How to Spot Contaminated Food in Your Child’s Canteen?

How to Spot Contaminated Food in Your Child’s Canteen?

May 8, 2022   Return


Every parent desires to have the entire day planned, to wake up early, prepare breakfast, pack lunch-boxes, get the kids ready for school and send them off (right at the front of the school gate if possible). While that’s an ultimate vision, most parents aren’t so lucky especially when other obligations tie them down. Perfect parenting or not, sending your child off to school with lunch money alone is not enough. When it comes to food, there should also be a responsible concern on what your child is eating in school. Apart from prioritizing a healthy diet, consuming uncontaminated food should top the priority list too.



According to the Ministry of Health Malaysia, food contamination refers to food that has been corrupted with another substance – either physical, biological or chemical. Biological contamination refers to food that is contaminated by organisms or substances they produce. This includes biological matter produced by humans, rodents, insects and microorganisms. Bacteria and viruses are typically the two biggest causes of biological contamination and can result in some of the most common types of food poisoning including salmonella, E. coli, listeria and norovirus.

Physical contamination is when a foreign object contaminates food, objects such as steel wool, sponges and utensils. Chemical contamination refers to food that has been contaminated with a natural or artificial chemical substance. These contaminants are particularly dangerous as they expose people to any number of toxic substances, some of which can be fatal. Chemicals can also contaminate food at any time of the food process, whether by pesticides transferred from the soil the food is grown in or during the manufacturing process. Storing chemicals separately from food is essential to help protect against chemical contamination.


Incidents of food poisoning in schools have happened a lot and we hear in the media of outbreaks almost annually. Detecting contaminated food can be tricky but there is a simple way to do this which is to be observant of various causal factors. Food vendors are hired to cater to children in schools, some of them are unable to adhere to safe practices and this will put the children in danger of food poisoning. Most cases can be avoided if food handlers practise proper measures when preparing food and it is every parent’s responsibility to play the social health inspector for the sake of the safety of every schoolgoing child.

“Food contamination refers to food that has been corrupted with another substance – either physical, biological or chemical.”


A simple observation of how the canteen operates and handles food can give you a general picture of what to expect. Check if food is displayed properly, if they are covered and if they use thongs to serve unpacked food. Observe how they manage raw food and that it is not mixed with cooked food as this could cause cross- biological contamination. It is also important to observe the canteen’s food storage area – are the boxed items left on the floor and if they are accessible to rodents and pests?

Check also the condition of their refrigerator and what items are stored and not stored in it, if seafood, eggs and milk are stored at the right temperature and what are left unrefrigerated and exposed in the open. Note also if they reheat their food, and how quickly they refrigerate leftovers. This may seem like a trivial matter, but cooked food that are exposed to room temperature for more than 2 hours have the potential to attract biological contaminants onto them and therefore should sometimes not even be considered to be refrigerated as leftovers. Foods such as eggs, cheese, milk and coconut rice (nasi lemak) for instance can biologically degrade fast when left in room temperature and may be best discarded if not consumed after a long preparation time. Contaminated water can also be the main cause of food poisoning. Rightfully, water should be filtered and boiled when it is served to children, but this is most often not the case. In practice, vendors are more prone to preparing drinks from unboiled and unfiltered water due to convenience.



Some canteens can have poorly managed facilities, but cleanliness should never be compromised no matter how limited the resources may be. Eating utensils for instance can carry various contaminants if they are not washed properly, dried and stored well. The sink in which our children wash their hands is another matter of concern. Take note if children are provided with good hand soaps and if the sinks are regularly washed or not. A dirty sink can harbor billions of bacteria which thrives in such environment and they are easily spread through each kid who uses the sink. Trash bins too should be emptied regularly and kept closed to prevent flies from vectoring pathogens that can cross-contaminate well prepared food.



While such observations in a canteen will give you a rough idea of how to evaluate the quality of food produced by the canteen vendor and the potential hazards your child could face consuming their meals, it is also important to teach the young ones to identify spoilt and soiled food, and to be vigilant in observing the cleanliness of their canteen vendor. Train them to purchase boxed or canned drinks instead, advise them to stay away from food which has too many flies around it and to use their sensory to detect food that has gone bad through smell and texture before consumption. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility and when canteens are poorly managed, as a parent, you could take the proactive measure to inform respective authorities to take necessary action. You could even start an awareness programme with the rest of the parents through your child’s school Parents Teachers Association (PTA, also known as PIBG) and get everyone involved in making changes for the better. HT

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The Cheat Sheet for Post-Raya Damage Control

The Cheat Sheet for Post-Raya Damage Control

May 8, 2022   Return


To all my Muslim friends, I know the last month has been a struggle. I also know a number of you might have put on a little extra weight over the fasting month. Does it come as a surprise? Not really. You would expect to lose weight if you’re only eating half as much as you normally do. But that isn’t the case, is it? Think about it, the heavy breakfasts in preparation for the day ahead, all the Ramadan bazaars conveniently popping up after work, the sudden cravings for pizza and deep-fried chicken (which you would otherwise try to avoid). Dietary habits definitely change during the fasting month and some people would consider it as an opportunity to indulge (excessively). Fret not, as HealthToday has come up with a cheat sheet for those of you who need a little help getting into that pair of jeans you used to fit in back in April.


No one really makes a habit of chewing gum anymore. These days it’s marketed as a minty breath freshener and some sugar-free options are promoted for plaque control. While chewing gum is obviously no substitute for proper dental care, there are other less apparent benefits to chewing gum. When you are chewing gum, the act itself tricks your brain into thinking that you’re currently in the process of eating. Since you won’t be swallowing your gum, you could be chewing for hours without realizing you’re hungry. Of course, it doesn’t actually satiate you, but it might really help you avoid snacking on more unhealthy options, like chips or candy in between meals. Besides suppressing your appetite, it improves your memory and concentration. You may even create a sharper jawline from chewing constantly, but that could be a stretch.

!! Avoid bubble gum—they contain so much sugar, they’re practically candy.


The fibre in these drinks are natural, plant-derived cellulose, which help to supplement your diet. If you’ve always struggled with self-control when it comes to the size of your meals, you may want to consider downing a glass of fibre before every meal, or even in between. The dry, powdered fibre starts to expand as soon as it comes into contact with water, increasing in bulk and gel-like. This fills up your stomach and reduces its capacity for food, making you feel full, faster. Chia seeds also act in the same way, but they require more time to prepare and rehydrate. Not only do fibre drinks come in different flavours, you can also buy unflavoured fibre powder (if you’re not a fan of artificial sweeteners) that adds zero calories to your drink of choice. Some fibre drinks are also enriched with vitamins, minerals and probiotics, so you’re not compromising your nutritional needs.

!! Avoid packaged fruit juices— some fruit juices from the store can contain as much sugar as any other soft drink.


You’ve probably heard of fruit- infused water, but let’s be honest, it’s really just a waste of perfectly good fruit because you probably won’t eat them after they’ve served their purpose flavouring your water. With flavour drops, you only need a few drops from these small bottles of concentrated flavour in your water to give it a new twist. Besides an assortment of flavours, there are also low calorie options containing no sugar, and sweetened with stevia, xylitol or sucralose. Of course, flavoured water is no substitute for pure, unadulterated drinking water, but it could help those who crave soft drinks. If you’re someone who enjoys carbonated drinks, you can always buy 1.5 litre bottles of sparkling water and add your flavour drops to that. Consider drinking through a metal straw to give you the feeling that you’re drinking something more than sugar-free, flavoured, bubbly water.

!! Avoid bottled sweetened tea—just because it contains ‘real’ tea, doesn’t make it any healthier.


While they cost more than most junk food by weight, almonds are a nutrient-dense food high in fibre, antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. The health benefits of almonds include lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. You are more likely to find sliced or slivered almonds in the baking section of the supermarket. Almond flakes are sliced so thin that they’ll give more of a crunch than whole almonds, much like chips or crackers. The stick form of slivered almonds provides a snapping texture when you bite on them with your teeth, sort of like one very popular chocolate-coated biscuit stick (minus the excess calories). Most people enjoy snacking because it just gives them something to do. The best thing about snacking on almonds is that you can keep munching on them without feeling guilty.

!! Avoid ‘honey’-coated nuts—the coating is mostly sugar, so if you’re watching your waistline, stick with unflavoured nuts.


Contrary to popular belief, you can eat a hard-boiled egg that’s been left overnight. In fact, hard-boiled eggs are safe to eat up to one week after being boiled. The only thing you need to remember is to keep them unpeeled in the refrigerator to keep these convenient sources of clean protein from spoiling. An egg might be small but give it a try; whenever you feel peckish, have a hard-boiled egg and see if you still feel hungry after that. It actually feels quite substantial. For those with high cholesterol levels, they may want to consult with their doctor or a dietitian on whether they should be eating the yolk or not, but otherwise, egg yolks are rich in nutrients and it’s safe to eat one whole egg a day. A little salt and pepper, or dipped in a little soy sauce, and that’s a wholesome snack to last you a few hours until your next meal.

!! Avoid commercial mayonnaise—this high-fat food product is made from eggs, but mostly contains oil, salt, sugar and many other additives.


Most commonly known as an ingredient in sushi rolls, these thin sheets of dry, edible seaweed have a crunchy texture and are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and many other minerals. One regular sheet of roasted seaweed for rolling sushi contains 10 calories. If you want your nori a little crispier, heat it for a few seconds in a hot pan to give it a more brittle texture. As it isn’t high in calories, it’s a good snack option whenever you feel peckish for something slightly savoury. Just remember to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after snacking on it.

!! Avoid flavoured seaweed— these snack varieties are usually fried and contain high amounts of salt and additives, they’re almost junk food. HT

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Warning: It’s Going to Get Corny

Warning: It’s Going to Get Corny

May 8, 2022   Return


Lim Yuanshuang



Longing for smooth, baby-soft feet? Can’t seem to find a way to get rid of those pesky hardened skin known as corns and calluses? HealthToday talks to a podiatrist to find out ways to eliminate corns and calluses safely, and for good.

What are corns and calluses?

Corns normally come together with calluses. They are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop on the bottom of our feet. The difference between the two is that calluses grow on the outer layer of our skin, while corns grow inwards, and inside our skin.

What are the causes?

Basically, corns and calluses form when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. Thus, corns and calluses tend to appear on the pressure points of a foot, and it could be worsened by wearing ill-fitting shoes. Each person’s pressure points are unique, therefore,the position of where corns and calluses develop differs from person to person.

A podiatrist would be able to tell you why you are developing corns in certain areas by observing the way you walk. The risk of developing corns depends of a person’s foot type and joint mobility. Those who have existing foot deformities are also at higher risk of developing corns and calluses.

How are corns different from warts?

Warts usually do not grow at the pressure points of your feet. But if they do grow in those areas, it can be quite hard to differentiate corns from warts. Even podiatrists might have to do some debridement (removal of dead skin) before we can tell if it is a corn or a wart.That said, corns and warts are completely different things. Warts are caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family, and if you debride a wart, sometimes you will see black dots and/or some pinpoint bleeding.

Warts are removed by salicylic acid or special medicated plasters available in the pharmacy. Warts can be very stubborn, and everybody responds differently to treatment. Some people can get rid of their warts easily with the creams and plasters widely available in pharmacies. But others may need to see a dermatologist who would prescribe something stronger like cryotherapy.

Podiatrists need to make sure we get the right diagnosis from the beginning. “Corn and wart removal creams” are not a long-term treatment for corns. These creams contain salicylic acid that would just make the skin soft and cause the whole area to peel and drop off—the corn would fall off, too. However, most times, the corn will grow back because the heart of the matter is, there is repeated pressure and friction going on in the same area that needs to be eased. 

How can we remove corns and calluses?

If you have corns, you should see a podiatrist or doctor to have it removed. A podiatrist will use a scalpel or blade to de-nucleate the corn and scrape it out. Don’t worry, it is usually not a painful process — it’s a bit like going to a pedicurist. Since corns are caused by prolonged friction and pressure in the same area, it is likely to grow back again after removal. If a patient’s corns grow back quickly after being removed, a podiatrist will prescribe orthotics, which are custom-made padded shoe inserts, to help relieve pressure at certain points of the foot.

If you are healthy, not diabetic and have no vascular issues (any abnormal condition of the blood vessels), you can file your calluses at home using a nail file or an emery board.

What are the possible complications?

If you are healthy and don’t have diabetes, developing corns and calluses is not a big issue because if it turns harmful, the area would hurt, and it alarms you to do something about it.

Conversely, corns and calluses on a person with diabetes can lead to ulcers and this is not to be taken lightly. Nerve damage from diabetes can lead to the loss of sensation in the feet. In this group of people, they do not feel pain even when the corn continues to rub. In the end, the corn breaks off, damaging the tissue around it and becomes an ulcer which can become infected. If you have diabetes or any vascular issues that cause poor blood flow to your feet, seek the advice of your doctor for proper foot care and management of corns and calluses.

How can we best prevent corns and calluses?

The best way is to reduce repeated pressure and friction in the same area of your foot. This often means wearing shoes that fit you well, have plenty of support and have room to wiggle your toes — sport shoes are a good option. Wearing socks also protects your feet and reduces friction.

Another great option is to get a pair of prescription foot orthotics from a podiatrist. Lastly, you may want to purchase protective pads or coverings over areas on your feet that tend to rub. HT

“Corns and calluses on a person with diabetes can lead to ulcers and this is not to be taken lightly.”


A Cuppa Joe, Anyone?

A Cuppa Joe, Anyone?

May 8, 2022   Return


Coffee, one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, is derived from the beans of Coffea canephora (best known as robusta) and C. arabica. Coffee is unique in terms of its perceived and actual effects on the body and is also loved for its distinct aroma and taste. Our general perception about coffee is that it can keep us awake. However, its benefits go beyond the “wake-me-up” action and it can be categorized as a health drink.

What makes up coffee?

The various bioactive compounds of coffee include caffeine, chlorogenic acid, polyphenols, diterpenes and other phenolics. These compounds work either alone or synergistically to provide us with much needed micronutrients and improvement of diseased conditions. Some of the most common and prominent health benefits are:

Coffee As An Antioxidant

Several studies have shown that coffee has antioxidant activity, which has been proven to be higher than cocoa and tea. Its antioxidant quantity and quality are boosted after the beans are roasted. Antioxidants work by functioning as scavengers of free radicals that are produced in our body during routine metabolic processes and stress. Many of the antioxidants in coffee possess anti-inflammatory properties and one of the antioxidants, namely chlorogenic acid, promotes cardiovascular health.

Coffee For Cognitive Health

By virtue of its ability to boost brain activity, coffee has been known to prevent cognitive decline. Thus, coffee contributes to prevention or delay in the onset of disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The caffeine in coffee prevents a build-up of the beta-amyloid plaque, which is the main cause of impaired cognitive function. Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment present in a healthy brain. As we age and due to the various bodily metabolic functions, these fragments get further broken down and tend to accumulate and form a sticky plaque. These plaques are firmly stuck between the nerve cells, disrupting cell function and cognitive health.

Coffee As A Short-Term Memory Booster

The caffeine in coffee has been extensively researched for its effect on the areas of the brain that are responsible for concentration, memory and alertness. As the duration for the activity of these boosters vary within individuals, researchers found significant surge in brain activity in the group which drank coffee. This surge can be an effective memory booster, as long as it lasts.

Coffee Can Keep Diabetes At Bay

Coffee is strongly associated with the reduced risk of diabetes and its related complications. Coffee assists our body in using insulin and also protects the insulin-producing cells allowing for the effective control of sugar levels. Coffee’s anti-inflammatory effect helps to prevent tissue damage, which is one of the main risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Caffeic acid—one of the many antioxidants present in coffee—also prevents the formation of amyloid fibrils, which are toxic to insulin-producing cells. Since coffee can reduce the risk of diabetes, it aids in the improvement of cognitive health.

“Several studies have shown that coffee has antioxidant activity, which has been proven to be higher than cocoa and tea.”

Coffee Is Healthy For The Heart

Your regular cup of coffee can also be a boon to your heart and other cardiovascular functions. By keeping diabetes at bay, coffee helps to avoid diabetes-induced hypertension.By virtue of its anti-inflammatory antioxidants, it protects the chambers of the heart and blood vessels. Coffee also helps to regulate blood pressure, especially in those with hypotension. These properties can promote cardiac health by controlling blood pressure and thrombosis, which otherwise can cause heart failure.

Coffee Can Enhance Exercise Performance

Coffee, as a cognitive health enhancer that can improve alertness and concentration, ensures adequate focus and performance during exercise. In addition to mental health, it also helps to reduce physical fatigue and thereby increasing and improving endurance levels. By strengthening muscle contraction, caffeine increases the fatty acid levels in the blood which can result in higher endurance and reduction in pain levels.

Coffee Is Healthy For The Liver

Based on a research conducted in Turkey, regular consumption of coffee had positive results in lowering the levels of liver enzymes in the bloodstream. Higher liver enzymes are usually linked to liver dysfunction or damage. Another study also proved an inverse relationship between the quantity of coffee consumed with the risk of liver cirrhosis; there was a 20% reduction in risk with every cup of coffee consumed.

Coffee Can Curb Cancers

The risk of endometrial cancer in women who drink coffee regularly was about 25% lower than those who did not. Among the cancers that could be curbed by consuming coffee were prostate, breast, colon, rectal and liver cancers. The anti-carcinogenic effect of the polyphenols contained in caffeine is believed to be responsible for its ability to curb cancers. Additionally, the protective effect of coffee against liver cancer could be attributed to its ability to lower liver enzymes and control cirrhosis.

Coffee Helps Overcome Depression

Upon consumption of coffee, the caffeine present in it is absorbed and transported to the brain, where it blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter, adenosine. In the absence of adenosine, there is a surge of other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Hence consumption of coffee helps to inject these “feel- good” hormones into the bloodstream, thus enhancing mood and overcoming depression.

Coffee Prevents Gout

The antioxidant phytoconstituents of coffee are responsible for reducing unhealthy levels of uric acid, which is one of the precursors to being afflicted by gout.

Coffee Can Help In Weight Loss

The magnesium and potassium present in coffee helps to regulate the utilization of insulin by the body and reduce cravings for sweet treats or snacks. The caffeine in coffee boosts metabolism and stimulates thermogenesis which break down fat cells and use fat as fuel during endurance exercises and training.

Coffee Lowers The Risk Of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Certain scientific studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, with a risk reduction of 32% to 60%.

“A cup of coffee a day boosts your health in many ways.”

How Much Coffee Is Good?

In hindsight, all the benefits of coffee may sound exciting and tempting, but it does not mean that more is better. Experts recommend that we drink moderate amounts of coffee based on the signs our body shows, as each individual responds differently to coffee.

Fret not, coffee lovers! Coffee isn’t bad for your health. It is no longer featured in the WHO list of possible carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). Rather, it is listed as a health drink in US FDA’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines recommend having 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day. However, the guidelines mention that addition of sugar, cream or flavoured creamers negate the beneficial effects. So, black is best!

As further research and ongoing studies reveal more benefits of coffee, it may not be long before we come across a phrase, “A cup of coffee a day boosts your health in many ways.” HT

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Make Peace With Food

Make Peace With Food

May 8, 2022   Return


Georgen Thye

BSc. (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics, IMU Dietitian, Holmusk

Council Member, Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA)

Founder of Georgen Cooking



I hear quite a lot of these statements from my patients. It’s like they’re trapped in a diet prison filled with rules and restrictions, thinking that only after going through all these “hardships” can they achieve their health goals. But in fact, diets have been shown over and over again to fail 95% of the time and are a predictor of future weight gain (66% of people end up weighing even more than the weight they started off with). They then go back to dieting, back to the rules and restrictions and continue the never-ending cycle of diet → eat → repent → repeat.


Healthy eating is more than just Yes or No. It’s very crucial for one to acknowledge this fact in order to make peace with food. Shut the food police inside your head that makes you believe “I am being good for eating salad” and “I am bad for having an ice-cream.” All foods can fit into a healthy diet using the principles of balance, variety, and moderation to guide your eating habits.

A simple guide to follow is the healthy eating plate: a quarter filled with carbohydrate foods, another quarter with protein foods and the remaining half with fruit and vegetables for every meal. However, do talk to a qualified dietitian if you need more personalized advice and guidance.

It’s totally fine to have less healthy choices sometimes! Try going by the 80/20 rule: 80% eat healthily and enjoy the other 20% of the time.

This would help to have a balance for your own social and psychological wellbeing too! In this issue, I am sharing a recipe of a food that is commonly perceived as BAD: Fried Chicken! It’s okay to have fried food (deep-fried in oil) if you wanted too, but it’s best to limit it to no more than 2 times a week.

I think the regular deep-fried chicken recipe is super common and it’s all over the Internet. Hence, I am making a Malay Style Air-fried Chicken this time to give it a twist. You can bake it too if you like and trust me, it tastes just like “deep-fried”! I’ve made a video out of this recipe too, do check it out on my Youtube Channel: Georgen Cooking Have fun and make peace with food! HT

IMG_6161 IMG_6081

Guilt Free Ayam Goreng Berempah

Recipe Serves: 5 persons





Chicken Drumsticks

5 pieces




6 cloves




1 medium

Peeled, cut into cubes



8 pieces




1 piece




3 stalks

Cut into small pieces


Chilli Powder

1 teaspoon



Fennel Seeds Powder (Serbuk Jintan Manis

1 teaspoon



Cumin Seeds Powder (Serbuk Jintan Putih)

1 teaspoon



Coriander Powder (Serbuk Ketumbar)

1 tablespoon



Meat Curry Powder

2 tablespoons




50 ml




  1. In a food processor, blend ingredients B into a smooth paste.
  2. Marinate the chicken drumsticks with the paste for at least 3 hours or overnight in a refrigerator.

  3. Brush some oil on an air-fryer basket and then arrange the chicken drumsticks in the basket in a single layer. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to do the frying in two batches.

  4. Air-fry the chicken at 160°C for 15 minutes and then at 200°C for 15 minutes and then at 200°C for another 5 minutes. It’s ready to be served!

(Note: If you’re using an oven, preheat to 230°C, bake the chicken drumsticks for 20 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes or until they’re a nice brown colour.)


Nutritional Information (1 Serving)

Energy (kcal)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrate (g)


Fibre (g)



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When Life Gives You Lemons

When Life Gives You Lemons

May 8, 2022   Return


Ahhh! Lemon! The fruit that’s synonymous with health and ironically, a hard life. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Which means you make the best of your situation. But we should all be so lucky as to be given lemons, literally. The fruit, like all citruses, is versatile and potent. Information abound on the Internet and in hearsay about the benefits of lemon, but do you know if those are true? Let’s delve deeper into lemons and see what else we can get apart from lemonade.


Lemons belong to the same genus or group of plants known as Citrus. We are probably more familiar with citruses such as orange, lime and pomelo. Some lesser known citruses are the upcoming finger lime and blood orange. They all have the characteristic fragrant smell when their skin is crushed or damaged, and some have the same scent on their leaves. The unique citrus scent comes mostly from limonene, an essential oil, which also has medicinal purposes.

The genus is thought to have its beginnings in the Himalayas a long, long time ago.

 “…there is sufficient evidence it can reduce the severity of the infection and also reduce the risk of developing further complications, in particular pneumonia.”


This essential oil is the largest component of oil extracted from citrus peel and leaves. It has been tied to weight loss, cancer prevention and treatment, and even the treatment of bronchitis. A recent study in Shanghai, China, found that limonene was able to kill lung cancer cells. The researchers aren’t sure of how this happens, but limonene is thought to instruct the cells to kill themselves. There is evidence limonene also works in a preventive fashion against other cancers such as breast and colorectal cancers.

Limonene has been found to prevent fatty liver formation and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what comes before the onset of diabetes. In rat studies, by adding limonene to the water given to rats on a high-fat diet, researchers were able to reverse the fatty liver condition in those rats. Their liver and pancreas were restored to pre-disease states!

To our readers, it’s possible that the most important benefit of limonene is weight loss. Research has shown that essential oil extract of key lime (limau nipis, Citrus aurantifolia) can help prevent weight gain, and in fact, led to weight loss in laboratory animals.


Limonene is also extremely fragrant, making it a suitable natural scenting agent. It has found its way into soaps, air fresheners, laundry detergents, food flavourings, and cosmetics. A more recent development is the use of citrus oils in aromatherapy.

As a food additive, limonene has many proven health benefits. For one, it is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Studies on mice show D-limonene (a form of limonene) reduces inflammatory markers in the body and kills bacteria even at low concentrations.

It should be known that limonene is considered a volatile organic compound (VOC). But, anything that has a scent is basically a VOC, so there’s little to worry about unless the VOC comes from paint or plastic.




If you are having trouble falling asleep due to anxiety, a few drops of citrus oil in your aromatherapy device can help you fall asleep. Research indicates that limonene particles bind to receptors in the brain and cause a mild sedative effect, thus reducing anxiety and making it easier to fall asleep.

“Lemon plants also have a unique quirk about them— they don’t always fruit even if they have been air-layered or grafted from a fruiting tree.”


Citrus fruits are famous for their vitamin C content. While they don’t have the monopoly in terms of vitamin C, citrus fruits do have high vitamin C content among all regularly consumed fruits. Vitamin C content found in citrus fruits comes from ascorbic acid. This is not to be confused with citric acid, which is responsible for the sourness in most citrus fruits. While these two acids tend to occur simultaneously in fruits, ascorbic acid (also called ascorbate) is slightly bitter in taste.

Vitamin C is perhaps most well known as the nutrient whose absence leads to scurvy. The disease is hardly heard of in modern society and used to afflict sailors during long seafaring journeys. Surprisingly though, the disease has seen some pockets of resurgence even among people living in affluent countries such as Australia and the US. These people were malnourished (not to be confused with undernourished), and were overcooking their vegetables. Some were not eating fresh fruits while others were the urban poor with no access to nutritious foods.

Interestingly, while we often think of vitamin C as an antioxidant, that is not its primary function. The nutrient is involved in the formation of collagen, and thus is important in the development and repair of all our body tissues. Additionally, it is important for the absorption of iron, wound healing and the immune system.

While vitamin C may not be a cure for the common cold or other viral infections, there is sufficient evidence it can reduce the severity of the infection and also reduce the risk of developing further complications, in particular pneumonia. Recent scientific studies also point to vitamin C infusion as being potentially helpful in patients with sepsis, which is a bacterial infection of the blood.


Lemon grows readily in Malaysian weather. All species of citrus plants grow and proliferate well in our country. In recent times, we have seen new and rare varieties of citrus plants being sold in the nurseries and also as edible fruit in our markets.

Those thinking about keeping citrus plants should have an idea of what they want. For example, a regular shrub of calamansi or limau kasturi will give your family an endless supply of fruit for your drinks.

Lemon plants also have a unique quirk about them—they don’t always fruit even if they have been air-layered or grafted from a fruiting tree. Nobody really knows why (this writer has gone through five lemon plants and only one has ever flowered and fruited for him). No other citrus plant seems to have the same problem.

If you’re a big fan of curry, then keeping a kaffir lime plant around is always helpful. Fresh kaffir lime leaves can improve the appetite of any picky eater in the family. The rind of a kaffir lime is also good for cooking Thai cuisine, as it is found in green curry and other fragrant Thai dishes.

Recently, the finger lime craze also caught up in our country. Made famous by cooking shows such as MasterChef, the small colourful fruit is known as vegan caviar. True to its name, there is nothing special it apart from being aesthetically pleasing. This writer, who has a plant bought during the craze and paid a little over RM100 for it, feels it’s not worth your time keeping this plant. The fruits are small and not very fragrant. Apart from the novelty factor, there isn’t much going for it.

As usual, I end with a word of caution to our readers. The benefits are there but none of them are rock-solid evidence. Natural therapies should be used on a complementary basis to mainstream treatment. Remember to tell your doctor about these natural therapies—if you’re planning to use them—to find out if there is any risk of interaction between the natural compound and the medication.

That’s all. Plant yourself a lemon or citrus tree today! HT

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May 8, 2022   Return


The banana is a fruit almost everybody enjoys. It’s nowhere quite as divisive as durian or pineapple and is generally well-received by everybody. It can be found pretty much all year round in a tropical country such as ours. Banana is a versatile plant indeed and the entire tree can be used. Let’s delve a little deeper into this super plant.


Bananas belong to the genus known as Musa. Most modern cultivars (varieties) come from two main species and their hybrids—Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. There are about 70 known species within the genus with the most famous being the Cavendish or Montel banana. In fact, the Cavendish is so popular that banana holders and protectors are made to hold only the Cavendish. However,connoisseurs of banana are quick to say that it’s one of the least attractive taste wise. The general consensus among this writer’s friends and family is that pisang raja and pisang udang, which has a purplish-reddish hue on the skin, are the best in terms of texture and taste. Cavendish tends to be bland, fluffy and sweet without the rich,creamy texture and fragrance of our local varieties.

While bananas are part of our natural heritage, they have a long history of domestication. Originating from South Asia, the mighty banana was brought by Arabian traders around 320 B.C. to Africa and the New World (Americas and Oceania). The mass production of bananas began in the 1800s and started to really take off in the late 1880s.

The most widely grown cultivar (or strain) of banana in the early 20th century was the Gros Michel. However, the cultivar was susceptible to a fungus from the Fusarium genus and being a single species with little to no genetic diversity, the entire population crashed. The disease, going by the name of fusarium wilt, led to the shift in propagation methods. By the 1950s, a new cultivar known as the Cavendish had overtaken Gros Michel as the world’s most produced and popular banana. The Giant Cavendish is resistant to fusarium wilt. Locally, the Gros Michel is still available and is known as pisang embun.


Bananas are famous for being a natural energy source. Top athletes can be seen munching on bananas during their break to prevent a dip in their performance as their sugar level drops. Another commonly promoted aspect of bananas is the fact that they are rich in potassium. Potassium is found in every cell in our body and is lost during sports and intense physical activity— another reason why it is good for athletes.

Bananas are also a rich source of dietary fibre, with 2.6 g per 100 g of fruit. As each fruit weighs an average of 116 to 125 g, we are guaranteed about 3 g of fibre per banana. As the recommended daily fibre consumption is about 30 g a day, that’s already 10% of your fibre requirements met in one banana.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Due to its high potassium content, eating more than six bananas a day may lead to unwelcome consequences for people with kidney disease. Those with kidney disease already have a problem filtering out excess minerals so, having too much potassium may lead to acondition called hyperkalaemia, a situation where the heart beats slower than normal. The result is insufficient oxygen being brought to all parts of the body, including the brain.


Those of us living in Southeast Asia are familiar with the uses of banana plants beyond the fruit. For one, our beloved banana leaf rice would never be the same without the banana leaf, it would just be … rice! In fact, we love our banana leaves so much that there was an uproar when some local
eateries decided to change to green colour plastic sheets.

Recently, banana leaves are getting more attention from the international community. A supermarket in Bali has started using banana leaves as packing material for their items. Of course, we’ve been using banana leaves as wrapping and packing material for ages. Our nasi lemak and some of our kuih like kuih koci and pulut berinti kelapa are wrapped in banana leaves. Even our seafood is cooked on top of banana leaves.

The flower of the banana tree is fragrant and is used as an ingredient in curries and stir-fried dishes. It is also eaten as part of a mixture of herbs or ulam, which is a type of traditional salad. The stem of the banana plant is also edible and gulai kawah batang pisang is a regular dish in Kedah, where it is usually served during weddings.The main ingredient is the central part or heart of the banana stem. While not a good cook by any means, I’d venture to guess the stem serves to thicken the curry with its starch and gives texture to the dish by being slightly crunchy and juicy.

Those of us who are into sustainability and artisanal products may also have heard of paper made from banana stems. About 5% of the banana stem can produce fibre for
paper production. Considering the stem is heavy and rarely used, this makes for a great side product from the farming of bananas for food.

To be fair, nothing about bananas plants ever goes to waste. If we don’t make a curry dish or paper from it, there’s the option of feeding it to cows and goats. The banana stems are readily digested and the bacteria in their stomach can break down the cellulose in the stems and provide nutrition for our animals.

The species of banana with the largest fruit is Musa ingens, which is found in the forest of New Guinea at the Arfak Mountains Regency. The fruit bunch can weigh up to 60 kg and the tree can reach up to 30m. The leaves can be as long as 5 m with a 1-m width!


Bananas are very simple to grow. Most edible varieties do not have any seeds, hence they must be propagated or grown from the basal offshoots of a mother plant.
These are known as suckers. It is a simple matter of planting the sucker (with some roots) into the ground and watering it sufficiently for it to acclimatize and prosper.

Banana trees form a large potato-like structure, called corms, at the base of the plant. These corms can be sliced into many pieces and replanted. This is one reason why a banana can be difficult to remove once planted. The corm needs to be removed entirely or a new plant will reemerge within a short period of time and can recolonize the plot in which they are planted.

If all goes well and the plant doesn’t get infected with any disease, it can bear flower after about 9 months and the fruits mature about 2 months later.

However, this depends on the cultivar and is affected by many factors including fertilizer use, sunlight exposure, adequate watering, and even soil type. HT

It’s perfectly fine to eat banana peels. In fact, they are edible and nontoxic. Just wash it well and make sure it is clean. The skin of a banana is also rich in potassium, so eat away!


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May 8, 2022   Return


Nothing wrecks a diet as effectively as a meal at a fast food joint. A burger, a drink, and some fries may seem like a simple meal, but the calorie within the burger patty alone is considerable. Load up on sauce, mayo, cheese, extra patties and throw in the fries, and you’ll have a meal that will send your calorie consumption count into overload!

Not every trip to the fast food joint has to be a completely sinful indulgence, though. Stick to this simple plan.

Choose grilled items

These have fewer calories and less fat when compared to their breaded counterparts.

The smaller, the better

Pick the smallest portions – go small whenever possible. Avoid burgers with double or triple patties, as these would overload your calorie consumption count.

Pick the less sugary drink

When given the option, choose a drink that is low or free from sugar, such as mineral water or sugar-free soft drinks.

Skip the fries

If the option were available, switch out the fries with salad, corn, and other healthier options. Alternatively, order items separately instead of getting a meal set—you can skip the fries and the soft drink, and save a bit of money as well.

Watch the sauces!

Mayo, ketchup and chili sauce can cause the calorie count of your meal to bloat up by quite a bit. When it comes to these condiments, ask for less or skip them altogether. HT

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May 8, 2022   Return


In New Zealand, the green-lipped mussel (scientifically named Perna canaliculus) has been regularly eaten by indigenous Maori people for centuries. 

According to local history, people from Maori tribes living by the country’s coast had often told their European neighbours that the mussels helped them stay in good health. 

Curious, medical researchers took a closer look. They noticed that there were far fewer cases of arthritis among coastal Maori people compared to those living inland or people from European backgrounds.

Mussels and arthritis

Coincidentally, in the 1960s, US scientists had been on a mission to find new anti-cancer drugs by looking among marine animals. When they came across the New Zealand green-lipped mussel, they didn’t find what they were looking for, but they did instead find out that the mussel seemed to help reduce inflammation. This sparked an interest in testing out what this clan of clams could do for inflammation-related health problems.

Since then, multiple small-scale studies in people have found some evidence that adding green-lipped mussels to one’s regular diet can help relieve pains from mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

While it’s hard to pinpoint the components of the mussels responsible for soothing inflamed joints, some possible candidates include:

• Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are popularly known for their heart health benefits, but they’ve also shown some anti-inflammatory effects.

• Furan fatty acids (F-acids). Also a fish oil component, F-acids have shown some potent antioxidant abilities.

However, before you start binging on mussels thinking they’ll get rid of your joint aches, keep in mind that trial results have been mixed; some of them showed little or no effect. Part of the problem was that the amount and type of mussel preparation in the various studies—whether fresh or freeze-dried, whole mussel or extract thereof—varied a lot, making it difficult to say just how much mussels and how often they should be taken to make an impact.

References: 1. Mayo Clinic. (n.d) Arthritis: symptoms & causes. 2. Wane, J. (2017, May 3). Mussel power: how the green-lipped mussel became NZ’s first ‘superfood’. Noted. 3. Ulbricht, C., et al. (2009). An evidence-based systematic review of green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl.;6(1):54-90. 4. Calder, P.C. (2010). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients;2(3):355-374. 5. Wakimoto, T., et al. (2011). Furan fatty acid as an anti-inflammatory component from the green-lipped mussel Perna canaliculus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.;108(42):17533–17537. 6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d). Cultured aquatic species information programme: Perna canaliculus.



May 8, 2022   Return


In light of the data presented in the 2019 National Health & Morbidity Survey (NHMS, see page 10), we catch up with Dr Tee E Siong, President of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia, for his views on the matter.


Dr Tee, what are your thoughts on the NHMS 2019 data on non-communicable diseases((NCDs)? 

I am not exactly surprised by the findings in NHMS 2019. The data on NCDs have been high over the past 3 decades. This report has showed us clearly that the problem of NCDs remain high levels in the country. 

Undernutrition problems

I guess what disappoints me most is the very high prevalence of undernutrition problems (stunting and anaemia). 

Stunting among children under 5 years was reported to be about 18% in 2006-2015. Now it has risen to almost 22%. 

Anaemia, caused mostly by lack of iron in the diet, was reported to be 30% among women of reproductive age, higher than the 23% reported in 2015. 

With better health facilities, better socio-economic conditions, these undernutrition problems should be slowly reduced to very low levels. Such findings of high prevalence of undernutrition are disappointing. 

Lack of awareness of one’s health conditions

I am also rather disappointed that the proportion of the population not knowing that they have high blood cholesterol and hypertension remains high. Health care professionals have been raising the awareness of importance of having regular health checks. But the levels remain high! That should be telling us that we need to do more in this aspect. 

Good news from the fndings

There is some optimism in the findings. The prevalence of overweight/obesity problem appears to have risen only slightly compared the data in 2015. Proportion of the population with high blood cholesterol and hypertension is either dipping or more or less stable.


Why do you think NCDs continue to remain prevalent to such a degree in Malaysia? 

There are obviously various reasons for this disappointing scenario. One main reason I feel is the lack of coordinated and collaborative intervention programmes implemented by all stakeholders. 

Firstly is the lack of coordination among various government ministries. Malnutrition problems is not merely the responsibility of Ministry of Health, but should include several relevant ministries, such as education, agriculture, women, and social welfare. 

In addition, there is lack of systematic collaboration with other stakeholders including academia, professional bodies and the private sector. 

A strategic alliance of these stakeholders will be able to garner the available expertise and resources. We need systematic intervention programmes to reach out to all the corners of the country, all the time. We need to focus on the younger generation, especially toddlers and school children, as investing in prevention of malnutrition in these groups is the only way towards healthier generations of future Malaysians. 


How can other stakeholders, in your opinion, work together with nutritionists towards this goal?

Many nutrition-related programmes by other government ministries are needed in order to positively improve nutrition outcome of the population. 

Strategies and programmes from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries play key roles in ensuring food and nutrition security. Affordable, safe and nutritious foods must reach the community to enable healthy eating messages to be practiced by the people. 

The Ministry of Education hold the key in enabling school children to be exposed to nutrition education and healthy nutrition practices. 

The Ministry of Housing and Local Government can enable better and safe facilities for living and exercise for the population. 


In your opinion, how can nutritionists step up to further encourage Malaysians to live a healthier lifestyle? 

For the successful implementation of nutrition intervention programmes throughout the country, it is imperative that we have adequate number of trained nutritionists. They must be constantly available to the grassroot, to help the population to empower themselves to prevent against malnutrition problems. 

Regulations for the Allied Health Professions (AHP) Act have been gazetted and will come into force from July 2020. With this development, nutritionists should be even more motivated to step up their role to be in the forefront of public health nutrition in the country. I would urge them to champion nutrition, spread healthy nutrition throughout the country. We need to empower all the rakyat.


What is your advice to an individual who wish to get started on the track to healthy eating and staying active? 

There are many nutrition resources on the web. I would urge the public to be more discerning in selecting which resources to follow and which information to adopt. 

The public should rely on reliable professional sites such as the Ministry of Health and the Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) for nutrition information. NSM’s own website ( has a variety of information, addressing various issues in nutrition. 

Even with the availability of the best nutrition information, it is extremely important for the individual to be consistent in practicing the nutrition advice, be disciplined with oneself. This will then enable the such information to be translated into behavioural change and put into practice in order to bring about beneficial health outcomes. 


Does NSM have any programmes or events that the public can look forward to? 

We certainly do! NSM is now 35 years old. We have had several programmes to promote healthy eating and active living among the public over the years. 

One regular programme is the large scale nationwide community nutrition promotion programme called Nutrition Month Malaysia which is initiated in April every year. In line with the way of working under the current pandemic conditions, NMM has increased its online educational materials. Do drop by our website and look up our social media postings for a variety of healthy eating tips. 

A new initiative of NSM is the launch of NSM Nutrition Roadshows 2.0 earlier this year. This is to enable us to reach out to many more Malaysians, to share about healthy eating and active living utilizing social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. We have a variety of activities, including healthy nutrition postings, healthy cooking tips with recipes and cooking videos, quizzes. Visitors to our Facebook will also be able to listen to interviews with nutritionists who will address a variety of current nutrition topics.