The last 20 years, we have seen rapid and noticeable economic development in Malaysia, which has significantly altered community habits. There have been substantial dietary changes among Malaysians, such as a rise in the consumption of fats and oils as well as processed carbohydrates and a decline in the consumption of complex carbs.
On top of that, our local favourite dishes like nasi lemak and drinks like bubble milk tea are easily available at most food courts, stalls, or hawker centres. These foods are deficient in fiber and high in sodium, saturated fat, and fats. Regular eating of these foods has a detrimental effect on our health such that it increases the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and several malignancies.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) in 2019, it was discovered that among 50.1% Malaysian adults, 30.4% were overweight and 19.7% were obese. The Ministry of Health warns that the obesity level in Malaysia is worrying and has reached an alarming level.
Thus, how can we enjoy our delicious Malaysian foods while being healthy? Here are some suggestions that we, Malaysians, can practice.
1) BALANCE, MODERATION, AND VARIETY
- Balance: Eat food from all food groups in every meal
- Moderation: Eat in moderate portions and use the plate as a guide. You may use the quarter-quarter-half concept in your meal.
For example, the division of your plate would look like:
o ½ comes from fruits and vegetables,
o ¼ from fish, poultry, meat, legume
o ¼ from rice, noodles, bread, cereals products, tuber
- Variety: Include a variety of foods in your daily diet
2) STAY HYDRATED
o 6-8 glasses approximately 1.5 – 2.0 liter of plain water daily.
o Children: 4-6 glasses/day to support their growth
o Lactating mother: Additional 2 more glasses daily to support breastfeeding their babies
o The elderly: Make sure they drink water regularly and have easy access to water
3) CHOOSE HEALTHIER BEVERAGES
We need to understand the amount of e
nergy and other nutrients in various beverages and consume them as appropriate.
- Tea/kopi Tarik (250 ml ~ 160 kcal)
- 3 in 1 beverage (240 ml ~ 180 kcal)
- Rose syrup (240 ml ~ 140 kcal)
- Carbonated/flavoured drink (240 ml ~ 146 kcal)
- Pearl milk tea (500 ml ~ 335 kcal)
- Chocolate malt drink (200 ml ~ 136 kcal)
- 100% fresh juice (200 ml ~ 120 kcal)
- Full cream milk (240 ml ~ 187 kcal)
- Low-fat milk (240 ml ~ 131 kcal)
- Cultured milk with probiotic (80 ml ~ 62 kcal)
- Plain water (~ 0 kcal)
4) EAT COLORFUL FRUITS AND VEGGIES FOR HEALTH
What does fruits and vegetables contain:
- Fruits and veggies contain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that may have potential protective effects against diet-related chronic diseases.
- Fruits have a lot of sugar, but it is natural sugar.
- Fruits also include fiber and other nutrients.
This indicates that they will increase the body’s supply of vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants while being less likely to result in a sugar spike.
Based on Malaysian Dietary Guidelines, it is recommended to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits daily.
- Fruits: 1 medium banana/1 slice watermelon/8 grapes/½ guava/1 medium pear
- Vegetables: ½ cup cooked vegetable/1 cup raw vegetables/1 cup raw tomatoes
5) EAT MORE PREBIOTICS
Probiotics and their role in promoting gut health and immunity are topics that most of us are quite familiar with. However, there is another group of gastrointestinal-friendly foods that may provide even more potent health advantages. We call it prebiotics! Prebiotics and probiotics have quite diverse functions, even though they sound extremely similar.
Prebiotics are unique dietary fibers that are present in a selection of food. The human body is unable to metabolize prebiotics. But these fibers can be broken down and fermented by the bacteria in our gut. Prebiotics can be found in abundance in Arabic gum, leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, and chard), bell peppers, cabbage, apples, bananas, kiwifruit, and berries. Prebiotics can help to rebuild healthy gut bacteria more quickly. It can tolerate the severe acidic environment in the stomach and gives our small intestine beneficial bacteria nourishment.
Which then now, comes to our question, why is prebiotics so beneficial? Just like how probiotics have shown to have many benefits, prebiotics also have its own uniqueness, which they can:
- Improve our digestive health
Like many common digestive issues, such as bloating, it is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in our digestive tract. What do prebiotics do?
Prebiotics can aid in the relief by encouraging and preventing the growth of good and bad bacteria respectively. Moreover, prebiotics can aid in improving the quality (frequency and consistency) of the stool if constipation. They also enhance general well-being, lowering the incidence of allergy symptoms, and lowering the risk of gastroenteritis and infections.
Prebiotics can also improve the performance of our immune system by fostering a more favorable balance of gut flora.
Our immune response is regulated by gut bacteria by stabilizing the gut wall’s integrity and halting the spread of infections from the gut into the blood. It helps to control the inflammation and generate compounds that eliminate pathogens.
According to a vast number of studies, eating specific prebiotics meals can result in statistically significant changes in the composition of the gut microbiota that boost immunity.
Prebiotics may even lower the risk of developing cancer. It is proven by various research that eating more prebiotic meals might lower the amount of putrefactive (bacterial) metabolites and cancer-promoting enzymes in the gut.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the composition of the microbiota in the stomach significantly affects how much we weigh. Researchers from Denmark examined the effects of dietary changes on 62 overweight persons who had various ratios of the bacteria prevotella and bacteroides in their digestive systems. The group with higher ratio of prevotella and bacteroides had considerably lost more body fat after 26 weeks than those with a lower ratio. This indicates that the composition of the bacteria in our gut plays a significant role in weight loss.
How our body metabolizes and uses food is also influenced by the composition of gut flora. Gut flora are the bacteria and other organisms that live inside the intestines which help to digest food. It appears that obese individuals’ gut flora may be more effective at obtaining energy from food than lean individuals.
Studies on mice revealed that those with a higher ratio of firmicutes and bacteroides bacteria absorbed and stored more calories as fat than those with lower ratio. Humans will probably go through the same procedure. In other words, two people who eat the same meal and number of calories but distinct gut flora may utilize and retain those calories in different ways.
The benefits of prebiotics in decreasing cholesterol are due to their naturally high fiber content. Fiber helps to clear toxins, spent hormones, and excess LDL (bad) cholesterol. Without adequate fiber, these toxins and cholesterol are reabsorbed back to the circulatory system.
Our digestive system’s bacteria affect how our body metabolizes and uses food. Additionally, our microbiota has a significant impact on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation. When we ingest carbs, the hormone insulin is released by the body to carry glucose (sugar) into the cells, where it is used as fuel. However, when we consume a lot of refined food, sugar, or trans-fat, our cells may become “desensitized” to the effects of the hormone, which means that more insulin is required to get the glucose into our cells.
Cells may develop “insulin resistance” that prevents insulin from bringing glucose into the cell. As a result, the cells do not have enough energy making the person feel exhausted.
A high-fat and sugar diet alters the balance of the bacteria in our stomach and makes our cells less susceptible to the effects of insulin. This chronic low-level state of inflammation lasts for a long time. Prebiotics can help to enhance metabolic processes linked to both type-2 diabetes and obesity by rebalancing our gut bacteria and reducing inflammation.
Prebiotics and skeletal health are more closely related than we might realize. We might be wondering what fiber has to do with developing strong bones. Based on previous study, prebiotics have shown to improve the absorption of minerals, including magnesium and perhaps iron and calcium.
These are all essential for maintaining healthy bones and avoiding fractures or osteoporosis. According to one study, consuming just eight grams of prebiotics per day had a significant impact on the body’s absorption of calcium, which increased bone density. So always remember prebiotics if you want to develop strong bones!
There you go, a list of reasons why we think prebiotics can be your next best friend to keep you in check of your health. Follow the steps provided above and you will surely feel the difference. Start with us now by purchasing our natural prebiotics from the link below!