My 15 seconds of fame!

Okay, so this is the first time I’ve ever been quoted as a dietitian and I’m going to flaunt it just this one time because I might not ever get quoted ever again‚Ķ!

DAA quoted me on their Facebook page today!

DAA Facebook quote

I also just searched for my name together with ‘dietitian’, and it’s all over Google!

So here’s the tip to getting famous: fill out surveys from DAA! Just kidding ūüėõ

On DAA documents:

Australia’s Three Worst Diets Shunned by Nutrition Experts
http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Australias-three-worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts-FINAL.pdf

Top 50 Fad Free Diet Tips from DAA Members
http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Top-50-fad-free-diet-tips-from-DAA-members_2013.pdf

Healthy Cooking Tips
(another quote as a suggestion for healthy cooking tips, but isn’t quite as famous‚Ķ!)
http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Background-Healthy-cooking-tips-FINAL.pdf

There are some other really good tips on healthy eating in the documents from other dietitians too.
External links that quoted DAA:

http://ahha.asn.au/news/australia-s-three-worst-diets-shunned-nutrition-experts
http://www.itsmyhealth.com.au/healthy-living/weight-management/worst-three-diets-of-2012
http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/news/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/18263
http://www.expertguide.com.au/news/article.aspx?ID=1505
http://www.motherpedia.com.au/article/62506/the-3-worst-diets-for-2013
http://tamborinedailystar.com/Home/OfftheHill/tabid/279/ArticleID/2007/Default.aspx
http://myhealthyfamily.com.au/5-ways-to-ditch-the-diet-in-2013/
http://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/news/three-diets-to-skip-in-2013
http://www.mumsdelivery.com.au/news/diets-to-avoid-in-2013/
http://marketing4models.com/Diets/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/
http://www.seniorau.com.au/index.php/more-seniorau-news/3431-three-worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE|A319130348&v=2.1&u=c_hrca&it=r&inPS=true&prodId=HRCA&userGroupName=c_hrca&p=HRCA&digest=608852c2ef4f34aa0546455c9af7893d&rssr=rss
http://womanbuddy.com/content/unhealthiest-diets-revealed
http://www.sj-foodmachine.com/article.asp?id=63

Blogs:
http://www.fernwoodfitness.com.au/weight-loss—exercise/weight-loss/dodgey-diets-you-need-to-avoid/
http://femaleweight.com/?p=4416
http://besttruehealth.com/nutritional-supplements/long-term-high-protein-diet-increases-cvd-risk/
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=266166676828833&story_fbid=269171406543409 (The Global Institute for Life & Leadership through Seafood)
http://dietsforhealth.net/worst-diets-shunned-by-nutrition-experts/

No names to the quotes but still quoted haha!

http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2013/01/15/australian-dietitians-label-the-%E2%80%98lemons%E2%80%99-in-list-of-worst-diets.html
http://www.sheknows.com.au/health-and-wellness/articles/961253/do-you-need-to-detox
http://www.destinationfood.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Destination-Food-January-eBroadsheet-2013.pdf
http://www.lifestyle.com.au/health/why-nutrition-experts-are-shunning-detox-diets-and-cleanses.aspx
http://womansday.ninemsn.com.au/healthanddiet/diet/8590885/the-three-unhealthiest-diets-revealed

Okay, back to being humble again… so much to learn as a new graduate! I’m packing for Singapore and it’s quite a big move…

Hopefully this mass media will overtake the silly fad diets out there for a greater focus on healthy eating in 2013…

Which nut is healthiest?

I think I’ll be doing a FAQ tag on the blog so I can answer some of the questions many of my friends ask me in relation to nutrition.

A friend asked me which nut is healthiest? Or the unhealthiest?

To answer the question, let’s take a look at what nuts are.

nut |n…ôt|
noun
a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel (Oxford Dictionary, 2011).

Let’s not get finicky in botanical classification, so basically it’s just a seed. Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts, but they are very similar in characteristics of other nuts. (the difference between nuts and legumes are also best left to the botanists. Both nuts and legumes are encased on a shell, but nuts contain one (or at most, two) seeds, while legumes contain multiple seeds, among other differences nicely summarised here).

Nuts have long been known to be healthy and a nutritional powerhouse, packed full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Many people think that nuts are unhealthy as they are high in fat; while the latter is true, they are the mono- and polyunsaturated kind (good for your heart) and nuts are actually very healthy. Although they are high in fat, studies have shown that a moderate intake of nuts can actually lower the risk of weight gain and obesity. This is because nuts are very satisfying; just a handful, and all the fibre, protein and fat can help make you feel fuller. Research has also shown that about 10-15% of the energy in nuts are not absorbed in the gut, passing straight out of your body as stool (cell walls are resistant to the enzymatic breakdown in the GIT, so some cells don’t rupture and thus don’t release their fats; this is also why nut butters have greater bioavailability than whole nuts). I learned that yesterday when my supervisor (for a summer research project I’m involved in) was teaching a patient about weight management. But it’s really interesting. There are more mechanisms as to why nuts can help with weight management, which you can read further in the reference above.

Regular nut consumption can also lower your risk of other chronic diseases like cardiovascular (heart) disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. So, having a small handful of nuts everyday as a snack can be beneficial to your health. They’re also great as snacks because they’re small and handy to carry around, great to ward off the vending machine temptations!

Now to answer the question you’ve all been waiting for! Each different nut has their own unique nutritional profile that have different benefits to offer. Generally, unsalted, unroasted nuts of any kind are healthier. Salt can raise blood pressure (acting like a sponge in the kidney, so the more salt in your body, the more water is reabsorbed), whilst roasting nuts reduces their antioxidant content and alters the lipid profile, potentially raising the content of harmful chemicals (however, the effect is probably not enough to warrant complete exclusion of roasted nuts in your diet, especially if you enjoy roasted more, although it is best to have most of your nuts raw!). Roasted and salted nuts also make them tastier and harder not to overeat!.

Despite these answers, I wasn’t actually too certain of the specific answer. So I searched it up on Google (hehe..) and found that a study claimed that walnuts are the healthiest of the nuts (sorry about the newspaper link, I tried searching for the original article for 30 mins and couldn’t find it! Oh wait I finally found it!). The scientists found that walnuts contain twice the antioxidant content as other nuts (nine nuts were tested).

You can watch this video for a little more info on the study:

0,32068,868001661001_2062208,00.html

Antioxidants are the new buzz word going around in nutrition news, and rightly so. They are substances found in food that can help mop up free radicals in our bodies to prevent oxidative damage. Free radicals are molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons in their outer shell, making them unstable and highly reactive, formed when oxygen reacts with body compounds during metabolism. These free radicals will oxidise substances in the body, stealing their electrons to gain stability. The attacked molecule (that lost the electron/s) becomes a free radical itself, starting a chain reaction of electron-snatching, that produces more free radicals. This can cause oxidative damage of tissues, such as in phospholipids of cell membranes (disrupting the transport of substances across cells), DNA (creating mutations), and proteins (altering their functions).

¬†Antioxidants are substances in foods that inhibits this chain reaction of oxidative damage, protecting substances in the body from being oxidised by free radicals. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals by oxidising themselves (acting as a reducing agent): donating electrons to the free radical to stabilise their outer shell, whilst they don’t become free radicals themselves as they can receive electrons again to become reactivated. Examples of antioxidants include the vitamins A C E, as well as polyphenols.

Because that is a whole heap of science that I copy and pasted from revision I did for my exam last year (!), I shall sum it up using layman’s terms! An easy analogy of an ‘oxidative reaction’ is the rusting of iron (or the browning of apples, that’s how quickly oxidative reactions occur!). The iron naturally rusts, and if you do something to protect the iron from rusting, then the rusting won’t happen. Now imagine that’s what happens in our body, with oxidative reactions, which ultimately lead to damage to tissue. This can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, and accelerating the ageing of the eyes and brain. So if we can protect those oxidative reactions from occurring using antioxidants which mop up free radicals, we can protect the tissue from damage and help us stay healthier for longer.

Back to Vinson et al’s study, it found that walnuts contained 69.3 units of polyphenol/g walnut (and polyphenols are up to 15x the potency of vitamin E). Another suggestion was that walnuts are usually eaten raw, hence there is a higher chance that more antioxidants are eaten (vs. other nuts that are often roasted). Here is a graph of the total polyphenol content of different nuts, courtesy of TIME.

Brazil nuts come a close second, and hazelnuts third (it is also evident that raw nuts are generally higher in antioxidants than roasted counterparts). Of course, antioxidants aren’t the only factor in health, and it isn’t the only reason walnuts deserve the title of ‘healthiest nut’ (and this title is certainly not entirely true, since different nuts have different benefits!). Walnuts can also protect the elasticity of the arteries, which can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque forming on the arteries that blocks blood flow), and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid; the only nut that contains this), those very hard-to-find fats, which can help with many functions in the body such as reducing inflammation and cholesterol, and promoting heart health).

However, the key is balance and variety. Even though walnuts are ‘healthiest’, each nut possesses a plethora of unique merits. By ensuring a varied intake, you can reap the benefits of other nuts too.

  • Almonds help stabilise blood sugar and are a great source of calcium.
  • Brazil nuts are excellent sources of selenium (a mineral that helps vitamin E (antioxidant!) operate). They also have more methionine than other nuts, making them of slightly higher protein quality (although still not excellent).
  • Cashews are high in magnesium which can help build strong bones. Cashews have a greater carbohydrate and lower fat content than most other nuts. And they taste so good. ūüôā
  • Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E and beta-sitosterol which contributes to cardioprotection and chemoprevention.
  • Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fat and thiamin (vit B1).
  • Peanuts are often victimised into being labelled the ‘bad/unhealthy nut’, but such a label is clearly unfair and untrue. Peanuts are healthy and high in monounsaturated fat, folate, and resveratrol (the phenolic antioxidant more famously known in red wine) which can help protect the heart. When buying peanut butter (which, in moderation, is perfectly fine), avoid any varieties that list “hydrogenated fat/oil” in the ingredients list. Buying the pure/organic type with nothing but pure peanuts (no sugar, oil, or salt) is the healthiest, but often a lot more expensive, and arguably unnecessary if you are on a budget and not consuming excessive amounts.
  • Pecans are high in vitamin E and regular consumption may help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.
  • Pistachios are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and iron.

Just like how eating a variety of fruits and vegetables are recommended, to take advantage of all the different nutrients in different types, so too are nuts. Having a variety of nuts also confers benefits of factors that have not been studied or are less black-and-white (which is also true for fruit and vegetables). For example, some research shows that pine nuts can help suppress appetite, thus helping with weight management. So the answer to the question is, conventionally, walnuts are probably ‘best’, but the healthiest nut a mixture of nuts! So, while some nuts contain more cardioprotective nutrients than others, the type of nut you eat isn’t very important, and what’s important is that you do include a small amount of nuts in your regular diet (whatever nuts you choose). Nevertheless, most people don’t eat much walnut, preferring peanuts instead (I admit to being one of them!). So if you’d like to make the most out of the nuts you eat, consider trying a mix of walnuts and other tree nuts instead of just peanuts!

There is no nut that is the most ‘unhealthy’ or the ‘worst nut’. However, if you are watching your weight, macadamias and pecans are the most energy-dense, and although coconut is formally classified as a drupe, if classified as a nut, it is the least healthy due to its high saturated fat content .

I’ve been extolling the virtues of nuts throughout this whole post, but of course this doesn’t mean that you should eat a few cups a day! As with everything, you can overdo a good thing, and it’s all about moderation. Nuts are very energy-dense and too much can lead to weight gain, so the general rule is to have around a small handful each day (~1/3 cup is equivalent to a Meat & Alternative serve of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating [AGHE]). And raw, unsalted nuts are best. Try them au naturel as snacks, sprinkled on pasta/stir-fries/cereal/yoghurt/ice-cream, baked into cakes, or blended to make butter or vegan cream (I have a yummy recipe for cashew cream for cakes, which I’ll post later!).

Stomach about to explode

Hello all! I am in foodie paradise!

Not really, that was just a hyperbole merely intended to attract your attention. Well, Sydney certainly does offer much more culinary choice than Brisbane, but the main reason is not because of the actual restaurants/food offered in a place per se, but more the notion of one’s prerogative to become a lunatic and stuff onself crazy since everybody is treating you to food that is entailed from holiday mode. It’s not like I’m complaining here, I love to eat out, but sometimes it’s a bit too much.

I’m here right now, in pain from overeating tonight. It feels as if my stomach is being weighed down by a 5kg rock inside that won’t budge, just sitting there like some intrusive, irksome¬†visitor¬†adamantly refusing to leave. I tried to resist, but it’s just so hard to not eat when there’s food in front of me. My uncle is a huge eater, akin to the appetite of a¬†sumo wrestler (despite his svelte frame), and I think I owe my genetic makeup to my lack of overweight (without such unusually high metabolism, my diet (probably double or triple the amount a typical asian girl would consume)¬†would no doubt have made me morbidly obese), and I think my¬†family tends to encourage¬†me to keep eating, don’t waste food… But I need to learn to say no. The few weeks I’ve been in Sydney, I’ve been stuffing myself silly even though I’m already full, and I think family has a lot to blame, being the frugal Chinese we (they)¬†are, constantly forcing me to finish the scraps left from every dish. I am staying in Wagga Wagga for¬†5 days with my uncle, and¬†he knows I love to eat, so he brought so much food for me. A pandan¬†cake, black sesame soup, pocky,¬†“sachima cookie”, two tubs of yogurt, three mangoes,¬†six Chinese buns, Panetonne, ice cream sticks… you get the gist. And this is in addition to the three meals a day. And he expects me to finish it all, in five days.¬†I like snacks, but it’s just too much! I know he loves me and is being hospitable, but when it gets to the point where¬†my stomach is about¬†to explode (me being my vocab-extending self, I was on the brinkof writing ‘implode’ before I realised that would probably be the verb used to describe a famine), it’s kind of overboard.

wagga-food

Okay, so I have part blame too, loving eating so much and a natural curiosity to try a bit of everything (if they order 20 dishes in yum cha for example, I’ll try each and every one of them), but then my family is again to¬†blame, because at home I would cut things in half so I can try a small piece of everything, but here, they’re so rigid, and thinks I’m rude for doing that.. making me eat a huge piece of everything).

But anyway, aside from my health, I’ve been having wonderful meals down in New South Wales. Good food. I just went to a Vietnamese restaurant today with uncle, and we ordered the pork and shrimp rice roll for entree, and beef with lemongrass and chilli, and combination meats (chicken, shrimp, beef, pork) in tammarind sauce. My uncle, having such an astute tongue, commented the mains were a good combination because the two had very distinct flavours of their own and stood out individually, rather than the common problem of ordering two very similar dishes that just taste the same (very easy mistake¬†to do in an Asian restaurant where all the dishes are doused in¬†sauces which¬†are practically identical). The¬†spicy, poignant flavour of the beef contrasted well with the sourness of the tarramind sauce.¬†So it got me thinking… it’s rarely discussed, the matching of dishes in one meal, but it’s such an important thing, and I wonder why that is? Perhaps most Western people are less lavish than us Chinese, and just have one main with a salad to match. Much more simple.

This restaurant, called Saigon restaurant (it’s in Wagga Wagga),¬† was the first time I tried those lovely Vietnamese spring rolls and fell head over heels for. In this version, it’s made with fillings of¬†shrimp, pork shreds (it’s marinated, not just plain), vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, Thai basil, with the dipping sauce probably made of hoisin sauce with crushed peanuts on top. I don’t know how authentic it is, but it seems to taste nicer than the ones in Brisbane. That’s probably because there’s coriander leaves (yuck), and maybe the sauce wasn’t the super sweet hoisin sauce. It’s probably more authentic in Brisbane, I remember there’s always a little strip of green protruding from the ends of the rolls. Oh well. I think I’ve had enough rambling for today. My goal for the rest of the holiday: to say ‘no’ when I am already stuffed, and avoid further stomach aches.

(P.S. I’ll upload some pertinent photos when I get the chance)