I know many people claim that they are addicted or “Just can’t give up __Insert Junk Food Here__” when it comes to many junk foods, but in many cases, is this accurate?
Yes, science has shown that high salt, high fat, and high sugar food products, such as Potato Chips and Freshly Baked Apple Pie, has addictive qualities directly linked to biological evolution, so that is not something that I plan on contesting. The main premise I plan I stating, is that the consumption of junk food being “addicting,” at least in part, may have something more to do with the availability and ease of access to these foods as compared to healthier food options.
I eat Lentils on a near daily basis, but I cook my lentils from dry (the only legume I do this for because I am lazy). It takes about 45 minutes to cook a cup of dry lentils so I don’t have to cook anymore for a few days, but that is 45 minutes of stirring, checking, and adjusting temperatures, which is detrimental in the world of instant gratification.
People would rather just take a premade pizza delivered right to their door, as opposed to the tedious effort of buying ingredients, kneading flour, rolling dough, adding toppings, and sticking it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, regardless of whether or not the homemade pizza is healthier for you and can be made exactly how you choose with whatever ingredients your heart desires.
I understand the idea of not wanting to spend every day cooking meals, but exactly how much of this addiction is simply due to buying cheese and slapping together a mayo-filled bologna sandwich as opposed to cooking a spicy bean stew filled with a few veggies?
And this is supported by the evidence that less and less Americans are cooking foods at home, and opting for others to do it for us. And when we DO decide to cook foods, most of the time it is made with highly processed foods. Anywhere between 61-70% of our diets come from highly processed foods, such as precooked foods, condiments, crackers, cookies, and even my favorite Boca Vegan Chik Patties. Now processed foods are not bad for you in moderation, but when eaten in excess can provide MUCH more calories, salt, fat, and sugar, than you would receive by just making the food at home.
For example, 200 grams of Pinto Beans has less calories, more vitamins and minerals, and less salt, than 100 grams of canned refried beans, and all you have to do to make refried beans is to add spices and blend the beans.
The more vitamins and minerals thing also plays an important role in nutrition, as highly processed foods either are devoid of vitamins and minerals, or due to processing the nutrients within are not as bioavailable to be absorbed into our body. Because of this, Vitamin A, D, E, C, Folate, Calcium, and Magnesium, are all deficient in the Standard American Diet.
And easy way to combat Obesity and to increase vitamin supplements is to stop being lazy. I know the most common excuse is “lack of time,” but the American Time Use Survey shows that despite cooking on average for less than 30 minutes a day, 3 hours on average are spent on things such as watching TV. Relaxation is good, but if you can spare 5 hours a day or leisure and social activities, you can spare more time to cook some meals.
Another issue related to eating processed foods over whole foods, is the idea that despite the fact that Romaine Lettuce is healthy, it is automatically believed to be earthy and nasty, so people would rather buy a ball of solid water. Whole Foods are believed to be bland, boring, and require too much time and effort to learn how to properly cook, so many people just refuse to do it altogether.
Now I do believe that high salt, high fat, high sugar products can be addicting, and can be very hard to give up, but it is harder now with the advent of tons of processed pre-made not-good-for-you goods. So the main thing we should be teaching our youth, above all else, is how to cook healthy meals.
At least that is my take on it.