Health Blog

Asian Sauces and Sodium

Sauces are part and parcel of Asian cuisines. From hoisin to teriyaki, sauces light up our tastebuds – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. That is why, there are countless ways as flavouring agents in soups, or marinades in meats, fish as well as vegetables. However, one major stumbling block would be the heaps of salt (sodium) they contribute.

Most Asian sauces are low in fat and calories. Thus, analysing the total calories that the dish offers, does not provide a fair overall picture.

“The average Singaporean adult consumes 9 grams of salt per day, which is more than the recommended daily intake of 5 grams (this is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt)”, quoted from Health Hub, Health Promotion Board Singapore (HPB).

Other than taste, sodium plays an important role in preserving food. High salt content would mean a longer shelf life even if products are stored unrefrigerated as moisture is being drawn out. Therefore, bacteria and other little pesky microbes would not be able to survive.

Now, let us dive a little deeper into how much Asian sauces we put in our dishes. A serving size would vary from 1 teaspoon (5ml) to 1 tablespoon (20ml). According to the food analysis data provided by HPB’s Energy and Nutrient Composition of Food, 1 serve size (1 tablespoon) of light soy sauce provides a whopping 859.35mg of sodium. That is already four-fifth of a teaspoon! If we study the total calories, it is only 8.5Kcal. And not to mention, fat is negligible as well.

Retrieved from https://focos.hpb.gov.sg/eservices/ENCF/FoodAnalysis.aspx?p=1

Fret not, there are ways to flavour your food.

#1. Use herbs and spices
Herbs and spices not only enhance flavours but also contributes negligible sodium. If swapping out table salt or sauces completely deem impossible, reduce amounts of them and factor in herbs and spices.

#2. Do not add on more table salt
Now, we know that sauces deliver a lot of sodium content, further adding table salt is unnecessary.

#3. Read and compare food labels
If you are comfortable reading food labels, check out the nutrition information label to compare ‘per 100g’ of similar sauce products to make a more informed decision.

Retrieved from Healthhub.sg

#4. ‘Lower in Sodium’ Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)
If reading food labels is a challenge, look out for the ‘Lower in Sodium’ HCS logo for a healthier alternative and easy way out!

#5. Include food ingredients that contain naturally occurring MSG
Yes, in fact, on a daily basis, foods like tomatoes, cheeses, seaweed and even the yeast that is used to bake delicious loaves of bread contain naturally occurring MSG. While MSG is shamed by the public due to old wives’ tales and myths of hair loss etc., there is no scientific evidence pertaining to that. In fact, introducing MSG could significantly reduce the need to include more table salt or sauces.


Retrieved from https://focos.hpb.gov.sg/eservices/ENCF/FoodAnalysis.aspx?p=1

6 Dining Out Health Hacks

These days, ‘upsizing’ has surpassed fast-food restaurants. From Japanese donburi bowls to soups where you could get an extra helping of noodles, the options are endless. “Value meals” in jumbo sizes are easy to over indulge and often, it means more sauces, cream and butter to create flavour bombs.

These are 6 suggestions that you could adopt while dining out to keep health goals in check.

#1 Avoid starters that are deep-fried or dressed in creamy sauces
Anything that is high in fat would actually keep us full. High-fat foods delay stomach emptying and therefore leaves you less space to consume what your body actually needs – essential nutrients; especially those that are from fruits and vegetables. Go for clear soups, greek yoghurt, a refreshing vegetable salad drizzled with lime or lemon dressing or a handful of mixed nuts.

#2 Vegetarian options are not always healthier
Yes, you heard us right. Tell your partner, your classmate and everyone else. Mock meat burgers to acai berry bowls are trending but, just because they are vegetarian, that does not mean they are off the hook being high in calories. Steer away from dishes that are covered in melted cheese or cooked with coconut milk, that is high in saturated “bad” fat.

#3 You do not have to forgo your dessert
Yaaaaaaas to desserts. If you are on Team Dessert, good news. There are hearty options out there like sorbets and even meringues. If you like fruits, puddings are generally fine. Of course, who would say no to rich chocolate cakes?! Share the guilty pleasure with your BFF.

#4 Tabao like a boss
Be a Karen. If you cannot finish your food, gurrll get a takeaway box. Not only you are helping the environment by reducing food wastage but also saving your pockets.

#5 Mindful eating aka take your time
Our brain takes about 20 minutes to register that we are full. Take your time to eat so that you do not overeat.

#6 Eat at Food Canopy outlets
Prefer to eat at a food court? Food Canopy outlets have not only your calories in check but also offer a wide variety of cuisines to choose from. Also, do pop by the CAN stations (health corners) for your BMI checked! Don’t say bojio.

3 Practical Tips to Swap to Wholegrains at Ease

Rice is the main staple that is deeply rooted in our culture, right in the heart of Singapore. However, often, we see refined white grains over brown, wild, red rice and other ‘wholegrains’ that you can name, which are easily found in the local supermarkets these days.

So the golden question is, “Why still choose wholegrains when it is so tough to chew?”

What is a wholegrain?
To break it down simply, a WHOLE grain as the name suggests, comprises of the entire seed of the plant – whereby the bran, germ, and endosperm are intact. On the other hand, white rice has been polished where the germ and bran are removed.  Compared with unenriched white rice, wholegrains have more nutrients – including dietary fibre, protein, B-group vitamins, iron, magnesium as well as copper, that are mostly being stripped during the milling process of the grain.

What does science say?
According to evidence-based studies1, switching to wholegrains can improve total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, blood sugar control and inflammation. Also, in a recent large study of almost 200,000 adults from the United States that took place over 30 years, those who frequently included wholegrains in their diets are found that they are of lower risk in developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those who rarely did so2.

How do we Singapore fare?
According to the National Health Population Survey 2019, the proportions of Singaporeans with self-reported chronic diseases continued to rise gradually. For instance, the self-reported type 2 diabetes percentage grew from 4.9% in 2007 to 6.9% in 2019. Also, it is well noted that the prevalence of chronic diseases related to poor intake of wholegrain foods in Singaporean adults (18 to 64 years old) rose for type 2 diabetes and obesity from 1998 to 20103.

So, what can I do to accept the taste and texture of wholegrains?

#1. Introduce small amounts over time
Remember that any change should be gradual. The sudden switch from refined grains to wholegrain rice might be frowned upon. Saying so, we are aiming for gradual acceptance and adaptability. Try replacing 10% of white rice to brown rice and additional 10% after a couple of weeks, repeat! Before you have realised, you might be so used to brown rice in a long run.

#2. Barley and corn are wholegrains too
Especially in Southeast Asia, when we think of grains, rice will probably just come to mind. Readily available food ingredients like barley and corn are actually wholegrains as well. Yes, the bran, germ, and endosperm are all still intact! Incorporating both barley and corn into a mixture of brown and white rice would provide some crunch, sweetness and colour that even kids might be open to it.  

#3. Pair wholegrains with pulses and dried figs
Like barley and corn, mixing beans like adzuki beans (Japanese red beans), mung beans and even dried figs would not only add flavour but also increasing the profile of protein, dietary fibre and calcium content from the figs!

What if I choose to eat out?
Look out for Food Canopy outlets in your area where wholegrain options are available. Alternatively, pick an eatery that participates in the Health Promotion Board’s Healthier Dining Programme. At these outlets, there are higher in wholegrains options to choose from.

References

  1. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2020 Nov;120(11):1859-1883.e31. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2020.06.021. (Marshall S et al.)
  2. BMJ. 2020 Jul 8;370:m2206. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2206. (Hu Y et al.)
  3. Neo, J. E., & Brownlee, I. A. (2017). Wholegrain food acceptance in young Singaporean adults. Nutrients9(4), 371.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet is a type of healthy eating styles which originate from Mediterranean countries traditional foods such as Italy, France, Greece and Spain. Mediterranean diet does not have a specific guideline but it is usually high in beans, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, cereals, unsaturated fats foods and fish while low in dairy foods and meat.

Ingredients to include in your Mediterranean meal plan:

  • Wholegrain pasta/ bread, brown rice, whole wheat/ oats and barley
  • Cucumbers, cauliflower, spinach, onions, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes
  • Clams, prawn, sardines, salmon, mackerel, mussels and tuna
  • Pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts
  • Dates, peaches, bananas, grapes, oranges, apples, strawberries and pears
  • Chickpeas, beans, peas and peanuts
  • Yams, sweet potatoes and potatoes
  • Chicken, turkey and duck
  • Avocados oil and olive oil
  • Greek yoghurt and cheese

Health benefits from having Mediterranean diet:

  • Reduce the risk of heart diseases
  • Better sleep quality
  • Effective weight management
  • Lower risk of diabetes

Reference: nhs.uk. 2021. What is a Mediterranean diet?. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-is-a-mediterranean-diet/#:~:text=But%20in%20general%2C%20it’s%20high,health%2C%20including%20a%20healthier%20heart>

Better health start with Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to promote better vision and it’s antioxidant characteristics protect your body against free radicals which can cause several major health issues like cancer, nervous system diseases and heart diseases. If you are having a balanced diet, your body will have a sufficient amount of vitamin E that is needed.

Foods rich in vitamin E:

  • Nuts & seeds: almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts and hazelnuts
  • Vegetable cooking oils: sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, and corn oil
  • Fruits: avocado, kiwi and blueberries
  • Vitamin E fortified foods: cereals
  • Vegetables: butternut squash, spinach, broccoli and tomatoes

Do you know?

Based on US Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), the recommended daily intake of vitamin E for normal adult age above 19-year-old is 15 mg (equivalence to 55g of sunflower seeds) for both male and female.

Side effects of vitamin E overdose:

The maximum daily intake of vitamin E should be capped at 1,000mg for adults age above 19-years-old, any vitamin E intake more than these will lead to the following side effects:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Skin rashes
  • Weaker vision
  • Headache
  • Cramps around intestinal
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased risk of prostate cancer

Therefore, it is best that you obtain vitamin E from natural foods and do seek medical advice from health professionals before you start taking any vitamin E supplement.

Reference: Mayo Clinic. 2021. Vitamin E. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-e/art-20364144

Ods.od.nih.gov. 2021. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin E. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h5

“C” all the health benefits “U” can get from copper

Although your body only needs a small amount of copper which is a type of trace mineral, copper is still an essential nutrient which plays an important role in your health.

Health Benefits

Healthy heart: Copper take part in the formation of collagen which helps to connect and support body tissue which results in strong strength and healthy function of heart. Insufficiency of copper intake might cause heart failure.

Improves immune and nervous system: Copper involved in maintaining the immune and nervous system which protects your body against the virus. Sufficient amount of copper in your body will improve your immune and nervous system.

Reduced risk of osteoporosis: Osteoporosis happened when bone density is low and become fragile. Copper contributes to the production of collagen which helps to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Support brain health: Copper is essential in maintaining nervous system and development of a healthy brain. Lack of copper in your body can worsen brain function and nervous system.

Great sources of copper:

  • Organs: beef liver, cod liver and chicken kidneys
  • Pure dark chocolate (unsweetened)
  • Seeds and nuts: cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
  • Lentils and beans: chickpeas, green peas and soya beans
  • Vegetable: potato, spinach and asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Milk and yoghurt
  • Seafood: lobster, squid and oyster

Symptoms of copper toxicity:

The recommended daily intake of copper for normal adult age above 19-year-olds is 900 mcg (approximately 2 small sizes of potatoes) for both male and female by the US Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). Too much intake of copper will cause the following symptoms:

  • Constant headache
  • Stomach-ache, diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Tiredness, no strength
  • Dizziness
  • Metallic flavour inside your mouth

Reference: Ods.od.nih.gov. 2021. Office of Dietary Supplements – Copper. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/

The Healthy Way of Life Company – Exercise

Everyone knows the importance of exercise to maintain a fit and healthy body. Different type of activity and intensity of exercise will improve your overall fitness level.

Moderate intensive exercise

Moderate exercise increases your heartbeat rate, make your body warmer and increase your breathing speed. After moderate intensive exercises, you should able to talk easily without shortness of breath.

Some of the moderate intensive exercises are:

  • Hiking
  • Cycling (slowly)
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Swimming (slowly)

Vigorous intensive exercise

Vigorous exercise will make you feel short of breathing and breathe in fast. After vigorous intensive exercises, you will need to take a few breaths in between to speak a full sentence of words.

Some of the vigorous intensive exercises are:

  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Skipping rope
  • Jogging
  • Walking up the stairs
  • Aerobics

Extreme intensive exercise

Extreme exercise will make you feel short of breath in a very short time. After extreme intensive exercises, you will not be able to speak a full sentence of words without taking a minute rest.

Some of the extreme intensive exercises are:

  • Lifting heavy equipment
  • Spinning session
  • Hillwalking
  • Interval jogging
  • Tabata
  • Push up for 50 times without resting

Reference: nhs.uk. 2021. Exercise. Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/

Healthy Chinese New Year Recipe: Cashew Chicken

It is less than one month till Chinese New Year, here is one of the healthy yet delicious dishes to be on your table during your family reunion dinner.

Ingredients

  • 500g of diced chicken breast pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into pieces
  • 30g of minced garlic
  • 10g of sliced fresh ginger
  • 60g of water chestnuts
  • 100g of cashews
  • 2 tbsps. of olive oil

Sauce

  • 1.5 tbsps of sesame oil
  • 3 tbsps of honey
  • 3 tbsps of corn starch
  • 30g of light soy sauce
  • 30g of rice wine vinegar
  • 100g of water

Preparation

  1. Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and mix well.
  2. Heat your olive oil in a frying pan, cook chicken breasts for about 5 minutes or till almost well-cooked. Set aside the chicken breast.
  3. Add all the bell peppers into the frying pan and sauté for 3 minutes and then add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.
  4. Add the sauce and cook until thicken and add the chicken breasts back into the frying pan.
  5. Add water chestnuts and cashews into the pan and stir-fried it for 3 minutes. Food is ready to be served!

How to plan your New Year’s resolutions healthily

It is the last day of 2020 today, have you review your 2020 new year’s resolutions? Do give yourself a big hug for how far you had come from. Let’s start fresh and plan your 2021 new year’s resolution including some health goals. Here are some healthy new year’s resolution ideas for you to achieve better health.

1. Reduce the intake of processed food and eat more whole natural food

Cutting off your diet on processed food like sausage, canned food and instant beverages will greatly reduce your risk of cancer and heart diseases. While eating more natural whole food will improve your body health and prevent you from chronic condition.

2. Exercise at least 3 times a week

Exercise regularly is important for both of your mental and physical health. Exercise will help maintain your muscle and body strength while also relaxing your mind.

3. Prepare more home cooking meals

Start to practice preparing your own meals if you have not already done so. As you will be able to choose to cook healthier ingredients and have control over your salt and sugar intake.

4. Have sufficient and better quality sleep

Sleep quality have a big impact on your health, if you do not have good and sufficient sleep, you may have a risk of having depression or weight gain.

5. Spending more times outdoors

As simple as taking a walk around your resident area every day after your dinner with your family do improve your health by distress yourself and having a better mood.

6. Plan your weekly diet plan

By planning your diet plan weekly, it will help you to ensure that you are having a balanced and healthy diet which lead to sufficient nutrients intake and good health. Planning your diet will also help you to avoid overeating which leads to weight gain.

Happy New Year to all of you and may the New Year bless you with health, wealth, and happiness ♥

Herb-ty turkey

Christmas is only one week away from now, have you get ready your cookbook for the upcoming Christmas present exchange and gathering with your loved one? Herb-ty turkey surely will be the star on the dining table which are healthy yet delicious too.

Ingredients

  • 3kg of fresh turkey
  • 5g of fresh herbs
  • 1.5 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons of rosemary
  • 1.5 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1.5 teaspoons of sage
  • 1 teaspoon of marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g of sliced apple
  • 50g of sliced onion
  • 50g of sliced lemon
  • 50g of sliced orange
  • 700ml of water
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven for 10 minutes to 250 °C with the baking rack positioned on the bottom of the oven.
  2. Dry the turkey with a kitchen towel and place the turkey onto a roasting pan with turkey breast facing upward.
  3. Add minced fresh herbs, salt, oil and pepper in a mixing bowl and mix well. Apply the mixture evenly on the whole turkey including under the skin.
  4. Mix oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and marjoram together and placed in the turkey cavity together with sliced apple, onion, lemon and orange.
  5. Use kitchen string to tie both legs together. Add the remaining mixture of oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and marjoram with 700ml of water into the baking pan.
  6. Roast the turkey with 250 °C for 45 minutes or till the skin turn to golden brown.
  7. Remove whole baking pan from the oven and place two layers of foil over the turkey breast.
  8. Lower the oven heat to 180°C and roast it for another 1 hour 30 minutes. If baking pan begins to dry up, move the turkey to let sauces drill out onto the baking pan and top up 250ml of water.
  9. Remove the turkey from oven. Wrap the turkey with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. Yummy turkey is ready to serve!

Merry Christmas in advance to all of you ❤