Fast foods are notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar and low in essential nutrients. Eating too much fast food can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and a host of other problems. Besides being fast, fast food has no advantages, and regularly including it in your diet can be deleterious to your health.
High in Calories and Fat
Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared to carbohydrates and protein, which have 4 calories per gram. Because of its high fat content, fast food is more calorie-dense than fresh foods. Fast food portions are also larger than recommended portion sizes. For example, a double-patty hamburger and a medium serving of french fries provides 730 calories. Compare that to a healthier meal of 3-ounces of roasted chicken and a medium baked sweet potato, which has only 240 calories. Furthermore, the roasted chicken and sweet potato meal provides far more nutrients for far fewer calories. Too many calories and not enough nutrients leads to being overfed but undernourished.
Loaded With Unhealthy Fat
Some fats are healthy when eaten in moderation; others wreak havoc on your health even in small amounts. The types of fats found in fast foods -- saturated and trans fats -- have the latter effect. They lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. For good health, the American Heart Association recommends people limit their intakes of saturated and trans fats to less than 7 percent and 1 percent of calories, respectively. That fast food meal of a double-patty burger and french fries provides 8 grams of saturated fat and a little over 1 gram of trans fat. For a typical 2,000-calorie daily diet, it makes up 4 percent of your saturated fat limit and half of your 1 percent limit of trans fats. If you eat fast food a couple times a day, you can double or triple those amounts.
Soaring Sodium Levels
A typical hamburger and french fry fast food meal has over 700 milligrams of sodium. A small amount of sodium is necessary for health, but the Institute of Medicine says that most people should only take in 1,500 milligrams per day. That fast food meal provides nearly half of your daily sodium. Your other meals are likely to put you well over that limit. Eating too much sodium may increase your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Sugar Isn't so Sweet
Sodas, milkshakes, soft-serve ice cream and other fast food fare is high in added sugar, the type that contributes no nutrients to your diet -- only calories. Consuming too much sugar is associated with a wide variety of negative health effects including tooth decay, obesity and heart disease. Eating a lot of sugar also compromises your immune system. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories per day and that men get no more than 150 calories from added sugars. One cup of soft-serve chocolate ice cream provides 144 calories from sugar.