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5 KEY NUTRIENTS FOR HEALTHY PREGNANCY

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

Eating a healthy balanced diet is crucial to support the optimal development of your baby during pregnancy. Your body has a greater demand for nutrients which can be met by making wise food choices. Dietitian Sally Shi-po Poon explains the 5 key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

 

  1. Folic acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Taking folic acid regularly before pregnancy and during pregnancy helps prevent major birth defects of the fetal brain and spine called neural tube defects. The requirement for folic acid increases from 400 micrograms (mcg) daily for non-pregnant women to 600 mcg daily during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends all pregnant women and all women who may become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement that contains folic acid.

Major food sources of folate include spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, avocado, oranges, papaya, peanuts, and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.

 

  1. Iodine

The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones which are required for proper growth and brain development of your baby. The World Health Organisation recommends 250 mcg iodine daily during pregnancy. You should consider taking a prenatal supplement containing iodine, as it is difficult to get enough iodine from food alone when you are pregnant.

Seaweed, seafood, egg yolk, dairy products and iodised salt are main sources of iodine. Kelp, in particular, contains a very high level of iodine and eating too much can affect the thyroid function adversely. You should consume kelp in moderation and no more than once a week.

 

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is important for the visual and cognitive development of your baby. Pregnant women should aim to attain an average daily intake of at least 200 mg DHA, which can be achieved by eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish or shellfish per week.

From the food safety point of view, avoid all raw and undercooked seafood including sushi made with raw fish.

People who do not eat seafood can eat foods rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil. Our body can produce DHA out of ALA, but the conversion rate seems to be very low. You can consider taking a DHA supplement if you do not eat seafood.

 

  1. Iron

Iron ensures optimal growth and brain development and prevents anaemia. Your body needs more iron during pregnancy and the daily recommended intake of iron is 27 mg.

Iron is found in most prenatal supplements. You should also eat a variety of iron-rich foods including red meat, poultry, fish, egg yolk, lentils, kidney beans, nuts, raisins, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Iron can be absorbed better if foods are eaten with vitamin C-rich foods, such as guava, oranges, kiwi fruits, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.

 

  1. Calcium

Calcium is required to build your baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women require 1,000 mg of calcium a day. Inadequate calcium intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm labour and gestational hypertension.

Milk, cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium. Pregnant women are advised to consume two glasses of milk or calcium-fortified soy milk daily and choose calcium-rich foods such as Chinese cabbage (bok choi), kale, broccoli, sardines, and tofu made with calcium sulfate.

Vitamin D improves calcium absorption and is essential for bone health and development. Pregnant women need 600 International Units (IU) or 15 mcg of vitamin D a day. Expose to sunlight regularly and consume vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon and fortified food products can help you get enough vitamin D.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-key-nutrients-healthy-pregnancy

5 FAD DIETS: A DIETITIAN LAYS DOWN THE FACTS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

It’s summertime again! Many people would like to shed a few pounds and get tempted by a range of ‘quick fix’ diets offering the promise of rapid weight loss. Sadly, there is no magic solution for sustainable weight loss. Our dietitian Sally Shi-Po Poon reviews the top 5 fad diets as follows:

 

  1. Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan that has been used to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. The diet excludes carbohydrate foods such as grains, dairy, legumes, most fruits and starchy vegetables.

Supporters claim ketogenic diet can help burn fat and lose weight efficiently but evidence on its long-term effects is lacking currently. It may be challenging to follow this diet as it can cause side effects such as brain fog, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and constipation.

 

  1. Gluten-free diet

A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and cross-contaminated oats. You may lose weight when cutting out energy-dense gluten-containing products such as cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, and beer.

However, gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-calorie because some gluten-free products actually contain more sugar and fat than their gluten counterparts.

 

  1. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting involves short periods of fasting with either no food or very small amounts of food, and periods of unrestricted eating. A very popular intermittent fasting regime is called the “5:2 diet” – two days a week you eat less than 500 to 600 kcal, the remaining five days you eat as usual. People can achieve some weight loss if they don’t overeat on “feed” days.

However, fasting can make you feel dizzy, irritable, and tired, make it difficult to concentrate at work, and lack of energy to carry out physical activity. It is definitely not suitable for people with diabetes due to the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level).

 

  1. Raw Vegan diet

Raw vegan diet has been claimed for weight loss as well as disease prevention. From the nutrition point of view, it can be healthy if you have a nutritionally balanced vegan diet with the necessary supplements like vitamin B12, however, it is not a guarantee of weight loss as vegan foods often contain similar amounts of calories as non-vegan foods.

While some foods are good to have raw, others are more nutritious cooked – like tomatoes and asparagus – as the availability of lycopene and lutein are found to be higher. Some foods cannot be eaten raw at all such as potatoes, legumes and lentils. In addition, raw foods are not suitable for children, pregnant women, elderly people and cancer patients with weakened immunity.

 

  1. Juice Cleanse

Juice cleanse involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice for a short period of time, typically one to five days. Supporters claim it can detox our body, boost immunity, and shed some pounds quickly. However, evidence to support its recommendation is lacking. Basically, our liver and kidneys can remove waste from our body every day.

It is not recommended to do juice cleanse too often or for a long period of time because some key nutrients are lacking, for examples: protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and calcium. Potential side effects include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Inadequate protein intake can make you lose muscle mass and affect the metabolic rate. Once you resume normal eating, your weight can rebound easily.

 

 

When a diet plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always seek a qualified nutritionist or dietitian for proper advice – make small changes in eating habits and lifestyle that you will be able to sustain in the long term is key to success!

 

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/ask-the-expert-diet-trends-in-2018

 

5 FOODS TO BOOST YOUR MOOD NATURALLY

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

What we eat may affect the way we feel. Latest research found that a Mediterranean diet comprising higher intakes of fruit and vegetables, fish and whole grains, was associated with lowered risk of depression in adults. Dietitian Sally Shi-po POON suggests the following foods to help you boost your mood naturally:

 

  1. Germinated brown rice

Germinated brown rice is rich in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that may help us relax and improve mood.  The amount of GABA in germinated brown rice was found to be 10 times more as compared to milled white rice and two times more than that of brown rice. It is very important to eat regular meals containing carbohydrates to make sure you will have stable amount of glucose in your blood throughout the day. Your brain needs glucose for concentration. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and low fat dairy. Not having enough glucose in the blood makes us feel tired and grumpy.

 

  1. Chicken

Chicken is rich in tryptophan – an amino acid that makes serotonin to boost your mood. More of this may cross to the brain when carbohydrate foods are eaten. Your body will get plenty of tryptophan if you eat a variety of protein-rich foods including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds.

 

  1. Spinach

Spinach is an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that may help reduce the risk of depression. Asparagus, beef liver, Brussels sprouts, orange, kidney beans, and fortified breakfast cereals are also good sources of folate. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it is lost easily during cooking. This can be reduced by steaming or microwaving vegetables instead of boiling.

 

  1. Sardines

Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower the risk of depression. Aim for at least two servings of fish a week, each serving is 3.5 ounce (100g) cooked. Other fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, and albacore tuna are also high in omega-3 fatty acids.

 

  1. Green tea

Green tea contains L-theanine – an amino acid that may help us stay calm and relaxed. At the same time, it works with the caffeine to improve concentration on mental tasks. It is vital to drink adequate fluids throughout the day as research shows that even a minor degree of dehydration can affect your concentration and mood. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses (1.5 to 2 litres) fluid per day: water, low-fat milk, plant-based milk, soups, tea and coffee all count.

 

Keep in mind that tea and coffee contain caffeine and drinking too much can cause health problems such as insomnia, headaches, dehydration, restlessness, and anxiety. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. Up to 400mg of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults, approximately the amount of caffeine in 4 cups of coffee.

 

Alcohol is a diuretic – drinking too much can lead to dehydration and B vitamin deficiencies, and can make you more depressed or anxious! Try to limit your alcohol intake to no more than 2 to 3 drinks on no more than 5 days per week.

 

As a rule, having regular meal patterns in a Mediterranean style will provide all the essential nutrients for both good health and good mood. Bon appétit!

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-foods-to-naturally-boost-your-mood 

 

5 FOODS TO EAT FOR HEALTHY HAIR AND NAILS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

Shiny hair and strong nails are hallmarks of beauty. The solution could be in your kitchen! Here are 5 beauty foods that dietitian Sally Poon recommends to eat for healthy hair and nails.

 

  1. Eggs

Eggs deliver all the amino acids our body needs to build protein. Protein is found throughout the body; and both hair and nails are made from a protein called keratin. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein daily plays a crucial role in healthy hair and nails. An extra-large egg contains 7 grams of protein, which can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from meat, fish and poultry. In general, adults are advised to consume 5 to 8 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, egg and alternatives daily.

Eggs also contain biotin – a key nutrient for maintaining healthy hair and nails. Eggs should be eaten cooked as avidin found in raw egg whites can interfere with biotin absorption. Cooking denatures avidin, making biotin absorbs efficiently in the gut. Other foods that contain the most biotin include beef liver, salmon, tuna, pork, sunflower seeds, almonds, and sweet potatoes.

 

  1. Pine nuts

Pine nuts are a good source of copper – one of the key nutrients involved in collagen formation. Collagen is found in our skin, hair and nails. Copper also works with iron to help the body produce red blood cells. Other dietary sources of copper include oysters, organ meats, whole grains, beans, and yeast.

 

  1. Oysters

Oysters are an excellent source of protein and zinc.  Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, cell growth, and wound healing. Zinc deficiencies have been linked with hair loss and Beau’s lines (indentations that run across the nails). Other dietary sources of zinc include beef, lamb, pork, poultry, crab, lobster, beans, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

 

  1. Seaweed

Seaweed is the best food source of iodine. Iodine helps maintain normal thyroid function and its deficiency can lead to thyroid disorders as a cause of hair loss. Other food sources of iodine include fish, seafood, dairy products, eggs and iodized salt.

 

  1. Beef

Beef is an excellent source of iron – one of the key nutrients involved in blood formation in our body. Iron deficiency anaemia has been linked with hair loss and appearance of spoon nails (soft nails that look scooped out). Other food sources of iron include lean meat, poultry, liver, oysters, salmon, tuna, dried beans, dried fruits, egg yolks, fortified cereals, wholegrains, and spinach.

Our body absorbs plant-based iron better when you eat it with meat, fish, or poultry. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as guavas, kiwifruits, oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes, also increase iron absorption.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-foods-to-eat-for-healthy-hair-and-nails

 

5 DIETITIAN-APPROVED FESTIVAL FOODS FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Eating healthily during the holiday season must be one of the most difficult challenges for many people as we’re often surrounded by lots of delicious food and drink. Although there is no reason to feel guilty about enjoying yourself on those special days of the year, it’s worth remembering that people gain about 0.4 to 0.9 kg during the festive period due to over-eating. But don’t despair — this year can be different! Here are my recommended festival foods and healthy eating tips to help you get in shape this season:

1. Turkey
Turkey is the culinary star of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a good source of lean protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Enjoy turkey baked or roasted – place turkey on a rack while cooking so fat will drain off and use a paper towel to soak up fat. Best to remove the skin before you cook as most of the fat is found in the skin and the vegetables tend to absorb the fat easily. When making gravy, try to use vegetable broth or remove the fat if using meat juices.

2. Cranberries
Cranberries are an excellent source of proanthocyanidins which helps maintain a healthy urinary tract. Cranberries are harvested and sold fresh in the fall, but they’re processed and sold year-round frozen, dried, canned, or as juice. Try turkey with cranberry stuffing or cranberry sauce. Alternatively, add cranberries to Christmas pudding or mince pies; or use unsweetened cranberry juice for making mulled wine or mocktails.

3. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and fibre. They are classified as cruciferous vegetables, which may help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, sautéed or steamed. Boiling Brussels sprouts will lead to significant loss of vitamin C so is less preferred. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or grease from meats, try using oil spray or brush to control the amount of oil added, and roast on a non-stick tray or foil.

4. Pumpkin
Pumpkin is the most popular food for Halloween and pumpkin pie is an American tradition for Thanksgiving. This colorful starchy vegetable is rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. To make a healthy version of pumpkin pie, choose low-fat milk or soymilk, and real pumpkin or unflavored canned pumpkin. Avoid serving with whipped cream or ice cream on top. The seeds of pumpkin are a good source of protein, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Enjoy a small handful of roasted pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack over chocolates and crisps.

5. Pies (no, really)
Christmas pudding and mince pies are packed with fruits so they are rich in fibre and antioxidants. Serve Christmas pudding with low-fat custard or crème fraiche, and try lighter version of mince pies made with filo pastry. Don’t forget to control the portion too – always share the dessert with your friend to cut the calories.

 

Bonus tips to control your weight during the holiday season:

Get moving
Being active can help you burn off the extra treats you couldn’t resist. Why not dance the night away at the parties and go for a brisk walk after a meal.

Drink in moderation
Don’t forget drinks have calories too! Try alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages such as sparkling water, diet sodas or diluted unsweetened juice. Offer to drive so you can stay away from alcohol and always put a jar of water on the table at mealtimes.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to enjoy the holiday and have a wonderful time with your loved ones. Remember weight maintenance is a success, and following my tips above will help you have a good time without overindulging.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-dietitian-approved-festival-foods-for-the-holiday-season#page-5