Before we start our feasting on Chinese New Year goodies this year, we talk to doctors from the Singapore Medical Group about the hidden dangers of consuming some of these CNY delicacies and the number of floors you would have to climb to burn off the calories.
PEANUT SESAME CANDY
This deliciously sweet combination of peanuts and sesame is definitely not for the faint-toothed, especially the elderly.
According to Dr Tan Wah Ching, a periodontist at The Dental Studio, a Singapore Medical Group (SMG) clinic, eating such hard food can "crack your fillings or even your teeth''.
"This is especially if you bite with uncontrolled force, which tends to happen when you're too busy talking and eating at the same time," she said.
Dr Tan has had patients calling her during the Chinese New Year (CNY) season about cracked teeth or toothaches.
She said: "During this period, few dentists are working, thus we receive more emergency calls from patients complaining of toothache."
So the next time your toothless grandmother asks you to pass the snacks, make sure not to give her this granite of a candy.
Girls who frequently consume sugary drinks tend to start their menstrual periods earlier than girls who do not, research by Harvard Medical School shows.
What's particularly worrying about this is that starting periods earlier is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer later in life.
Dr Ting Hua Sieng, of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Centre said: "When you take in more sugar, the glycaemic index of the bloodstream will increase. This leads to an increase in the insulin hormone, which in turn leads to increase in sex hormones, hence earlier periods in girls."
The Harvard research team followed 5,583 girls for five years from 1996 to 2001.
Dr Ting said such "prospective observational studies do not indicate a direct cause and effect, but are still credible and hold a rather significant finding''.
"Breast cancer is hormone-related, so if you start your period earlier, your body is exposed to these hormones for a longer period of time," she said.
Starting menstrual periods one year earlier is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent.
So stick to drinking water, girls.
You've probably heard that eating food that has been burnt and turned black will increase your chances of getting cancer.
Well, it's true.
Dr Wong Seng Weng, specialist in Medical Oncology at The Cancer Centre, said "barbecued food, like bak kwa, produce significantly higher amounts of carcinogens''.
He said: "When food is exposed to high heat, the food substances, particularly protein and carbohydrates, transform into substances that are carcinogenic.
"The 'chao ta' (burnt) portions of the bak kwa indicate that the meat has been exposed to extremely high temperatures."
So if you have to eat those high-caloried slices of heaven, stay away from the burnt bits.
When it comes to preparing food for our relatives, more is always better than less.
After all, having leftovers is less embarrassing than having hungry, dissatisfied visitors at your house.
However, leftover food, especially if not kept properly, contains higher amounts of bacteria.
For healthy individuals, the increase in the amount of bacteria is probably insignificant, but for those with a weaker immune system such as those with cancer, the increase in bacteria may lead to further health complications.
"Those with a weaker immune system should avoid leftover food. Overnight food will increase the risk of bacteria infection," Dr Wong said.
But wasting food is not the way to go either.
So when it comes to minimising bacteria in leftover food, storage and reheating is important.
"Leftover food should be stored in the fridge or even in the freezer to minimise bacteria growth," Dr Wong said.
"Also when reheating, many people tend to just warm it up by putting it in the microwave. Microwaving food may not be sufficient to kill the bacteria. Instead, the food should actually be recooked, in a sense. Most of the bacteria will be killed only if exposed to very high heat," he added.
Chinese New Year treats such as bak kwa and pineapple tarts are definitely not the healthiest type of food around, but what's Chinese New Year without the food?
Ultimately, being mindful is key to not over indulging, said Ms Gladys Wong Hooi Chuan, chief dietitian at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Nutrition & Dietitics Department.
She said: "People can eat all these food, but they just have to be mindful not to overindulge and regret it at the end of the day.
"We are always told to eat in moderation, but moderation is relative and different for everyone."
So to better gauge how much is too much, here are some of Chinese New Year treats listed with how many storeys you would have to climb to burn off the additional calories.
This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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