Ahh, it’s that time of year again where food and family meet! At restaurants and hotels, popular Malaysian dishes fill every inch of the buffet spread; on the dinner table at home, Opah’s own spread of family favourites.
While all this eating and feasting is enjoyable, sometimes it’s good to stop and think: is this healthy? As you may have already heard countless times: eat in moderation; too much of everything – good or bad – can eventually turn unhealthy. But how much is too much? Different foods have different nutritional benefits and health factors. To help you gauge the healthiness (or unhealthiness) of your buka puasa eating, we’ve analysed some of the most popular buka puasa dishes. So, how healthy is your buka puasa, really? Read on to find out!
1. Asam Pedas
This popular seafood stew is easily Malaysia’s favourite Malay dish. Sour and spicy, it is often cooked with fish, tamarind juice, chili and spices, and eaten as a side dish with rice.
What’s good? The magic ingredient here is tamarind. It contains high levels of antioxidants (vitamins B and C) and is also a very good source of iron (helps with muscle and organ oxygenation). Additionally, according to studies, tamarind has shown promise in reducing blood pressure, as well as cholesterol levels.
What’s bad? As much as tamarind is a great health food, watch out for its blood sugar lowering effect. If you have diabetes or are going for surgery, keep an eye on your consumption of tamarind as it may interfere with your blood sugar levels.
What should you do about it? Asam pedas isn’t a particularly unhealthy dish because the tamarind juice balances out the cholesterol content of seafood in this stew, so you may enjoy this dish – just don’t go overboard with it!
Overall health rating: 4/5
2. Grilled Lamb or Mutton
Served at almost every buka puasa buffet at restaurants and hotels, grilled lamb is a versatile dish that can be eaten with virtually anything – mint sauce, brown sauce, with rice or on its own. Since this dish is purely meat (and some seasoning), many overlook the underlying health factors of grilled lamb.
What’s good? It is generally known that lamb meat contains protein and iron. What not many people know is that – in lamb meat – available more abundantly than iron is zinc, which supports the immune system and speeds up wound healing. This makes lamb meat especially advantageous for bodybuilders, athletes and post-surgical patients.
What’s bad? Lamb is rich in calories and saturated fats, making it an evident cause of weight gain, if eaten excessively. This also leads to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease. Additionally, lamb meat is a source of uric acid that may accumulate to form kidney stones.
What should you do about it? If you are susceptible to gout and kidney stones, lamb meat should be taken in minimal servings or completely avoided altogether. As for controlling your cholesterol levels, Vitamode offers a heart-healthy supplement that lowers blood cholesterol levels effectively.
Overall health rating: 2/5
Mmm… The fragrant smell of lemang roasting over the open fire takes you back to the kampung, doesn’t it? The sweetness of the rice that blends perfectly with the savoury curry is what keeps all of us wanting more. Essentially made of rice – which is meant to be healthy – what could ever be bad about this classic Raya favourite?
What’s good? It’s glutinous rice! Rice is mainly carbohydrates and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals – need we say more? Besides that, there are nutrients in glutinous rice that offer protection for your tissues, shielding your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Besides rice, another must-have when preparing lemang is coconut milk. This creamy milk substitute contains a plethora of nutrients: vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, C and E, as well as minerals including iron, calcium and sodium. You can almost say lemang is a health food. But wait —
What’s bad? Glutinous rice contains less fiber (almost half as much) than it’s less sticky, grainier counterparts. Also, coconut milk may seem like it’s all that but it has a very high content of saturated fatty acids. So be careful!
What should you do about it? Since lemang is not an overly unhealthy food – and is often consumed most only during Raya – there is not much to worry about with eating this yummy treat. However, to compensate for the loss of fiber intake, you may try this Daily Cleanse Fiber Drink by Vitamode that prevents constipation and cleans the digestive system – just with one sachet a day!
Overall health rating: 4/5
4. Beef Rendang
Lemang’s partner in crime: rendang! No lemang meal is complete without curry or (even better) rendang. This spicy, semi-dry dish is usually cooked with beef (sometimes with chicken, mutton, duck or beef liver), coconut milk and spices.
Fun fact: In a 2011 online poll by CNN, rendang was voted as the number one dish on the ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ list!
What’s good? Apart from the nutritional benefits of coconut milk listed in point three (lemang), the meat used in rendang offers quite a few nutrients as well. Similar to lamb meat and mutton – since they are all red meats – beef is high in protein, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamins B12 and B6.
What’s bad? Just as with all red meats, consuming too much beef may result in the production of uric acid, which ultimately leads to kidney stones if accumulated. Beef also brings out weight gain and the risk of heart disease and colon cancer, if eaten in abundance.
What should you do about it? Make sure you exercise to keep fit and dispose off unwanted fats. If you don’t have time to exercise daily, this supplement – traditionally used for weight loss – may be your next best option.
Overall health rating: 3/5
This is a spicy, slightly tangy vegetable salad that comes in a variety of styles: fruit kerabu (mango or pineapple), cucumber kerabu, kerabu pucuk paku and glass noodle kerabu, among others. This spicy dish is known to open up your taste buds and whet your appetite and hence, it is often served as an appetizer.
What’s good? Since kerabu comes in so many different styles, with various types of ingredients, it is difficult to say for sure what the specific health benefits are. However, it is safe to say that a bowl of kerabu is as healthy as a bowl of Caesar salad. Additionally, the chili found in most kerabu dishes aid digestion and – unbelievably – have up to seven times the vitamin C levels of an orange!
What’s bad? Be sure to watch your intake if you’re adding prawns or other high-cholesterol ingredients to your kerabu. Besides that, there isn’t much that’s bad about kerabu.
What should you do about it? Kerabu is fairly healthy, so try and incorporate this into your buka puasa meals at least twice a week, to balance out all the meat and seafood.
Overall health rating: 5/5
Satay is simply barbecued meat on a stick. Since different kinds of meat (beef, mutton, chicken or rabbit) are used, it is difficult to tell the exact nutritional facts of this ever-loved snack.
What’s good? As mentioned throughout the article, beef and mutton gives us a lot of nutrients our bodies require. Chicken meat is also high in protein and provides us with essential vitamins and minerals. As opposed to red meat, chicken meat is a good alternative when trying to lose weight.
What’s bad? Besides the aforementioned health dangers of beef and mutton, barbecued food poses a big threat to our health if consumed in excess. Well-done meat increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. And that black bits on your satay? Throw that out! Burnt meat, although often overlooked, is cancer-causing, and should be avoided.
What should you do about it? Don’t take more than five to six sticks of satay a week. Drink lots of water to hydrate your body after consuming this grilled dish.
Overall health rating: 2/5
So, are you satisfied with how healthy or unhealthy your buka puasa is? By following these guidelines and perhaps, trying out some of the recommended supplements, your daily meals – even after the Raya season – can be significantly made healthier. Be sure to eat in moderation, exercise and strengthen your body with supplements for a healthier, happier you!