Although fast food seems to be a great option when you can’t be bothered cooking, or you’re time constraint, unfortunately, it can take a pretty massive toll on your gut health, specifically your microbiome. The biggest issue with western society is that many of us reward ourselves, or our children with fast food options as a treat. But truth be told, it is the complete opposite of a treat. It’s a compromise to our health and mental health in believing that rewards are deserving of shitty foods that are a hindrance.
New studies are surfacing weekly about the gut microbiome, and the relationship between fast food and the havoc it’s causing within us. These studies highlight how fast food is causing damaging effects to our bodies in more ways than previously thought. So let’s take a look at this evidence…
Firstly, what does a healthy gut need?
A healthy gut is comprised of diverse fibre. Healthy bacteria that live in the gut rely on this fibre as a food source, breaking it down to use it for multiple beneficial reasons. A diet that consists of fiber, probiotics and diverse nutrient-dense food groups make up the perfect recipe for a healthy microbiome.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to get what you’re looking for in fast food meals. In fact, fast food is not only high in calorie content but also fat, refined sugars, salts and processed meats. There is generally a very low fiber content and nutrients.
Fiber also provides fuel for beneficial bacteria that produce molecules known as short-chain fatty acids. These molecules help fight inflammation or prevent the oncoming of it. They also act as an energy source for the cells of your gut lining, while enhancing the production of mucus by cells lining our gut.
So how does fast food impact our microbiome?
When you consume a high-fat and high-calorie diet, your gut begins to negatively alter the microbiota by increasing the levels of bacteria associated with obesity, while reducing overall gut biodiversity associated with obesity, and overweight.
There are several types of fats that have different effects on humans. Although some fats are considered to be quite healthy for you, like the ones you find in avocado, nuts and healthy oils, there are other fats that are called ‘saturated’ that you get from red meat that should be eaten in moderation.
Let’s chat about the unhealthy fats, which are ‘hydrogenated oils, and trans fats that you find in fried foods such as fries, and chicken. These fats are not useful to the body at all, in fact, these guys create inflammation, or aggravate inflammation that is already there.
Trans fats are particularly concerning and they occur in small quantities during the deep-frying process. They are now directly linked to cancer, diabetes type 2, obesity and heart disease.
And while you’re swapping fiber out and replacing it with fats and meat, it will alter the microbiome by inducing local inflammation, affecting immune cell function, and changing the makeup of microbial species in our guts. When we overload our guts with too much of this unhealthy fat, the balance shifts towards chronic immune activation, which is not good.
Ready to quit junk food?
Go on, get a heads start but don’t expect any changes to the chronic inflammation it has caused until a few months after you’ve eaten your last mouthful. Studies suggest that fast food can be so damaging to the immune cell production that although short term inflammation may subside, you’ve still set yourself on a path of long-term inflammation such as clogged arteries, and diabetes. That’s how much this fried stuff can shift your genes.
Furthermore, even if you think you’re eating a well-rounded,
healthy diet and you believe that fried foods every now and then can’t be
causing too much harm, well think again. Every time you eat high-fat, high
sugar foods you’re starving the little guys (helpful bacteria) of nutrients and
they heavily rely on your food choices to keep you alive and well.
But fast food is the only option, what can you do?
Here are a few suggestions of what you can do:
- Opt for a burger free bun: the buns are generally white and high in sugar, with no fiber. So go without! Your butt will thank you later when it doesn’t have to encounter constipation
- Dressing on the side: If you get a salad, always ask for dressing on the side that way you can do the portion control yourself.
- Find a smoothie menu: A lot of fast-food chains are attempting healthier choices which include smoothies. Smoothies a fruit-filled and full of fiber!
- Swap white bread for whole wheat: always consider the nutritional value of the bread that you choose. There’s always a healthier option than white at takeout sandwich joints
- Put the fizzy drink down: It’s full of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, leading to all kind of inflammation. And juice is full of sugar. Opt for water instead.
- Lower your food intake: No you do not want an upsize for an extra $1. If you’re still hungry afterwards, wait 20 minutes and then grab an apple or a banana from a nearby service station, or mini-mart.
Whether you’re strapped for time, or cash there’s always an easier and healthier option than relying on junk food as your ‘go-to’. Understand when your body craves junk food and have already prepared food to go that can replace it.
Hate cooking on a Friday night? During the week, find a prepared meal at the supermarket that you can put in the freezer to pull out. Strapped for cash? Meal prep and freeze your own meals. Believe it or not, but it ends up being cheaper than eating crappy food.
We only have one body, and those microbes count on us to keep our bodies happy and healthy, so do them justice by feeding them right.