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What's Inside Junk Food? by@arthur.tkachenko

What's Inside Junk Food?

Arthur Hacker Noon profile picture



Remember how your mom told you to finish your food before getting dessert? It turns out your mom was right!

Let’s explore what is making some food earn the title of junk food!

Junk food is food with calories which provide you with energy, but with low nutritional value. Junk food offers a lot of calories in one “plate”, has a lot of fat and sugar masked with “yummy tasting” additives.

Many of us have jumped at chips or donuts instead of eating apples for a snack because junk food usually has a shiny package that grabs our attention at the store.

I am from Ukraine, and we have an idiom that described this well: “Shine like gold, but rotten inside.”

Junk food is unhealthy for you because you need food high in nutritional value to get all the nutrients your body requires without the high calories.

This article will summarize information and provide links regarding classification of food, how junk food get into our homes and bellies, problems caused by junk food, how long it takes to burn off junk food, tips to avoid junk food and technology recommendations to help eat healthier.


When talking about junk food, most of us think about chips, french fries, cakes/cupcakes, cookies, donuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, and other highly processed snacks and sodas.

Some junk food is easily identifiable as unhealthy:

- Junk food that leads to overeating because it doesn’t make you feel satiated.

- Junk food that replaces a better version of food/product (e.g. sugar water replacing a tea or juice).

However, some food thought to be junk food (e.g. hamburgers, pizzas, and tacos) can be healthy.

Classification of food between healthy and junk food is not black and white and requires a closer look at how the food was prepared and what are the ingredients composing the food, including having scientists and researchers study them to understand better where they fall on the spectrum of healthy vs unhealthy.

To help you know, I will review two food classification studies.

Classification Study 1:

 A new classification of foods based on the extent and purpose of their processing

Based on that study, food can be classified into three groups based on the amount of processing:

- unprocessed or minimally processed foods as “group 1”

- processed culinary and food industry ingredients as “group 2”

- ultra-processed food products as “group 3"

We can easily deduct that products from “group 3" are the most unhealthy. Please note that this study does not claim that products in “group 1”, “group 2” and “group 3” are junk food. It claims that problem increases in proportions according to the group they are classified in and the more you eat those foods.

Although I strongly recommend reading the entire study, here is a snippet of the findings:

However, many products in group 3, such as soft drinks, biscuits (cookies), ice creams, pastries, processed meats, cheeses, and sauces are already identified as increasing the risk of obesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases. In terms of nutrient profile, such products are typically energy-dense, and contain a lot of added sugar, sodium, saturated fats or trans fats and little dietary fiber.

Salted and dried or oil-preserved canned fishes, canned vegetables in brine, instant noodles, sugared breakfast cereals, sugared milk beverages, and other sugared beverages also part of group3.

Sugared soft drinks are a special case. Evidence of their harmful effects to health is now disputed only by industry representatives and apologists. To date, six systematic reviews have found associations identified as causal between what have now in many countries become typical levels of soft drink consumption and increased calorie intake, overweight and obesity, and serious diseases of which overweight and obesity are a cause.

Classification Study 2: “Junk food” and “healthy food”: meanings of food in adolescent women’s culture

The study participants … associated consumption of junk food with, among other things, weight gain, pleasure, friends, independence, and guilt, while consumption of healthy food was associated with weight loss, parents, and being at home.

More articles about food classification:

- What food is classified as junk food?

- 20 Foods That Are Bad For Your Health (Avoid Them!)

This article is huge, you can see a second part below.