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You know they're bad for you, but you still can't stop eating them. Just what is it that makes fast food burgers so darn addictive – and unhealthy?
A cheeseburger looks fairly nondescript: A beef patty, pickles and cheese sandwiched between two buns. Well, despite how it looks (and how small it looks these days), it’s still waistline trouble. Just one of these packs nearly 500 calories, 22g of fat, and nearly 1,200mg of sodium (that’s our daily recommended allowance) – and we’re not even counting the accompanying fries and soft drink. “To make beef patties tasty, fat is one of the main ingredients added,” says Sheeba Majmudar, nutritionist and founder of the Herbal Health Clinic (www.sheebathenutritionist.com).
And that’s exactly why burgers are bad. “The combination of high fat, high salt and refined carbohydrates tastes great,” says Majmudar. What’s more, because such foods have so many calories, they’ll cause a blood-sugar spike, which then leads to a rapid drop – creating the craving for more food and leading to a vicious cycle, she says.
A study in the journal Obesity found that most fast foods contain extremely high levels of transfatty acids, which can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary disease. What’s worse, individuals who ate fast food regularly had a much lower intake of cereals, grains and – no surprises here – fruits and vegetables, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Although cheese can contain high amounts of protein, calcium and phosphorous (it helps build strong bones and teeth), the cheese used in most fast food burgers is actually processed cheese. This means many of the original product’s nutrients are stripped, and preservatives are added, says Majmudar.
Cheddar cheese contains more fat (34g) than processed cheese (24g) per 100g, but the latter includes more than twice the amount of sodium – 656mg versus 1,452mg respectively.