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How Can Eating Unhealthy Affect You?

By August McLaughlin

Americans, as a whole, consume too many unhealthy fats, added sugars, sodium and refined grains, and too few fruits, vegetables and whole grains, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- a report from the United States Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. While a nutritious, balanced diet promotes overall wellness and guards against disease, an unhealthy dietary pattern brings numerous risks. To learn more about your personal nutritional needs, seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

Poor Blood Sugar Control

Highly processed and sugary foods, such as doughnuts, candy and low-fiber cereals, have a high glycemic index, meaning they have a significant impact on your blood sugar, or glucose, levels. After eating a high-glycemic meal, your blood sugar rises higher than it does following a low-glycemic meal, which increases production of the hormone insulin. As a result, an overall high-glycemic diet increases your risk for type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications once you have the disease.

Weight Gain

High-glycemic foods provide less satiation, or fullness, between meals, increasing your likelihood of snacking and overeating. Many foods high in added sugars, such as regular soft drinks, candy and cookies, are also easy to overeat and contain less fiber, which boosts satiation, than whole grains, legumes and other natural foods. Because gaining 1 pound requires an excess of 3,500 calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consuming 500 more calories than you burn through activity daily typically results in 1 gained pound per week, or 52 pounds per year. A sedentary lifestyle increases these risks.

Poor Cardiovascular Health

Your cardiovascular system includes your heart and your arteries, which allow your heart to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body. Diets high in added sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar can increase your triglyceride levels, according to Triglycerides are a form of fat in your blood; high levels can narrow or clog your arteries, increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke and heart disease. Unhealthy fats, which are prevalent in red and processed meats, high-fat dairy products and fried foods, contribute to high cholesterol levels -- another heart disease risk factor.

Emotional Problems

When unhealthy eating leads to excessive weight gain, you run the risk of experiencing low self-esteem and depression. If you are an emotional eater, meaning you use eating to cope with stress and emotions, a pattern of overeating and weight gain can continue, making way for more severe emotional complications. Eating too few omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold-water fish, flaxseeds and walnuts, can trigger mood swings and depression.

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