- Cooking oilThere’s many different oils to consider when preparing meals, but unfortunately, most restaurants value cost effectiveness over health. This isn’t only the case in Cambodia by the way , but is for sure significant over here.
I’ve done some asking around and kept an eye out for the type of industrial-sized containers at the back of restaurants and some of the most used ones are, you guessed it, the cheapest and most problematic for your health.Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil and some other vegetable oils can contain harmful amounts of saturated fats, trans-fats and omega 6 (yes, we do need this one but in certain amounts and ratio for it to be healthy) and can have serious effects on your health. Research has shown links to increased risk for strokes, heart disease and some types of cancer. If you eat out a lot, it’s worth checking what kind of oils are being used.
Easy solution: Cook at home with coconut oil/olive oil or other healthy options, or be picky about the restaurants you eat at.
- Chemicals on fruits and vegetablesAgriculture plays an important role in South East Asian economy, covering around 37% of the GDP and about two-thirds of the total labor. In Cambodia, population and income have been rising and with it, both the need to produce and the pressure to compete.
Many of the pesticides used fail to meet international standards, and illegal pesticides are often sold under fake labels or smuggled into the country. Some farmers know about the hazardous effects of these products but tend to underplay them or simply claim they can’t farm properly without them. Aside from that, controls and consequences for use are lax.
Since there are many different chemical compounds being used, the exact effects are unknown. But some of the commonly used chemicals such as sodium hydrosulfite and Borax are known to cause problems with the nervous system, undermine the immune system and promote the growth of certain cancers.Easy Solution: Buy organic and/or wash your vegetables well with specialized soap
- Meat qualityA while back a video went viral concerning a pig farm which appeared to be breeding their animals “Hulk-size”. The breeders were accused of animal cruelty and use of growth hormones, and although it’s never proven it does raise questions regarding the practices surrounding the circumstances that animals in the country are being raised.
- MSGMSG (monosodium glutamate) is a very popular flavor enhancer that provides an “umami” taste, which is translated as a “pleasant, savory taste”. In Cambodia, it’s almost automatically scooped into any dish and often you’ll even find a little pot of MSG on the table – yeah that’s not sugar -.
Nothing wrong so far right? I mean, what can be wrong about making food more delicious?
Well, there’s a bunch of symptoms that are contributed to consuming MSG bundles as the “Chinese restaurant syndrome”. Most common are problems with digestion, cramps, dizziness and headaches. There are also more severe problems linked to ingesting MSG on a regular basis: ADHD, autism, obesity, growth disruptions, learning and behavioral problems, hormonal imbalance, epilepsy, insomnia, damage to the retina, heart problems, cancer. Therefore, MSG has been banned in some countries.
The FDA labelled the consumption of MSG as “safe”, since a causal relationship between consuming MSG and the symptoms could not been shown. Even though most evidence of the negative side of MSG is anecdotal, It’s not ruled out that certain conditions or long term ingestion can lead to health problems. Being aware of it’s existence can lead to a better understanding would you ever struggle with the above symptoms.
Solution: Awareness and avoidance when symptoms arise.
- SugarAlong with the growth of the country, we see an unmistakable difference in the availability and choice of food. Western brands such as Burger King, Krispy Creme and Starbucks are taking their place and are often seen as high status foods. Rice and vegetables changes to burgers and black coffee becomes a liquid piece of pie.
Sugar is also a common addition to well, pretty much anything. Take a look at how meals are prepared and you’ll often raise an eyebrow to how often and how much sugar is added to foods and drinks. Diabetes type II is a growing problem and has an estimated growth of 82% from 2008 (145.000) to 2028 (264.000), effectively costing the country 5-11 Million $. But that’s not all.
Most people are not aware of what our sweet-tooth back in Europe is causing. Human’s rights are being trampled to meet the demand of sugar in the west. Farmers are seeing their land taken, their houses burnt, and their children forced to work on the land that was once theirs.
Solution: Understand that sugar is hidden in almost everything and max consumption per day should be 10% of your energy intake
The more you think about it, the more products you use in daily life that are plastic. That’s the case pretty much all over the world but in countries where water from tap isn’t drinkable, like in Cambodia (Edit: I’ve heard this is debatable), many of the water being drank comes from plastic bottles.
Over the last years the main concern of plastic production was environmental, not health. But we now realize that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, and can interfere with the production, transport and function of different kinds of hormones. Now that more and more research points in the direction of possible effects on the development of certain cancers and problems with fertility, the recommendation is to be more cautious about the amount of BPA (Bisphenol-a) you ingest.
Solution: Limit use of plastic, switch to glass bottles to drink from.
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