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Getting the most out of salad days

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-28 08:50

Often it is oil that will determine whether a diet plan succeeds or not, expert says

There is no rule saying that to lose weight you have to restrict yourself to salad, says Fan Zhihong, a registered dietitian, a member of the board of directors of the Chinese Nutrition Society and an associate professor of nutrition and food safety at the China Agricultural University in Beijing.

"There is no need to eat only boiled chicken and vegetables. That's the kind of thing that books on losing weight translated from English often espouse, and Chinese coaches and catering operators toe that line."

Fan reckons traditional Chinese cooking was low fat and that fried food has become common only in recent decades. "When I was a child, we only ate fried food during festivals. Most food was steamed, steam-fried, water boiled or oil-water boiled, which would be evaluated as healthy."

Westerners eat more meat and dairy products, so they need to add more vegetables when doing exercise, especially with less oil, Fan says, and the key rule is to keep on consuming adequate protein and reducing fat intake.

"If you only eat food with high protein and low fat you will have too much sulfur and phosphorus that raises your body's acid load, so you need more potassium, calcium and magnesium to balance it, which can be provided by vegetables."

Food safety is an imperative concern in salad preparation. Bacteria control of salad food is very challenging, as it is often prepared in advance and not pasteurized before consuming. Raw vegetables and fruits can carry pathogens such as listeria even after being washed thoroughly, she says.

On the other hand, compared with mayonnaise and thousand island sauce, ingredients such as crushed garlic and vinegar in DIY salad dressing are more effective in suppressing the growth of germs.

However, mayonnaise used in salad is bad because often more than 60 percent of it is fat, she says, so she recommends seasoning salads the Chinese way: with soy bean sauce, vinegar, salt and a little sesame oil or chili oil, which is both delicious and consists of less fat.

Pork is not that popular in Western countries, one reason being that is generally considered not to be as tasty as beef and it is more expensive than chicken. Pork is also more difficult to cook.

Pork has more fat and less leucine and isoleucine than beef, which are regarded as good for gaining muscle. The more delicious types of pig meat such as streaky pork or pork shoulder usually have more fat, whereas lean pork lacks flaver.

Fan says the key to a good diet is not whether the food is prepared in a Chinese way or a Western way, but controlling how much oil is used in its preparation.

"A good way of eating vegetables is to combine raw ones and cooked ones, because it's easy to polish off a plate of cooked vegetable, but chewing raw ones is much harder.

"However, frying vegetables the Chinese way involves too much oil, and that needs to be reduced."

The Chinese way of cooking meat such as braised beef with soy sauce is perfect for the health conscious because no oil is needed in the cooking, and in fact the meat discharges some fat while it is being cooked.

"There is no need to restrict yourself to Western salads," Fan says. "Cold vegetables with sauce and some lowfat cooked vegetables plus Chinese-style sauced meat, or steamed fish, is a good, nutritious and tasty meal."

"What matters is to make the most of a good combination of natural ingredients by efficient management of cooking oil, salt and added sugar."

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