Are you surprised that Malaysia is Asia’s fattest country? The amount of sugar and salt in our diet is frightening and can lead to a host of health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. There are approximately 2.5 million Malaysian adults above the age of 18 years old with diabetes and most of the time, diabetes sufferers remain undiagnosed until they develop complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness or kidney failure.
Aiming to educate our readers on why it’s important to take note of what we eat is Pharmacist, Kong Sing Huey from Allin Pharmacy, Damansara Jaya.
1Twenty80: What do you think is the number one health problem plaguing malaysians today?
Kong Sing Huey:
According to the latest statistics released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Coronary Heart Disease refers to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reaches the heart muscle. This leads to heart complications and ultimately a heart attack.
1Twenty80: What are some of the common mistakes that malaysians make when it comes to their diet?
Knowledge of good nutrition and a healthy diet really goes a long way to healthy living and preventing health problems. The two most common mistakes that I believe most of us can relate to would probably be:
- Irregular eating or skipping meals, whereby too much time is allowed between meals. A common misconception is to only eat when you feel hungry. However, rational decision making tend to disappear when hunger pangs come and you may end up grabbing something you shouldn’t be eating and hence, overeating. Besides, hunger leads to a drop in blood sugar which in turn may cause you to feel your mood, energy, and focus change for the worse.
- An unbalanced diet caused by a to misunderstanding of the relationship between calories and macronutrients – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Most people would have heard of the term ‘calorie counting’, and while it may be a good tool to help you quantify your food intake, an awareness of what makes up these calories is important. An example would be a seemingly healthy caloric range that is made up of 70 percent processed carbohydrates. This is not a healthy balance of macronutrients. Instead, meals and even snacks should always have a healthy combination of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. For example, rather than having a slice of bread for breakfast, which is all carbohydrates, try making an egg sandwich instead. This combination includes the needed protein, fat, and carbohydrates to provide a more balanced macronutrient profile.
1Twenty80: Some people believe that they can eat however they want as long as they eat supplements. is this the right way to lead a healthy life?
Unfortunately, this is as far away from the truth as it can be. Supplements are designed and intended only as supplementation for one’s dietary lacking. This means depending on your diet, you only need to take certain supplement to potentially replenish nutrients you are not obtaining from food. In fact, an excessive consumption of supplements, for example vitamins, can lead to ‘hypervitaminosis’ which is a condition of the body with abnormally high storage levels of vitamins that can lead to toxic symptoms. Seek a medical professional’s opinion such as from a doctor or pharmacist for a supplement review to ensure that you’re taking the right amount of the right type of supplement.
Quote: Knowledge of good nutrition and a healthy diet really goes a long way to healthy living and preventing health problems.
1Twenty80: How should we think of supplements?
For people that require dietary supplementation, supplements offer great value to their convenience and cost effectiveness in bridging dietary gaps.
In general, supplements can be used to help treat certain health conditions, for example Vitamin C is often used to combat colds, and fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides. However, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to taking supplements since everyone has unique requirements, and I encourage anyone intending to do so to seek professional medical advice to ensure correct consumption.
1Twenty80: Eating healthy is expensive’. how do you disprove this statement and how can we shop better?
I think it’s a general misconception that eating healthy is expensive. I believe eating healthy can not only be affordable, but also a fun and tasty affair for everyone. There are plenty of non-expensive ingredients packed with vitamins and minerals that are readily available in our markets such as:
- Vegetables, for example onions, which are rich in certain antioxidants that may protect against heart diseases and diabetes, and sweet potatoes which are particularly high in beta-carotene which is converted into Vitamin A in the body.
- Grains, for example brown rice and oatmeal that are nutrient-densed with the addition of being rich in fibre that promotes fullness and may help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Fruits, like oranges which are packed with Vitamin C, and bananas which are not only tasty but are full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6 and potassium.
- Eggs are packed with protein and antioxidants. In fact eggs are one of the few dietary sources that contain choline, an essential nutrient which plays an important part in bodily functions such as fat metabolism, DNA synthesis and maintain a healthy nervous system.
I think the key to affordable healthy eating is to plan out your meals and make sure to shop with a list. This way, you’ll prevent overbuying, overspending and reduce wastage.
1Twenty80: What are the simple things that individuals can do to make their diet healthier?
The key to a healthy diet is sustainability. Simple things that can be done are:
- Replacing sweetened drinks with plain water or low-sugar drinks.
- Replace unhealthy junk foods with healthier snacks like nuts.
- Portioning your amount of food and eating smaller regular meals.
- Slowing down your eating pace – chew more!
- Choosing whole grains instead of refined grains such as whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
- Choosing to bake or roast your food instead of grilling or frying.
- Planning your daily schedule and meals ahead of time.
These small changes go a long way with benefits such as better energy and focus, weight loss and more!
1Twenty80: How can a community pharmacy help their local community to eat better?
We do our best to journey with the community to achieve better health and a healthy lifestyle with our local community and customers. From educating and advising our customers on their best dietary needs, organising in-store health awareness and promotion activities, keeping their medical and supplement records, we also assist them in periodic health reviews to ensure that they stay on-track.
1Twenty80: What is your message to our readers?
My message to your readers is that we all know the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ and this is especially true when it comes to ones’ health. It’s really never too late to start your journey to healthy eating and healthy living. A simple change of mindset and attitude is really all it takes. Plus, don’t forget that your local community pharmacy is there to provide advice and guidance!
Quote: We do our best to journey with the community to achieve better health and a healthy lifestyle with our local community and customers.