A healthy diet for you may not be as healthy for someone else. That’s because our nutritional requirements vary.
By Louisa Foo in consultation with Li Yuan Yuan and Charmaine Zheng, Dietitians.
Many of the foods we believe are good for us come with a caveat: ‘eat in moderation’. For people with existing illnesses, exercise more care with the additional caveat: 'one man's meat is another man's poison'.
It’s often said that fresh is best! For many fruits and vegetables, this is true as heat and processing can cause the loss of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. A fresh salad full of raw vegetables is a great way to get some of your daily intake of vitamins and fibre as part of a balanced diet. However, for people with weakened immune systems, raw fresh fruit and vegetables can harbour harmful pathogens that would otherwise be killed in the cooking process.
Related: Eat Your Veggies!
Older adults, pregnant women, those undergoing chemotherapy, or patients who are taking steroids or other immune-suppressants are more susceptible to bacterial infection than an average healthy adult. These groups of people should avoid raw salads. This is especially the case for salads purchased at salad bars as the salad components may be exposed to airborne contaminants. It is also important to avoid raw vegetables or fresh fruit bought from roadside peddlers if you are overseas. If you fall under the high-risk group and still wish to eat salads or raw fruit, it is best to prepare them at home. Always wash salad leaves properly (even ‘ready-to-eat’ varieties) and eat your salad soon after it is prepared.
Related: Nutrition During Pregnancy — Eating Right for Two
Sashimi is a good source of vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein that is easily absorbed. Many types of sashimi, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial to heart health. However, like many raw foods, uncooked fish has its hazards as it can contain parasites. Improper handling and storage can also result in the growth of bacteria in the flesh of the fish.
People with reduced immunity such as older adults, pregnant women and people who are on a neutropenic diet should avoid sashimi as they are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. For healthy people, good food hygiene is also important to avoid food-borne diseases and food poisoning. For instance, only eat raw fish that is sashimi graded and consume it as soon as possible. Do not let it sit in the fridge for more than 24 hours.
A neutropenic diet is a protective diet for people with weakened immune systems (such as people with leukaemia or those undergoing chemotherapy). The diet eliminates, as much as possible, exposure to bacteria and other harmful organisms found in food and drinks.
Soya beans are a high-quality protein source containing all the essential amino acids found in meat protein while also being low in saturated fat and high in good fat and fibre. Soya beans and soy-based foods such as bean curd and soya bean milk are sources of calcium, iron and antioxidants known as isoflavones.
People who are on low-protein diets for renal failure should be mindful that apart from limiting meat, they should likewise limit soy-based foods. Soya beans contain high levels of protein as well as phosphorous and potassium, which may tax the functioning of impaired kidneys. Those with soya bean allergies – a rare occurrence in Singapore – should also avoid soy-based foods.
Sports or isotonic drinks are formulated to contain similar concentrations of electrolytes, salt and sugar as the body. These drinks are used to quickly replace fluids and minerals lost due to intense physical activity and sweating. For athletes and those who engage in manual labour, this replenishment is important to avoid cramping and dehydration, while also maintaining energy.
Those with diabetes should be aware that these drinks, while lower in sugar than regular soft drinks, still contain relatively high amounts of sugar. People who are hypertensive or have kidney failure should also avoid or limit isotonic drinks because of the higher salt content. In fact, isotonic drinks, in general, should be consumed in moderation in the same way as soft drinks. The truth is that unless you have just run a marathon or have engaged in a bout of intense physical labour, these drinks do not offer an energy boost.
This article " Yay or Nay? " first appeared in OneHealth Magazine, Issue 7, 2015/16
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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