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Dubai: A burger, french fries, milk shake combo will give you 1,000 calories in a single meal when all you need for the whole day is just double that, warns a nutritionist.

"If you regularly eat fast foods, the transfats will reduce the good cholesterol (HDL) and increase the bad cholesterol (LDL)," said Safeek Ali, nutritionist at Welcare Hospital.

"Transfats are the worst kind of fats," he said, warning that it can easily clog up your arteries and that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

As people pile on the pounds and do not exercise to work off the calories, they become obese, which eventually affects the heart, doctors say.

"When you are not expending the calories, it's converted into fat and that leads on to other complications as diabetes."

The nutritionist said french fries contain a large amount of sodium. A huge section of the UAE population is hypertensive and for them salt is near lethal.

"The maximum salt one should have the whole day is just a teaspoon [about 5gms]," he said.

Fast foods have no nutritional value. "They are very low in vegetables. Most of it is refined products and processed foods. The preservatives in the processed foods contain sodium, which is salt," Ali said.

The nutritionist however said not all fast foods are bad for your health.

"It is the wrong choices which cause harm," he said. "The concept of fast food is good. You get a quick meal, but it should be healthy," he said, giving an example of a salad or a hummus dip.

The nutritionist advises against opting for oversized meals and large burgers. "These give you extra calories but are not nutrient-dense."

Doctors say that eating out frequently is not good. "Make it once a week. Have the smallest burger and avoid fries and colas."

A quick meal can be wholemeal bread sandwich, grilled chicken, onion, tomatoes, olives and lettuce.

"Wholemeal bread has complex carbohydrates and contains more fibre," said Ali. This bread contains the whole of the wheat grain [endosperm and bran] and is also referred to as ‘whole grain' or ‘whole wheat bread'.

"You should have a balanced diet which has a little of all the five food groups [cereal and grain, meat and protein, dairy products, fruit and vegetables and fats, oils and sweets]," says the nutirtionist. "And remember to eat in moderate amounts."

Processed foods: What they do to you

  • Raise your blood pressure
  • Increase the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol
  • Retard your metabolic rate (the rate at which you digest, process and eliminate food)
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Destabilise your blood sugar levels
  • Reduce the ability of your colon to function properly
  •  Increases your fat storage, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Fast facts

  • Average daily calorie intake: 2,000
  • One fast food meal contains between 500 and 1,000 calories
  • Maximum salt intake per day: 1 teaspoon (5 gm)
  • 41 per cent of UAE population is hypertensive
  • Normal blood pressure: 120/80