The Other Side of the Story

The Other Side of the Story

May 1, 2022   Return


Dr Jean Graille   Lipid Technology Consultant, Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), France

Palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil in the world. Dr Jean Graille explains that, in 2012, its global production reached 51 million tonnes, compared to 41 million tonnes for soy, 23 million tonnes for canola and 14 million for sunflower. Unsurprisingly, manufacturers and countries whose main exports are the competitors of palm oil have banded together to repeal the ‘threat’ of palm oil, by forming the anti-palm oil lobbies.

Dr Graille explains, “Certain members of the anti-palm oil lobby have an interest in denigrating the image of palm oil so that other vegetable oils or dairy fats may benefit.”

Such ‘games’ often involve obscuring facts for the sake of propaganda. Citing soy oil (often pushed forward by the anti-palm oil lobby as a great alternative to palm oil) as an example, Dr Graille points out that, unlike palm, the crop yield of soy is low so there is a need to clear more land for soy crops. “The cultivation of soybean has resulted in the loss of 10 times more biodiversity in the Amazon than oil palm,” he explains. And yet, we hear all the time about how palm oil is supposedly destroying the environment!

Unfairly targeted

These anti-palm oil lobbies take advantage of the fact that there are people who are still unaware of the benefits of palm oil to spread alarmist rumours about that oil. “Once disseminated, these claims can only be countered and eradicated by a laborious process of education centred on the promotion of scientific facts,” says Dr Graille.

Once the members of the public believe these claims, certain brands would soon push ‘palm oil-free’ products, under the pretext of consumer health. “In doing so, the brands believed that they had regained their credibility and increased their influence over customers through cheap, opportunistic advertising,” he adds.

Countering the bad press

Beating the bad press will require considerable effort, but Dr Graille says that researchers like him are working closely with relevant organizations worldwide to promote scientifically proven and unbiased information about palm oil.

He advises members of the public to not accept everything they read and hear at face value. “Consumers need to remember that scientific researchers consider refined palm oil as having a neutral or positive effect on health; its saturated fatty acids are not dangerous,” he says, adding that it contains compounds such as carotenes, tocopherols, and above all, tocotrienols that have a powerful protective effect against cancers and cardiovascular disease.

He also stresses that producers of food products containing palm oil can counter the spread of misinformation by providing scientifically accurate information on food labels. This way, consumers can make their own educated decision as to whether these products are suitable for them.

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An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away…

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away…

May 1, 2022   Return

Dr. Chee Huei Phing   Assistant Professor & Clinical Dietitian, Faculty of Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman

How true is the well-known advice that consuming an apple a day can keep the doctor away? Is it because the apple contains helpful substances called phytoestrogens to keep the virus at bay?

Fun fact! The full saying is said to be: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you will keep the doctor from earning his bread.” It was said to be used as early as the 1800s in Wales. The benefits of apple had been known (or, rather, suspected) for a very long time!

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Nursing conducted a study to evaluate the truth behind the saying. For this study, they compare participants who eat an apple a day to participants who do not eat apples at all throughout that period, and   the outcome of no more than one visit per year to the doctor was considered an indicator of the saying being true.

Hence, did an apple a day succeed in keeping the doctor away?

Alas, it did not. No statistically significant difference in visits to the doctor was seen among participants, regardless of whether they eat an apple a day or not. However, the study did demonstrate that an apple a day kept the pharmacist away.

This is because apples containing numerous phytoestrogens (such as quercetin). Studies suggest that they may provide protection against a broad variety of human diseases via their anti-viral properties.  Other food high in quercetin includes blueberries, cranberries and onions.

These antioxidants counteract the damaging outcomes of free radicals, which are natural by-products of our body’s metabolism. Free radicals can damage the molecules they react with, and are said to be one of the possible causes of cancer. Our immune system is not capable of fully fending off the actions of these free radicals, so antioxidants from foods such as apples may be helpful in warding off the negative effects of these free radicals.

There are many supplements containing antioxidants in the market, but if we eat a balanced, varied diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits (yes, including apples), then we do not need these supplements. Hence, the doctor may not stay away if we have an apple a day, but the pharmacist most likely will!


Boyer, J., & Liu, R.H. (2004). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutr. J., 3: 5.

Ho, J.H. & Chang, Y.L. (2004). Protective effects of quarcetin and vitamin C against oxidative stress-induced neurodegeneration. J. Agric. Food Chem., 52(25): 7514-7517.

Matthew, D., Julie, B., Brenda, S. (2015). Association between apple consumption and physician visits: Appealing the conventional wisdom that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. JAMA Intern Med, 175(5): 777-783.

Martin, J.H.J., Crotty, S., Warren, P., Nelson, P. (2005). The effect of phytoestrogen on nutric oxide production and HERV-K10 expression of human breast cancer cell lines. National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference, Birmingham UK, Abstract Number P66. 

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Foods Can Be Deceiving

Foods Can Be Deceiving

May 1, 2022   Return


Like fashion trends, dieting fads come and go. What was once hailed as the super food may be considered the bane of a healthy lifestyle a few years later. There are various reasons for conflicting information to continue being perpetuated. For one, scientific information sometimes get misinterpreted and misrepresented in the media. Other times, the health claims (or drawbacks) of a particular food are exaggerated by proponents of a dieting trend to sell products.    

It does not help that long-standing myths and old wives’ tales are still floating around, adding to your confusion of whether a certain staple in your diet is really good for you or should be eliminated.

Here’s the verdict on 10 foods with questionable nutritional value, based on what the latest research and scientific discovery have to say. 


For years, the health and medical community were not kind to this morning beverage that’s a favourite to many. Coffee has been given the reputation of growth-stunter, anxiety-inducer, cancer agent and heart disease promoter. Thankfully, recent findings assure drinkers they do not need to give up their daily dose of caffeine. Coffee is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants that may reduce the risk of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Regular intake is also shown to lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in men and Alzheimer’s disease in women. While the pros far outweigh the cons, keep in mind that excessive coffee consumption is known to aggravate anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure and insomnia. So, don’t go overboard with caffeine! 

The Verdict: Drink in moderation, with no more than two cups a day.


Often making the no-no list for those aiming to lose weight, potatoes’ bad reputation could be due to French fries. In truth, potatoes contain complex carbohydrates and are packed with vitamins C, B6, potassium and fibre. The trick to making potatoes a part of your healthy meal is the method with which they are prepared. They are best eaten when baked, roasted or boiled, seasoned with herbs and spices.

The Verdict: Eat your potatoes, but avoid deep frying them or flavouring them with creamy and fattening add-ons, such as sour cream, butter or cheese.   

Peanut Butter

While it was undeservingly considered an enemy by healthy eaters because of its fat content, peanut butter actually contains monounsaturated fat – the good kind fat that keeps the heart healthy. Whether you prefer it smooth or crunchy, the spread is filled with vitamins E, B6, potassium, protein and fibre. Regular consumption of peanut butter is also found to regulate appetite, and decrease risk of heart disease and diabetes. The only concern with peanut butter is the high sodium and sugar content that comes with all its benefits.  

The Verdict: Be selective by reading the labels; the best peanut butter brands are those that contain zero or low sodium and sugar.


This popular movie snack of choice is loaded with the healthy antioxidant known as polyphenols, which is responsible for lowering the risk of heart diseases and cancer, more so than fruits and vegetables. Plus, it is 100% whole grain. But remember that this nutritional value applies only to air-popped corns that are cooked with the right amount of butter and salt, and not micro-waved popcorn as those contain preservatives and flavourings.  

The Verdict: For your next family movie night, opt for air-popped popcorn. You can air-pop your popcorn using a microwave or a home air-popper. Just remember to go easy on the topping; instead of butter, why not use olive oil instead? Other healthy topping choices include garlic powder, oregano and grated parmesan cheese.



Once blamed for weight gain, oily skin, acne and diabetes, the tides are turning for this favourite dessert and snack. Chocolate – dark chocolate, in particular – is an antioxidant and flavonoid powerhouse. After all, chocolate is made of cocoa, which is a plant-based compound that contains nutrients. Enjoying a bar of dark chocolate per week has been proven to reduce the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and stroke. Moreover, regular dark chocolate indulgence can also improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, thus reducing the risk of diabetes.

The Verdict: Not all chocolate are made equal! Milk and other flavoured chocolate are high in sugar and additives. Go for 70% dark chocolate for its higher cocoa content.  


Full-Cream Dairy

Not too long ago, full-cream milk and yoghurt were believed to be responsible for obesity, and dieting trends indicated that low-fat or skim dairy products was the way to go. More studies have now found that full-fat dairy is richer in favour and contributes to better satiety effect, making it less likely for you to eat more after a glass of calcium goodness. Conversely, low-fat dairy is higher in sugar content, making it more likely for one to gain weight.

The Verdict: Dairy is an essential source of calcium and minerals, but is also high in calories. A cup or two of full-cream milk or yoghurt a day will do.    


If you have been told to eliminate nuts from your weight maintenance plan because they are loaded with calories and fats, it is time to reintroduce them. Tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios are filled with vitamin E and good fats that benefit heart health and decrease diabetes. Additionally, groundnuts are an excellent source for vegetable protein and minerals.    

The Verdict: Make nuts your choice for a healthy snack.


Nutritionists once warned against the consumption of eggs, equating it to high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. New findings showed that moderate egg consumption for healthy adults protects against early heart disease. Eggs are also excellent sources of protein, vitamin D and a host of minerals that benefit the vision and brain. The yolk, often condemned for being an artery-clogger, is in fact packed with vitamins A, D, E and K – nutrients that reduce risk of muscular degeneration       

The Verdict: Eat your eggs. Just avoid – or at least minimize – cooking them in lots of oil, butter and cheese.

Red Wine

Researchers once credited red wine for lower rates of heart disease among the French, due to an active ingredient called resveratol that is known to protect the cardiovascular system. However, as research progressed, it was discovered that wine drinkers do not get sufficient amounts of resveratol to benefit the heart. The low rates of heart diseases in France is more likely due to the average French diet containing less processed foods, and more fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Verdict: Wine does not protect your heart, but no harm done in enjoying a glass or two a day to de-stress. More than a couple of glasses may court other health problems in the long run as wine is still an alcoholic beverage.  Experts recommend that men and women limit their alcohol intake to two drinks and one drink a day respectively.    

Red Meat

An excellent source of protein, vitamin B, iron and numerous minerals, red meat is also one of the primary sources of saturated fat. Since the 1960s to the present, studies linking saturated fat and red meat consumption with heart disease and cancer have been inconsistent. However, many of these studies arrived at the conclusion that regular consumption of processed meat contributes to chronic diseases that can cause premature death.   

The Verdict: Nothing wrong with the occasional steak, but cut down on processed meats.



Alternet. Available at

SF Gate. Available at

WebMD. Available at 

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An Oil with Many Possibilities

An Oil with Many Possibilities

May 2, 2022   Return

Professor Dr Ammu K Radhakrishnan   Professor of Pathology (Immunology), International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur

Plants contain unique substances, called phytonutrients, which are believed to confer health benefits to us, such as protection from certain diseases while boosting our heart health. Research has uncovered a considerable amount of phytonutrients in palm oil. In a review paper co-authored by Professor Dr Ammu K Radhakrishnan, published in the Malaysian Journal of Nutrition in 2010, it is stated that palm oil contains the following phytonutrients.

  • Vitamin E, primarily tocotrienols, which we have featured considerably in previous issues. You can refer to past issues for more information. We will let other phytonutrients get the spotlight in this article!
  • Carotenoids. These are substances that give palm oil its orange-reddish colour. Crude palm oil is said to be one of the richest natural plant sources of carotenoids, containing 13 different types.
    • α-, β- and γ-carotenoids are converted into vitamin A in the body, making palm oil a good choice of cooking oil for people who are vitamin A deficient.
    • β-carotene can prevent LDL cholesterol – the bad cholesterol – from undergoing oxidation and increasing our risk of coronary heart disease.
    • Research increasingly suggests that some carotenes may protect from certain cancers, such as breast cancer.
  • Phytosterols (or ‘sterols’) are well-known for their ability to help lower the cholesterol levels in our body.  They are frequently added to foods traditionally known to be high in fats (margarine, butter, etc) to reduce the total cholesterol and bad cholesterol content.
  • Squalene. This substance is mostly found in shark liver oil, but fortunately for sharks, many of which are endangered, it can also be obtained from plant sources including palm oil.

It helps to inhibit cholesterol production, thus reducing cholesterol levels and providing a boost to heart health.

It may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as skin cancer.

The following are present in smaller quantities in palm oil.



       Possible health benefits


  • Promote and support better nerve function.
  • Improve memory and brain function as we age.
  • Can be useful to pregnant women, to help support the memory and brain development of the baby.

   Coenzyme Q10

  • Boost energy production by the body.
  • Protects from cell damage caused by free radicals and other byproducts of metabolism.
  • The above two benefits make this phytonutrient useful in supplementing the treatment of people with heart diseases.


  • Inhibit oxidation of bad cholesterol, thus promoting better heart health.
  • May protect from cancers such as prostate cancer and breast cancer.


    Loganathan, R., et al. (2010). Health promoting effects of phytonutrients found in palm oil. Mal J Nutr;1 16(2):309-22. Epub 2010 Aug 15.

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    The Awesome Power of Whole Grains

    The Awesome Power of Whole Grains

    May 2, 2022   Return

    Whole grain refers to the entire grain that contains the bran, endosperm and germ. They are rich in nutrients and should make up at least 50% of your total grain intake.

    • Sources of dietary fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc and other minerals, some proteins, and phytonutrients
    • Sources of carbohydrates, some proteins, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients
    • Sources of B vitamins, vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids and phytonutrients

    Some common types of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat, oats or oatmeal, corn, rye, buckwheat and dehulled barley.

    What is so good about whole grains?

    Apart from being important sources of many nutrients that are important for health and maintenance of our bodies, whole grains are also rich in dietary fibre, which may help:

    • Improve blood cholesterol
    • Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes
    • Improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes
    • Promote good gut health.

    Dietary fibre can be divided into two types: soluble and insoluble.

    • Soluble fibre is found in whole grains (especially oats and barley), beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables. It attracts water and forms a gel-like mush in the digestive system, which slows stomach emptying and makes you feel full longer.
    • Insoluble fibre, in contrast, is found in wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, as well as seeds and the skins of fruits and vegetables. It provides bulk to the stools and speeds their passage through the stomach and intestines.
    • While both soluble and insoluble fibre are equally important in reducing your risk of heart disease, soluble fibre appears to have extra benefit on your heart health – it lowers your total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, too. Hence, it is recommended that you take 7–13g of soluble fibre per day.

    Oats are a good choice of soluble fibre

    Oats are amongst the grains that have a high proportion of soluble fibre. They help reduce cholesterol, as part of a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, without affecting the good cholesterol your body needs. They also contain very little saturated fat and salt.

    Oats are versatile; they can be made into delicious drinks and granola, eaten as cereals, added to bread and smoothies, and used for cakes and pastries.

    So, what’s next?

    Knowing the health benefits associated with whole grains, you will now want to know how to look for their products so that you can incorporate them into your daily diet.

    • “Whole grain” is the keyword. Look for the phrase “whole grain” or whole grain logo on the food package.
    • Don’t be confused by the food colour and dietary fibre content. Foods with high dietary fibre or brown colour aren’t necessarily whole grain products.

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    Good Salt? Bad Salt?

    Good Salt? Bad Salt?

    May 2, 2022   Return

    Most of us use salt to spice up cooking and make dishes tastier. There are various types of salts – table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, rock salt or fleur de sel (flower of salt) – you name it, the market has it.

    Salt contains sodium. Our body does need sodium to function – to control blood pressure and blood volume, and ensure muscles and nerves work properly. Nevertheless, we only need a minute amount of sodium (500mg) every day. As sodium is present naturally in most foods, we do not really need extra salt to be added into our food. Some people, however, may find it really difficult to live with salt-free diets, despite being aware that excessive salt intake can cause high blood pressure and increase their risk of heart disease and stroke.

    So, are you one of those people who just can’t resist salt, but at the same time, concerned about your health? Do not worry. What you can do is reduce the amount of salt as much as possible. Try limiting yourself to no more than one teaspoon of salt per day. One teaspoon equals to 5g of salt, which is equivalent to 2,000mg of sodium.

    Cutting down on salt

    Begin slowly, don’t push yourself too hard. Here are some practical tips that can help to reduce your craving for salt:

    • Prepare your own stock and gravy instead of using flavour enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), sauces (soy sauce, oyster sauce and tomato sauce), and flavouring cubes or granules.
    • Use natural herbs and condiments such as garlic, onion, curry spices, pepper, lemon grass, vinegar, lemon, ginger, chilli, cinnamon or turmeric.
    • Consider sea vegetables (eg, seaweed) in cooking. Apart from giving a natural salty flavour, they are rich sources of minerals, and contain lignans, plant compounds with cancer-protective properties.
    • Always check food labels and opt for low-sodium foods (<120mg sodium per serving). Compare with different brands and choose the ones with lower sodium content (this includes MSG and sodium nitrate).
    • Choose fresh fruits or vegetables such as carrots or celery sticks as snacks.
    • Limit processed foods (sausages, nuggets, meatballs and burgers) and highly salted foods (salted fish, salted eggs, salted vegetables and high-sodium snacks) and condiments.
    • Soak preserved foods in water to reduce sodium content.
    • Limit fast food and request for low salt, less sauces, or no MSG when eating out.
    • Learn to enjoy the natural flavour of foods without salt. If you find this difficult, you may consider a low-sodium salt substitute, which contains lower sodium content (about less than half) than regular salt. Salt substitutes taste the same as regular salt, but are able to enhance your cooking while retaining the natural flavour of foods. Some salt substitutes also contain magnesium, potassium and iodine. Magnesium and potassium may help regulate blood pressure, while iodine prevents the development of thyroid disorders. However, if you have kidney or heart problems, you are advised to consult your doctor before trying out any salt substitutes.

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    Get Your ‘O’ Game On!

    Get Your ‘O’ Game On!

    May 2, 2022   Return

    The list of benefits of omega-3 fatty acids seems to get longer with time as more research is done on them. From lowering cholesterol levels to reducing the symptoms of menopause, the goodness of omega-3 fatty acids is evident and experts agree: they are good for you.

    Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackarel, tuna, sardine and other fatty fish. However, not everyone is fond of fish. If you’re not keen on fish, don’t worry, here are some other sources of omega-3 fatty acids to consider.

    • Flaxseed. This is a gold mine for omega-3 fatty acids – just two tablespoons a day will meet your daily requirement. Just sprinkle them on cereals and you are good to go!
    • Walnuts. A quarter cup will cover about 14% of your daily ALA needs. ALA is short for alpha-linolenic acid, which is then converted by our body to the same omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in fatty fish.[2] However, walnuts can pack quite an amount of calories, so watch your portion size!
    • Canola oil. A tablespoon of this clean-tasting oil can help you meet 11% of your daily ALA requirement.2 It is great for sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking a variety of dishes. You can also use it as salad dressing or for marinades.
    • Dark leafy vegetables. Aside from dietary fibre and unique protective substances, dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Two cups a day would meet your daily requirements, so how about a salad? 
    • Soybeans. Tofu, tempe, soybean oil and other soy-based food are delicious sources of ALA. A tablespoon of soybean oil or half a cup of tofu can contribute 7% of your daily ALA needs. Now you have a great reason to enjoy a healthy tau foo fah dessert – just remember to reduce or avoid the sugary syrup! 

    Note that the popular beverage known as ‘soya bean drink’ or ‘soya milk’ can be high in sugar. Go for those that are low in sugar or, better still, free of sugar.

    A little more boost

    According to experts, plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids are great, but they still cannot match fatty fish in terms of benefits. Therefore, you can also consider foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids as part of your diet in addition to the foods listed above. Additionally, you can give yourself a boost with omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as red krill oil. 

    References: 1. Everyday Health. Available at 2. Available at

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    More Than Carrots

    More Than Carrots

    May 2, 2022   Return


    When I was a child, my mother would often say to me, “You should really eat more carrots.” When I whined in response, she would then reply “Carrots give you good eye sight. You will thank me in the future” while ladling more carrot soup into my bowl. Looking back now, I guess my mother’s efforts have paid off (thanks, mum!) considering how I can see perfectly fine without glasses.

    But did you know that eating your way to great eye health isn’t just about carrots, carrots and more carrots? There is a plethora of foods which can give your eyes the nutritional boost that they very much need! Let’s check out some of these foods.

    Something fishy

    A study found that people who consume fish twice or more weekly had a significantly lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) compared to those who didn’t. AMD is a condition, which causes our central vision (which is necessary for tasks like driving) to gradually worsen. But any fish won’t do – it’s got to be oily fish (e.g. salmon, tuna and mackerel) which are laden with omega-3 fatty acids. 


    Egg ‘em on

    Eggs aren’t merely a source of protein. Egg yolks are also a source of zeaxanthin, zinc, vitamin A and lutein, which help protect the eyes from UV damage and lower cataract risk. If you worry that consuming more eggs will up your cholesterol, relax. Experts say that eating two eggs daily doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Just ensure your daily cholesterol intake doesn’t go beyond 300mg (a big egg yolk has approximately 213mg of cholesterol). But if you have conditions like heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, your daily cholesterol intake should be no more than 200mg or 1 large boiled egg.


    The black-eyed peas!

    No, not the musical group. I’m referring to legumes. Boasting high zinc and bioflavonoids content, legumes like black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lima beans are great for maintaining retinal health as they can lower AMD risk.


    It’s ‘berry’ good!

    Berries may be tiny but they sure pack a nutritional punch! Berries like bilberries have been found to contain anthocyanosides which aid rhodopsin regeneration – a type of retinal pigment which helps us to see in dim light.

    Aside from lutein and zeaxanthin, wolfberries (or goji berries) are jam-packed with antioxidants like vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and lycopene. These nutrients protect eyes from oxidative damage by absorbing blue light (which most digital devices emit in high levels). No wonder researchers say consuming wolfberries can help decrease sensitivity to glare and eye strain while enhancing visual range.

    So, incorporate more berries in your daily diet! Other berries like strawberries, blueberries and cherries are good for your vision too.


    References: 1. All About Vision. Available at 2. Eating Well. Available at 3. SF Gate. Available at 4. University of Maryland Medical Center. Available at 5. WebMD. Available at www.web

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    8 Sensible Tips for Eating Out

    8 Sensible Tips for Eating Out

    May 2, 2022   Return

    E_Prof Winnie Chee

    Professor Winnie Chee   Dietitian & Professor, Division of Nutrition & Dietetics, International Medical University

    We are all aware of the benefits of cooking at home. The main advantage of home-cooked meals is that we have complete control over what goes into each dish. We can choose to use only fresh ingredients, for example, and cut down on oil and sugar. Such control is not always possible when we eat outside.

    Several scientific review papers reported rather convincing evidence that eating out is associated with a higher total energy intake, with increased energy contribution from fat in the daily diet as well as lower intake of micronutrients, particularly vitamin C, calcium and iron. Eating out has often been associated with increased body weight and obesity.

    However, many of us are busy adults, leaving the house early and staggering home late in the evening. Eating out is often a convenient option when we are out of time or are just too tired to cook. Furthermore, we are surrounded by delicious food – this is Malaysia, after all! And we all love to eat outside, for pleasure as well as to sate our hunger. Unsurprisingly, studies show that on average Malaysians eat at least two meals outside the home everyday.

    We are quite fortunate that eating out is affordable in Malaysia and we have a very wide selection of foods – from local favourites to cuisines from all over world! Here are 8 tips to help you enjoy eating out while still making healthy choices for your health and your waistline.

    Tip No 1: Limit frequency and serving size

    • Limit the number of times you eat out. Don’t groan – it is faster and easier to prepare meals at home than you may think. For example, whole grain cereals and sandwiches are quick and easy breakfast to prepare. There are also many recipes for simple-to-prepare yet nutritious dinners – try searching for them online.
    • Be sensible about portion sizes. Go for smaller servings so that you will not eat more than you need (this will be good for your weight and waistline). Western fast food restaurants tend to offer “value meals” that come in portions that are far bigger than you need so order ala carte or, if you order a value meal, share it with a friend or family friend.

    Tip No 2: Go for variety

    Go to an eating centre which offers a variety of choices. For example, a food court or restaurant will offer a more extensive menu than a stall which only sells fried noodles. Your chances of eating healthier will increase if there is a wider choice of food.

    Tip No 3: Choose a restaurant or eating place that you are familiar with and is willing to oblige you to make changes.

    Some restaurants offer healthy options – visit these places more often.

    Tip No 4: Make special requests!

    If you are not familiar with a dish, find out what ingredients are used and how it is cooked. Then request if changes can be made, for example, ask for less oil or sauces.

    Tip No 5: Know the menu terminologies – pick the healthier ones

    Methods of cooking or menu terminologies actually do tell us which choices are healthier for us. Choose healthier foods such as those listed in Table 1 and go easy on menu items in Table 2.

    Popular but unhealthy drinks

    Healthier option(s)

    Sirap bandung

    Sirap kosong or sirap kurang manis

    Cappucino, frappucino

    Coffee with low-fat milk, latte

    Teh tarik

    Teh ‘o’ kosong, Chinese tea or plain tea

    Canned or sweetened fruit juices

    Fresh fruit juices (no added sugar)

    Carbonated or soft drinks

    Light or diet versions


    Table 1: Healthy choice menu terminologies


    What it means


    Baked (fish, chicken, meat)

    Cooked in an oven

    Usually less fat content compared to fried foods


    Cooked over a grill

    Usually less fat content compared to fried foods. Note: fat may be used to baste food before grilling; you can request the chef to not do this.


    Cooked using steam

    Low in fat.

    Clear soups/boiled

    Cooked in boiling water/liquid/stock

    Low in fat.


    Cooked in direct heat/fire

    Usually less fat content compared to fried foods.

    Tom yum soup

    Cooked in broth made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers.

    Low in fat. Low in sodium (salt) too if only fresh ingredients are used.

    Masak singgang/masak asam

    Cooked in stock with chillies/spices (without coconut milk).

    Low in fat.


    Table 2: Menu terminologies which denote less healthy choices


    What it means

    Less healthy because…

    Char eg, char kuay teow

    Fried in a substantial amount of oil

    High fat and calories.

    Masak lemak

    Coconut milk is a base ingredient.

    High in saturated fat.

    Masak merah

    Fried items cooked in spices and chillies

    High in fat.


    Deep fried in oil.

    High in fat and calories.


    Cooked with butter, sometimes coated with flour first

    High in fat (especially saturated fat) and calories.


    Cooked with cream or white sauces

    High in fat and calories.


    Deep fried in batter/flour or fried in substantial oil.

    (Note: crispy and crunchy fresh fruits or raw vegetables are good, however, so enjoy away!)

    High in fat and calories.

    Pan fried

    Fried in shallow/moderate amount of oil

    Source of fat and calories.


    Food coated with egg and breadcrumbs, and then deep fried

    High in fat and calories.


    Tip No 6: Order plain water or low-calorie drinks

    • Cut down or avoid drinks or beverages which contain a high amount of sugar, syrup, sweetened condensed milk and cream which are high in calories – they may jeopardize your efforts to maintain a healthy weight.
    • Go for iced water with a squeeze of lemon or unsweetened or less sweetened drinks.
    • Avoid cream toppings and sweetened condensed milk in your beverages.

    Tip no 7: Always choose healthier options!

    Malaysia has many different types of eating places or restaurants. Here are some tips on what to order and enjoy the foods the healthier way. Remember, eating healthy is also about portion sizes, so order smaller portions or share!

        Table 3:  Healthier options when eating out

        Place of eating

        Pick these

        Try not to pick these

        Malay warung, restaurants

        • Fish curry
        • Chicken curry
        • Chicken soup
        • Fish masak asam/singgang/ tom yam
        • Ikan bakar
        • Mee rebus
        • Mee Siam
        • Fried items such as ayam goreng, organ meat
        • Gravies cooked in oily sambal, santan-based curries
        • Nasi goreng/ mee goreng/mee ladna  or noodles with thickened gravy
        • Sup tulang and sup ekor

        Indian restaurant or kedai mamak

        • Capati
        • Plain naan
        • Idli
        • Thosai
        • Dhal
        • Rasam
        • Toast bread and boiled egg set
        • Tandoori chicken
        • Mee sup
        • Roti canai
        • Roti tisu
        • Thickened curry with coconut milk or fresh cream
        • Ghee based dishes
        • Poori, paratha
        • Mee goreng/Maggi goreng

        Chinese restaurants

        • Herbal soups
        • Noodle soups
        • Chinese porridge
        • Steamed fish
        • Hainanese steamed chicken with plain rice
        • Braised tofu
        • Steam boat with non-fried items
        • Yong tau foo with non-fried items
        • Wet popiah
        • Assam laksa
        • All thickened soups such as cream of corn
        • Fried noodles such as Hokkien char  and Cantonese style
        • Fried oyster omelet
        • Pork leg dishes

        Western restaurants

        • Vegetarian pizza
        • Consomme or clear soups
        • Salads with lemon juice and vinaigrettes or French dressing
        • Ratatoullie
        • Baked fish or grilled chicken
        • Grilled or roasted chicken, meat, fish or seafood
        • Seafood paella rice
        • Tomato-based spaghetti
        • Teriyaki chicken pasta
        • Pizza with cheese toppings/crust
        • Cream soups
        • Deep fried dishes such as fish n chips  or  chicken chop
        • Excessive amount of salad dressings
        • Sausages, bacon and fatty meats
        • Cream, cheese cakes, pies and pastries

        Japanese restaurants

        • Sashimi
        • Sushi
        • Grilled items
        • Soup noodles
        • Shabu shabu
        • Tempura
        • Teppanyaki
        • Deep fried items

        Western/fast food restaurants

        • Plain burgers/ à la carte items
        • 5-piece nuggets
        • Chicken wraps
        • Sandwiches –  roasted chicken breast, vegetarian, roast beef, chicken teriyaki, turkey (go easy on dressings)
        • “Diet” or “light” beverages
        • Unsweetened tea/coffee
        • Value meals
        • “Super”/large  chicken/beef burgers
        • Fish burgers
        • Regular beverages
        • Large fries

          Tip no 8: Finish off with fruits!

          Many of us like a sweet ending to every meal, so finish off your meal with fruits as dessert. Most hawker centres and stalls offer a variety of cut fruits so, take advantage of the nicely peeled and portioned fruit to fulfil your daily fruit recommendation and satisfy your longing for something sweet.


          Finally, if you have over-eaten, burn off the excess food with exercise!


          Lachat C et al. (2012). Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev.; 13(4):329-46.

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          The Tiny Powerhouse

          The Tiny Powerhouse

          May 2, 2022   Return

          There is a famous saying which goes like this: “Good things come in small packages.” This is most certainly true when it comes to krill. Hailing from the zoo-plankton family, krill are crustaceans which very closely resemble shrimp and can be abundantly found in icy cold waters (the Antarctic Ocean, for instance).

          These tiny creatures have been found to boast a plethora of health benefits due to their high content of eicopentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (the very same omega-3 fatty acids that are present in fish oil), and astaxanthin (a type of antioxidant which can help protects the body from free radical damage).

          Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of this pint-sized crustacean.

          Boosts heart health

          In this time and age when everything – be it our jobs, studies or family – seems demand our energy and attention, it can be easy to overlook our health, especially that of our heart. But, why the heart of all things? Well, based on statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011, coronary heart disease is the leading killer in our country with a total mortality rate of as high as 25.4%. In light of these alarming figures, it is only appropriate that we take good care of this very organ. And we can do so by incorporating krill oil in our daily lives.

          A Canadian study which involved 120 men and women aged between 25-75 years old reported that consuming krill oil helped lower elevated blood lipid and LDL cholesterol (otherwise, known as bad cholesterol)  levels while increasing HDL cholesterol level (also known as good cholesterol). But that wasn’t all. The study also found that a daily intake of 1-1.5g of krill oil had a more significant effect on LDL levels than a daily consumption of 3g of fish oil. That’s some food (pardon the pun) for thought right there!

          Reduces inflammation

          A study of 90 patients who had heart disease and/ or osteoarthritis and/ or rheumatoid arthritis reported that the subjects who took 300mg of krill oil daily experienced a significant decrease in inflammation and arthritic symptoms within 7-14 days compared to those who didn’t.

          Other possible benefits of krill oil include:

          • Easing menstrual pain
          • Supporting healthy brain function
          • Nourishing the skin
          • Promoting a overall sense of wellbeing

          So, do give krill oil a try. By combining your daily intake of krill oil with a healthy lifestyle (which encompasses regular physical activity and a well-balanced diet), good health can soon be yours!


          Deutsch L. (2007). Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritis symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr.; 26(1):39-48.

          Everyday Health. Available at

          WebMD. Available at

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