Junk food is a guilty pleasure that you may indulge in from time to time. Unfortunately, it can often leave you feeling queasy, bloated, and gassy afterward. So how do you counter the effects of all the fat, sugar, and refined carbs you have just consumed? Worry not! Some foods can be smart choices in the aftermath of a junk food binge and we have the lowdown.
What Makes Junk Food So Bad?
Junk food is typically very high in salt/sodium, saturated fats or fats in general, sugar, and even artificial flavors and preservatives. Your daily recommended intake of sodium should be under 2,300 mg while that of sugar is ideally under 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.1 2 Your fat intake is best kept under 65 gm on the average 2000-calorie diet.3 This may seem like a lot, but remember that includes what’s in your meats and cheeses, cooking fat, dairy, and anything else you eat – not just the junk food you snacked on!
id="junk-food-what-youre-eating">Junk Food: What You’re Eating
Junk food gets a lot of bad rap, but with good reason, unfortunately! To put things in perspective, here’s a look at an easily available snack – a 100 gm serving of plain salted potato chips. Did you know it contains 527 mg sodium and 34 gm of fat?4 That’s more than half the daily intake you’re permitted across meals!
A single cheeseburger with condiments and vegetables has 13.22 gm of fat, 5.88 gm of sugars, and 628 mg of sodium.5 And a 12-oz can of cola has as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar, putting you over the recommended intake for the whole day!6
So how do you go about undoing the damage of all that junk food? Thankfully, certain food and drink could set you back on track. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you need to rein in the binging. Don’t do it often because eating unhealthy food can cause long-term health problems including obesity, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and heart problems.
What To Eat And Drink After A Junk Food Binge
1. Potassium-Rich Foods
As you now know, a lot of junk food, whether it is fast food or processed packaged foods, use a high level of sodium to flavor the food. Having too much sodium in your body could bump up your blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even kidney disease, to name a few.7 The good news is that you can counter the effects of consuming too much sodium by eating more potassium-rich foods.8
Here are some foods you could tank up on:
- Bananas have 422 mg of potassium in a medium-sized fruit.
- Oranges (or three-quarter of a cup of orange juice) contain 232 mg of potassium and 357 mg of potassium each.
- Black beans in a half-cup portion have around 305 mg of the mineral; just remember to boil it without salt.
- Half a medium avocado has 487 mg of potassium.
- Half a cup of plain boiled spinach sans salt has around 420 mg of potassium.
2. Water, Lime/Lemon Water, And “Watery” Fruit
Water is your biggest ally in the aftermath of a junk food binge. That’s because all that sodium intake can upset the electrolyte balance in the body. The high amount of sodium can leave you feeling incredibly thirsty. This also causes your body to retain water, resulting in bloating. When you drink water, you flush out the toxins from your food. This eases the work of your kidneys and helps your gastrointestinal tract work as it should.
If you want to take it a step further, have warm water. According to some researchers, warm water can help break down food faster.9 Ayurveda suggests having the warm water as soon as you wake up on an empty stomach, with lime or lemon juice added to it. While the warm water encourages muscular contractions to purge the toxins/waste from your body, the lime/lemon helps free up toxins known as “ama” in your digestive system.10 Aside from a junk detox, incorporate this as a daily detox as well! This can help your kidneys do their job better and may even help if you have acne or are struggling with a weight problem.11
If the thought of drinking a lot of water is a turn-off, have some fruit with a high water content. Think cantaloupe, peaches, and watermelon. The vitamins as well as the fiber in them give you an added boost of goodness and can help digestion.
id="whole-grains">3. Whole Grains
One way to deal with a junk food binge is to ensure you don’t give in to temptation again. And a good way to do that is by eating something that will keep you feeling full for longer. Fiber-rich foods like whole grains can help prevent sugar cravings or cravings for fatty food that typically follow a “crash.” This tends to happen when quickly digested refined sugars and carbs in junk food leave you suddenly famished not long after you have eaten.
The fiber also aids digestion and helps you expel waste from the junk food meal easier.12 Here are some wholegrain options:
- Oat and banana smoothie
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Quinoa salad with fresh vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette
- Vegetable barley soup
- Tabbouleh, a lemony bulgur wheat, parsley, cucumber, tomato, and mint salad
4. Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice serves the dual purpose of replenishing fluids and working as a diuretic to help with that bloated, gassy aftermath of a junk food binge. What’s even better is that it can help flush out unwanted bacteria, including the notorious E. coli that cling to the walls of the bladder and make you ill.13
Just be sure to pick an unsweetened version so that you don’t load up on sugar all over again! Also, if you are prone to kidney stones, you may not want to have the juice – while not adequately established, there are concerns that cranberry juice could raise the risk of some kinds of kidney stones.14
5. Lean Protein
Lean protein. like whole grains, work well to stave off hunger pangs. It can keep you feeling full for longer.15 If you choose light low-fat proteins like turkey or chicken breast, it is easier on your digestive system too. Omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish like tuna or salmon also fight inflammation caused by the preservatives, fats, additives, or flavorings in junk food.16
Here are some good options:
- Sliced turkey breast with a salad
- Chicken salad with a lemon or orange dressing
- Tuna salad with spinach
- Salmon with avocado and wholegrain toast
- Light chicken soup or broth with vegetables and sliced chicken
Vegetarian protein sources like beans or lentils are a smart choice too. You could try:
- Mixed bean salad with tomatoes, herbs, and lime
- Light lentil soup with spinach and vegetables
Ginger can help you fight the fat that you’ve consumed during the junk food binge. Because it can lower hepatic triglyceride levels, ginger can be great for your liver which must be reeling under the load of the heavy fatty food. It is known to fight cholesterol issues and can help cardiovascular health overall as well! 17
Ginger can also reduce inflammation and has antispasmodic properties.18 So if you’re experiencing cramps or indigestion, ginger can really help! Try these options:
- Ginger tea
- Savory porridge with onions, green chillies, and ginger
- Ginger grated over a bowl of water-rich fruit like melons
7. Low Fat Yogurt
Not everyone has a stomach for this, but yogurt can help restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut if you’ve been eating junk food for a while. Constantly consuming fast food that has low nutritional value could also mean you aren’t getting adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants typically found in fresh produce and whole grains. This tends to leave your body’s immune system weaker. Yogurt contains lactobacillus bacteria that are gut-healthy and is recommended as a probiotic food to boost immunity.19
Here are some ways you can have it. Stick to low-fat, unsweetened yogurt to prevent unwanted fats and sugars from sneaking into your meal.
- Plain low-fat Greek yogurt
- Low-fat yogurt with fresh berries
- Low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit smoothie
- Low-fat yogurt with honey
- Low-fat yogurt with nuts and seeds sprinkled over and honey for sweetness
8. Green Tea
Green tea can help lower levels of bad low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol in your body.20 Since junk food is often quite fatty, this is a useful beverage to have after your binge. It certainly can’t undo all the damage but will help your cause.
|↑1||2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑2||Added Sugars. American Heart Association.|
|↑3||Choose Sensibly. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.|
|↑4||Snacks, potato chips, plain, salted. United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑5||Fast foods, cheeseburger; single, regular patty, with condiments and vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑6||How sweet is it?.
|↑7||Sodium still high in fast food and processed foods. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑8||Potassium and sodium out of balance.
|↑9||Patel,Suchita,Jinal Patel, Mona Patel, and Prof. Dr. Dhrubo Jyoti Sen.“ Say yes to warm to remove harm.”EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH 015,2(4):444-460.|
|↑10||9 Ayurvedic Morning Rituals.
|↑11||Patel,Suchita,Jinal Patel, Mona Patel, and Prof. Dr. Dhrubo Jyoti Sen. “Say yes to warm to remove harm.” EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH 015,2(4):444-460.|
|↑12||Anderson, James W., Pat Baird, Richard H. Davis, Stefanie Ferreri, Mary Knudtson, Ashraf Koraym, Valerie Waters, and Christine L. Williams. “Health benefits of dietary fiber.” Nutrition reviews 67, no. 4 (2009): 188-205.|
|↑13||Tempera, Gianna, S. Corsello, C. Genovese, F. E. Caruso, and D. Nicolosi. “Inhibitory activity of cranberry extract on the bacterial adhesiveness in the urine of women: an ex-vivo study.” International journal of immunopathology and pharmacology 23, no. 2 (2010): 611-618.|
|↑14||Kidney Stones Prevention. New York Times.|
|↑15||Paddon-Jones, Douglas, Eric Westman, Richard D. Mattes, Robert R. Wolfe, Arne Astrup, and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga. “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87, no. 5 (2008): 1558S-1561S.|
|↑16||Omega-3 fatty acids.
|↑17||Sahebkar, Amirhossein. “Potential efficacy of ginger as a natural supplement for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” World J Gastroenterol 17, no. 2 (2011): 271-272.|
|↑18||Ali, Amanat, and Anwarul Hassan Gilani. “Medicinal value of ginger with focus on its use in nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.” International Journal of Food Properties 10, no. 2 (2007): 269-278.|
|↑19||Parvez, S., K. A. Malik, S. Ah Kang, and H‐Y. Kim. “Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health.” Journal of applied microbiology 100, no. 6 (2006): 1171-1185.|
|↑20||Onakpoya, I., E. Spencer, C. Heneghan, and M. Thompson. “The effect of green tea on blood pressure and lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 24, no. 8 (2014): 823-836.|