Cheeseburgers are NOT junk Food

healthy burger

The Spectrum of Junk Food

Go to any image search engine or stock photo site and search the term “junk food” and you’ll get a gallery of pictures, primarily of burgers.

That’s where I got the image above. My go-to stock image site listed it among 231 others.

I understand that when we think of junk food we think of fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King and others that sell food that is sub par, or “junkier” than food we would prepare at home. Fair enough.

But if you consider the entire spectrum of junk food, burgers, especially those like the one pictured above, aren’t that bad.

INSULIN AGAIN

Yep. I’m going to talk about insulin until I am blue in the face, until it really sinks in, until I have no more “untils.”

The junkiest foods are the ones that spike your insulin the highest. Not foods that:

  • Are high in fat
  • Contain gluten
  • Are dairy based
  • Are processed (although these foods are generally poor choices)
  • Are NON-organic
  • Are meat etc.

So why do we still see pictures of burgers on the news when they talk about the “Fat Crisis” in America?

Because we’re still coming out of the 1970s-80s era that had us believing that fat and cholesterol are bad and carbohydrates are good. Those beliefs are still strongly rooted in our consciousness, and it’s going to take some time to switch over to the new reality that those foods are not bad for us.

Take eggs as an example. People still have a negative, visceral, gut reaction to them. You mention eggs and people will tell you they don’t eat many because they have to watch their cholesterol. And, they say it with absolute conviction, which comes out firmly in their body language and way they express their opinion. Belief entrenched.

THE WORST TYPE OF JUNK

Here’s an image of junk food that you can use to replace the poor, beaten-up burger.

real junk food

As you can see, this is very different from the main items you’d typically find sold at fast food restaurants (aside from the soda.)

If one were to list out junk food categories from worst to best, it would look something like this:

Liquid Sugars. Drinks like sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, juices with added sugar etc.
Pure Sugar Foods. Syrups, icing, fudge, candy, chocolate etc.
Desserts. Cookies, cake, muffins, donuts, low-quality ice creams etc.
Low or No Sugar Desserts: Premium ice cream, popcorn, sugar free pudding, Keto desserts etc…

Liquid sugars come first because liquids enter the bloodstream fast, and so lots of insulin is secreted to manage the spike in sugar in your blood (to understand why having high levels of insulin are bad for you, please read the post on insulin here.)

The list then moves on to foods that will enter the bloodstream at certain speeds, from fastest to slowest. The pure sugar foods enter quickly because sugar doesn’t take long at all to be digested and so doesn’t spend much time in the stomach. The other desserts like cakes and premium ice creams have their sugars mixed in with fats and more complex carbohydrates. Both of which take longer to digest, and so sugar moves slowly and gradually into the bloodstream with these foods.

QUANTITY

Quantity of Food and Insulin for Weight Gain

Aside from speed, the quantity of carbohydrate/sugar you eat also has a pretty large impact on your insulin response and therefore your weight.

If you were to eat only good quality, healthy carbohydrates like whole grains and legumes, but ate a lot of them, you could possibly be doing more damage to your health and weight than if you regularly ate low-carb and had a piece of fudge every night.

For example, let’s say you ate more food than you needed in a day and that happened to be 3 huge bowls of lentils, one of the healthier types of carbohydrate. The continual and excessive shunting of carbs into your body, into your bloodstream, all day long would keep your insulin high for prolonged periods.

Over time you’d have a good chance of gaining weight and developing health problems that go with this insulin/carb complication. But if you ate a lower carb diet and then had a small treat after dinner, your insulin would spike for a short time and then return to healthier levels.

BURGERS AND FAST FOOD JOINTS

To be fair fast food restaurants don’t generally serve healthy burger meals. The soda is sugary and is worse than the dessert that comes with it. The fries are nothing more than deep fried strips of potato; fat (the worst kind), salt and some carbs. The burger itself is mostly white bread (again the worst kind), sauces that have sugar, and meat that has lots of filler in them ( more carbs).

Even if you were to make the drink “diet” you’d still be left with bad carbs, bad fats and too much salt. BUT … it’s not nearly as bad as eating brownies, candy and children’s breakfast cereals, which are far worse and eaten by people everyday. Those foods should be what we focus on when trying to reduce junk.

Our burger above, the one at the top of this page is a whole different animal so to speak. A burger like that, made with lots and lots of pure beef, seasoned with herbs and spices, dressed with melted cheese (real, non-processed cheddar) and having only a THIN bun is what I would consider a healthy dinner.

The bun does contain carbs but it’s thin and is contrasted with a huge patty or two.

This set-up does 2 things:

1- Gives us an overall low ratio of carbs to protein/fat in the meal.
2- The amount of meat and cheese means lots of good fats which will significantly slow the absorption of what small quantities of carbs there are in this meal.

Those who are ultra strict with carbs likely won’t eat the bun but will still enjoy the beef patties with melted cheese. Those who allow a small amount of carbs in their day can look forward to a meal like this every night!

Eat well, enjoy your food, keep learning and make this fun.

It’s time to put cheeseburgers back on the menu.

– EatingLove

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