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Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone

Just because some food is cheap and convenient, that doesn't mean that it means you any good.

Wellness

"Fast food. Hamburgers, French fries, and soft drinks are typical fast food items. Fast food is a type of mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on 'speed of service' versus other relevant factors involved in culinary science."—Wikipedia

So, here's what I'm hoping. I'm hoping that even if you're gonna wish that you could un-see all of this info by the time you finish reading this, that you caught this article before you go on your next lunch break. I say that because, if you're in the habit of running out to a local fast food joint to get a bite, you might want to rethink that plan.

Now before delving deeper into why I say that, let's do a quick review of some fast food places that ain't McDonald's, Wendy's or Arby's. In-N-Out. Panera Bread. Wingstop. Boston Market. Moe's Southwest Grill. Noodles & Company. Chipotle. Jason's Deli. Panda Express. Starbucks. Your beloved Chick-fil-A (which was voted the #1 fast food place this year). If you Google a list of popular fast food chains, these are going to be on it. The reason why I didn't go with a Popeye's, Sonic or Pizza Hut is because those are pretty obvious, right? But for whatever the reason, when a lot of us go to Panera or Chick-fil-A, we think that it's "the other fast food". I'm not saying that some places aren't healthier than others, but when it comes to choosing between what's best for your health (and wallet), nothing beats preparing your own meals.

Health-wise, you're about to see why, if folks in drive-thrus know you personally, it really is time to spend more time in grocery stores (or farmer's markets) instead of fast food restaurants.

Fast Food Affects Your Brain

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Something that a lot of fast foods have in them is saturated fat (and fatty acids). The problem with that is when too much of it is in our system, it can cause us to experience impaired memory or to even for our cognitive function to get all sluggish. Some other things that saturated fat puts us at risk for is weight gain and heart disease.

Does this mean that you can't have a burger or milkshake ever? No. What it does mean is in order for you to remain relatively unaffected by saturated fats, you should consume no more than 10 percent of them a day. And a burger combo is a heck of a lot more than that.

Fast Food Attacks Your Teeth and Bones

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Contrary to popular belief, it's not actually sugar that leads to cavities. What causes them is a combination of bacteria, acid on the enamel of your teeth and a vitamin deficiency. Three things that you can do to combat all of these issues is to brush and floss your teeth after every meal, take a Vitamin D supplement and consume (more) bone broth, and cut back on acidic foods like soda and carbs; especially soda because the citric acid that's in it is the most corrosive that there is (by the way, if you're wondering which soda does the most damage, check out "70 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are").

As far as your bones go in general, fast food is a no-no because it leads to obesity and obesity can directly affect bone density. Who wants weak bones? Exactly.

Fast Food Wears Your Kidneys Out

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If there's one thing that fast food contains a ton of, it's sodium. As a result, we end up dehydrated, bloated and constipated with an elevated blood pressure and kidneys that have to work harder than they ever should. In fact, if you are someone who is prone to kidney stones and you're also someone who eats combo meals a lot, those two things typically go hand in hand. From what I hear, everything about kidney stones suck. Wouldn't you want to avoid what causes them at all costs?

(If you'd like a list of other types of foods that produce kidney stones, you can check one out here.)

Fast Food Wrecks Your Hair, Skin and Nails

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If you're someone who has acne-prone skin, you've probably been told that chocolate and greasy foods like pizza are to blame. But there are actually studies that indicate carbs are the real culprit. The reason why is because carbs causes our blood sugar levels to increase; when that happens, breakouts are sometimes the result. Actually, one study revealed that kids and teens who have fast food, at least three times a week, are more likely to develop eczema.

Also, because fast food is not usually loaded with iron (like say, a salad is), that's why it's not the best thing for your hair (low iron can ultimately lead to thinning and even bald spots). Also, since fast food isn't all that big on Vitamin C, your hair, skin and nails aren't able to get the collagen boost that they need on a daily basis if that's constantly what you're putting into your system.

Fast Food Makes You Anxious

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Something else that fast food lacks are omega-3 fatty acids. We need those because they improve the health of our eyes, fight inflammation, reduce our risk for contracting autoimmune diseases and reduce our chances of having an age-related illness (like Alzheimer's disease). One more thing—if you battle with anxiety, omega-3s are able to lower those symptom-related issues too. Since reportedly 1 in 5 Americans battle with some sort of anxiety disorder, this is certainly good food for thought. Literally.

The kinds of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, walnuts, wild rice, oysters and flax seeds. I'm not sure what fast food restaurants are in plentiful supplies of these things so yeah, this is just one more reason to stay out of their drive-thru lines.

Fast Food Messes with Your Fertility

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If you're trying to get pregnant, this is just one more reason to stay out of fast food places. Fast food is highly processed, and processed foods typically contain something known as phthalates. What's that? It's a chemical that totally disrupts the hormonal balance in your system. If your periods are irregular and your hormones are all over the place, that's going to make it difficult to conceive.

Something else that's pretty jacked up about phthalates is, if you're exposed to high levels of them, you could also put your baby at risk for having birth defects.

So yeah, if you're trying to conceive and currently have a French fry in your hand, hopefully this motivates you to toss it into the trash.

Fast Food Dyes Can Make You Ill

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Before I get into how the dyes in fast food can jack you up too, another read that's totally worth your time is "Fast Food Is Actually Unhealthier Today Than It Was in the 80s". One of the reasons why this is the case is due to all of the preservatives that are in today's fast foods. Anyway, as if all of the red flags that you've already checked out aren't enough, something else that should give you cause for pause is all of the artificial coloring that goes into fast food.

C'mon, surely you don't think that Fanta Strawberry soda is naturally red or Dr. Pepper is naturally a dark caramel color. And speaking of the shades of caramel that you see, there are studies which indicate that it carries the human carcinogen known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI); in rats, the consumption of this has sometimes led to cancer. Again, another solid reason to take a fast food pass.

Fast Food Can Kill You. Literally.

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OK, so if you somehow like your burgers, fries and shakes so much that you somehow found a way to rationalize your way out of all of what I just shared, be prepared for this drop the mic moment—"Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Increases Death Risk by 62%". Yep. You read the title of that article totally right! And what technically qualifies as being an ultra-processed food? Brace yourself—chicken nuggets, white bread, frappuccinos, energy drinks and bars, sweetened cereals, fried chicken, potato chips, frozen pizza, packaged snacks, fries, biscuits, soda and pretty much any other kind of food that contains a lot of sugar and/or preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors. Is your favorite fast food restaurant good enough to die before your time for? (The answer to that is a firm "hell no".)

Whew, that's a lot of drama to take in. And, just like Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was going from eating fast food a few times a week to not consuming it at all. But remember that a lot of the fast foods that you like, you can still have so long as you're willing to prepare them yourself and make them differently. For soda, add some juice or lemon and lime to your sparkling water. For fries, bake potato wedges in your oven. Turkey and bean burgers are good beef burger alternatives. A homemade dark chocolate and banana smoothie is much healthier than a Sonic shake.

Bottom line is, when it comes to fast food and what it does to our bodies, all of them ultimately bring new meaning to "haste makes waste". Fast ain't always good, y'all. Choose (to eat) wisely.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

10 "Healthy" Foods That Actually, Well...Aren't

10 Foods You Should Eliminate From Your Diet If You're Trying To Lose Weight

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Plantain Flour, Spirulina & Other Uncommon Foods To Add To Your Diet

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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