The Science Of… Takeaways

Whether you’re a bright-eyed fresher or a toughened old hand in your final year, takeaways are a regular part of uni life. Maybe you’re (justifiably) avoiding hall dinners, or haven’t got used to the idea of cooking regularly yet. Hopefully you’ve got some vague notion that the amount of grease you consume can’t be great, even if the finer details have escaped you.

The short-term effects of a dodgy takeaway (possibly from some obscure place you only rang to save money by avoiding Domino’s) will, to most of you, be nauseatingly familiar, and are grouped under the broad term ‘food poisoning’. Common symptoms are, unsurprisingly, a tummy ache, feeling sick, being sick, and diarrhoea. Usually these start suddenly, between 12 and 48 hours after having eaten the offending meal. Most people recover within a day, and nearly everyone does after a week.

The most common bacteria to cause food poisoning have both been highlighted in the news: Campylobacter and Salmonella. These can be present in raw meat and poultry, which is why thorough cooking is essential; and if it doesn’t happen, you end up ingesting the bacteria along with your food, and feeling the consequences. The throwing up and diarrhoea are your body desperately trying to get rid of these unwanted bacteria and the toxins they produce.

The long-term consequences? These are predictable – one example is obesity. Another is atherosclerosis – this is when your arteries begin getting clogged with fat deposits; if severe, a heart attack could result. And these effects may not seem imminent, but can creep up in later life! Short-term effects include the “take away glaze” – a heady concoction of grease and sweat on your face that appears after a heavy D2’s session. However, the severity of these things generally correlates to the number of takeaways you have, and also depends on other aspects of your lifestyle, such as how much exercise you do.

Now I’ve scared and confused you, let me give some hope, by way of a few tips. And no, you don’t have to chuck out all those beloved menus! You just have to ensure you order from reputable places, and adapt what you order.

One golden rule: avoid anything fried. So prawn crackers, samosas, poppadoms and the like are out. Also, veg based dishes are better than thick, creamy ones, so try a Rogan Josh instead of a standard Tikka Masala, and a stir fry instead of curry and egg-fried rice. And tipping away excess oil floating on top of an item will substantially cut the amount of fat in it. With pizza, choose toppings wisely; none of that extra cheese or processed meats – how about some peppers and tomatoes?

Hopefully you can now begin to tread the path towards all that is nourishing and wholesome…or maybe you’ll toss this aside and reach for the phone. Either way, best of luck in all your dining endeavours!

Aarohi Sharma


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