Are you curious to know which is the most dangerous food? Have you eaten enough of this? Do your children regularly eat it?
How to define ‘dangerous’
Before we reveal which is this food, let us understand the term dangerous so that we set the ground rules straight.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
AGEs are formed when food is cooked at high temperatures like frying, grilling and toasting. Our body has a mechanism to digest these. But when consumed in large quantities, they tend to accumulate in the body. AGEs buildup is known to cause diabetes and heart diseases. Both animal meat as well as certain plants have the capability of getting converted into high AGEs after exposing them to high heat while cooking. The food which we shall reveal in the end is a combination of fat and starch which is fried at large temperatures.
Partially Hydrogenated oils
Vegetable oil begins as a liquid at room temperature. But restaurants and fast food joints have found a way to improve the shelf life and flavour. They do this by a process called hydrogenation. Most important reason for using these oils is their low cost. Addition of extra hydrogen molecule makes these oils more stable and resistant to oxidation. That means these oils can withstand high temperature of frying. For fast food outlets this is very important that something is fried quickly to serve customers at jet speed. Also they can re use this oil again and again resulting in lesser operating costs.
Also partially hydrogenated oils help improve taste and texture in baked goods like cupcakes and pastries. So you get a tasty product which looks good on the shelf too. Partially hydrogenated oils also help the food to last longer on the shelf.
Health care experts generally agree that hydrogenated oils cause clogging of arteries and inflammation. But there is no real replacement in sight due to wide acceptability by the masses and continual use by fast food kitchens and corporations.
Have you guessed the food yet? One which tastes good, looks wonderful on the plate and can be cooked and stored for a long time and reheated to get the same taste. Which food do you know can be cooked at very high temperature in a short time?
Acrylamine – Neurotoxin
Acrylamide was discovered in carbohydrates that has been cooked at high temperature. It is most likely to be created when food made from plants like potato or grains is deep fried at high temperature. It is not found in dairy or meat products. It mostly comes out with repeated cooking at high temperatures. It is a neurotoxin which triggers brain conditions.
We all know what damage sugar does. But we are not talking about the sugar which comes from sugarcane. That is expensive. So fast food chains have found out a cheaper alternative to that. Enter maltodextrin. It is a plant based starch that is highly processed. It comes from rice, wheat, corn or potato starch. Consumed in small amount is not a problem. However it is high on the glycemic index. It is digested quickly by your body and converted into blood glucose. It means that as soon as you eat it, your blood sugar levels will spike.
Here are the reasons why it is used.
- It acts as a cheap thickening agent to increase the volume of any processed food.
- It increases the shelf life of packed and processed foods.
- It is cheapest alternative to sugar and hence used as artificial sweeteners.
- It is very inexpensive and easy to produce.
- Because it is easy to digest, it is used in many energy drinks.
- Salad dressings contain high levels of maltodextrin. Check the labels for more info.
The food which we are talking about is deep fried in these oils. Now just imagine. A fast food chain will choose the most inexpensive oil. Corn, cotton seed, canola or palm oil are the obvious choices. This oil is used at very high temperature and is repeatedly used. This situations leads to a lot of oxidation in the oil which leads to inflammation.
This food comes in a huge transparent plastic package. It is opened up at the outlet, poured in a tray and deep fried in a rectangular sieve. It is served to you with ketchup. Yes, if you have guessed french fries, you are right. The ketchup it is served with comes with high quantity of High Fructose Corn Syrup which contains lots of fructose which causes insulin resistance and rise in uric acid levels.
French fries served in fast food joints is carefully researched and designed to hit the sweet spot and activate the reward centres of your brain. That is why it is addictive to both children as well as adults. You keep going for it again and again. It is tasty and inexpensive. But at the same time it causes so much of damage to your body. It is time to rethink those visits to the fast food joints as a family trip.