Our parents have been trying to make us eat vegetables and fruits since birth to try and keep us healthy, but as we grow into our pre-teen and teen years, our parents start to let us have more choices of our own. One of these is choosing what we eat.
It seems teens prefer bad foods, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency responsible for monitoring the health of Americans.
Released in late September, the report showed only 32 percent of teens reported eating at least two servings of fruit daily. Only thirteen percent reported eating at least three servings of vegetables each day. It’s recommended that everyone eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day to be and keep in good health.
Only 1 in 10 teens eat the combined amount of recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, according to the study.
Teens often don’t know how the amount of junk food they eat can affect their health now and in the future.
Bad foods are those that contain a lot of sugar and fat. Calories from foods like these are more easily stored by the body, which means they make you gain weight. “Fat takes longer to digest, around nine hours,” said Jamie Stang, who has a PhD in nutrition and is the current public health nutrition major chair at the University of Minnesota.
“If you eat a fast food or junk food meal with a high fat content around 4 p.m., the fat won’t be digested until after you are asleep. Since you won’t be burning much energy then, it’s more likely to be stored as fat. You gain weight and other diseases can occur because of the impact of a high fat diet,” Stang said.
Eating junk food can make your heart, liver, and other parts of your body age quicker.
Stang said a small amount of sugar in your blood is good for you, but high amounts accelerate damage to your blood vessels and organs.
“This makes it easier for fat to deposit in arteries, which then puts you at risk of a heart attack or stroke,” Stang said.
Teenagers are still growing, which means they need a lot of energy and tend to have higher metabolisms, which is the process of your body converting food to energy.
Reporter Sinthia Mireya Turcios
“When people are eating high fat foods, their body either burns it or stores it. As you get old, your metabolism gets worse. By the time you hit 30-35 years of age, your metabolism has slowed down,” Stang said.
When teens are active, either by doing a sport in or out of school, they stay at an average weight. Even though you may be in a sport for every season in your school, you may still be at risk of obtaining any disease that obesity brings, as you grow into an adult.
“The risk of disease won’t be seen in adolescence, when people are still active. But most people do not have much time during their middle life years to be highly active because of work, home and family demands. Having developed poor eating habits in their teenage years makes them more likely to have poor eating habits in the adult years,” Stang said. “Often they are used to eating a lot of food (which you need as an active teen, but don’t need as a sedentary adult). This makes them prone to weight gain and disease risk unless they can change their habits, which they may find hard to do after years of eating poorly.”
Just because you can eat a lot of junk food and not gain weight now doesn’t mean there’s no impact on your health. People who don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits have a high risk of getting diabetes, clogged arteries, heart disease, or high blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes.
The consequences that come with not eating healthy can have short- and long-term effects on your body. A short-term effect is, for example, if you don’t eat enough fiber and instead eat something like a hamburger, you may feel full but you get hungry sooner because your body stores that high-fat food right away. Then you’re just hungry again and if you eat another high-fat meal, your body will again store most of those calories instead of burning them.
If you don’t eat enough fruits, you tend to get constipated a lot more. Over your lifetime, if you don’t get enough fiber, you can get colon or stomach cancer.
Talking about eating healthy sometimes sounds more complicated than it should, with all those big words like carbohydrates. And even though we think we do, a lot of us teens don’t know what a balanced meal is.
A balanced meal can vary a lot but for the most part it should have something that gives you fiber like bread, grains, or pasta. Also it should have vitamins and nutrients, which help your body function well, which can easily be found in fruits, vegetables, and salads. Also a balanced meal should include protein like nuts, milk, beans or meat.
So if French fries are bad for you, why do they taste so good?
“Thousands of years ago, humans used to choose foods high in fats and sugars to store that fat in their bodies for when the times of not having enough food came. Over the thousands of years, we still haven’t overcome that type of thinking,” Stang said.
So, in other words, our bodies are programmed to want fatty and sugary foods to build up body fat in case we have to go without food in the future. But here in the U.S., cases of long-term starvation are rare, whereas obesity is not.