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The Effects of Processed Food on Children’s Health

What is Processed Food?

We know that processed food refers to "food processed chemically and harmful". It's clear from the definition of "processed"- passing food from any process to make it fitter for consumption. Natural food and artificial substances(refined ingredients)- can be processed to make them more palatable and appealing. Processing involves the fusion of raw material with an excess of salt, sugar, or spices. Harsh chemicals in the form of preservative and flavouring agents are also used for fusion.

While talking about processed food, how can we forget about junk food? Junk food is a category of processed food; which is cooked quickly. Mainly made with artificial substances, to be prepared instantly in hurry meal. Today's lifestyle has made us consume a lot of junk foods. Noodles and pasta are examples.

Eating packaged chips during lunch; drinking coke on a sunny day- might sound normal for a child. But the harm it causes will make you astonished- As coke does not cost just Rs.20. It costs a child’s health; when something is cheap, humans are the product.

We are proceeding towards urbanization. Our lifestyle is getting busy than ever. Ready-made processed food looks good option to erase hunger in a rush. But we often forget that processed and ready-made food products cause health risks.

So, here we will talk about the negative effects of processed food on kids’ health. The chemical involved in the processing is very harmful. Research is indicating the same. In 2018, a U.K.-based doctor Chris Van Tulleken experimented on himself to know the effects of processed food. He had switched to a processed food diet for a month to see the hazard. You can see, What eating processed food did to him. Long term effects and short term effects both are evident.

Processed food for kids-

Processed food refers to food that is processed in some way to make it tastier, longer-lasting, consumable. All food is processed- in some way before eating. We wash fruit; to make them more suitable for eating. But here, we are talking about food that is chemically processed and harmful to health.

Processed food is passed through any processing and is ready to eat. Such foods are often loaded with sugar, salts, spices and lead to poor health. Profit is the only aim while processing these foods. There are several options available for kids in the section of processed food- chips, coke, pizza, chocolate, candies.

Processing is done to increase shelf life and taste, and appeal. Distinguishing between natural and processed food is difficult today. Even the apple you might buy thinking natural can be chemically processed. You will be shocked knowing the apple you buy thinking- "it's raw and natural", can be chemically polished (fake wax coating). It extends the market period and makes the fruit more appealing.

We live in a world of processed food; It forms a chunk of kids' daily consumption. We have seen its health hazards; kids should avoid processed food. Does It seem unavoidable at first? Don't worry! We have a healthier alternative- A whole food diet.

Let's see what is whole-food diet & what are the benefits of a whole-food diet for kids?

The whole-food diet contains raw and unprocessed natural food. It could be either plant-based or animal-based; Plant-based means fruits, vegetables, and animal-based mean dairy and poultry. The Benefits of whole food for diets are numerous, such as

  1. Physical fitness - whole food is rich in all nutrients required for optimal functioning of all body organs. It leads to overall growth and physical fitness.

  2. Activeness and Reduced fatigue - Since its digestion is easy; Extra energy is not required to digest it- the kid feels more active and energetic.

  3. Mentally active - The body has more energy. The brain also functions more rapidly; A healthy heart circulates blood faster, the brain receives oxygen fastly- kids become mentally active.

  4. Psychological benefits- It decreases the incidences of obesity. As a result, the little ones become more motivated to participate in physical activity; Whole food diets give several psychological benefits like reduced anxiety and more happiness.

  5. Increased Social skill - Healthy kid performs more physical activity; Games with peer groups enhance their social skills such as leadership, adjustment, etc.

Processing and Manufacturing Foods

A glimpse into the food industry is necessary. For a better understanding of ‘processed food’.

Do you know?

The Indian food processing and manufacturing industry rank 5th in terms of production, export, and consumption as per India Brand Equity Foundation

But the sole reason for such high production is high consumption.

Processing is ‘going through any process, and manufacturing is ‘building end product for consumption.

During the processing and manufacturing of food, raw food ingredient are passed through several processes at different levels to manufacture the end food product for sale. The ultimate goal of this industry is to make a profit, even if it means playing with the consumer’s health.

To make things clearer, we will talk about a hamburger.

What is a hamburger?

Hamburger is round bread stuffed with ground meat. Doesn’t Sound tasty, right? What makes hamburgers tasty is their processing. The extra dose of salt spices loads your system with extra calories, fat, and sodium.

Hamburger was originated in Hamburg, Germany. Burger simply stands for rounded bread or bun. Ham stands for ground meat. Ham is now replaced with various stuffings. Hence the name is modified accordingly. Examples are- cheeseburger, chilli burger, mushroom burger, plain burgers, etc. Hamburger and burgers are used these days exchangeably. No matter what is stuffed inside. External processing of spice sand salts is very harmful.

How does a hamburger get made?

Let’s first talk about the raw material. Bread is extremely risky for health. We all have heard the saying, “The whiter is your bread, the sooner you die”.

Then, the extra dose of salt. The spices and the sauces can cause your blood pressure to go into the sky. It increases the chances of a heart attack.

Examples and Short-term Effects of Processed Foods on Kid's Health

Processed food is all around us. Some mostly consumed processed food in India is….several Indian kids daily consume these products. We need to be aware. It harms children's health.

some short term effects are listed here-

1. Increased blood pressure- Processed food contains a high amount of salt and spices to enhance its taste. Increased salt uptake elevates blood pressure.

2. Food craving- it is yummy, hence it stimulates our brain to demand more. It can be understood by the pleasure-seeking nature of an individual too. You can't stop eating one vanilla ice cream or sausage, even when you are full. You just can’t!

3. Overweight- Due to the high amount of carbohydrates, it leads to fat accumulation in your body. Hence, your gain weight in a short span. It ultimately leads to weight issues in adulthood.

4. Addiction-it is designed to be consumed repeatedly. it stimulates a region of the brain to demand more of it. Hence, you feel the urge to eat more.

5. Anxiety- such food impacts several aspects of a kid's physical, social, psychological growth. Due to these impacts, children become anxious.

6. Fatigueness-low energy level is the ultimate cause of fatigue. Since most of the energy is spent in its digestion and detoxification of the body.

7. Digestion-related problems- processed food is difficult to digest due to processing. Chemical used for preservation and flavouring doesn’t digest easily.

8. Alter sleep-wake cycle- Research has shown that it alters the normal sleep-wake cycle.

Children with diet restrictions are often healthier. Restriction can be in the form of reducing any particular food component or reducing overall calories uptake. It’s also the parent’s responsibility to take care of children’s diet, especially in today’s generation. Because of huge increase consumption of processed food, among child under two years too.

Long term effect and Essence

We have seen how these food items are harmful in the short run. The various long-term effect can be directly concluded, by extending short-term effects over a longer period. As listed below,

1. Cardiac arrest-Elevated blood pressure for a long time puts tremendous pressure on the heart, ultimately leading to cardiac arrest.

2. Obesity- Constantly increasing fat accumulation causes obesity.

3. Strong addiction- addiction to processed food keeps growing with time. It forms a permanent neural connection in the brain. The more the connection, the more is the urge to eat.

4. Stress- anxiety over a long time causes stress.

5. Several organ dysfunctions- due to fat accumulation in the abdomen, the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. It causes oxygen deficiency. Organs don’t perform efficiently.

6. Cancer- inert chemical that can't be broken down by the digestive system remains in the gut for a long time and causes cancer in the long run. Its accumulation keeps increasing with more processed food uptake.

Mostly, children consume processed food in a large amount. Parents and children are unaware of the harm caused by processed food. Processed food should be removed from kids’ diets to save a kid’s life.

It might appear difficult.

But we can take some measure for good health for kids. we should present healthy food more appealingly. Advertisements promoting such products are in abundance. we can reduce the encounter of kids with such advertisements.

Processed food is very harmful to kids. Their consumption should be reduced.

Updates about the Dangers of Processed Foods for Children

We are in an era where the consumption of processed food is increasing at an alarming rate. Different researches keep reminding us of the effects of processing from time to time. Do you know, how much proportion of the indian diet is processed food? It’s almost 70-80%. As per NCBI, 70% of our diet consists of processed food.

We have read about the long-term effect of eating junk food. It leads to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.

Benefits to eating healthy food

It’s time to switch to healthy eating habits. Good eating habit is not an option, it’s a compulsion. Let’s see the benefits-

1. Biological fitness- Overall biological fitness is achieved by the proper functioning of all systems of the body. Since healthy food is easily digestible and contains more essential nutrients.

2. Physical activeness- natural food has less toxic. It contains more essential components(protein, fibres, carbohydrates, nutrients). It makes a person more active.

3. Mental health- good physical health reduces the chances of obesity and other ailments. It has a positive impact on mental health.

Conclusion and Recap

We have discussed processed food- its definition, short-term and long-term effect on kids, affecting obesity and kid's health.

In today’s world, processed food consumption is increasing at an alarming rate among children. Most of the time, the child is unaware of hazardous effects on health. It is harmful in the short well as long run. Kids should not eat junk food; We should replace it with a healthier alternative, i.e. a whole food diet.


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