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5 ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS FOR PLANT-BASED DIETS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

 

If you are a vegetarian or want to cut back on meats, make sure you get all the nutrients you need through a balanced diet. If a plant-based diet is well planned and nutritionally adequate, it may provide health benefits and lowering the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. However, if the diet is not planned appropriately, you can fall short on the following nutrients easily:

 

  1. Protein

It is important to get enough dietary protein to keep our muscle, hair, skin and nails healthy. Main plant-based sources of protein include lentils, legumes, seeds, nuts, nut butter, soy milk, firm tofu, and meat substitutes. Eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt are also good sources of protein if you eat these. Grains such as quinoa, millet, oats, wheat, and rice also contain some protein. It is important to eat different kinds of protein food every day to get all the amino acids required.

 

  1. Iron

Iron is essential for making red blood cells and insufficient iron intake can result in iron deficiency anaemia. Signs and symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, headache, dizziness, cold hands and feet, and brittle nails.

Plant sources of iron include white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, dark chocolate, firm tofu, raisins, spinach, and cashew nuts. Your body absorbs plant-based iron better when you eat it with foods that contain vitamin C, such as oranges, kiwi fruits, guavas, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli.

 

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain, eye, and heart health. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as chia seed, flaxseed, soybean, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood.

Your body can only convert very small amounts of ALA into EPA and then to DHA. If you do not eat fish and seafood, you should get EPA and DHA from fortified foods such as eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soymilk. If you think you have trouble getting enough omega-3s from food, consult with a doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist regarding dietary supplements.

 

  1. Calcium

 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure and function. Dairy foods are rich in calcium but if you are not eating these make sure you obtain calcium from other sources like fortified foods (e.g. breakfast cereals, fruit juices, tofu, soymilk, almond milk), dark green vegetables (e.g. Chinese cabbage, broccoli, kale, broccoli), almonds, and sesame seeds.

In addition to following a calcium-rich diet, you also need to get some vitamin D from the sun and fortified foods to enhance calcium absorption. And don’t forget about weight-bearing exercise which is the best type of exercise for your bones. Examples include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.

 

  1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps keep the nerve and blood cells healthy in the body. It also helps make the genetic material in cells called DNA. Inadequacy can lead to megaloblastic anaemia that makes people feel tired and weak, as well as nerve damage.

Vegetarians can get vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy foods. If you are a vegan, you can get vitamin B12 from a variety of fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, soy yogurt, and beverages. If you think you have trouble getting enough vitamin B12 from food, consult with a doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist regarding dietary supplements.

 

Does “vegetarian” necessarily mean healthy?

Food products labelled with “vegetarian” or “vegan” do not necessarily mean healthy. Cookies, chips, sweetened cereals, vegetarian burgers and sausages might be vegetarian foods, but they are likely high in fats, added sugar and sodium. Therefore, eat smart by checking the food labels and look for products that carry less saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium. In addition, fortified foods vary in the formulation, so it is important to check product labels to determine which added nutrients they contain.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/essential-nutrients-plant-based-diet

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 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

 

THINKING OF STARTING A FAMILY? READ THESE HEALTH TIPS FIRST

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of regular unprotected sex. It is said to affect 1 in every 6 couples. While couples cannot control all of the factors causing infertility, they can control their eating habits and lifestyle as these can have significant impacts on the ability to get pregnant. The following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

 

1. Maintain a healthy weight

In women, being underweight, being overweight or exercising too much may lead to infertility, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In men, obesity is also associated with infertility due to lowered sperm count and motility, according to the National Infertility Association. Therefore, couples should maintain an optimal body weight as well as waist circumference to increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Healthy Weight Ranges

Boyd Mass Index (BMI): 18.5-24.9 (Caucasian); 18.5-22.9 (Asian)
Waist Circumference: <94cm for men and <80cm for women (Caucasian); <90cm for men and <80cm for women (Asian)

Sadly, there is no magic solution to sustainable weight loss. To lose weight successfully, you need to make healthier food choices, eat a balanced diet with portion control, and be physically active. Furthermore, adherence to healthy diets favouring whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and seafood are associated with better fertility in women and better semen quality in men, according to a review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2017.

Avoid going on a fad diet where you eat a very restrictive diet for a short period of time and often lose weight quickly. Most people on this style of diet get fed-up very soon, start over-eating, make poor food choices and regain the weight they lost. Fad diets can also deplete your body of the nutrients it needs for healthy pregnancy. Consult a dietitian who can help you lose weight in a way that suits your lifestyle.

 

2. Get plenty of iron from plants

A diet rich in plant-based iron may reduce the risk of infertility, according to results from The Nurses’ Health Study II. Plant foods that are rich in iron include lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, tofu, black sesame, cashew nuts, spinach, fortified cereals, and whole grains. To absorb the most iron from the foods, avoid drinking coffee, tea or milk with meals and add vitamin C from guava, orange, kiwi, lemon, or bell peppers to your meals to enhance iron absorption.

 

3. Go low GI

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. PCOS affects between 6% and 12% of women overall, which appears to be more common among overweight women. Women with PCOS often don’t have menstrual periods, or they only have periods on occasion. Because the eggs are not released, most women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. Research shows that weight loss of 5% is associated with improvement in amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) for overweight women with PCOS.

Healthy eating tips for women with PCOS:

  • choose high-fibre, low-glycaemia index (GI) carbohydrates – at least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains such as whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, and brown rice;
  • limit added sugars and refined grains such as sugary beverages, cakes, white bread and white rice;
  • choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, and sardines; and
  • limit saturated and trans fats such as butter, lard, stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oil.

 

4. Stop drinking and smoking

Alcohol and smoking can damage the eggs and sperm, and reduce the fertility of both males and females. Therefore, if you and your partner are serious about trying to start a family, you should consider avoiding alcoholic drinks and quitting smoking to increase the chance of pregnancy.

 

5. Increase your folic acid intake

Folic acid won’t boost your fertility, but taking folic acid regularly before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects (malformations of the spine, skull, and brain) in babies. Therefore, all women who could become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from supplements. In addition, choose foods that are rich in folic acid, including asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard greens, oranges, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, liver, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

 

For more information about eating for fertility, consult a dietitian for personalized advice and diet plan.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/thinking-of-starting-a-family-health-tips

THINKING OF GOING GLUTEN-FREE? READ THIS FIRST

Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Gluten-free diet has gained considerable popularity in the general population over the past decade. Many celebrities and athletes have acclaimed it as an effective way to better health, weight control and athletic performance. There is, however, a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, there are studies suggesting that gluten avoidance in diet may not be as “healthy” as it claims.

What is gluten-free diet?

Gluten-free diet is a diet that doesn’t contain any gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and oats (unless they are labelled gluten-free). These ingredients are commonly found in bread products, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, beer and ale. There are a number of gluten-free grains and plant foods that are suitable for those on gluten-free diet. They include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, corn, flax, legumes, millet, nuts, oats labelled gluten-free, potato, quinoa, rice, sago, seeds, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and teff.

Who should follow gluten-free diet?

People who have coeliac disease should follow gluten-free diet strictly. Coeliac disease is a serious, genetic, autoimmune illness where the consumption of gluten induces damage to the small intestine and causes nutrient malabsorption. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, gas, constipation, fatigue, mouth ulcers, unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of gluten for life. If you think you have coeliac disease, do not remove gluten from your diet until your doctor makes a diagnosis. If you remove gluten from your diet too early, it will cause an inaccurate result for both blood test and gut biopsy.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity

Some people have gut symptoms when eating gluten, even if they don’t have coeliac disease. This is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to coeliac disease, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea. Most people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity agree that there is an improvement of symptoms after following gluten-free diet. The exact trigger for the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity remains controversial thus far. There are reports suggesting that fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) in wheat, rather than gluten, induce the gut symptoms. The exact cause is, however, yet to be identified.

Is gluten-free diet healthy for the general population?

Not really! Although some celebrities adopt gluten-free diet for weight loss, there is no data to support similar effectiveness among people without coeliac disease. It is important to note that gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-energy. In 2017, experts from the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition warned that gluten-free products should not be considered a healthy substitute to regular foods because they usually contain higher levels of saturated fat and lower levels of protein.

In 2017, a study published in British Medical Journal found that gluten-free diet may increase cardiovascular risk as a result of reduced consumption of hearty wholegrains. Gluten-free cakes, cookies, muffins, crackers, bread and pizza are usually made with refined carbohydrates, which are high in glycaemic index, and low in B vitamins, iron, and dietary fibre.

In addition, people on gluten-free diet were found to have significantly higher levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium than those not avoiding gluten. More research is needed to determine whether this diet poses a significant health risk in the long run. In case if gluten-free diet is needed, the best way to avoid excessive exposure to these metals is to diversify the food menu.

Does gluten-free diet improve athletic performance?

Implementation of gluten-free diet among non-coeliac athletes has become increasingly popular because of perceived ergogenic and health benefits. In 2015, a carefully designed study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that a short-term gluten-free diet had no overall effect on exercise performance, gut symptoms, perceived well-being, intestinal injury, and inflammatory responses in non-coeliac athletes. Whether avoiding gluten for a longer period of time would lead to improvements in sports performance or well-being is yet to be identified. Nevertheless, current study suggests that gluten-free diet is not a panacea. Athletes should always remember that proper nutrient intake and timing are critical components of athletic success.

Before adopting gluten-free diet…

The significance of gluten-free diet in the general population remains controversial and more research is warranted. Before adopting gluten-free diet, you should consult a dietitian to ensure that you will get all the essential nutrients from a variety of foods, including gluten-free grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and dairy.

If you are suffering from any gut symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhoea, you should consult a doctor for medical advice. Self-treatment or delay in treatment is undesirable.

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/everything-you-need-to-know-about-going-gluten-free

WHY A COLOURFUL DIET IS GOOD FOR YOU

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

We’re always hearing that we should “eat the rainbow”, but what does that mean and why is a colourful diet so highly recommended by dietitians all over the world? Not only are they appealing, the phytochemicals that give foods their colour are packed with nutritional benefits. I have grouped the foods into 5 categories according to their predominant phytochemical group: red, orange, green, purple, and white.

 

1. Red

Lycopene is the predominant pigment in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruits. It is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent prostate cancer and heart diseases. Lycopene is better absorbed when it is cooked with some oil, such as tomato sauce with olive oil.

 

Astaxanthin, which is found in the red pigment of crab, salmon and prawns, has been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Its antioxidant activity was found to be 10 times more than zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene.

 

2. Orange

Beta-carotene is a pigment found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrot, cantaloupe melon, mangoes, orange peppers, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. In the body, beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which is needed for good vision, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. Food processing and cooking help release beta-carotene from the food matrix and make it easier to absorb. Moreover, its absorption requires the presence of fat in a meal, such as canola oil, almonds, flaxseed or pumpkin seeds.

 

3. Green

Green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale are good sources of sulforaphane and glucosinolate, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These vegetables also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect eyes from sunlight damage and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are better absorbed with fats, so be sure to eat the vegetables with some avocado, cheese, walnuts, sunflower seeds or olive oil. Green vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin K and folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy, and vitamin K plays a major role in blood clotting.

 

4. Purple

Anthocyanins are pigments that appear purple or blue, which are found in eggplant (especially the skin), blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, black rice, purple sweet potato, and purple cauliflower. The darker the colour, the higher the anthocyanins concentration. Boiling vegetables can increase the loss of water-soluble nutrients such as anthocyanins and vitamin C, therefore baking and steaming are preferred as they can retain more of the nutrients, as well as the flavour and colour.

 

5. White

Anthoxanthins are the white or colourless pigments found in bananas, cauliflower, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, and turnips, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and heart-protective properties. Allicin is produced when fresh garlic is finely chopped or crushed. Garlic provides an alternative to salt in cooking, along with other herbs and spices. Eating less salt is important for preventing high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

 

Including a variety of colourful foods in your diet seems to equal better overall health.  Start planning some colourful recipes tonight and have a healthy start in 2018!

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler:  https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/why-a-colourful-diet-is-good-for-you#page-1

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

5 DIETITIAN-APPROVED FOODS FOR HEALTHY BONES AND JOINTS

Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

We are using our bones and joints every day for body movements, but they can deteriorate over time. Therefore, it is essential to keep our bones and joints healthy in order to stay active and prevent osteoporosis. The best strategy is to have a balanced diet with adequate intake of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C.  Here are five foods to keep your bones and joints in the best shape possible:

 

  1. Milk

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are naturally rich in calcium. A glass of milk contains about 300mg calcium. Healthy eating guidelines recommend skim or semi-skim milk in order to limit the intake of saturated fat. If you have lactose intolerance, you can choose lactose-free milk, soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or almond milk. However, their nutrition profiles are not equal. Only soy milk can provide a similar amount of protein to cow’s milk whereas rice, oat or almond milk provides very little protein.  When you choose milk alternatives, please read the nutrition labels and choose one that is listed “high calcium” and “low sugar/ unsweetened”.

 

  1. Chinese broccoli

Green vegetables such as Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage and kale and are moderately high in calcium and vitamin C. Spinach provides calcium, but the absorption is poor because it is also high in oxalic acid. One cup of cooked Chinese broccoli contains 88mg calcium and 24.8mg vitamin C. Our body requires Vitamin C for making collagen, which helps strengthen our bones and cartilage. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, particularly oranges, grapefruits, red and green peppers, and kiwifruits.

 

  1. Tofu

Tofu can have a high calcium content if calcium sulfate is used for coagulation. The nutrient content of tofu varies widely depending on how it is made. Generally, the firmer the tofu, the higher it is in calcium, protein, and fat. Research found that calcium absorption from calcium-set tofu is comparable to that from cow’s milk.

 

  1. Sardines

A 3-ounce serving of oil-canned sardines contains 325 mg calcium and 164 IU vitamin D. Majority of the calcium is found in their soft, edible bones. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and therefore play a key role in bone health. Sardines are also rich in omega-3 which can reduce inflammation in joints and may help control joint pain and morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis. Try to eat oily fish (e.g. salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, and sardines) at least twice a week. Alternatively, consume chia seed, flaxseed, walnuts or canola oil as plant sources of omega-3.

 

  1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, similar to how our skin synthesises the vitamin in response to sun exposure. According to the USDA Food Composition Database, white mushrooms with UV exposure contain 1046 IU of vitamin D per 100g, while those without UV exposure contained just 7 IU. Research found that vitamin D in mushrooms can be boosted by at least 150 IU (over 600 IU in many cases) after 15 minutes of sun exposure. When UV intensity is lower, similar increases can be achieved after 30 to 60 minutes. Might be a good idea to start putting your mushrooms in the sun before consuming them for better bone health

 

Extra tips:

  • Majority of the vitamin D in our body is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Generally, 5 to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure two to three times a week during the summer months is sufficient for most people.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight is important as being overweight raises your risk for developing osteoarthritis, and being underweight increases your risk for developing osteoporosis.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-dietitian-approved-foods-for-healthy-bones-and-joints

 

 

5 FOODS TO EAT FOR HEALTHY SKIN

By Sally Shi-Po Poon (Dietitian)

 

Everyone wants glowing and flawless skin. Unfortunately, as we age, extrinsic skin damage develops due to exposure to UV radiation, stress, poor nutrition, alcohol intake and environmental pollution. Although good skin is partially influenced by our genes, having a balanced diet that is packed with antioxidants can help your skin glow and maintain its youthful appearance for as long as possible. Here are my top five favourite “beauty foods”.

 

(1) Guava

Guava is super rich in vitamin C, a crucial antioxidant for wrinkle prevention as it promotes collagen formation and skin regeneration. One guava (55g) contains 125.6mg vitamin C which meets the daily requirement for adults – 75mg for women and 90mg for men. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, including red and green peppers, raw tomatoes, broccoli, grapefruits, kiwis, strawberries and oranges. The level of vitamin C can be diminished by prolonged storage and cooking because it is water soluble and can be destroyed by heat. Steaming may lessen cooking losses. In general, consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can provide adequate amount of vitamin C to meet our daily needs.

 

(2) Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which help to regulate inflammation, maintain skin moisture and prevent dryness. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two servings a week and each serving is 3.5 ounces cooked. Preferably oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, eel, and albacore tuna.  Vegetarians or individuals who don’t eat fish or seafood can choose flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil.

 

(3) Germinated brown rice

When brown rice is germinated, its nutrient content is greatly increased, such as GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), lysine, vitamin E, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B1 and B6, ferulic acid and zinc. All these nutrients contribute to healthy skin due to their antioxidant and skin-protecting properties. Research shows that GABA can improve sleep and its amount in germinated brown rice was found to be ten times more as compared to white rice and two times more than that of brown rice.

 

(4) Seaweed

Edible seaweeds are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins A and B, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and phenolic compounds.  These nutrients have remarkable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Enjoy seaweeds in moderation such as in noodles, salad, soup or sushi. However, seaweeds are rich in iodine, particularly kelp; and overeating for a prolonged period of time can affect the thyroid function adversely. It is recommended to consume kelp no more than once a week.

 

(5) Turmeric

Turmeric has long been known to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and wound healing properties. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which works by scavenging free radicals that can damage our skin cells. Fresh or dried turmeric can be added as a spice during cooking; and it goes well with soup, seafood, chicken, rice, lentils, and vegetable dishes. Other herbs and spices such as cloves, oregano, ginger, and cinnamon are also good sources of antioxidants. Whatever you like, the key is to consume a variety.

 

Extra tips for skin health:

  • Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluids daily to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Limit sugar intake – sugar can speed up the signs of skin ageing by producing advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Accumulation of AGEs can affect the structure of the skin, leading to increased stiffness and reduced elasticity.
  • Drink sensibly – drinking too much alcohol can lead to skin dehydration and form wrinkles.
  • Quit smoking – smoking can fasten the ageing process of skin and contribute to wrinkles.
  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours each night to let your skin rest and regenerate.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/5-foods-to-eat-for-healthy-skin-1#slide-1