So we are a couple of days into the Year of the Monkey and you suspect that you have over-indulged in the seasonal goodies, especially since the Chinese New Year (CNY) started over a super-long weekend this year. Let’s speculate on what you have been munching on:
- bak kwa and pineapple tarts are safe bets;
- quite a few slices of kueh lapis, definitely;
- a couple of dozen love letters and kueh bangkit; and
- some Mandarin oranges to balance all that junk food with a healthy portion of fruit.
And that’s just during the visits to the homes of friends and relatives. Let’s not forget the extravagant reunion dinner containing plenty of seafood and meat.
According to HealthXchange
, an online initiative by the SingHealth Group, there are on average 6 grams of sugar in every piece of pineapple tart and 22 grams of sugar in a slice of bak kwa
. Note that the Health Promotion Board recommends between 40 grams and 55 grams of added sugar per day for an average healthy person. CNY goodies are notoriously loaded with fat and salt, too. That is why they all taste so scrumptious.
In order to mitigate your guilt and the effects of all those highly seasoned snacks, consider incorporating the following nutrient-packed items in your diet. But heed the warning
of Despina Hyde, a registered dietician with the weight management programme at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “When we label these foods as ‘super’ and ‘healthy’, people think they can eat them in unlimited quantities,” she says. “But you do have to be cautious of the amount you eat, because you can gain weight from eating too much healthy food.”
Full of antioxidants, blueberries are also high in potassium and Vitamin C. As such, they are great when it comes to neutralising free radicals and preventing ageing and cell damage. Flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins
, appear to be responsible for the antioxidant effect, which is why darker berries are the ones to pick.
Tip: Instead of eating the fruit on its own, consider dropping a handful in a cup of yoghurt or into any plate of salad.
These tiny dynamos come from a plant related to the mint. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, the plant is now commercially grown across Central and South America, and as far away as Australia. In addition to containing soluble and insoluble fibres, the seeds swell up by absorbing many times their weight in liquid. This not only helps keep your digestive system regular, but also helps you feel full for longer. The seeds are also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and trace minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
Tip: As they are almost tasteless, chia seeds can be sprinkled over anything, including salads, soups and desserts.
A member of the cabbage family, kale is related to other cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower and broccoli. It is one of the hottest items buzzed about in health and wellness circles because of its top-grade nutrient contents. It contains numerous antioxidants (Vitamin C, polyphenols and beta-carotene, among others) and Vitamin K, which plays a key role in supporting regular blood-clotting functions. Kale also contains bile acid
sequestrants, which can lower cholesterol, and cancer-fighting chemicals such as sulfuraphane
. Low calorie but high in bulk, kale can definitely be part of your weight-loss diet.
Tip: As some nutrients are destroyed by cooking, kale is best consumed raw or quickly blanched. Adding it to salads is the easiest. Also consider juicing it or making it part of a smoothie.
Extra: Like kale, items such as mixed grain rice and wheat germ brown rice provide bulk, thanks to their high fibre content.
Although considered an oily fish, salmon’s fat content is mostly composed of omega-3 fatty acids. This group of fatty acids has been linked to numerous health benefits, the most important of which is arguably lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include lowered risk of dementia and depression. Besides fatty acids, salmon also contains plenty of high-quality protein as well as a range of minerals, such as selenium, magnesium and potassium.
Tip: Choose wild over farmed salmon (less likely to contain harmful compounds). Having it sashimi-style is a great way to consume this fish — if you don’t mind eating raw stuff. Otherwise, baking is a healthy way to cook salmon. Spritz with cooking spray rather than slathering with butter or olive oil.