It's official. The sedentary lifestyle the majority of Singaporeans enjoy is adversely affecting their health and resulting in the very obvious expansion of many waistlines. Alarmed at this rise in overweight citizens, The Ministry of Health (MoH) is publicly encouraging all citizens, both young and old, to undertake more exercise and to eat healthy foods. The MoH recently announced that almost 1 in 10 young adults aged 18 are clinically obese, and it is widely acknowledged that obesity in young adults and children can lead to serious health issues in later life, such as Diabetes, heart problems and various other chronic health conditions.
Before you run off to your kitchen and disposing of the unhealthy foods in your fridge and on your shelves, let us outline the top 5 health trends in Singapore and how these foods can help you become fitter, lose weight and generally improve your overall health and wellbeing.
1. Organic Foods
The popularity of organic foods is now spreading to Asia and to Singapore in particular. Previously associated with the health conscious citizens of Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand, organic foods have now piqued the interest of Singaporeans and many believe these foods can improve health and help prevent serious illness.
There are approximately 23 health shops and four large supermarket chains selling organic foods in Singapore. Supermarkets such as Cold Storage and NTUC FairPrice now have a wide selection of organic foods and products. In addition, stores such as Supernature and Best Organic Food offer weekly food specials, imported produce from a variety of countries, and the ability to buy online and arrange home delivery.
Supernature has its largest store, some 4,500 square feet in size, on Orchard Boulevard and is well worth a visit.
2. Thunder Tea Rice
Thunder tea rice I hear you say. Yes, the name for this rice dish is a little unusual however it has been popular with many people for quite a while now, and it has recently come to the attention of the rising number of weight watching enthusiasts. This simple dish originates in China and it is full of fibre, low in calories and can easily be made at home too.
Thunder tea rice typically consists of a bowl of white rice (or brown rice which is a healthier alternative), and a selection of vegetables that are finely diced and then placed on top. A small side bowl of green soup is then poured in, stirred together with the rice and vegetables and, voila, you have a bowl of thunder tea rice. Typical examples of the vegetables commonly used when preparing this dish are spinach, pickled radish, celery, peanuts, green beans and tofu. The soup is a mixture of green tea, mint, basil and coriander.
Sales of walnuts are going to the roof in Singapore and people just can't get enough. Well, not quite, but wholesalers and suppliers are reporting a marked increase in sales of this tasty choice of snack. Nuts and walnuts in particular offer a healthy and nutritional alternative to more conventional snack foods, and it appears that many Singaporeans are now becoming wise to the health benefits of the simple walnut.
Walnuts are rich in fibre, antioxidants, unsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and by eating roughly 12 a day, or 40g, you can help to significantly reduce your cholesterol levels. Omega-3 in particular is sometimes referred to as "brain food" as it boosts brain health and long and short term memory. Research in the United States has declared that walnuts contain twice as many antioxidants when compared to other nuts such as pecans and almonds.
There is one downside, however. Walnuts are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation and as a midday snack where possible. Walnuts come in many forms such as natural, salted and roasted, and they are available for purchase from supermarkets and food stores throughout Singapore.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Important: inflammatory foods such as sugar, vegetable oil and dairy products will not cause your joints, muscles, hands, head or feet to swell up. Oh no, it's actually much worse than an enlarged head. These foods can cause inflammation of the cells in your body which in turn increases the risk of developing serious medical conditions such as Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease.
So, how do we reduce this risk? There are a number of anti-inflammatory foods that when eaten regularly will improve your health and these include: extra virgin olive oil, salmon, kelp, blueberries, ginger, garlic and sweet potato. These foodstuffs contain omega-3 fats which fight inflammation, control blood sugar levels and are rich in antioxidants.
By adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet you can naturally boost your body's immune system, fight off illness and cut down on the amount of supplements and medication you buy from your local pharmacist.
5. Hawker food
Ok, I am pretty sure you didn't expect to see hawker food listed among current health trends in Singapore so please bear with me. Hawker stands can be found almost on every street and their popularity knows no bounds. With so many Singaporeans preferring to eat out as opposed to preparing home cooked meals, hawker food will continue to provide a convenient and cheap way of eating out, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
First of all, not all hawker food is unhealthy. There are plenty of dishes available at your local hawker stand which can provide you with a nutritious and healthy meal. Take brown rice porridge at breakfast time for example. This simple meal might cost in the region of $2 and will provide you with a healthy start to the day. For added taste, the vendor will usually offer a choice of boiled egg or various vegetables.
Healthy lunch and dinner options include various soups (fish and chicken being the most popular and the most nutritious), boiled rice with vegetables and meat, or a simple Papaya salad. The trick to eating healthy hawker food is to avoid deep fried meats, stir fried vegetables and oily chicken fried rice. If you have the willpower to skip past the BBQ stand and make your way towards the soup, you can enjoy cheap and cheerful food that is healthy too.