Beware the rich food of Tet

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The Lunar New Year is coming. Tet, as the occasion is called in Vietnam, is a time for convivial family reunions and hearty feasting. It's also a time for anybody with diabetes, heart ailments, high cholesterol or fatty liver to take extra care so that their condition is not exacerbated. A reasonable diet is always the most important advice given by doctors.

Diabetes has the dubious distinction of being the leading disease today. Its first enemy is the sugars in their various manifestations, warns Dr. Diep Thi Thanh Binh.

That's why diabetics must limit their intake of sweets, confectionery, honey, bread, rice, oat, banana, watermelon and dried fruits as these are all rich in one sugar or another.

A diabetic's eating regimen should be controlled to keep the level of glucose stable. The glucose index goes up or down depending on the consumption of carbohydrates, glucids, protein, fat and fiber.

Binh recommends that diabetics eat 200g per day of the popular sticky rice concoctions called bánh chưng or bánh tét along with some dưa món (picked vegetables) or dưa kiệu (pickled scallion heads) as they are mainly starch and the type of fatty substances needed in a balanced diet.

Thịt nguá»™i (ham) or giò chả (pork pies) contain many saturated fats so Binh advises diabetics to restrict their daily intake of these delicacies to less than 100g.

They should also avoid eating the fattiest pork in the heavy dish thịt kho trứng (salted pork and egg), and not eat more than one of its egg yolks in a day.

Best is for diabetics to consume at most 300g per day of protein from meat, fish or soya cake. To this can be added one apple or orange, a small piece of watermelon or two plums or three segments of pomelo after two of the day's meals. Binh also advises diabetics to avoid jam at Tet, and limit themselves to one diet soft drink or a few cups of tea per day.

Lollies, cakes, chocolates and other confectionery piled high on groaning plates are common in every home at Tet, and it's hard to ignore them when they are right in front of you for the entire holiday. Still, the temptation should be resisted if you are overweight, diabetic, or have high cholesterol or fatty liver disease.

Obesity and a high cholesterol count are caused by overeating, too much alcohol and insufficient exercise, says Dr. Pham Khac Tri.

Tri warns that too much sugar affects insulin production in the pancreas and raises the blood sugar level, so diabetes is a natural consequence.

The only effective remedy for obesity and weight problems is to stop the rich food, sweets and alcohol, and start exercising, otherwise the fat will stay.

Tri says people with fatty liver disease should restrict their sugar intake and shun animal fat and liver, egg yolks and butter.

High cholesterol is a modern plague and is caused by poor diet, according to Dr. Tri, who says a proper diet for the cholesterol-challenged should include lots of fish and fibrous vegetables, little meat and salt, and only moderate amounts of butter and cream, eggs, sugar, jam, confectionery and alcohol. And avoid pork and chicken fat, coconut oil, chocolate, liver, kidney, heart and brain.

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