I often get asked how a Doctor can go about eating all these unhealthy hawker dishes. Well, the answer to that is summarized in my slogan “Never waste your calories on yucky food”. Basically, that means that when I eat hawker food, or any other food for that matter, I want it to be worth the calories. The last thing I want is to get fat by something that is not tasty.
I might go out blogging at hawker centres perhaps once or twice a week. Of course, each time our kakis get together to eat, we might order several dishes, so that makes up for the three stalls I recommend every week. So, out of a possible 21 meals per week, I only eat around 3 meals at hawker centres and they are mostly eaten during lunch. Now, hawker food really isn’t all that healthy as they generally lack fresh fruits and vegetables. In order to make up for the lack of vegetables and fruits, what I do is to have my five green juice every morning. This was a habit I picked up from my friend, Andrew, who never comes to visit me at the clinic because he swears by his five green juice. My dinner is usually at home after my evening clinic and it is a half portion meal of rice, meat and vegetables. The other half is made up of a big bowl of cut fruits. We usually have a variety of fruits which is all ready cut up in the fridge so that it is easily accessible. So between the five greens in the morning and the big bowl of fruit very night, I pretty much get all the necessary vitamins, minerals and fibre I need.
So really, a healthy diet is not just about “not wasting your calories on yucky food”, it is also about eating a variety of different foods so that you get a balanced diet. If you think about it, you really are what you eat. Just look at your toes, they are made up of whatever you have eaten over the last XX years of your life. I almost wanted to say that if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out. But that is not true. What really happens is that if you put rubbish in, it stays there and if you are unfortunate, one day, you might find that you have too much rubbish such that the machinery starts to break down. So, if you put rubbish in, you need to have some mechanism to take the rubbish out. That essentially is what a balanced diet is all about. Eat too much meat and cholesterol gets deposited in your arteries. But balance it with say some King Oyster mushrooms, which contain a naturally occuring statin (cholesterol lowering drug) and bingo, you just might have prevented yourself from ever getting a heart attack.
Another example is sodium. Now if you love salty food, you are going to get a whole load of sodium in your system which might translate to a high blood pressure. If you want to lower your blood pressure, what you need to do is to take less sodium and more potassium. These two elements are like kids on a seesaw. Eating more potassium will push the sodium out of your system and thereby decrease your blood pressure.
Now, with that lengthy pre-amble, we can now discuss Kiwifruit.
Kiwifruit is one of those newish fruits which you might still be able to find some people who have not tasted it yet. It’s in the same category as dragonfruit and pomegranates. Unlike apples, oranges, bananas and watermelon where you really have to be a Sua Gu (mountain tortoise) if you have never tasted these fruits.
Everyone probably knows that Kiwifruit is somehow linked to New Zealand. Afterall, the fruit is named after the famous flightless bird of the country. Twenty years ago, if you said Kiwi, you probably thought of the famous shoe polish brand. I guess twenty years ago, I was doing my NS and in the army everyone just refers to shoe polish as Kiwi. Incidentally, Kiwi shoe polish is not from New Zealand. Ironically, it was invented by an Australian who named his invention after his wife who was a New Zealander aka Kiwi.
Nowadays, if you mention Kiwi, you’d probably be talking about Kiwifruit. The name Kiwifruit was only coined in the 50’s when the fruit started to be exported out of New Zealand. Before that, it was known as the Chinese Gooseberry (The Chinese call it “Yang Tao”) and is actually native to China. The seeds were brought back to New Zealand by a school principal in 1906. Soon they began to cultivate the fruit and by 1924, the “Hayward” cultivar, which is the familiar emerald green Kiwifruit which we all know, was developed.
The kiwi fruit is quite an amazing fruit when it comes to its nutritional value. Not every fruit is created equal, and kiwi fruits, it seems have been endowed with a disproportionate amount of nutritional value. According to Dr Paul LaChance, kiwi fruit came up tops as the fruit with the highest nutritional value, gram for gram, amongst a list of 27 popular fruits. In other words, you get more nutrition out of eating a mouthful of kiwi fruit than a mouthful of any other fruit.
Since everyone knows that “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”, let’s just compare Apples with App…. er… Kiwifruit.
As you can see, even though apples are highly nutritious fruits, they don’t seem so great when they are placed side by side with Kiwifruit.
Now that doesn’t mean that you can just eat Kiwifruit alone. You still need a balanced diet of all the different coloured fruits. However, if you are looking for a Vitamin C boost, then a Kiwifruit might be what you are looking for. The amount of Vit C contained in one Kiwifruit is equivalent to two oranges. By eating just one Kiwifruit, you get 95% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Everyone should know by now that Vit C has a big role to play in boosting the immune system which is particularly important during this period of the H1N1 (Swine) Flu.
Besides being packed with vitamin C, the kiwi fruit also has a particularly high amount of dietary fibre and also contains an enzyme known as actinidine which is able to tenderise meat much like papain which is found in papaya. The combination of an enzyme that can break down proteins and high dietary fibre means that the kiwi fruit is very good for promoting digestion and is especially good for people (especially kids and elderly) who have problems with constipation.
A fruit which is so packed with nuitritional value is especially important for kids whose appetite is not as big as an adult. By taking just one Kiwifruit, which is only about the size of an egg, the child will be able to get all the Vit C he needs for the day, plus a whole lot of fibre and other Vitamins as well. In one study by an Italian team of doctors, it was found that kids eating a diet high in Vit C had significantly less asthma attacks than the kids who don’t. (2) If your child is a small eater, then feeding him with one Kiwifruit might be much easier than to get him to eat a bowl of bran cereal to get some dietary fibre into him.
Now, the main problem with Kiwifruit, given all its wonderful nuitritional value, is the fact that a lot of us have probably eaten ones which were sour and that sort of turned us off Kiwifruit. Well, my personal experience is that Kiwifruit can indeed be very sour especially when they are not ripe. (And if you bought the cheap 7 for $1 type) But then a mango that is not ripe can be sour too, but I am sure that hasn’t turned you off mangos right? What you need to do is to actually taste a good quality Zespri Kiwifruit that is ripe and you would be won over. Having said that, I have to admit that even the ripe Green Kiwi Fruit is still a little zesty, very much like a ripe Strawberry. The good news is that the people at Zespri have cultivated a yellow (Zespri Gold) version which is much sweeter and less zesty than the green version.
If Green Kiwifruit tastes like a cross between Strawberry and lime, Gold Kiwifruit tastes like a cross between a Mango and Banana. I first picked up a Gold Kiwifruit last year and it won me over immediately. Even my kids love Gold Kiwifruit even though they would only take Green Kiwifruit if it was on top of a cake. Of course, you need to eat Kiwifruit when it is ripe if you like them sweet. The ones they sell at the stalls are generally ready to be eaten. But if you leave them in a paper bag together with a banana for 2-3 days, the fruit really ripens and it tastes almost like a nice sweet wine!
It is interesting to note that Kiwifruit are now produced by many countries outside of New Zealand, so you can actually get them year round. However, the Gold Kiwifruit is only available from May till November (the Kiwifruit season in New Zealand) as it is produced only by Zespri who are the sole distributor of New Zealand Kiwifruit. So if you spot the Zespri logo, you know you are getting quality Kiwifruits from New Zealand.
So if you have never liked Kiwifruit, the next time you are at the fruit stall, pick up a pack of Zespri Gold Kiwifruit and see if it will change your mind. It sure did mine.
1 Lachance P, 1997, Journal of the American College of Nutrition
2 Francesco F et al, Consumption of fresh fruits rich in vit C and wheezing symptoms in children, Thorax 2000: 55 283-288
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