Highly processed food – the reasons why we reach for it
Highly processed food is unhealthy – there is no doubt about it. However, even though consumers are aware of it, it is still very popular. Eating unhealthy foods leads to obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis. On the other hand, there are a number of factors that encourage consumers to eat highly processed foods during main meals or as snacks.
Unhealthy food is cheaper
For the majority of consumers, the price plays the role of the basic selection criterion during the shopping. The low price of highly processed food makes it more attractive to consumers. The low cost of food purchase is due to its poor quality and nutritional value. Manufacturers use cheaper alternatives to reduce production costs and maintain chemical parameters of food. Examples of substitutes include cheaper glucose-fructose syrup instead of sugar and hardened palm oil instead of healthier fats. The replacement is also caramel, which gives color and flavor to many products.
Meals that you can cook easily and quickly
Usually, we are too busy to prepare a healthy meal. Unhealthy meals that just need to be inserted into the microwave or oven for a few minutes are a very attractive alternative. Preparing a healthy dish of vegetables and meat requires sacrificing time that is lacking.
The shelves are bending away from it
Unhealthy, highly processed food is easily available in supermarkets in large quantities. In almost every supermarket, the layout is similar – one or two alleys with vegetables and fruits are at the beginning, and after its passage, the buyers enter the world of junk food in various forms.
A composition of salt, sugar and fat
Highly processed food – regardless of whether it has a sweet or salty taste – contains three ingredients – salt (or a lot of sodium), sugar (usually refined sugar or glucose-fructose syrup) and fat (including trans-fat fats). This combination has a specific effect on the digestive system and pleasure system. Very often there is the effect of a wolf appetite, which consists in eating the entire package (eg, cakes, chips, nuts in crispy glaze, crisps, sticks, pralines, candies), although initially you wanted only for one serving.
Unhealthy food comes into habit
It is easier to turn healthy eating habits into unhealthy ones than vice versa. One of the effects of the fast pace of life is the permanent persistence of feelings of anxiety and stress. An increased level of stress causes that the body needs more energy, which increases the appetite for high-calorie products, rich in fat, sugar (and salt). The lack of sleep and the associated increased level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, also contributes to an excessive desire for unhealthy food. What’s more, foods rich in sugar (also refined, contained in savory dishes and salty snacks) and fat causes physical addiction. This was confirmed by studies published in Physiology and Behavior in October 2011. As a consequence, the non-consumption of products rich in sugar and fat leads some people to the appearance of so-called withdrawal symptoms.
It looks inviting on packaging and in ch
The food choices are also significantly influenced by the way in which food is presented – even on the packaging and in ch. Most highly processed products simply look good and smell nice. If we add a good taste (thanks to the additions) and a low price (especially when compared with bio-type products), then we have the ideal product for the average consumer. In addition, manufacturers often apply all graphic treatments that create a positive envelope around the unhealthy product, causing the consumer the conviction that the product he chooses is healthy (eg cereal biscuits, flavored milk).
There are several reasons why consumers choose unhealthy food. Highly processed products are tasty and have the right texture – thanks to food additives. Appetite for so-called junk food is further compounded by a specific combination of salt, fat and sugar. Meals and snacks included in the category of highly processed food are easy to prepare. For example, chips should be enough to pour into the bowl, and apples
or carrots (also crispy), first peel and cut. It takes time, which we still lack. The habit of consuming highly processed foods can be purchased during an independent adult life, or taken out of the home – family traditions are very strong. The last reason why consumers often choose highly processed foods is the relatively low price.
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