New snacks on sale now for a limited time! Use code NEW for 15% off.

What Takeaway Food is Doing to Your Body

With burnt oils, added sugar galore and salt levels to the rafters, takeaway food is hardly a whole foodie’s haven – but you might not be aware of the devastating effects a fast-food habit is having on your gut, brain and liver. Even if you’re not chowing on chow mein or wolfing down Big Macs daily, you could still be doing your body harm. Find out how and what you can do to reverse the damage – yes, it’s possible. 

In Australia – and around the globe – takeaway food is a popular option for many people, offering convenience and variety, but the hidden effects on our gut are anything but convenient. Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that around two-thirds of Australians eat takeaway food at least once a week, with many consuming it more often. If that includes you – read on for the dangers you could be unknowingly embracing. 

Added Sugar – Even in Savoury Dishes!

You read that right! We’re not just talking about the desserts on the menu – you can find yourself on sugar overload from the mains alone. Big mac in Ireland is classified as a dessert – just let that sink in! There is so much sugar in those buns that regulators simply cannot classify it any other way. Thai takeaway is a massive favourite among Aussies – but unfortunately dishes like Pad Thai and are often hiding added sugars; it tastes great, but the combination of trans fats and sugar is not a safe bet for your liver. Here’s what it does:  

Fructose is a component that makes up one half of sugar – you’ll find it naturally in fruit, along with in processed foods like juice, ice cream, sweeteners and even household staples like bread and cereal. The problem comes when we strip away nutrients like fibre and antioxidants – these come naturally with many fruits – and instead provide a nutritionally-deficient hit of fructose, resulting in blood-sugar spikes, mood swings, energy slumps and eventually visceral fat and chronic disease. Because fructose is primarily metabolised in the liver, when we overdo it on the sugar, we can end up straining our liver, resulting in the build-up of visceral fat. When we consume excess sugar, our liver stores it as glycogen. However, the liver has a limited capacity to store glycogen, and once it's full, the excess sugar is converted into fatty acids and stored as triglycerides, which can contribute to visceral fat accumulation. Ever notice how after downing a chocolate bar, not only are you still not full, you’re actually craving more? Products with added sugars like confectionery, baked goods, snacks and some cereals are often lacking in other nutrients while leaning in the direction of excess when it comes to sugar. Some of the most important nutrients for satiation are protein and healthy fats, both of which are hard to find in our favourite junk foods – these nutrients also help maintain blood sugar levels. In the case of protein, it reduces hunger hormones, increases total energy intake and slows the digestive process, resulting in greater fullness. One hunger hormone known as ghrelin is particularly notorious for cravings and sending us on a food-hunt around the kitchen, but protein and healthy fats contribute to the reduction of this hormone. Without these anchors, our blood sugar levels soar and we end up coming back for more. Research shows refined carbohydrates and excess sugar leave us feeling hungry and throw our hormones out of whack, leading us to overeat and, over time, gain weight. But things change when we add trans fats into the mix:

  • Increased Fat Storage in the Liver: Trans fats are a type of unhealthy fat that can be found in processed and fried foods – much of the stuff we get at fast food shops! – as well as in some margarines and baked goods. When consumed, trans fats increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular disease. Excessive sugar consumption, especially fructose, can lead to increased fat production in the liver, contributing to fatty liver disease – so is it any surprise that when we combine these, we increase the burden on our liver? This excess fat in the liver can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterised by the build-up of fat in liver cells.
  • Increased Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: Both sugar and trans fats promote inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Sugar consumption leads to the production of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which trigger inflammation and oxidative damage – that means faster ageing and increased risk for cancer, liver disease and heart disease. When sugar and trans fats are combined, they can synergistically increase inflammation and oxidative stress in the liver.
  • Impaired Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body become less responsive to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Excessive consumption of sugar and trans fats can lead to insulin resistance, impairing the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, and this can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and exacerbate existing liver conditions such as NAFLD.
  • Increased Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It includes factors such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Consuming a diet high in sugar and trans fats can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, putting additional strain on the liver and increases the risk of liver damage and other related health problems.

The Dangers of Oxidated Oils


A number of oils host impressive benefits – olive oil is known for its antioxidants and hemp oil is an omega 3 powerhouse – but not all oils are made alike, or treated alike. For instance, you won’t want to deep-fry using your olive oil, as it will release toxic compounds in the air and in the oil itself. Then there are other oils that, no matter how you treat them, they’re still best avoided! Unfortunately, the latter is most frequently used in your favourite fast-food shops.

The issue with a number of vegetable oils is their heat sensitivity, potential to release dangerous chemicals and trans-fat content - and with people consuming an average of over 30 kilos of veggie oils each year, we’re starting to see the consequences.

Trans fats: Many vegetable oils are high in trans fats – this is because they’ve been hydrogenated, a process that hardens the oils, as you’d find in margarine, and this is one of the reasons margarine can be a trans-fat haven, despite the war on fat pushing people away from butter, it’s clear that the suggested alternatives were certainly not healthful choices. The issue here is that trans fats have been linked with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity in a number of studies, so it’s best to avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils – and you’ll find most of the commercial, highly-processed varieties are, in fact, hydrogenised.

Oxidisation: Many vegetable oils are sensitive to heat, often breaking down and oxidising when hitting those high cooking temperatures. This is because these oils are high in polyunsaturated fats which are notoriously unstable when it comes to heat, leading to a quick oxidisation process – when we consume the oxidised oil we put ourselves at risk for inflammation. But there’s another major issue with heating some of these oils – often they’ll release dangerous chemicals known as aldehydes. These have been associated with the development of dementia, along with heart disease and cancer. In fact, research has shown that veggie oils used to fry fish and chips contained hundreds of times as much of these toxins than the World Health Organisation’s daily limit. Yikes. To put that into perspective, heating olive oil or butter – both of which can also be sensitive to high heats – produced a drastically lower amount of these toxins, with coconut oil boasting the lowest aldehyde content when heated. Research has also shown that the consumption of oxidised oils can cause our own cells to be more vulnerable to oxidisation – thereby putting us as greater risk for the development of disease. This is because these fats aren’t just used for energy, they’re also stored in our cell membranes – talk about a little close for comfort!

 Omega 6 Imbalance: A number of vegetable oils have an imbalanced omega 3 ratio as they tend to be particularly high in omega 6, and while this essential fatty acid isn’t necessarily bad for you, in fact, it’s essential, hence the name, as our bodies can’t produce these fats on their own, but problems arise when we take in a suboptimal ratio of omegas. It’s only been in the last century that we’ve seen drastic changes to our omega 3 and 6 ratio intake – and the industrialisation of vegetable oil plays a major role in this trend. The ratio has gone from around 1:1 to a whopping 20:1 of omega 6 to omega 3, but studies have shown that this kind of imbalance can result in chronic inflammation and a range of diseases that come with this inflammation, from heart disease and arthritis to cancer. More concerning yet, studies have directly linked excessive omega 6 intake to chronic inflammation, indicating a potential health crisis is on our hands when considering the mass use of vegetable oils. Though, it’s worth noting other studies suggest the results are inconclusive, with some research finding that one omega 6 acid known as linoleic acid did not drive inflammation – so, while the implications are still up for debate, what we do know is that getting a good omega 6 to 3 ratio is still important for optimal health. Some of the most commonly-used oils in restaurants are known to have this imbalance – soybean oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, rice bran oil and corn oil included!

Healthier Fast-Food Options


So, you’ve had a long day, haven’t got anything in the fridge and are desperate for a bite to eat – sure a bit of takeaway once in a blue moon is generally okay, but it helps to opt for healthier choices.  

Salad Bars and Salad Wraps: Opt for salads with a variety of colourful vegetables, lean proteins (such as grilled chicken or tofu), and healthy fats (such as avocado or nuts). Choose dressings that are light on added sugars and fats, such as balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil and vinegar. Alternatively, go for a salad wrap with whole-grain tortillas or lettuce wraps instead of traditional bread.

Sushi and Sashimi: Sushi rolls made with brown rice or quinoa offer more fibre and nutrients than those made with white rice. Choose options with fresh fish, seafood, or vegetables, and limit high-sugar, high-fat toppings like mayo or tempura.

Grilled or Roasted Proteins: Look for options that feature grilled or roasted proteins like chicken, fish, or lean cuts of beef or pork.

Avoid fried or breaded items, and opt for dishes that are prepared with minimal added oils or fats.

Whole-Grain Options: Opt for dishes made with whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta. Whole grains provide more fibre and nutrients compared to refined grains, helping you feel full and satisfied. 

Discovering a healthier, happier you has never been easier with the IQS 8-Week Program app. How does it work, you ask? Let's break it down. Personalised programs tailored to your health goals await at your fingertips after your answer a short quiz, and voila – you're matched with the ideal program crafted by the top experts in diet and nutrition.

But that's not all. Need extra support? Say hello to 1-on-1 health coaching. Our dedicated team is here to guide, motivate, and arm you with the tools you need to succeed, every step of the way.

Plus, with personalised meal planning and instant grocery lists, mealtime stress becomes a thing of the past. Easily track macros and calories with a single click, and dive into a treasure trove of delicious, easy-to-make recipes for every meal of the day. But perhaps the best part? You're never alone on your journey. Join our amazing community for unwavering support, hundreds of hours of instructional videos, and stay on track with supportive emails, notifications, and easy-to-do tasks. With the IQS 8-Week Program app, achieving your health goals has never been more achievable – or enjoyable. 

Your wellness journey starts here – and we couldn't be more excited to embark on it with you. Sounds good, right? Register your interest here; the all-new app is launching soon.


1 Response

Andy T

Andy T

May 15, 2024

Yeah this is why I’ve been trying to give up takeaway! It’s so easy to just order something after a long day, but the costs add up over time and there’s so much burnt oil in that stuff, always feel worse after eating it. Great tips!

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Search our shop