Have a Happy, Healthy Chinese New Year

2011-02

The Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals in Chinese community. During these joyful days, many traditional snacks are available on the market. Chinese cakes are the most popular ones because they are pronounced as “gao”, which is the homonym of “improvement” in Cantonese. However, the main ingredients of these cakes are quite sugary and oily. They contain high levels of saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Excessive intake of these nutrients will increase the risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

 

Turnip Cake
It is made with glutinous rice flour, rich in carbohydrates but not high in dietary fiber. Since Lap-mei (cured meat) is often added, the levels of cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium are increased, not to mention the high energy level of Lap-mei. Therefore, making turnip cake with healthier ingredients like dried mushrooms, dried scallops, dried shrimps etc. is always recommended. The energy content of a piece of turnip cake is equivalent to a slice of bread. Patients with hypertension, heart diseases and/or renal diseases should avoid eating too much turnip cake.

 

Taro Cake
Taro and corn starch are the main ingredients of taro cake. Taro cake gives you the greatest sense of satiety among all Chinese New Year cakes. Although it is relatively rich in starch, it has a low glycemic index and hence it is more diabetic friendly. Taro, however, is not easily digestible. You should eat less Taro cake if you are affected by a weak digestive system.

 

Glutinous Rice Cake
Its main ingredients include glutinous rice flour and brown slab sugar, but sometimes lard and coconut milk would also be added. The sugar, energy and saturated fat contents are high. Two pieces of pan-fried glutinous cake have as much calories as a bowl of rice. Moreover, glutinous rice has a very high glycemic index. It causes a large fluctuation of blood sugar level after consumption. Normally, you should not have more than 2 pieces of glutinous rice cake in a week; and you should only have 1 piece per week if you are having a diabetic diet.

 

Sweetened Water Chestnut Cake
The main ingredients are water chestnut flour and water chestnut, so the dietary fiber content is higher while the calorie is lower compared to other cakes. Nevertheless, we should be aware of the high sugar content.

 

Drinking Chinese tea promotes digestion?

Many people believe that drinking Chinese tea help promoting digestion. A brew of aromatic Chinese tea may lighten the sense of greasiness of having some dishes; and Tannin, a chemical found in tea, can aid digestion. However, it is not yet proven that tea can react and help to eliminate the fat in our diet.

Tea contains a powerful anti-oxidant, Polyphenols. Catethin takes up the greatest of Polyphenils in tea, especially in green tea. It has been shown to boost anti-tumor activity and regulate our immune system. Having a small amount of Chinese-New-Year cake with a cup of green tea is probably a healthier way to enjoy the festive food.

Calories of different traditional Chinese New Year cakes

Food Item Quantity Calorie(kcal)
Pan-fried turnip cake 1 piece 80
Steamed turnip cake 1 piece 50
Pan-fried glutinous rice cake 1 piece 130
Steamed glutinous rice cake 1 piece 85
Taro cake 1 piece 71
Pan-fried sweetened water chestnut cake 1 piece 77