The Most Dangerous Part of Your Fast Food Order Isn’t What You’d Think

There is such a thing as healthy fast food — but it’s likely not always going to be your first choice. Most places you go, you’ll find food with questionable ingredients on the menu. The most dangerous part of your fast food order isn’t the meat or the cheese or even the sauce. It’s just one of many additions to your meal you’d be much healthier without.

These are the most harmful ingredients commonly used at your favorite fast food restaurants. One of them probably isn’t something you even considered before.

7. Nitrites

Pack of raw hot dogs

Processed meats can be really unhealthy. | TanyaSid/Getty Images

When exposed to extremely high heat, processed meats like bacon or hot dogs can produce compounds that have been known to increase cancer risk. Some foods contain nitrites naturally, but they don’t become carcinogenic unless cooked at very high temperatures.

Next: Is your food really supposed to taste like that?

6. Food dyes and artificial flavors

That cheese on your burger probably isn’t that color naturally. | Steak ‘N Shake

Artificial colors and flavors are just what they sound like — and they’re not much better for you than their names imply. Certain food dyes for example, though generally recognized as safe by the FDA, have the potential to increase cancer risk in some people.

Next: Your heart can’t take any more of this.

5. Saturated fat

Milkshakes are delicious, but they’re loaded with saturated fat. |iStock

Not all fat is bad fat. Too much saturated fat, however, isn’t an ingredient you should indulge in too loosely. It’s bad for your cholesterol, no matter how much you love it.

High levels of bad cholesterol in your blood can cause a buildup of something called plaque in the arteries of your heart. Over time, this could lead to a heart attack or stroke. These things don’t always kill their victims, but it’s a real possibility.

Next: It makes everything taste better, but is it worth it?

4. Salt

Container of fresh fried french fries with ketchup and white sauce on wooden table.

Salty foods are generally pretty unhealthy. |

You probably don’t need reminding — but here it is anyway. Too much salt is a terrible idea. It raises your blood pressure and can cause major damage to your heart. Yes, it makes basically anything taste better, but the tradeoff probably isn’t worth the pleasure (really).

High blood pressure increases your risk of many potentially deadly diseases, including ones you wouldn’t expect, such as diabetes and dementia.

Next: It’s easy to eat this ingredient without knowing it — and it’s destroying your health.

3. Added sugar

slices of pizza on plates

You might be surprised by how much sugar is in a slice of pizza. |Alex Wong/Getty Images.

This type of sugar might actually be worse for you than both salt and saturated fat. When you eat too much of it, you’re not leaving room for healthier foods. You’re also increasing your risk of heart disease and possibly destroying your liver.

Sugar is, in its own way, a toxic ingredient that can cause you harm if you aren’t careful. It’s not just in milkshakes — you’ll find it in cheeseburgers, pizza, and even some salads.

Next: Thankfully, you can easily find fast food without this toxic ingredient anywhere you live.

2. Trans fat

Bacon burger with beef patty

Trans fats are one of the worst things you can consume. | Arijuhani/Getty Images

There are plenty of foods out there still made with trans fats, but definitely not as many as there used to be. Companies are now required to gradually start removing them from their products, since they’re not technically safe for humans to consume.

Next: This dangerous fast food ingredient isn’t what you’re expecting.

1. The wrapping

"A Creamy Chicken Salad Sandwich with Red Peppers, Cucumber, Lettuce and Tomato on a Croissant -

Who knows what that paper is coated with? |

It’s not an ingredient in the food itself, but it still might be the most dangerous part of your fast food order. It turns out some food wrappers and other containers contain potentially harmful chemicals that could end up in your food — and in your body.

Consuming these chemicals in large amounts might increase your risk for multiple types of cancer and other negative health outcomes.

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