I reside in Malaysia where obesity is a big problem.

Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) classification, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults (18 years and above) were 30.0% and 17.7% respectively in 2015 (National Health & Morbidity Survey [NHMS] 2015).

This means that almost HALF OF ALL MALAYSIANS are overweight or obese!!
This same phenomenon is also happening in many developing countries, the USA, the UK and the list goes on and on.

In fact, when it comes to my public clients these days, almost 95% of the time, it has some connection to an underlying overweight issue.

Basic Nutrition 101: Fats


When it comes to the term “fat”, many cover in fear or in embarrassment of  what our bodies are simply storing for survival’s sake. But when it comes to dietary fat, what is it really and what do you need to know to make sure you don’t become the fitting description for the word “FAT”.
Here’s 5 things about fats you should know!

1) All fats are high in energy.

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The immediate reason why people say don’t eat too much fat.

Aside from feeling “greasy”, the important matter at hand is calories, 9Kcal to be exact for every 1g of fat you chow down.

That’s more than twice the amount energy provided from 1g of carbs or protein.

So let’s put things into perspective, when you take say around 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise or vinaigrette, let’s average things out to around 2 teaspoon of fat, that’s 10g, 90 kcal for 1 spoon, and everyone knows you don’t only take 1 tablespoon of mayo when you’re dipping fries (which has more fat) or God knows what into it, now do we?
So in essence, fat = energy dense, when eaten too much, converts to spare tyres around the belly!

2) There’s more than 1 type of fats, some good, some “not so good” and some just down right bad.

So, what kind of fats are there?
Mainly, there’s 3, saturated, unsaturated and trans fat.

Let’s start with saturated fats.

Saturated fats are dense solid fats in room temperature. The word “saturated” is used to describe the chemical structure of these fats where all of the carbon atoms are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms with no double bonds. (not important).

These types of fats are general animal fats, so things like lard, tallow and schmaltz are all fine animal sources of saturated fats. There is also vegetable fats that are also saturated and that is coconut oil & Palm oil.

Now these fats have once been demonized to be unhealthy due to its relations to increasing your risk for heart disease. While new evidence shows that saturated fats aren’t the necessarily the only naughty little kink towards our health, we’d still recommend to keep this food to a minimal . So here’s where choosing lean cuts, or being smart in cooking comes in.

Trans fat on the other hand, is a type of fat synthetically created by a process called hydrogenation and was created in effort to replace saturated fats (back when Sat. fats was demonized), however, studies showed it not only did not work, it made things work with multiple correlation to increase in heart diseases and even certain cancers and abnormalities.

In this rare instance, is where we tell you, stay AWAY from trans fat and never touch it, things like margarine and shortening. The best is to read the ingredient lists on food labels and look out for “hydrogenated” or “trans” fat.

Unsaturated fats, AKA the healthy fats are the ones we need to primarily used for our daily fat intake. Unsaturated fats can be branched into a few more categories but that’s another story. Essentially, use vegetable based oils (this doesn’t mean to use a gallon every time you cook, try to limit to 1-2 teaspoon per pax per meal), and take your fish! 3 times a week at least please!

3) Choosing your sources of fats matters to your health.

So as mentioned in point number 2, and if you’re too lazy to read the whole dang point. Here’s the take away for your pantry oil staples.

Stick with vegetable oils and have a variety, safflower/canola/sunflower all good, but also have corn and olive. They’re both unsaturated, but have their own differences which are required by our health. So have them in small quantities (if you don’t cook too often, otherwise they oxidize) and change it up throughout the week.

The facts on fats

Source: American Heart Association

Minimise fatty meats and stick with lean as much as possible, and stay AWAY from trans fats like margarine or shortening or anything with “hydrogenated” or “trans fats’ in their ingredient list.

4) Low fat is the way to go, but not replaced with sugars.

Back to the low fat diet story, so years ago, when the low fat diet was introduced, everyone had the idea that it was the perfect diet but after years passed, incidences of heart diseases, diabetes and obesity were still on the rise. So what gives?

Now, aside from the decrease in fat intake, we need to see the situation as a whole, what happened to those missing calories? What was compensated in return? The answer: Carbs. Simple carbs.

So here’s the deal, the idea of a low fat diet is good, lower cholesterol intake, lower caloric intake, but replacing them with carbs (excessively< >60% of daily caloric intake), simple carbs (sugary foods) for that matter ain’t a good idea.
If you take a close look at the industry at that time, low fat foods were in the market, but to compensate for mixing texture and flavor, industrialist were immediately led to sugar as a substitute. Look at the caloric intake, the carbohydrates intake, and you’ll find something interesting missing dots.
Don’t go crazy on fats, go low (you’ll get enough), but don’t replace them with sugary snacks.
Always read food labels, especially if an item is low in fat, make sure the sugar/carbs are not excessive as well (15-30g per serving for a snack is fine, without any add ons).

5) 2-3 teaspoons of added visible good fat per meal per person.

Now how do we go low fat?
My suggestion?
Now after years of self learning to cook in the culinary arts, and working in restaurants. It is very counter intuitive to do this.
But start off with good cooking ware, a good non-stick skillet or a well seasoned cast iron or carbon steel pan is the way to go.
Always minimise addition of oil when starting to cook, I always limit by using teaspoons and only use tablespoons when I’m cooking for more than 4 people, I tend to use 1-2 teaspoon for a simple cook up, and I will add on later when serving as a flavor enhancer.
For example, stir fried vegetables, 1 teaspoon of oil goes in too the hot pan, everything is fried then i add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil at the end and coat.

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It’s not overly difficult once you start understanding the concept.

Staying healthy & keep cooking!


Coffee & Acrylamide; Is it SAFE?


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By the end of March, a California judge’s ruling that would require coffee to be branded with cancer warning labels.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check this out here!

Although this mattered happen overseas, that doesn’t stop it from being spread over to our shores and subsequently pose the question, is coffee safe?
Simplified for your pleasure, here’s what you need to know! 😊

1) Why the cancer label?

In California, there is a list of chemicals that is considered to be cancer or reproductive harm causing and acrylamide has been included since 1990.
The state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warning labels when exposing consumers to any of the hundreds of chemicals listed.
Since acrylamide is produced during the roasting process in coffee making, the logic here is that, coffee provided by vendors in California then would have to be labelled with a warning of cancer causing.

2) So, Coffee does cause cancer!?

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Hold your horses cowboys (and cowgirls too!), when we say cancer causing, we first and foremost have to understand 1 thing. “HOW MUCH OF IT WOULD THEN CAUSE CANCER?!”
So, here’s what the science says about acrylamide and cancer.
Acrylamide according to the International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC) is classified as a “group 2A – probably carcinogen”.
A carcinogen essentially refers to any compound or chemical that may increase one’s risk of cancer.
Even though the scientific evidence on human studies on the matter are highly limited, there is enough evidence from animal studies
(Dosage 1000 – 100,000 times larger than current dietary human exposure)
to deem acrylamide “probably carcinogenic”.
Now I can already hear some of you screaming, “nahhhh there, see probably weyyyyyy”. And I get it, you’re right, but you should take note a few things.
Firstly, animal studies and human studies are 2 separate studies, while you may extrapolate 1 to the other, they don’t always coincide.
Secondly, from that reasoning, you should also stop eating these foods as acrylamide compounds are also produced:

  • Bread (Heavily toasted and yes, your special artisan bread also contains it)
  • Potatoes (French Fries & Chips)
  • Toasted grains
  • Toasted wheat cereals
  • Cookies
  • Cocoa (yes, your beloved chocolate has it too!)

3) Put amount into context

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So, yeah, should you then stop eating all those foods too just because they contain acrylamide?
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a Reference Dose for the oral intake of acrylamide.
This is a measurement of how much acrylamide can be taken over a lifetime that can be predicted to produce no noticeable health effects.
In other words, as long as the intake is not beyond the reference dose of 0.002 mg of acrylamide per Kg body weight/day. YOU GONNA BE FINE.
A cup of coffee can have an average of 0.45micro grams (roasted coffee) of acrylamide, if you’re an average joe of 65Kg, you can take around 130 micrograms/day. See the math now? Hmmmmm???
Subsequently, a cigarette contains 0.6793 micrograms per cigarette, assuming the average smoker takes 10 cigarettes a day, that would 6.793 micrograms per cigarette, so should we really then continue selling cigarettes? Hmmm….

4) Coffee has a lot of other benefits!

Not to glorify coffee now, but hey let’s put this into consideration as well, coffee has also been associated with an overall reduced risk of total cancer! Not to mention reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimers and many others.
Most important, it keeps me up and running to work in the morning, and god knows what kind of apocalypse the world would look like if people stopped taking coffee completely!

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In summary,

Don’t stop taking coffee because it contains a compound that may cause cancer,
Don’t start taking coffee because it may reduce risk for certain diseases.
In other words, moderation is still key, and as long as you’re living a healthy lifestyle containing a healthy diet with lots of fruits and veggies, matched with regular exercise, your daily cup of coffee is more likely to just add and make you better in the long run.
Now if you don’t mind, I have an espresso with my name on it!
Till next time, stay healthy everyone!