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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

March 28, 2007

Written by C.N.

Shocking News: Chinese Food Can Be Unhealthy

I normally like to promote most forms of Asian and Asian American culture, but sometimes I also have to be realistic, especially when it comes to things that are healthy or unhealthy. Case in point: as Wired News reports, a new study confirms that many of us have already known: Americanized Chinese restaurant food can be rather unhealthy for you:

A plate of General Tso’s chicken, for example, is loaded with about 40 percent more sodium and more than half the calories an average adult needs for an entire day. The battered, fried chicken dish with vegetables has 1,300 calories, 3,200 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat. That’s before the rice (200 calories a cup). And after the egg rolls (200 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium).

“I don’t want to put all the blame on Chinese food,” said Bonnie Liebman [Center for Science in the Public Interest]. “Across the board, American restaurants need to cut back on calories and salt, and in the meantime, people should think of each meal as not one, but two, and bring home half for tomorrow,” Liebman said. . . . In some ways, Liebman said, Italian and Mexican restaurants are worse for your health, because their food is higher in saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Chinese food . . . does offer vegetable-rich dishes and the kind of fat that’s not bad for the heart. However, the veggies aren’t off the hook. A plate of stir-fried greens has 900 calories and 2,200 milligrams of sodium. And eggplant in garlic sauce has 1,000 calories and 2,000 milligrams of sodium. . . .

It offers several tips for making a meal healthier: Look for dishes that feature vegetables instead of meat or noodles. Ask for extra broccoli, snow peas or other veggies. Steer clear of deep-fried meat, seafood or tofu. Order it stir-fried or braised. Hold the sauce, and eat with a fork or chopsticks to leave more sauce behind. Avoid salt, which means steering clear of the duck sauce, hot mustard, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Share your meal or take half home for later. Ask for brown rice instead of white rice.

Most people — even Asian Americans — shouldn’t be shocked to learn that many of the dishes in Americanized Chinese restaurants and takeout joints can be unhealthy. So with everything else, enjoy it in moderation. Chinese food is great for an occasional meal, but as with the vast majority of fast food or restaurant food, you definitely should not make it an everyday part of your life. And by Chinese food, I mean Americanized Chinese restaurant food.

Here’s another suggestion: try Vietnamese food — it tends to be lighter and uses less frying and sauces. In fact, many of my friends have told me after they tried Vietnamese food for the first time that they would never eat Chinese food again. Sorry, General Tso!


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Shocking News: Chinese Food Can Be Unhealthy" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/shocking-news-chinese-food-can-be-unhealthy/> ().

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