ad astra per alia porci

eating tips
June 29, 2007, 3:59 am
Filed under: training and nutrition

Here’s a nice article from MSN regarding the benefits of eating unprocessed foods and the dangers of “faux food”. The main gist of the article is that processed foods contain much less nutrients as compared to food that is processed less. Processing food, be it through heating or mixing with chemicals, amongst other methods, inevitably strips a food of its nutrients and usually replaces it unhealthy elements like trans fat and simple sugars. 

The solution is to eat foods that are unprocessed, or at least less processed. In a society where our alimentary habits are often dictated by the range of foods at our supermarket shelves, it is harder to gain access to truly “whole foods” that are unprocessed and organic. We barely have any farms here in Singapore, much less farmer’s markets.

However it is still possible to at least alter a diet towards unprocessed foods. This involves mostly substitution and elimination of dietary options. Some basic guidelines when choosing what to eat:

  •  Unprocessed, not processed foods – eat food that looks like food. Eat grapes instead of grape jam; say no to doughnuts and junk food like potato chips.
  • Whole foods – try to eat the whole of a food item instead of parts of it. For example, eat brown rice instead of white rice and don’t be afraid to eat chicken innards together with the meat.
  • The less items/ingredients on the label, the better – avoid labels with a long list of gibbrish like dicalcium phosphate (?), datem (??) and “artificial flavours” (whatever that means). More “ingredients” and chemicals, the worst it is for health.

For starters, go for complex carbohydrates. Substitute white bread with wholemeal bread; try having whole grains for breakfast. They are healthier and keeps a person full for longer.Popular bread brands like Gardenia and Bonjour have wholemeal and multi-grain equivalents for their white bread, and they are not much more expensive than white bread.

Avoid processed foods. This is quite easily done. Instead of a Mars or Snickers bar, go for real dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Instead of corn syrup, go for real corn. Honey Stars can be easily replaced with grains like oats and bran.

I wager that most Singaporeans do not eat enough fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Just look at the paucity of vegetables found in most of our hawker centre dishes and the relative unavailability of fatty fish in most dishes. We have our kuning and garoupers but they do not have the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as “ang-moh” staples like salmon and cod.

A simple solution would be to consume a serving of steamed vegetables at home everyday. For most working professionals doing so during lunch would be hard given the exigencies of work, so do so for dinner. Buy a whole bunch of vegetables on Sunday and consume throughout the week. Nothing too fancy, just steam the vegetables and eat.

Obtaining omega-3 is a bit harder, since salmon and cod are expensive fish and they take some preparation. What I do personally is to buy fish oil tablets and pop two of them each day. A good alternative would be to drink cod liver oil; it’s a bit of an acquired taste though.

On top of switching diet staples, there are some specific foods that can be added to a diet for their extraordinary nuitritional value. I read Superfoods Rx by Steven G. Pratt and in the book the author listed a total of 14 Superfoods. Personally I have been consciously eating most of the Superfoods ever since reading the book and I do experience an overall increase in well-being. My heart rate has decreased and I feel more energetic. Of course this might be the placebo effect at work, but I really do think that eating these Superfoods on a long term basis will yield immense health benefits. What is there to lose? The food is natural and yummy and most importantly, they taste real, unlike processed foods.


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