It is likely that you have heard the term junk food and the term superfood before. However, do you really know what makes a junk food junky or a superfood super?
Here are five ways that you can compare junk foods to superfoods to determine which is worth spending money on and ingesting.
Nutrient density basically means how much nutrition is packed into a particular food. Superfoods have a very high nutrient density including macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
The other part of nutrient density to think about is how tightly packed these nutrients are. For instance, a granola bar may contain nutrients, but you might have to eat 10 granola bars to get the same amount of nutritional value that you would get in one organic apple, for instance. Basically, a superfood offers more “bang for the buck” than a junk food.
Caloric density means for the given food you are eating, how many calories (units of energy) does that food contain. Most junk foods are high in calories but low in nutrient density, meaning that the calories are empty or do not contain ingredients that the body can convert to usable energy.
Many superfoods are low in calories, such as most fruits and vegetables. Some superfoods, on the other hand, may be high in calories, such as nuts or avocados, but because their nutrient density is so high, you only have to eat a little bit in order to provide the body with the raw materials needed for energy.
Fiber is essential for proper digestion. Without fiber, we may suffer from a host of uncomfortable digestive disorders such as diarrhea or constipation. Fiber is also necessary to keep you feeling full. Consuming foods that are low in fiber (such as junk foods) make you hungry for more, thus the vicious cycle begins. The majority of processed foods actually have the fiber extracted during processing because it extends the shelf life.
Take a McDonalds Big Mac, for example. This burger contains almost 600 calories and 3 grams of fiber. An apple contains 3 grams of fiber but only about 65 calories. When you do the math you can see that per calorie, the apple has 9 times the amount of fiber than the Big Mac has.
The glycemic index refers to how quickly a food turns into sugar in the blood once it is eaten. Junk foods normally have a very high glycemic index rating, meaning that they break down into sugar very quickly within the bloodstream. Although we need sugar for energy, the problem with high glycemic index foods is the sugar comes like a tidal wave into the blood, flooding the body rapidly.
As soon as the body senses the rush of sugar it releases insulin to help take the sugar and move it around to different parts of the body so it can be used. Any excess sugar that can not be used is stored as fat. Low glycemic foods release sugar slowly into the blood so your body can use the sugar for energy and not store it as fat. You will be satisfied for a long time because you get a slow and steady flow of energy.
Natural or Man-made
Most junk foods are man-made foods, made from chemicals that don’t come naturally out of the ground. They are the result of a lot of intricate food science where synthetic materials are combined to make food that may taste good but offer little. Foods that come from the ground have a great deal more nutrition than man-made foods.
Junk foods contribute to obesity, keep you hungry and encourage nutritional deficiencies and chronic illness. Superfoods provide energy, keep you satisfied, boost metabolism and contribute to overall health and wellness.
Which will you choose?
-The Alternative Daily