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The Student News Site of NYC iSchool

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The Student News Site of NYC iSchool

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Why is America so unhealthy?

Why is America so unhealthy?

You are a young kid watching cartoons on an early Saturday morning. You see a commercial for a new food, later in the day you are in the grocery store and see the same food you saw in the commercial. Your parents buy the food for you not knowing the harmful effects of what’s on the ingredients label.

On the ingredients label it includes seed oils artificial flavors and colors. These ingredients are very harmful and can affect your long term health.

According to the “CDC,”Obesity in the United States affects 100.1 million (41.9%) adults and 14.7 million (19.7%) children and accounts for approximately $147 billion in annual health care costs.” One of the main causes of obesity besides lack of exercise is the food you eat.

Obesity is a cycle that starts when you are very young. I have researched some of the most popular foods that are advertised toward children and looked at the ingredients list. This will prove why part of the cause of obesity is the food you eat.

The average kid is very picky and has a diet that consists of very specific foods. For this experiment I chose a diet of waffles and orange juice for breakfast. Chicken nuggets and Kool Aid for lunch,  pasta with sauce for dinner.

The waffles ingredient list was pretty healthy, one of the ingredients that stuck out to me was seed oils, which I found to be very common in a lot of the foods. Many people overlook them when looking at an ingredients label, but they actually have many long term effects.

According to “The Cleveland Clinic” “Seed oils themselves have high levels of omega-6 fats, which can lead to inflammation […] and they’re mostly used to make ultra-processed foods, which causes inflammation in the body.” This means whenever you feel bloated it’s probably because you ate seed oils.

Eve Madden, a 9th grader in NYC, says, “I know seed oils aren’t healthy and I don’t eat them.”

I grew up in a very health conscious home where you would never see a lot of these foods in our pantry and fridge. We would still eat processed foods that had seed oils in them because at the time people weren’t talking about how unhealthy they were. But we wouldn’t eat any artificial foods and fruits and vegetables were a generous portion of our diet.

Alexis Demasi, a 9th grader in NYC, says, “I didn’t know that seed oils were unhealthy and they are in a lot of the foods I eat.”

On the waffle there is syrup, for one serving of syrup it has 12.6 grams of sugar. In the orange juice it was also pretty healthy; it contains vitamins like vitamin C and D. “Mayo Clinic” says, “Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.”

According to “National Institutes Of Health,”Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal bone mineralization and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany.”

The orange juice is a very healthy way to get vitamins into your body with it tasting good too.

The chicken nuggets had canola oil (which is in a lot of processed foods) In the Kool Aid some of the ingredients that stood out to me were High fructose corn syrup and red 40.

According to “Hartford Hospital,”  “HFCS [High Fructose Corn Syrup] can also contribute to heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and dyslipidemia, an abnormal level of cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Fructose becomes a more universal threat to your body by accumulating as visceral fat around your organs.”

High Fructose Corn Syrups are part of the reason why many people in America are obese. According to “The National Library of Medicine,” “HFCS now represents 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States.”

If foods had less HFCS, Americans would be at less risk for heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and dyslipidemia. This would help make Americans’ lives healthier and longer lived.

Red 40 is the worst thing you can possibly put in your body. According to the “Cleveland Clinic,” “Potential side effects [Of Red 40] may include Hyperactivity, including ADHD. Behavioral changes like irritability and depression. Allergic reaction. Hives and asthma. Sneezing. Watery eyes. Skin irritation. Migraines.”

They also add that “Red dye 40 contains benzene, a known cancer-causing substance. Researchers also found tumor growth in animals that consumed high doses of food dyes.”

Eve says, “I try not to eat foods that contain red 40, but many foods do have it so completely avoiding it would be very hard.”

When I am eating out, I don’t know what ingredients are in the foods I eat. But I like to enjoy the foods that I eat and not worry about what is in them. However, whenever I eat foods with red 40 and other artificial dyes in them, I don’t feel very great afterwards, so I do try avoiding them whenever possible.

Alexis says, “Not many of the foods I eat have red 40 in it.”

It’s okay to eat foods with these ingredients every once in a while but if it’s part of your everyday diet there can be many harmful long term effects.

In the Cheetos there were a myriad of different seed oils and yellow 6 (another food dye) yellow 6 had similar effects to red 40, due to containing benzene.

Though you can have an unhealthy snack or sweet treat every once in a while, getting into the habit of a nutritional dinner can have many benefits. As explained by “Prevention,”Having a healthy dinner is linked to good sleep, good choices at breakfast and lunch, lowers inflammation, greater resilience to stress, better digestion, stable blood sugar, and lower anxiety.”

The dinner I chose (pasta with sauce) was pretty healthy. On the down side there is 10g of sugar in the pasta sauce.

Along with the long term health effects there is also an insane amount of sugar too. This day’s worth of eating totaled to have 60.6g of sugar in total.

“The American Academy Of Pediatrics,”  says “Aim for less than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for children 2 years of age and older.” The total amount of sugar eaten is about 2.5 times the amount a child should have.

According to “Harvard Health,”The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease” This can also cause increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Now that we are all older than the supposed kid in this experiment, less foods that are unhealthy are advertised towards us. But we still have no idea what is in foods that we eat daily such as caffeinated drinks.

Last year a college student passed away from drinking a caffeinated lemonade at Panera Bread. 

According to “USA Today,” “According to the suit, the University of Pennsylvania student collapsed hours after consuming the drink, which contained more caffeine than energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull.”

When you consume large amounts of caffeine and sugar there can be dangerous effects. If someone went into cardiac arrest for drinking one drink the long term effects for someone who eats like this everyday.

Eating unhealthy is a habit that will last all our lives. According to the “American Heart Association,”A 2019 study found if U.S. adults followed a healthy diet, the cost savings could reach $88.2 billion. The savings would stem from reductions in heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

If we invested in our health by buying more produce, lean meats and less processed snacks. Americans would be healthier and would spend less money at the doctor. Unfortunately the world that we live in makes healthy foods extremely expensive and out of reach for people who live in food deserts.

Food desert: An urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. According to “The Humane League,” “The USDA estimates about 19 million residents—6.1% of the population—live in low-income, low-access areas and have trouble getting to a grocery store.”

If politicians made it easier for healthier foods to be accessed by lower income communities and put regulations in place for food companies obesity and heart disease would be at a much lower rate.

Eve says, “Part of equality means making healthy lifestyles easy to access, if we don’t make healthy foods accessible than we aren’t giving people an equal chance at a healthy life.”

When companies are greedy and for example use HFCS instead of cane sugar to save money, they are hurting their customers for the sake of money.

One example is an 8.5 oz bag of Cheetos cost $4.49 fresh strawberries cost $5.76. The strawberries cost 28% more than the Cheetos but the health benefits are better.

There are many ways to eat healthier. When you are craving sugar enjoy your favorite candies but also make sure you are including fruits and vegetables in your diet so you crave it less and when you do crave it you can enjoy it.

Eve says, “I stay healthy by having a well balanced diet and working out. Some of the ways I do this is by enjoying foods that are unhealthy but also eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables too. I exercise through gymnastics, dance, parkour, aikido, hiking and jogging.”

Alexis says, “I stay healthy by doing many dance classes.”

Physical activity is one of the most popular ways of staying healthy. Even just hanging out outside is healthy. According to “Medical News Today,” “Sunlight is essential for human health and well-being. The health benefits of sunlight include generating the production of vitamin D, supporting bone health, lowering blood pressure, preventing disease, and promoting good mental health.”

The answer to the big reason is to why America is so unhealthy, the answer is money. 

My biggest message from this story is enjoy the food you love, but also take care of your body. If you listen to what your body wants, you will be healthier and reach your full potential.

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