Read This Before You Reach for Your Snacks This FIFA World Cup Season

WORDS LIM CHAIN YIN

LIM CHAIN YIN
SEA Nutrition Lead
Mondelēz International
TIP 1
Portion Out Your Snack
  1. Be sure to pace yourself throughout the equal halves.
  2. Once you’ve decided what you want to eat, portion it out. This can help you slow down, so that you enjoy your snack.
  3. Check in with yourself to see if you’re full and satisfied before having another portion.
  4. To keep tabs on how much you eat, always check the serving size per package on the label and put your snack in a bowl or on a plate.
TIP 2
Alter Your Choices

If you’re watching the game late at night, you might have a craving for something to eat. Remember that your body works harder when it’s sleeping, so try to snack on something light that will give you energy to keep going, but won’t make it hard for your body to digest.

TIP 3
Enjoy Every Bite

Snacking while engaging in other activities—in this case, watching the game—can easily lead to unconsciously eating more than you should.

  1. Take a moment during the interval to savour your snack with all of your senses. To fully enjoy your snacking experience, pay attention to the smell, taste, texture, shape, and colour of your food.
  2. Take small bites and chew slowly and be sure to finish one bite before starting the next.
TIP 4
Put Your Snacks Out of Reach

When watching a game in your living room, make sure your snacks are beyond arm’s reach. That way, you will be less likely to keep going back for more and inadvertently grab more than you need.

TIP 5
Drink Water, Lots of It!

Your brain tends to trick you into wanting to snack more, but you might just be thirsty. So, drink a glass of water and wait for a couple of minutes before deciding whether or not you’re hungry.


Snacking mindfully is a simple way to tune into your body’s needs. It can be practised by anyone, anywhere, and at any age. It is a great habit in cultivating a positive relationship with food by making deliberate and conscious choices to promote your well-being as well as keeping a balanced lifestyle. But habits take time to build and change, so taking small steps is a good way to start out!

Diets & Exercise Tips to Regain Your Pre-Pregnancy Body Shape

WORDS DR VICKY KOH

DR VICKY KOH
Medical Director
Clinic RX
WELL, READ THIS FIRST

Every woman’s body is unique. Therefore, the question of the ‘right option’ or ‘best option’ is something that each and every woman has to figure out on her own.

For example, mothers that breastfeed often experience rapid weight loss and may benefit from an increased intake of certain nutrients or supplements. Women that gave birth via caesarean section may need a longer time to recover. Existing health issues and lifestyle variables also need to be considered.

If you are interested to find out more about the topics discussed below, you should discuss the matter further with your doctor.

BREASTFEEDING CONSIDERATIONS

Postpartum weight loss averages about 4.5 to 5.5 kg in the first 6 weeks. Women often return to their pre-pregnancy weight within a year, though this time frame varies depending on how much weight was gained during their pregnancy.

Breastfeeding aids in weight loss since it consumes extra calories, resulting in a natural weight loss for many women.

Breastfeeding women should pay special attention to their diets at this time.

While experiencing weight loss after giving birth may seem like a good idea, doing so too quickly will actually hinder healing!

POST-PREGNANCY DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS

Dietary recommendations should include a variety of fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Breastfeeding mothers, in particular, should drink a lot of water (6-10 glasses daily). Try to stay away from sodas and other sugary drinks.

Meanwhile, for moms that had a C-section, they should focus on eating foods that are high in protein. Avoid junk foods and take vitamin supplements, especially if they are nursing.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are crucial for moms during and after pregnancy.

This is because nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin D, folic acid, zinc, and more are normally redirected from the mother’s bloodstream to the developing infant.

Furthermore, the delivery process as well as breastfeeding depletes the body of essential vitamins.

Hence, postnatal supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), magnesium, selenium, iodine, and choline may be helpful in replenishing nutrients that were used up during pregnancy and after childbirth.

EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

Regular exercise after childbirth will help strengthen and tone your muscles while increasing your energy levels and making you feel less weary.

It also aids in the loss of excess weight.

During the first 6 weeks, the uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size, and some women may feel uterine cramping and discharge.

However, mothers are recommended to gradually resume their exercise habits, starting with less strenuous activities during the first few weeks after giving birth.

A few days after delivery, you can start doing gentle abdominal and pelvic floor exercises if they don’t cause you any pain.

Try to proceed at your own pace—you can gradually increase the duration and tempo of your workout of over time.

Swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates, mild weight training, and low-impact aerobics are all good alternatives after the first few weeks.

5 Ways to Eat Healthily and Merrily During Deepavali

WORDS GURSHARON KAUR GILL

GURSHARON KAUR GILL
Dietitian

With Deepavali being around the corner, the thought of delicious, mouth watering dishes comes to mind for most Malaysians.

Be it the sweet delicacies or the main dishes, festive food is known to be a crowd favourite. It is during festive seasons, that most people let go of their healthy eating habits and indulge in more than their usual food portion. Because, who doesn’t love their mutton curry, chicken varuval or pineapple tarts?

However, the brunt of all the overindulging comes about after the festive season. You might start seeing some extra pounds in your weight and perhaps even spikes in your blood sugar level from all that over indulging. So, why not make your festive season this time a little healthier by following some of my simple tips below.

TIP 1
PREPARE YOUR OWN DISHES & SWEETS

This allows you to modify the recipe to make it a healthier version, such as by reducing the amount of ghee or oil used in the original recipe.

Alternatively, you may also switch from ghee, which contains high amount of saturated fats, to vegetable oil, which contains unsaturated fats and is hence more friendly for your heart health.

You can also reduce the amount of sugar or condensed milk by half from the original recipe for the sweet items. This method helps to reduce the overall calorie of the food items.

TIP 2
PRACTICE PORTION CONTROL

While it can be hard to resist the mouth watering festive food, it is still important to practice portion control.

When it comes to your favourite festive food like jalebi, kesari, pineapple tarts or muruku, practice sharing these food items with family or friends.

You can also practice portion control by limiting to only 1-2 pieces of these food items onto your plate, so that you avoid over indulging, more so if you have multiple houses to visit!

Another trick is to avoid eating cookies straight out of the cookie jars, as this usually causes one to lose track of how much they have eaten.

TIP 3
KEEP AWAY FROM SUGARY DRINKS

Sugary drinks like cordials or packet drinks are commonly served at open houses. However, these drinks are just loaded with sugar without providing your body with any nutrients.

Hence, it is advisable to limit your intake of sugar sweetened beverages to no more than 1 to 2 servings per day.

It is very easy to over consume these sugary drinks as you go about visiting from one house to the other or even while catching up with family and friends. Hence, for those hosting open houses this year, some healthier options to consider would be lower-calorie drinks. Great examples that are also simple to prepare are:

  • Ginger lemonade, with half the sugar from the original recipe
  • Infused water; you can always replace plain water with sparkling water for that extra fizziness in the drink

And for those visiting, if there is no other option of lower-calorie drinks, opt for plain water!

TIP 4
EAT MINDFULLY

Mindful eating helps you to listen to your body for hunger and satiety cues. This is important as it prevents you from mindless eating that adds up to your daily calorie intake.

Over-indulging is common, especially if you are busy catching up with family and friends, and unknowingly end up eating more than you need to. Hence, check in with yourself to identify your hunger and satiety cues is helpful.

Always remember to stop eating before you feel full, as your brain takes 20-30 minutes to register the feeling of fullness.

Tip 5
APPLY THE MALAYSIAN HEALTHY PLATE PRINCIPLES
The Malaysian Healthy Eating Plate. Click on the image to view a larger version.

It is always back to basics when it comes to eating healthily during festive season. The Malaysian Healthy Plate concept encourages the suku-suku-separuh (quarter-quarter-half) method, which helps to ensure a balanced meal with less sugar, salt and fat intake.

This concept simply means filling:

  • ¼ of your plate with grains (preferably whole grains)
  • ¼ of your plate with low fat protein sources (chicken, fish, mutton, eggs, prawns)
  • ½ of your plate with vegetables
HOW YOU CAN PRACTICE THE HEALTHY PLATE CONCEPT DURING DEEPAVALI 
EXAMPLE 1
  • Grains: Idli (2 small pieces)
  • Protein sources: Chicken varuval (1 palm-sized lean chicken)
  • Vegetables: Stir-fried cabbage with turmeric (2 handfuls of veggies)
EXAMPLE 2
  • Grains: Thosai (1 piece)
  • Protein sources: Mutton Curry (4 matchbox-sized pieces of lean mutton)
  • Vegetables: Stir-fried bhindi masala (2 handfuls of veggies)
EXAMPLE 3
  • Grains: Jeera rice (2 to 3 flat rice scoops)
  • Protein sources: Chicken peratal (1 palm-sized lean chicken)
  • Vegetables: Stir-fried bittergourd with turmeric (2 handfuls of veggies)

The bottom line is, you can definitely enjoy the festive food that usually comes about only once a year. However, the key is to practice moderation when consuming them. That way, you get to enjoy the good food and yet not have to deal with untoward health problems after the festive season is over!

Empowering Pharmacists to Better Serve The Nation

WORDS LIM EN NI

LIM EN NI
Chief Pharmacist
Alpro Pharmacy

For the longest time, the role of a pharmacist has been seen by many, even among those in the profession, as retailer of supplements and other healthcare products. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public have come to recognize the values community pharmacists bring.

MEDICATION SAFETY

Very often, patients with multiple non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were prescribed with medications by different doctors, they might not be aware of possible medical contradictions. They brought these medications to community pharmacists like me, and we helped them review and explain the dosage and possible side effects of each medicine. Most importantly, pharmacists ensure the safety of patients from medication errors.

ACCESSIBILITY

Pharmacies are usually open for long hours and pharmacists offer informal, appointment-free consultation. At the height of the pandemic when clinics and hospitals required COVID-19 screening prior to consultation with doctors and patients avoided going to high-risk places, community pharmacists filled the gap by offering advice on COVID-19 and other health related matters including basic health screening and re-filling much needed chronic prescriptions through collaboration with telemedicine providers.

SOLUTION-BASED SERVICES

In recent years, many product-based retail pharmacists have transited to community pharmacists with solution-based services, such as wound-care, smoking cessation service, and diabetic-care.

THUS, COMMUNITY PHARMACIES INFLUENCE NATIONAL HEALTH CARE PROGRESSION IN POSITIVE WAYS

It is high time for the Government to endorse community pharmacists as an integral part of community health and wellness by allocating funding for programmes in support of the Government’s efforts in creating a smoke-free generation, battling against NCDs and providing preventive care for the ageing population.

The inclusion of community pharmacists in the Government’s outreach plan will benefit the country as a whole, as it will ultimately reduce medical costs, improve population health, increase the quality of healthcare in Malaysia and contribute to the country’s GDP.

This year, The International Pharmaceutical Federation announced the theme of World Pharmacist Day 2022 as “Pharmacy United in Action for a Healthier World”. This theme invites comrades from all sectors of the pharmacy profession to take part in the campaign. Regardless of culture or point of view, the core duty of every pharmacist remains—to safeguard medication safety for everyone.

Children More Vulnerable to Infections During These Post-Pandemic Times?

WORDS DR LIM YIN SEAR & DR MAHFUZAH MOHAMED

DR LIM YIN SEAR
Senior Lecturer of Paediatrics
School of Medicine
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Taylor’s University
DR MAHFUZAH MOHAMED
Guest Lecturer of Paediatrics
School of Medicine
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Taylor’s University
NEW NORMAL LEADS TO  NEW ‘CULTURE SHOCK’ FOR A CHILD’S IMMUNE SYSTEM

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, children were predominantly confined to their home and as a result, were less exposed to common bacteria and viruses. This will render younger children’s immune system to develop poorly.

From March 2022 onwards, as life seemed to make its way back to normality, children started to attend school, enrichment classes, and sports activities again.

This has led to many young kids falling ill with diseases such as influenza, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and lung infections. An elevated frequency of visits to the doctor has worried many parents that their children may have weakened immune system (we say that these children are then immunocompromised).

ARE CHILDREN REALLY MORE PRONE TO INFECTIONS POST-PANDEMIC?

Currently, there is no scientific data to show that children are more prone to infections after the pandemic.

HOWEVER, THERE ARE CERTAIN FACTORS THAT CAN INDIRECTLY UP THE RISK OF INFECTIONS IN CHILDREN

A briefing by UNICEF on the impact of COVID-19 on children has shown that the prevalence of unhealthy diets such as snacking has increased. This may be due to a lack of easy access to fresh food and financial constraints, possibly leading to childhood obesity and malnourishment.

Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle and the lack of exercise could contribute to childhood obesity, escalating vulnerability to infections.

Another major issue that arose during the MCO period was the disruption of essential health services including childhood immunisations. In a recent WHO pulse survey, 90% of countries reported disruptions to routine immunisations. Immunisations are of utmost importance for preventing certain infectious diseases.

Another important issue that needs to be taken seriously is the mental health of children and their caretakers. The Adverse Childhood experience (ACE) study showed that adverse childhood experiences in categories of abuse, household challenges, and neglect are not only associated with worse mental health outcomes, but also with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver disease, and cancer.

POSSIBLE SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE A WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM 
  • Frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis, or skin infections
  • Inflammation and infection of internal organs
  • Blood disorders, such as low platelet count or anaemia
  • Digestive problems, such as cramping, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhoea
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes
TOO CLEAN ISN’T ALWAYS GOOD

Some parents go to the extreme to create a “super clean” environment to protect their children and forbid the children to play or touch anything or anyone that has not been sanitised. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, and here’s why.

In the early years, our immune system is a blank canvas. Although infectious disease is a legitimate cause for concern, and a certain level of cleanliness is necessary, children need to develop an immunity to common pathogens.

Overprotecting children from germs is detrimental to their development. Therefore, parents need to balance between a clean environment rather than a sterile environment.

HOW ABOUT HAND-WASHING AND SANITISING?

Studies have shown that soap and water are better equipped to remove more germs from one’s hand than hand sanitiser does.

However, it is still recommended to use hand sanitisers when washing with soap is not an option.

LET’S TALK ABOUT VITAMIN D

Generally speaking, children with a balanced diet and outdoor activities would attain the daily requirement of nutrients.

A minimum of 400 IU (10 µg/day) of vitamin D is recommended for children and adolescents, especially among exclusively breastfed infants and all children and adolescents who are not routinely exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin D supplementation is only recommended to those who are unable to obtain an adequate amount of vitamin D from their diet or have inadequate exposure to sunlight.

Care should be taken while consuming vitamin D supplementation. A daily vitamin D intake of 2,000 IU or more puts one at risk of vitamin D toxicity. The signs and symptoms of toxicity include headache, a metallic taste in one’s mouth, pancreatitis, nausea, and vomiting.

Sheep’s Milk vs Goat’s Milk: Is One Better Than the Other?

WORDS GURSHARON KAUR GILL

GURSHARON KAUR GILL
Dietitian
IS GOAT’S MILK THE G.O.A.T?
EASIER TO DIGEST, COMPARED TO COW’S MILK
  • The lower levels of alpha-S1-casein protein in goat’s milk explain its easier digestibility and hypoallergenic properties.
  • The casein protein in goat’s milk also results in a smaller and softer curd formation in the stomach, which can be more easily digested by stomach enzymes compared to the harder curd formed by cow’s milk.
  • Goat’s milk has more medium-chain fatty acids than cow’s milk, which has more long-chain fatty acids. Long chain fatty acids are harder to digest, because they require bile salts from the liver as well as pancreatic enzymes to break them down before they can be absorbed by the intestine. On the other hand, medium chain fatty acids in goat’s milk do not require pancreatic enzymes to be broken down; they are more readily absorbed into the blood stream.
MORE CALCIUM, VITAMIN A & PROBIOTICS THAN COW’S MILK
  • 1 cup of goat’s milk contains 327 mg of calcium, while 1 cup of cow’s milk contains 276 mg of calcium. That equates to 51 mg more calcium in goat’s milk. However, this does not mean you have to switch to goat’s milk for that extra calcium. One is still able to achieve their calcium requirement through other calcium-rich foods like yoghurt, cheese, and some vegetables like spinach, bok choy, and broccoli in addition to milk intake.
  • 1 cup of goat’s milk contains 483 IU of Vitamin A while 1 cup of cow’s milk contains 114 IU. Vitamin A is essential for good vision, growth, fetal development, and a healthy immune system.
  • Goat’s milk contains a higher amount of prebiotics (oligosaccharides) compared to cow’s milk, which encourages the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
HOWEVER, SOME CAVEATS OF NOTE
  • Goat’s milk may not be suitable for people that are lactose intolerant as it still contains lactose. Some people find goat’s milk slightly easier to digest than cow’s milk, but other people may not have the same reaction. If you are lactose intolerant or have milk allergies and want to give goat’s milk a try, do consult your doctor beforehand.
  • Children above the age of 1 year can safely drink pasteurised goat’s milk, provided they do not have any allergy issues. Raw, unpasteurized goat’s milk is not encouraged as it may contain bacteria that can cause serious illness among children.
  • Children diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) are not recommended to consume goat’s milk or goat’s milk formulas. This is because there is evidence that this milk may still cause allergy reactions in children with CMPA, due to cross reactivity with cow’s milk.
  • Goat’s milk has more calories per serving, when compared to whole cow’s milk. This is due to the higher fat content in goat’s milk (10 g per serving) compared to 8 g per serving in cow’s milk. So, if you’re watching your weight, you may want to consider low fat cow’s milk or skim milk, especially if you drink more than 2 cups of milk per day.
HOW ABOUT SHEEP’S MILK?
IT’S ALSO EASIER TO DIGEST, COMPARED TO COW’S MILK
  • Based on a recent study in New Zealand, the protein in sheep’s milk is also more readily digested as compared to cow’s milk, which may be the reason it is better tolerated by adults that are unable to tolerate cow’s milk.
MORE CALCIUM, ZINC & PROTEIN THAN COW’S MILK
  • Sheep’s milk contains as much as 35% more calcium in 1 serving (1 cup) as compared to cow’s milk. Calcium is an essential mineral for strong bones and teeth, and is one of the important minerals in the prevention of osteoporosis.
  • Sheep’s milk contains a higher amount of zinc as compared to cow’s milk. Zinc is important for cell growth and division, wound healing, and supporting a healthy immune system.
  • Sheep’s milk is a high-protein beverage, containing 7 grams more protein per serving than cow’s milk. Protein plays an important role in the building and repairing of tissues and muscles as well as for a healthy immune system.
HOWEVER, SOME CAVEATS OF NOTE
  • Pasteurized sheep’s milk is fine for children after the age of 1 year, provided that they do not have allergy issues.
  • Children diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) are not recommended to consume sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk formulas. Just like with goat’s milk, there is evidence that sheep’s milk may still cause allergy reactions in children with CMPA, due to cross reactivity with cow’s milk.
  • Sheep’s milk has more calories per serving, when compared to whole cow’s milk. This is due to the higher fat content (17 g per serving) compared to 8 g per serving in cow’s milk. So, if you’re watching your weight, you may want to consider low fat cow’s milk or skim milk, especially if you drink more than 2 cups of milk per day.
SHEEP’S MILK VS GOAT’S MILK: IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

Looking at the data and evidence that we have, there isn’t one “best milk” out of the cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk.

All three types of milk have their pros and cons, and it really depends on the specific reason you choose a particular type of milk.

Barring any intolerance or allergy issues, it is absolutely okay to choose the milk that you like the most in terms of taste as well as your health status.


References:

  1. Alberta Health Services (2022, April). Nutrition guideline: Healthy infants and young children—milk. https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-ng-healthy-infants-other-milks-fluids-milk.pdf
  2. Malaysian Paediatric Association and Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology. (2012). Guidelines for the management of cow’s milk children 2012 (CMPA in children). https://www.allergymsai.org/pdf/guideline-cows-milk.pdf
  3. Metzger, M. (2022, July 22). Goat milk versus cow milk: A comparison. Michigan State University Extension Sheep & Goats. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/goat-milk-versus-cow-milk-a-comparison

Will Consuming Bak Kut Teh Soup Damage Your Liver?

WORDS DR CHIENG JIN YU

DR CHIENG JIN YU
Consultant Physician, Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist
Pantai Hospital Ampang

Back in June, the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology published a paper titled ‘Could herbal soup be a potentially unrecognized cause of hepatotoxicity at autopsy?’.

WHAT DOES THE PAPER SAY?

You can read the paper here (link opens in a new tab), but here are the key points:

  1. One of the investigators had a patient that suffered liver damage after eating bak kut teh soup.
  2. These researchers added 4 different formulations of bak kut teh soup to cultures of liver cancer cells.
  3. All 4 formulations were seen to cause ‘significant’ toxicity to these cells.
THAT SOUNDS ALARMING!

Indeed, this paper generated some discussion in the media recently. After all, bak kut teh is a popular delicacy especially among the Chinese population in Malaysia and Singapore!

Let me point to the statement made by Professor Roger Byard, the lead author of the study, in an interview with ABC Radio Adelaide: he said that he didn’t feel that people should panic over the results of the study.

“Obviously, a lot of people have this soup and don’t have a problem,” Prof Bayard told the interviewer, adding that he personally loves bak kut teh and has enjoyed the dish for years.

WHY PANIC MAY BE PREMATURE

We still don’t know the direct cause the patient’s liver damage. Perhaps she had a previous liver disease that led to the observed liver damage, or perhaps her liver was damage after she took her lipid-lowering medication.

We haven’t identified the exact component(s) in bak kut teh soup that may lead to liver damage. Furthermore, to date, we are not informed of the concentrations of various ingredients in these soup bases, so we can’t make a definite conclusion about the toxicity of these ingredients to our liver cells.

The investigators conducted an in-vitro laboratory study. What this means is that it was done in a controlled environment such as a test tube or petri dish.

Hence, we don’t know yet whether a similar result will be seen if the test were performed on actual people. Our digestive system is far more complex than what is in a test tube or petri dish, so this study does not accurately replicate what will happen to our body after we’ve consumed bak kut teh.

They did not study drug-food interactions. Everything we ingest, whether it’s medicine, foods, and drinks, may have a favourable response or therapeutic effect. It may also have therapeutic side effects.

THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE FROM ALL OF THIS

This is why the title of the paper is framed as a question: ‘Could herbal soup be a potentially unrecognized cause of hepatotoxicity at autopsy?’

It is meant to be a starting point for more research into the matter.

Until we have more information, there’s no harm in enjoying bak kut teh so long as it’s in moderation and in line with our healthy eating principles!


Reference: Britza, S. M., Farrington, R., Musgrave, I. F., Aboltins, C., & Byard, R. W. (2022). Could herbal soup be a potentially unrecognized cause of hepatotoxicity at autopsy?. Forensic science, medicine, and pathology, 1–4. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12024-022-00490-5

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

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

May 8, 2022   Return

WORDS JENNIFER F. NETTO

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.

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WHAT IS CONTAMINATED FOOD?

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.

BEING SHERLOCK

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.”

FOOD HANDLING AND STORAGE

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.

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CANTEEN FACILITIES

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.

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EDUCATE FOR PREVENTION

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

WORDS JORDAN LAI

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.

CHEWING GUM

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.

FIBRE DRINKS

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.

FLAVOUR DROPS

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.

ALMOND FLAKES/ STICKS

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.

HARD-BOILED EGGS

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.

NORI/LAVER (EDIBLE SEAWEED)

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

WORDS HANNAH MAY-LEE WONG

Lim Yuanshuang

Podiatrist

 

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.”