The Humble Nasi Lemak
What are the components of a balanced, nutritious meal? According to health experts, a healthy meal would have the following items:
Proteins are the building blocks for healthy muscles, skin and hair. They also contribute to normal chemical reactions within your body. Meats are complete sources of protein, containing the nine essential amino acids required for human health. No one vegetable provides all of the required essential amino acids; so you need to eat a combination of vegetables in order to obtain them.
Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy. They are divided in two categories: simple carbohydrates, which digest quickly; and complex carbohydrates, which digest slowly. Sources of simple carbohydrates include fruits, sugars, white rice and flour. Complex carbohydrates are found in green or starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils. Dietary fiber is another form of carbohydrate that the body can not digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber can not be broken down and instead passes through the body undigested. It however, helps to regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
Fats have a double-edge reputation. Despite the general belief that fats are bad for you, a fat-free diet would kill you! Your body requires fats to synthesize fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D. Fats are divided into saturated and unsaturated (include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats. Nuts, olives and avocados are sources of monounsaturated fat. Fish and seafood are primary sources of polyunsaturated fat. Too much saturated fat, found in butter, cheese, and red meat, can be bad for your health. Intake of saturated fats should be limited to no more than 16 grams daily, while Trans-fats (unsaturated fats engineered to have the stable characteristic of saturated fat) are to be avoided.
Vitamins and minerals:
Many vitamins are essential for health and examples include vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, K and folate. Vitamin deficiency can cause osteoporosis, scurvy, a weakened immune system, premature aging and even certain cancers. Consuming too much of a vitamin can also result in serious toxicity, such as vitamin B-6 or vitamin A. Many fruits and vegetables have high vitamin content. Minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and chromium are essential for human health. Deficiencies can result in serious health conditions such as brittle bones and poor blood oxygenation. Like vitamins, overdosing on minerals can result in life threatening conditions; a potassium overdose can cause improper kidney function. Minerals are found in a variety of foods including dairy and meat products.
The most underrated item in a healthy diet. The human body is composed of between 60 percent to 70 percent water. As such, water, is fundamental in maintaining proper bodily functions.
Nasi lemak, with all its unhealthy connotations, surprisingly provides the essential components of a balanced meal. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are all found in the humble Nasi Lemak.
The original version of a Nasi Lemak would typically have the following items: rice cooked in coconut milk, a sambal (cooked blended chili and onions), fried anchovies (Ikan Bilis), hard-boiled egg, and sliced cucumbers.
While it's true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol, eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate. Recent research has shown that moderate egg consumption-up to one a day-does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet (1. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281: 1387-94. 2. Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006; 9 : 8-12.) Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) are also a source of protein, calcium and iron.
Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, and to a lesser extent, proteins. White rice is highly refined, polished, and stripped of its bran (seed coat) and germ (embryo). This is done to increase its cooking quality, shelf life, and taste, but unfortunately, it comes at the cost of reduced nutritional value. Brown rice is an intact whole grain, containing both the bran and the germ. For this reason, brown rice contains more fiber than white rice. Being the most nutritious parts of the grain, the bran and germ are rich in fiber and several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. White rice may cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, making them unsuitable for diabetics. Therefore, for a healthier alternative, choose brown rice.
The use of coconut milk (Santan) has been the main item of contention when it comes to Nasi Lemak. Coconuts contain saturated fat, but the fat that they provide is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs), in particular, one called lauric acid. It is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms. It is now thought that consumption of coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses.
Cucumbers are a good source of insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, and can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. It is a good source of potassium and has high amounts of vitamin K.
There you have it. Nasi Lemak's contentious reputation is unfounded. On top of its nutritional values, Nasi lemak's liberal use of chili in its Sambal also has other benefits. According to an article published on Aug 4, 2015 by Harvard School Of Public Health, "People who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14% chance of living longer than those who consume spicy foods less than once a week, according to a new study. Regular spicy food eaters also are less likely to die from cancer and heart and respiratory diseases than those who eat spicy foods infrequently. "