health food

Junk Food vs. Healthy Food

Updated By Staff Writer on August 19, 2020

Everyone loves greasy foods, but are they good for you? No! All the fried foods, hamburgers, hot dogs and chimichangas we eat taste amazing, but they’re not healthy. Where is the nutrition?

By frying or over-cooking your food, you cook all of the nutrients out. (Think of a Big Mac, with all the fat and calories going through your bloodstream. Not a good thought!) All of the fats, calories, and grease from the food will clog up your arteries and can cause other health problems too.

What Does Healthy Food and Junk Food Mean?

Let’s clear up a few things before we dive deeper into healthy food and junk food differences. When we talk about healthy food vs junk food, what exactly are we referring to? Healthy food refers to fresh fruits and vegetables, wholesome grains, lean proteins, and the “good” fats that give our bodies the nutrients they need to run efficiently and fight off sickness and disease. Some examples include apples, carrots, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, chicken, fish, avocado, and olive oil.

On the other hand, junk food is the processed foods that are made up of “empty” calories—foods that may be full of fat and sugar, but don’t have many nutrients to help the body focus, exercise, or perform other important functions throughout the day. Junk food includes most of the packaged items at the grocery store like chips, cookies, and boxed cereal. It also includes fast food, ice cream, and the unhealthy items on restaurant menus like hamburgers, pizza, and pasta drenched in buttery sauces.

Related Content: The effect of fasting on your mental health

Advantages of Healthy Food and Disadvantages of Junk Food

The advantages of healthy food and disadvantages of junk food are clear, especially when it comes to schoolwork. Making healthy choices with your meals and snacks will allow you to concentrate better throughout the day. Because your body’s needs are being met by nutrient-dense food choices, you’ll also feel more full and satisfied. You won’t be looking at the clock wondering when it’s time for the next snack, or wandering into the break room every 15 minutes to grab a soda.

This will allow you to be more productive and efficient with your time. You’ll be able to get more studying in and actually remember the things you’ve learned, rather than reading the same things over and over in a sleepy daze.

According to Psychology Today, organic high-fiber foods release energy slowly, while high-sugar foods only give you a short burst of energy. So while you may be tempted to reach for that bag of candy when you’re reaching an afternoon slump, an apple with peanut butter or carrot sticks with Greek yogurt dip will really give you the sustained energy you need to finish out your day.

Junk food can cause other long-term damage, too. The Washington Post cites that eating unhealthy foods like French fries, greasy pizza, and candy can increase your risk of developing depression, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Consume too much junk food, and you could die earlier than those who make healthy choices with their diet.

How Does What You Eat Affect Your Brain?

We’ve already talked a little bit about how healthy food can help you focus. And in fact, Psychology Today reports that good proteins, such as lean meats and nuts, are scientifically proven to improve your brain function. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, raw or steamed vegetables, nuts, and foods made with whole wheat all help with keeping your body and brain healthy. So if you’ve got a big test coming up? Reach for the salad, please!

In contrast, research shows that junk food can decrease your memory function in the short-term, and increase your risk of dementia in the long-term. Basically, junk food rots your brain. It’s definitely not the type of food you want to be consuming when you’re trying to learn!

How Does Junk Food Affect Students?

Healthy foods help with concentration for school and work. Eating healthy also helps with energy levels and positive thinking. We all want to be able to focus on our day and get as much done as possible. But what are the effects of junk food on students?

Medical journals show that children who eat high levels of fast food are slower to develop academic skills than their peers. These findings were true across all academic subjects, but even more so when it comes to learning math. Junk food also leads to a lack of energy and focus—two crucial components of success in school. And yes, unfortunately the trend continues into adulthood and college.

Related Content: Learn about valuable healthcare degrees that you can earn online.

How Does Unhealthy Food Affect Learning?

By eating unhealthy foods and having lots of sugar, you are more apt to feel sluggish, unmotivated, and feel poorly about yourself. This is because junk food provides only short bursts of energy, followed by a crash that can affect your school performance in the long-term. Studies show that eating unhealthy food has a negative effect on academic performance, making it more difficult to concentrate, causing mood swings, and making students sleepy and inattentive. All of these factors reduce classroom participation, which puts students even further behind in their schooling.

Find More Tips on College Success

Now that you know the pros and cons of healthy food vs junk food, we hope you’ll be better equipped to make smart choices when it comes to your meals. Junk food may be enticing, but it’s just not worth the cost on your academic performance and overall health. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard. Grab a salad to go and hit the books!

Looking for even more tips to do well in school? Check out Independence University’s blog today to learn what to do when college is not your strength, plus more ideas on college success.