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Basic nutrition 101: Proteins

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROTEINS

Sometimes it can get quite difficult with nutrition advice.
For example, bring up proteins on any gathering, and  you’ll get an assortment of views.
Some says it’s the miracle to weight loss and others, the poison to your kidneys?
So what’s really the truth, well read on to find out!

For those of you who are a little lazy to read, here’s a short and neat video for you instead!

1) Proteins don’t only come from meat!

When you mention “protein” to the mass population, the immediate relation is to animal meats, and for many, that is the perceived truth, that protein can only be obtained from animal meats.

Well, vegans, vegetarians and dietitians unite, and we’re gonna tell you that’s absolutely not the case!

THERE ARE PLENTY OF VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN SOURCES OF PROTEIN AS WELL, AND YES THEY CAN REPLACE ANIMAL MEATS ANY DAY.

Sources of vegetable proteins are beans, legumes, dairy and its respective products.

So things like cheese, tempeh, tofu, baked beans, are all excellent sources of protein.

You just gotta keep in mind, that these vegetable protein sources also contain carbs, so if you plan to go vegetarian for the day, you may need to cut down on your typical carbs to compensate!

2) You’re probably eating too much meat.

Now, I can quote on how Americans and Australians are eating too much meat based on their respective local studies, but I’m a Chinese from Malaysia, so I’ll speak on behalf on my own country’s context.

WE ARE EATING TOO MUCH.

Now I probably can’t speak too loudly for the Indian or Malay communities but I certainly can speak with absolute confidence that my race, the Chinese are eating too much meat.

Go out to any Chinese restaurant and just do some simple observation,
every table of 4-5 will have 1 veg (or none), 2-3 meat dishes (mixture of pork/chicken/seafood, heck it’s also deep fat and don’t even get me started on the fat content!)
and maybe 1 tofu dish if you’re feeling luxurious that day.

The thing is, historically speaking, the ability to have meat on a daily basis was considered abnormal and if you could have it, it meant you were successful or rich or most likely royalty. Hence, with the industrial revolution and when jobs were made available to those who would work, our parents’ generation now had the opportunity to have meat on the table and unfortunately, this
over consumption has partially contributed to the increase of non-communicable disease.

3) Choose lean over fatty streaks.

Now I said increase of non-communicable disease, why?

Ask any Malaysian which part of the chicken they’d like to eat, the answer? thigh

Pork tenderloin or pork belly? Belly, deep fried please.

So what’s the deal? How is this contributing to our health problems, now I’m not saying you can’t eat any of these parts of the animal, heck, I love them.

The issue arises when we eat TOO MUCH.

for example pork fat or lard, contains about 30% saturated and about 40% unsaturated fats.
While saturated fats are not the only factor to heart diseases, it can contribute to having risk factors (hyperlipidaemia) that can increase your risk of having heart disease not to mention the excess calories from the fat can certainly lead you to obesity if it exceeds your daily caloric needs.

So if you want to eat meat, try to opt for leaner cuts, less fatty streaks and if you wanna eat those fattier cuts, well time to up your cooking game to make sure that fat is rendered out and that you’re left with the lean meat and all it’s wonderful connective tissue

Wanna learn how to do this? Stay tuned and look out for my video on how to healthily prepare meats!

4) No, eating meat doesn’t equate to you getting cancer or smoking 5 cigarettes a day.

If you have a netflix subscription or are just exposed to social media, you’d probably heard of the documentary “what the health” and an article circulating connective the effects of eating animal being equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes a day.

Well, I’m here to tell you meat lovers, that you can still eat meat without worrying about those claims.

The documentary was heavily skewed to support veganism and while I’m not against veganism (In fact, on a sustainability topic, I’m all for it), it’s method of criticising the meat industry was done in very unethical and unprofessional manner.

KEY IS ALWAYS ABOUT BALANCE.

But I will say 1 thing, eating vegetable sources of protein every now and then and replacing meat is definitely a good thing.

Not only is it more sustainable for our earth, it is also healthy for you.

Namely, the added fibre helps to lower your bad cholesterol levels, makes you feel fuller (if you’re trying to lose weight) and by God, it can be damn tasty!

5) Use your palm to measure how much to eat.

So how much protein should you eat?

Now on a general level, if you’re eating animal protein (lean meat please that is not deep fried!!), 1/4 OF YOUR PLATE ON 1 PALM SIZE would be good for main meals.

If you’re eating vegetable sources, ideally, I would recommend treating as both your source of carbs and protein. So with that said, half your plate should be legumes or beans.
(If you have Irritable Bowel Disease, you’d probably can’t go all out of beans and legumes, another topic for another time)

With that said, moderation is still key, as long as you don’t indulge too often and keep it simple right down to your portions, optimal health isn’t very far away 🙂

Stay healthy guys!
LTD

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What is nutrition

Nutrition: A Gimmick, Scam or Necessity?

When it comes to nutrition, almost every single human alive have their own opinions towards the matter and some even claim to be the content expert on the topic without any proper qualifications whatsoever. It seems that there’s always someone out on the street selling some magical product that’s “scientific based”, that can cure you of cancer and diabetes just by consuming it.

So what’s the deal?

Well, from a dietitian’s perspective, here’s what I feel what nutrition is and what nutrition is not.

5 Things what Nutrition is NOT and  ACTUALLY is:

1) Nutrition is NOT a small matter, it impacts your whole life.

“I mean come on, how is this small piece of cake gonna kill me? I mean ate a freakin buffet last week and I ain’t dead!”
Heard something like that before?

Well the unfortunate truth, at least from my experience, is that there’s a huge majority of people who treat nutrition like that.

We tend to indulge thinking that it will not bring us any harm in the future since it’s not instantaneous and we don’t feel anything after the indulgence.

What many don’t understand that malnutrition, that is too much or too little nutrition, very seldom produces an acute effect to our bodies, and most of the time, it’s chronic or long term.

If you’re familiar with the concept of compounding interest where interest added on to your principle amount under interest grows exponentially, the same can be said with nutrition, both proper and improper nutrition.

If you’ve taken notice, the rates of non-communicable diseases have been on the climb, before you start with it’s because of the low fat diet introduced in the 70’s (I will cover in another article) or the excess stress that people have these days, for whatever reason it may be, excess consumption has led to surplus of obesity rate in all parts of the world, being a Malaysian, you could say we’re kinda championing in this department.

Ignorance towards proper nutrition education can be seriously harmful,
You don’t become obese from 1 indulging meal but you do from an indulging lifestyle, even if you’re not aware that you are enjoying said lifestyle!
Obesity has and is highly correlated to diabetes and heart diseases, not to mention higher risk of developing cancers as well.

If you think cancer or diabetes, doesn’t affect your whole life, think again!

2) Nutrition is NOT a get healthy quick scheme, it’s a lifestyle commitment.

So okay fine, it’s serious, but I’ll lose the weight with one of those “magic” weight loss pills or regime.

Now, I’m not saying that some of those products or packages don’t work, but I will say many of them don’t last in the long haul, and many probably has very little concrete scientific evidence to them as well.

If you examine the word diet, it comes from Greek work Diaita, which literally means “way of life”.

When people claim that they are on a “diet”, they are normally inferring that they are restricting certain foods with the purpose of a certain health or bodily outcome.

Now I’m not saying that’s bad, in fact for some of the patient’s I’ve personally worked with, that kind of “diet” is very important, especially for people with certain diseases like celiac disease or kidney failure.

But for most of us, the “diet” we need is an entire change of lifestyle, not just the food you eat. It encompasses your physical, mental and social lifestyle factors.

But let’s stick with nutrition in this instance, it means that going of an Atkin’s diet for 3 months and going back to normal ain’t gonna do you any good, and here’s why, for many cases, these crash diets work by lowering your metabolism rate with calorie deficits and the moment you revert back to your original diet, you will gain back those weight and in fact even more in order for your body to achieve equilibrium!

So what’s the best way?

It’s really about understand what your body needs and taking small sustainable changes like taking the steps more often slowly and then transitioning to the gym or the track field.

Of course, have a dietitian as a mentor, that can accurately map out for you what you need in accordance to your goal, helps a lot!

3) Nutrition is NOT a culture or a belief, it is an exact science.

My mother said that if we eat more coriander root, I’ll be free of cancer!

Now, admittedly I made that up, but you know what I’m trying to get at, the relative at the dining table who glorifies a certain type of food to be this crazy substance that will cure or prevent all diseases, as well as demonising a certain food that would perhaps cause cancer in your eye balls!

While belief and culture are important components to our day to day life and not to mention our heritage, proper nutrition is not something that can be bounded by walls of personal beliefs or even testimonials, it’s a constantly evolving science based around evidences and research.

From the exact amount of calories you need in a day to the amount of fluid necessary for a child with certain medical disorders, it is an exact science. While in certain cases, there have been a few truths in the wisdom of the past about food and nutrition, many and most of which are unfortunately not evidenced based.

The truth about nutrition is that, you cannot generally label a food good or bad (unless it’s trans-fats, stay away from that crud!).
Nutrition breaks itself down to macro and micro nutrition, the macro’s being things like carbs, proteins and fat while the micros, things like vitamins and minerals, if you see any professional health expert, nutritionist or dietitian, they will tell you that there are only better packages in different foods, like in the case of sugar versus fruits, 15g of sugar and 1 medium sized green apple has about the same amount of sugar, 15g. The difference lies in the added vitamins and minerals in the apple and not to mention the fibre!

4) Nutrition is NOT a simple subject to master, it’s an art of its own and has its own set of skill sets.

Aiyaaa, nutrition ah, nehhh very easy oneeeee, just eat the fruit and vegetables can already!

Eh aunty please, I do a degree 4 years you, think because so easy ah?
All humour aside, nutrition or in my case, dietetics is not an easy subject to master. It has its own plethora of skills sets like learning and remembering different formulas for energy calculation, the different medical nutrition therapy from obesity to paediatric intensive care, the counselling techniques based of the different theoretical models like health belief model and the trans theoretical model of behaviour change, and many many more!

So please please please please, and I speak on behalf of many other dietitians, we did not take a simple and easy course, it was stressful and I lost a lot of hair learning all of it up!

5) Nutrition is NOT obvious, but it is SIMPLE.

Now this might seem contradictory to my previous point, but while nutrition itself is a complicated matter and very often confusing with all the random, unfiltered information circulation around the internet of your environment, my job as a dietitian is to simplify it for you guys, using models like the “MYhealthy plate”, apps or even new technological equipment.

So while the truth is that, nutrition is a massive complicated, never ending, ever growing science, leave the hair losing position to the dietitians and if you want to be equipped with the right knowledge for your bodily needs, may I recommend seeing a dietitian before it’s too late!

Remember, small steps, small changes, permanent results! 😉

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Milo is poison thumbnail

Is Milo Poison??

Is Milo Poison?

So recently, the CEO of mindvalley, Vishen Lakhiani not too long ago, posted a video in conjunction with the NEW YORK TIMES article titled: “In Asia’s Fattest Country, Nutritionists Take Money From Food Giants”.

In the video he expresses that big multinational companies like Nestle, are intentionally adding excessive amounts of sugar, which he equates to as poison, into their products.
He also claims that these products are lied to be safe and a healthier choice for consumption, products namely such as Milo and honey stars which comprises a huge chunk of the childhood memories of many Malaysians.
This led to many of my friends and relatives shouting to me, what’s the deal?

So to those who don’t know me, I am a practicing dietitian, working mainly in the community, educating people about preventive dietetics and nutrition. So naturally, many who knew of my background came to me seeking for resolution.

So here’s what I think.

For those of you who are lazy to read but want the info anyways, here’s a video of my review:

Sugar is everywhere but in controlled amounts and portion, it’s fine.

Sugar is a form of carbohydrate, really simple carbohydrate, that is easily absorbed in our bodies. It also contains very little nutritional value, aside from carbohydrates and sugar, it literally has nothing else, comparatively to a fruit for example, a fruit would have vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Hence, the calories provided by sugar is also known as “empty calories”.
In the video, Vishen mentioned that 40% of what is in Milo is pure sugar, and he’s not wrong.
For every 100g of milo, there’s 40g of sugar.
So, it’s dangerous then? Hold on…..
While there’s 40% sugar in the product, we still have to consider the serving size and portion, the amount you’re actually recommended to consume, in this case it’s 30g diluted with water or milk.
That makes out to 12.2g of sugar from the milo itself, or roughly 2 teaspoons.
Now consider this, the typical Teh Tarik at your favorite Mamak joint has about 26g of sugar.

Pic: Healthworks

The qualitative side of sugar is certainly bad in excess for us, but what we need to put in consideration is also the quantity of which we consume.
WHO recommends that we should consume less than 10% or even better 5% of sugar
(Max: 5 – 10 teaspoons/day) in our total caloric intake.
So while milo does have sugar in the product, it’s not really the worst, think about it, traditional Kuihs, Candi, our obsession towards desserts. Those all have to a certain degree more sugar than 1 serving of milo.
The same case goes with honey stars, which was another product mentioned in the video, it’s 28% sugar, but 1 serving with milk only has 14.3 grams, have you ever seen someone eating putu mayam with heaps of brown sugar together with their favorite Teh Tarik?

Government efforts are real.

While I’m at it, Vishen also mentioned about the read sticker by the Ministry of Health also known as the Healthier Choice Logo being on some of these products with high sugar content.

Well the truth is, the ministry of health is genuinely trying to provide regulations to provide the people healthier food choice.
If you look at the criteria, milo and honey stars did nothing wrong, they did in fact fit into the ministry of health’s healthier choice logo’s criteria for the category of breakfast cereals for children, where in 100g of product, there should be less or equal, 3g of fat, 400 mg of sodium, 30g of sugar, more than 3g of fibre and 25% of whole grains.
This regulation certainly puts a front to promote the consumption of whole grains and more fiber.

Marketing is always trying to tie in what we want consciously or unconsciously to a product, ALWAYS.

It was also mentioned that Nestle lied to people that drinking milo makes you healthier as evidenced by it’s marketing of a taekwondo picture inferring that after drinking milo, you’d be able to perform better in sports.
Well the thing is this, it’s partially true, look into the science of sports nutrition, and you’ll easily realise that sugar containing drinks can enhance performance and recovery in the right amounts.
The glycemic index (GI) for milo is 55±3 (considered medium-low GI), if mixed with full fat milk, it goes lower to 35±2. (Low GI)
Drinks at that glycemic index have been shown in research to enhance an athlete’s performance

But here’s the important matter,
businesses will create products based on what they feel consumers would buy and be happy to consume, and are definitely going to market it in a way that it would be positively associated with the public.
Which company wouldn’t do that? If they released a super healthy product but no one is going to consume it, what’s the point? At least from a business aspect. So they compromised for this target audience by making it more palatable with sugar, not the best thing for you arguably but that’s what happened.
To another target audience in healthcare, they do provide great products for people with diabetes trying to control their blood sugar for example.


It’s all about supply and demand really.

Research cost money, but funded data is still data.

Over the issue on funding research and buying over nutritionist, well that’s a catchy title but give it a read and you’ll realize the content is relatively neutral actually.
The thing is this, research costs money, nutritionist and dietitians only want to find solutions towards minimizing health problems.
The truth is, without any collaboration, our health state would be in far worst place, for example, it was through those efforts that regulation on food labels came into play in Malaysia in 2003.
Data is still data, funded or not, can prove to have valuable information, furthermore, the scientific community does not just take 1 or 2 articles and form a guideline solely based on that, they go through heap and heaps of stringent reviews and processes, for example, is so and so’s finding replicable by other authors somewhere else. I mean think about it, data from a funded research can seem to be skeptical at first, but if the same parameters are reproducible through other controlled forms of study on the matter, multiple times, by different scientist all over the globe, would then that data have some form of validity?

Important takeaways

Now Nestle doesn’t pay me to say any of this, and frankly it doesn’t matter, what I’m trying to do is to give everyone some perspective.

  1. It’s fine to consume milo or honey stars, stick to the recommended servings and you’ll be fine. Is it the healthiest cereals or breakfast food out there? Perhaps not, but hey, they aren’t bad in relative terms to many of our traditional foods.
  2. Don’t glorify or vilify any nutrients, it’s all about context and quantity as well.
  3. Research is needed and until more funds are made available to the public, collaborations with food companies are needed, but the data is still data and can be used as a means of study anyways. To authenticate and validate the data, extreme scrutiny will be applied but more importantly, if the data can be replicated elsewhere, it’s definitely good.

So in the case of sugar, imagine a world where you have no desserts or sweet stuff, would you really want to live in that?

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