Why We Have to Stop Saying “Eat Like That While You Can”
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
“Eat like that while you can,” is usually what older adults may tell adolescents and teenagers when they eat junk foods. But as adults and parents, we may need to change this messaging.
While it may be true that a cheeseburger with a side of fries and soda may not cause a young person to gain weight as easily as an older person, processed and ultra-processed foods can still cause damage to the heart and overall health.
To get an in-depth understanding of what exactly processed and ultra-processed foods are, check out this pH Labs blog. These foods tend to lack nutrients, such as essential vitamins and minerals, and include foods such as cookies, chips, frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, candy, pastries, white bread and crackers and most types of fast food.
According to a recent study, around two-thirds of American adolescents’ caloric intake comes from ultra-processed foods. In addition to this, the study sampled 5,565 people between the ages of 12 to 19 and found that 66 percent of their calories came from ultra-processed foods (compared to 55 percent for adults). For some of these young people, it was as high as 88 percent!
“The adolescents' choices correlated with worse heart health. For every 5% increase in the number of calories they got from ultra-processed food each day, their score on a 12-point scale of heart health declined by 0.13 points,” according to this recent Medical Xpress report discussing the study.
One of the main issues is that these processed foods tend to be very high in salt (sodium). Although sodium is an essential nutrient (it is an electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure and enable muscle and nerve cells to function properly), overall most Americans consume way too much sodium, putting them at a higher risk of developing hypertension and heart disease
Just because something tastes sweet, does not mean that it is not high in sodium. A lot of processed pastries have a high salt content.
In addition to having a lot of sodium, ultra-processed foods also tend to have a lot of trans fats and saturated fats which are also not good for heart health.
(Fat is an essential nutrient, along with protein, water, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. But there is unhealthy fat and there is healthy fat, which you can read all about in this pH Labs blog).
Along with salt and bad fats, nutrient-void processed foods may also be high in sugar (a major contributor to diabetes and cause of inflammation in the body that may lead to accelerated aging and all types of disease).Making room for the good.
One of the doctors referenced in the report said, "[eating a lot of processed food] leaves very little room for all of the healthy foods that provide nutrients teenagers really need—vegetables and beans, fruits, whole grains, unprocessed meats and fish, and plain low-fat milk and yogurt."
We really do have to encourage our children to make room for the 'good' food. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both American men and women and there is significant evidence of heart attacks occurring in young people.
“If you're in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you might believe you have plenty of time before you need to start thinking about your heart health and your chances of having a heart attack,” reports Penn Medicine.
“But new research shows that heart attacks – often associated with older men – are increasingly occurring in younger people, especially women.”
So it’s especially important to get ahead of this when people are younger (during those growing and adolescent years). If a child as young as five or 12 regularly eats poorly, then it is more likely he or she wiill continue these bad eating habits with increased age.
If you are a parent, it is a good idea to set the example by maintaining a healthy weight and making healthy meals at home. Meal preparation can be fun and enjoyable for the whole family. Involve your children in making meals, take them to the farmers’ market or even consider growing some vegetables and herbs at home if you have the yard space.
Also encourage regular physical activity. You can ride bikes with your kids, go for hikes or even dance at home! And if you have a toddler, consider getting him or her into organized sports.
Let’s change the message on eating and fight heart disease!
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.