For a healthy life, one should be aware of the power of food and have self-control and determination towards the choice for healthy food.

Pediatrician and nutritionist Dr Ang Poon Liat said this during his lecture on ‘you are what you eat,’ to the officials of education ministry, teachers and students in Thimphu on August 30.

He said that the genes have not changed for the last 50,000 years but the world, food and the environment is changing. “Your body is not something you can spend and throw around, or abuse with all sorts of junks. It’s a body that you have to live, earn, and develop a family with, and a body that will carry you to the rest of your lives.”

Dr Ang Poon Liat said that having a good genetic blueprint by nature is not good enough for survival. “You have to be healthy in order to enjoy longevity by adapting to change. If you can’t, longevity is not worthwhile,” he said. “If you ask me what is right food, I think you should go back to traditional food.”

He observed that Bhutanese diet has too much rice, sugar, salt, vegetable oil and beer, with too little of smart fats (egg and fish) and meat. “Ingredients should be balanced. Our body works on harmony, and harmony needs balance.”

He said that Bhutanese eat too much rice for social reasons rather than the calories needed. “Because of your choice of eating more salt and spicy food, you take more rice to neutralise the intensity.” He added that celebrations should be done through human joy and relationship and not by using food.

Sugar contains fructose, which is unhealthy for the body and suggested avoiding ice creams and fizzy drink.

In the past people were encouraged to eat vegetable oil as the cholesterol and saturated fat in natural oils were thought to have caused heart disease. Dr Ang Poon Liat said that doctors today have found this to be untrue and that natural oils such as virgin coconut oil, butter, ghee and animal oils should be consumed instead of vegetable oil which contains unhealthy trans fat.

He advised avoiding sugar, corn syrup, sweet fruits and vegetables; honey, ice cream, beverages, pastries, candies, soda and energy drinks. “If you are only eating rice and curry, there is no smart fat. You have to feed your brain as much as you feed your body.”

Eating smart fat would increase brain speed, connection and collaboration. If there were no smart fat in the food, it would cause diseases such as obesity, depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s.

Vegetables and plants are good for health as they contain anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti cancer elements. Dr Ang Poon Liat said wild fish, free range chicken egg, and meat from grass fed animals should be eaten as raw as possible or cooked in low heat. “Here, you eat a lot of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, chilies and garlic. You should put these into food, vegetables, and fish as this will increase your immune system.”

Karma Cheki