Satay: Not Just a Sinful Indulgence

Marinated with spices, oil-glazed and barbecued over charcoal fire, satay seems like a sinful meat snack no matter how one looks at it. However, there is some nutritive value to satay and its accompaniments when taken in moderation or as a monthly indulgence.

Satay is high in protein

According to the Health Promotion Board, 10 sticks of beef satay has 7g fat and 24g protein while 10 sticks of chicken satay has 5g fat and 27g protein. Can satay be a high-protein, moderately fattening alternative in the food court?

Satay is high in protein because it is mainly meat. It is also high in fat, especially saturated fat, from the blended vegetable oil and fatty meat parts used for its preparation. The saturated fat percentage is 20% in chicken satay, 30% in beef satay and 60% in mutton satay. Therefore, satay may not a good alternative for high-protein, moderately fattening food.

Turmeric is often used to marinate satay. Is it good for health in any way?

Turmeric gives satay its characteristic yellow color. Curcumin, the phytochemical found in turmeric, may act as an antioxidant with cancer-preventive effects, several studies suggest. However, there are no studies yet on turmeric (as a whole) in lowering disease risks when used in cooking. The most reliable way to benefit from phytochemicals is still to have a diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

How fattening is the peanut gravy? Is there anything redeeming about the gravy?

The main ingredients for peanut gravy are roasted ground peanuts, onions, garlic, lemon grass, belachan, salt, sugar and oil. A 29g serving of peanut gravy provides 77 calories, of which 70% comes from fat. It also contributes 138g of sodium per serving. Generally peanuts are high in unsaturated fats, whereas onions and garlic contain some antioxidants compounds. However, the costs of eating oily satay and gravy far outweigh the benefits from the peanuts, garlic and onions.

Are there any health benefits from eating raw onions?

Onions are a rich source of dietary flavonoids called anthocyanins and of quercetin, a phytochemical. Some studies suggest that quercetin is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Research also suggests that onions are linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers like stomach, colorectal and prostate cancer.

However, quercetin is sensitive to heat, and the degree of loss depends on the cooking method. Therefore, eating onions raw is a good choice. Further studies are needed to confirm the importance of flavonoids in preventing coronary heart diseases.

Ketupat is made from steamed white rice. Will eating it increase the glycemic load of the meal by a lot?

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, according to how they raise blood sugar levels after eating compared to white bread/glucose.  Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

GI represents the carbohydrate quality but not the quantity of the carbohydrates consumed. On the other hand, glycemic load (GL) combines both the quality and quantity of carbohydrates in one number. It is therefore a better way than GI to predict blood glucose values of different types and amounts of food. The formula is: GL = (GI x carbohydrate amount) divided by 100.

According to the international table of GI and GL, the GL of thai rice is 37 (serving size = 150g). Thus, it is important not to eat too much ketupat or steamed plain rice. Moderation is key to a healthy diet.

Health Xchange

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