Love Chinese Food but Not the Salt and Fat?

chinese food menu

I love Chinese food. And I know many of you do as well.


One of the best things about Chinese food recipes is that they’re packed in flavor from the deliberate blending of sauces, spices and oils, matched with culinary skilll to turn ordinary ingredients into masterpieces. The upside is deliciousness. The downside is that many of these seasonings and cooking methods are high in salt and fat, both of which aren’t great for your heart’s health.


A high intake of salt can cause your body to retain more fluid, which means there’s more volume for the heart to pump, causing a rise in your blood pressure. Eating too much salt can also worsen the condition of people with edema, which is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the body, typically in the ankles and lower limbs. The daily recommended intake level of salt for healthy adults is 2300mg, which is just shy of 1 teaspoon. You can bet your bottom dollar you’ll exceed this level when dining out at a chinese restaurant unless you make very health conscious decisions.


Also, many chinese food dishes require vegetable oils (typically canola or sesame oil), which are healthy fats that are great in moderation, but not so much when used in excess because it leads to weight gain and a rise in blood cholesterol levels.


So what is a chinese food lover to do? Well, cooking from home is a great way to start. This way, you have complete control over how much fat and salt you put into each dish and can read the nutrition facts label of prepared condiments to make a lower salt and fat choice. The Heart and Stroke foundation have a great list of heart healthy chinese food recipes for you to follow, including:


Tips for Eating Out

Most chinese menus have decent english translations now, but few have made the effort to list out healthier options that are better for you and your family. So until more chinese food menus take on a heart healthy approach, you’ll have to be more proactive when eating out if you want to cut down on fat and salt.


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Ask for…

  • Roasted, grilled, baked, poached, or broiled pork, fish, or poultry
  • Fresh, steamed vegetables (ask for the oyster sauce on the side)
  • Low-sodium soy sauce (usually has a green lid instead of a red one)
  • Plain, steamed rice instead of fried rice or noodles
  • No monosodium glutamate (MSG) and easy sauce or sauce on the side



Now that we’re doing the nutrition part of things, here is some interesting pieces of chinese food history you may not have known.


Northern and Southern China has its own unique Chinese food culture. Chinese recipes from these two distinct regions provide a looking glass into the history of the nation. Let’s just say Chinese food calories were not the main concern when recipes were developed. More so, it was about using readily available ingredients, usually low cost and creating something filling, and indisputably delicious. As well, did you know?


Northern Chinese Cuisine

  • Cuisine originates in the Imperial court, so food must be “fit for an emperor.”
  • Emphasis on light, subtle flavors and the best ingredients.
  • Preserved foods and hearty foods cooked with lots of oil are common due to short growing season.
  • Herbs and spices that are commonly used: scallions, fresh ginger root, garlic and chili peppers, vinegar, star anise, cinnamon, pepper, sesame oil, and dried Chinese black mushrooms.


Southern Chinese Cuisine

  • Abundance of produce, seafood (fish and shellfish), and meat (poultry and soy products).
  • Famous for seafood (often steamed fish), and glazed pork and duck (golden red “roasted duck”).
  • Popular fruits and vegetables: taro root, eggplant, tomato, leafy greens, and tropical fruits such as man-goes bananas and litchis.
  • Common condiments: hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, black bean paste, shrimp paste.