LOVE YOUR HEALTH, LOVE YOUR SELF: THE FATS OF LIFEBy Dr Fatimah Arshad, Professor of Nutrition, Dietetics & Health, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Obesity in both adults and children is on the rise, and concerns are rising with it. A great deal has been said lately in the local news about being overweight and obese, and the health issues related to these conditions.
Recent statistics are cause for alarm. At least one in five Malaysians, or 20% of the population, is overweight. Although this indicates that disposable incomes have reached enviable proportions, there is nothing enviable about the cost of healthcare in the years to come, that will have to be borne by the government and the patients themselves.
Being overweight and obese increases our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Besides these, being overweight also makes us more prone to gall bladder diseases, breathing difficulties and accidents. It puts stress on our joints, and exacerbates conditions like arthritis, which results in crippling pain.
There are indications that obesity begins in childhood; overweight children tend to become overweight adults. Parents therefore should make it a point to inculcate good eating habits in children, like eating at set times of the day instead of snacking in between meals, for example.
More importantly, we have to understand how the food we consume affects our bodies. The total amount of calories must be taken into consideration when setting a diet. Use this table to check the calorie content of your food:
Another reason that we may feel hungry all the time could be that we are consuming food that is high on the Glycaemic Index (GI). The GI was developed to help in the measurement of blood sugar levels. It is a ranking of foods according to how much they raise blood sugar levels after consumption.
Have you ever wondered why you feel hungry sometimes only a few hours after a big meal? In response to the amount of glucose that is released into your blood with the digestion of the meal, the hormone insulin is released to drive sugar into the cell to be utilised or stored as fat. Because of the close relationship between plasma (blood) insulin and plasma glucose, and insulin’s role in facilitating digestion, some researchers suggested that insulin rather than glucose may be integral in the development of hunger and being full. Several diet books propose that chronic hyperinsulinemia (high level of insulin in the blood) is responsible for increasing hunger. Therefore, eating low GI foods would not elevate insulin levels and is crucial to controlling appetite.
For those who are trying to manage their weight, this is an important consideration. These are some examples of food we consume daily, and their GI values:
Based on the two tables in this article, we will be able to work out what is nutritious and healthy, and what isn’t. Malaysians love to eat, but we need to train ourselves and our children to eat selectively. Eating right means eating smart, which doesn’t necessarily mean depriving yourself of your favourite dishes. Eating smart will help us live longer and healthier, keep disease at bay, and enjoy the bounty that makes Malaysia a gourmet’s paradise.
Loving yourself is the heart of the matter, and it starts with loving your health. “Love Your Health, Love Your Self” is a series of articles brought to you by Gardenia on your health, with some practical ways to stay on the right track through stress management, proper diet, weight management and nutritional choices. Dr Fatimah Arshad, Professor of Dietetics, Nutrition & Health, is a respected Dietitian in academia, and was extensively involved in the development of Gardenia’s low-G.I, low-G.L. bread, Breakthru.