process typically  produces a white or creamcolored powder that can be sweet or flavorless.

Maltodextrin, because of its sweet properties, is often used as an artificial sweetener in canned foods and dessert mixes. It also functions as filler and thickener, i.e., it can be used in place of cornstarch or flour to thicken sauces, gravies and syrups.

Some of its associated problems: it suppresses your immune system, promotes imbalance of intestinal flora, causes bloodsugar fluctuation which can lead to diabetes, promotes weight gain, can cause neurotransmitter imbalance that leads to depression, and can even lead to addiction.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
More familiar to you as MSG; we have already detailed itsimpacts in our last issue. This unnatural flavor enhancer is a neurotoxin that kills brain cells by over stimulating them. It is commonly regarded as one of the most dangerous food additives in existence and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and learning disabilities.

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil

With more than 60% of cotton in India and 43% of cotton globally being genetically modified, the chance of GM cotton oils in our foods is very high. It doesn’t take great computation to get this right. Also, about 58.3% of soya globally, and 85% of American soya is genetically modified. These could impact health in addition to the impacts created by consuming partially hydrogenated oils (transfats).

We had a cool dirty dozen (12 top brand soft drinks) in the Indian food industry tested by ‘Down to Earth’ magazine (Aug 15, 2003) found to be contaminated with LINDANE (g-HCH). Harmful Ingredients the soft drinks contain: Lindane

Lindane is an insecticide. It’s consumption damages the body’s central nervous system, immune system and is a confirmed carcinogen. It was found in 100 per cent of soft drink samples. Its concentration ranged from 0.0008 milligram per litre (mg/l) to 0.0042 mg/l in the samples tested. This last amount is 42 times the limit stipulated by the European Economic Commission (0.0001 mg/l ) to control contamination in water used as ‘food’.

Carbonation and Phosphoric Acid
If this does not deter us from taking a cool sip there is more: the carbonation in all soft drinks causes calcium loss in the bones. Most soft drinks also contain phosphoric acid. This substance also causes a drawdown on the store of calcium.

You add sugar to the picture, and it gets worse! The sugar, dissolved in liquid, is quickly carried to the bloodstream, where its presence in overload quantities signals the pancreas to go into overdrive. The jolt of insulin causes the body to reduce the testosterone in the bloodstream, and depresses further production of it. In both men and women, testosterone controls the depositing of calcium in the bones. The sugar also leads to
Type II diabetes.

Sugar Substitutes
Sugar substitutes in diet colas have worse health impacts. A new research study, which included nearly 60,000 pregnant women in Denmark, found that those who consumed one serving per day of artificially sweetened, carbonated drinks were 38% more likely to give birth prematurely. Those who consumed four servings of these drinks were 78% more likely to have a premature delivery.
(Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Aspartame, (a commonly used sugar substitute), breaks down into three major chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Methanol oxidizes into formaldehyde and then formic acid, both of which are toxic. These can accumulate in the body and have been linked to premature birth in primate studies.


Aruna Kalahastri is an anti-GM activist; she is passionate about photography and interacting with young adults on pressing issues facing our world. You can write to her at aruna.kalahastri@gmail.com