Are your favorite CNY foods healthy?
health and lifestyle | Monday, 05 Feb 2018
What’s Chinese New Year without the reunion dinner and delicious food? Although it is tradition to indulge, it is also when many choose to eat thoughtlessly because “it’s only once a year”. However, us Malaysians are lucky enough to enjoy various festivities throughout the year. We barely even have time to rest in between all the feasting!
But how healthy are these goodies? Here is a quick guide to what is in some of your favourite CNY foods and their potential health risks.
Kuih Kapit (Health Rating: 2/5)
Photo credit: surtr / CC BY-SA
Don’t underestimate these wafer-thin cookies! The coconut milk gives kuih kapit, or love letters, that addictive taste and smell. However, it is also high in saturated fat, which can raise LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases.
Pineapple Tart (Health Rating: 3/5)
Although the fruit itself contains vitamins and fibre, this tasty treat is loaded with added sugar and wrapped in melt-in-the-mouth, buttery pastry. This can easily increase blood glucose level, so those living with diabetes ought to take note.
Nian Gao (Health Rating: 3/5, if deep fried 1/5)
While often seen around the new year in its more traditional form, it's a popular treat once it's battered and deep fried into crunchy fritters. Just one piece of this sticky glutinous rice cake can contain as many calories as a bowl of rice! Consuming too many calories and not getting enough exercise is the main cause of weight gain and obesity, which can increase the risk of chronic conditions. While it isn’t every day that you eat nian gao, it would be wise to limit your intake.
Mandarin Orange (Health Rating: 4.5/5)
Mandarin oranges are high in nutrients, vitamins and fibre, as well as low in calories. This makes it great as a healthy snack! As with any citrus fruit, take care to not consume too much as it can worsen acid reflux and cause abdominal cramps.
Cashew Nuts (Health Rating: 3.5/5)
Compared to other snacks, roasted cashew nuts are rich in protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Don’t start chomping down that bowl of nuts though! Be sure to check if it has been salted as this spikes up sodium content. Excessive sodium intake has been known to increase blood pressure and negatively affect the heart.
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinners (Health Rating: Various)
Traditionally, reunion dinners are made up of dishes which represent different wishes for certain auspicious blessings in the upcoming year. Depending on the ingredients used and style of cooking, their health ratings may differ. Certain dishes are prepared with fatty cuts of red meat and are generally high in cholesterol, which is made worse by deep frying them.
Instead, aim for plant-based dishes to make up at least half of your plate. Opt for food which has been cooked with less oil (steaming, braising, pan-fried, etc). Finally, whether you're at a restaurant or a relative's house, food served in large portions makes it less obvious you're overeating.
This is not to say that you should avoid these foods completely. Eating too much of anything is an unhealthy habit. The key is to eat in moderation, whether it is during this festive season or all year long.
Practicing a good diet will go a long way in reducing your risks of serious health conditions, but you there's more you can do to protect yourself against critical illnesses. Already diagnosed? You can still get protected.
Health ratings are calculated based on calorie count supplied by the Ministry of Health and the average calculation of other sources, according to typical serving sizes.
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