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Is There Healthy Thai Food?


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#1 bassmaster50

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Posted 2008-10-27 15:02:07

As I was in hospital in US for high blood pressure, the doctor told me to cut down on fat and salt. Now I am back in Thailand and it is hard to do. My girlfriend is a great cook but she cooks usual Thai food which is of course full of oil and nam pla. I did get her to stop adding salt and MSG, but she cannot seem to understand that nam pla is mostly salt, and she claims she cannot cook without it, so she cuts down on it but she still uses it. She did start using olive oil instead of vegetable oil so that is better anyway. Plus everything is fried also. Is there any such thing as healthy Thai food. I really am ignorant about nutrition, which is probably why I have this problem in the first place.

#2 Sheryl

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Posted 2008-10-27 16:47:57

Actually Thai food per se is quite healthy. What makes it lerss healthy is:

- use of palm oil
- too much frying
- addition of MSG

A small amount of nam pla or soy sauce is OK in this climate where one tends to lose more sodium due to sweating. It is quite not the same as in the US, a temperate climate where it is feasible to cut out all added salt.

I would say that as long as your GF has stopped adding MSG, uses only healthy oils (olive oil, canola or sunflower/safflower; first 2 are best), keeps the nam pla/soy sauce/oyster sauce to a minimum, keeps cocunut milk to a minimum, and goes heavy on the veggies/light on the meat, you're doing fine.

A tip for the coconut milk: mix it half and half with non-fat milk (dairy) and it tastes almost as good.

#3 Tolley

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Posted 2008-10-28 11:02:43

I would recommend that you eat foods like chicken with oyster sauce and add plenty of fresh veggies.

Use a good oil and instead of jasmin rice use brown rice or at the very least bashmati rice.

Steer clear of coconut milk althogether.

Pad Krapow, Pad Sie Eiw and many dishes are great if you use good oil and add fresh vegetable and use brown or bashmati rice.

Don't stint too much on the meat as you need enough protein in the meal to keep you getting hungry in an hour or two otherwise you will probably end up eating a lot of rubbish in between meals.

#4 Gary A

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Posted 2008-10-28 12:20:27

My blood pressure when in the US was impossible to control and I was on four different drugs. After retiring in Thailand my Thai doctor advised me to throw away all the drugs I was taking and put me on a 20 mg of Enaril plus a baby aspirin a day. Eating more than 95 percent Thai food must agree with me. My blood pressure is now well controlled with 10 mg of Enaril, my pulse rate dropped 10 beats a minute and I have lost more than 20 pounds. My Thai wife is a great cook. I eat whatever I like and avoid nothing. Everything in moderation.

#5 Samuian

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Posted 2008-10-28 12:37:37

Gary A stated the obvious!

Thai Food is generally healthy, sure and in genuine Thai kitchen no MSG, Aromat, Rot-Dii and other Taste and Color enhancing, meat tenderizing Agents are used!

Fishsauce, Oystersauce, light and Dark Soya Sauces are rather low in Salt, compared to the rather free use of salt in western kitchen and food.

These Sauces are used for flavoring, salt content is secondary, saltyness, salty taste "chem" is not very much liked in asian taste...

By the way interesting is that the original Worcestershire sauce is a related product because it is fermented and contains anchovies!

According to Merriam-Webster, the English word "ketchup" is derived from the Malay word for fish sauce, "kĕchap"!

#6 Comehome

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Posted 2008-10-28 12:44:11

The best "medicine" for high blood pressure is actually exercise.

If you can, take a short swim in the morning or evening that would be good.
And not just sit in the water, swim! :o

I don't mean to sound rude but from my experience thai food is very healthy.

I think it is a good thing to cut on the salt in european countries but in Thailand with the heat and tropical climate I think salt and plenty of water is needed to balance for the loss of water from sweating.

A lot of fat from food is healthy for example; fat from fish and nuts like unsalted peanuts, cashewnuts etc. (not coconuts)
Also buy cooking oil with omega 3, that is more healthy than other oils.

The fat in food in the US is different from the fat in thaifood.
European food and american food are filled with milk and cream-sauces and even if you don't think there is milk or cream in certain things, there is.

I am lactose intolerant so I have checked a lot of groceries.
For example, who would have thought that salami contains milk?! Well, it does.
Milk is for children and calves, there is no actual need for milk for grown ups.
The milk might give some calcium but it is not worth the bad things it also gives you.
There are better sources of calcium than milk and cream for grown-ups.


I hope your bloodpressure gets better soon.

Take care!

Edited by Comehome, 2008-10-28 12:45:38.


#7 Lost in LOS

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Posted 2008-10-28 14:58:52

i eat all my meals out. the local Thai restaurant i go to a lot uses lots of oil in the dishes. i kept asking for less oil but they complained it would stick to the pan. i finally brought them a non stick pan and utensil and now there is almost no oil in my dishes now. as far as the nahm pla i just use the peppers and no liquid. when they make fried rice for me they don't use oil, the do use brown rice, they add Chinese broccoli, cashews and chicken. great dish and no oil because of the pan. i told them they can add a little water to the pan if they want

#8 sbk

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Posted 2008-10-28 21:12:31

Hmm, gotta beg to differ that salty taste is not liked in Thailand, Kai Khem is a very popular dish, as is salted fish, and a wonderfully unhealthy dish that consists of a large, salted and dried fish cooked in coconut curry for a long time, until it rehydrates and the oil is floating on top of the curry. You get a marvelous mix of the spicy of the curry, the sweet of the coconut and the salty of the fish. And it is completely bad for you :o

#9 kawikasudo

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Posted 2008-10-31 14:32:53

i eat all my meals out. the local Thai restaurant i go to a lot uses lots of oil in the dishes. i kept asking for less oil but they complained it would stick to the pan. i finally brought them a non stick pan and utensil and now there is almost no oil in my dishes now. as far as the nahm pla i just use the peppers and no liquid. when they make fried rice for me they don't use oil, the do use brown rice, they add Chinese broccoli, cashews and chicken. great dish and no oil because of the pan. i told them they can add a little water to the pan if they want


The problem with a non-stick pan is Thais tend to cook with high heat. Non-stick pans are not suppose to be heated above medium heat or else they emit toxic fumes with can go into your food.

#10 cclub75

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Posted 2008-10-31 14:48:54

i eat all my meals out. the local Thai restaurant i go to a lot uses lots of oil in the dishes. i kept asking for less oil but they complained it would stick to the pan. i finally brought them a non stick pan and utensil and now there is almost no oil in my dishes now.


:o
Great. This is what I like about Thailand : A problem ? A solution. I guess they weren't surprised when you gave them the new pan ?

#11 Groongthep

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Posted 2008-10-31 16:29:36

Thai Food is generally healthy, sure and in genuine Thai kitchen no MSG, Aromat, Rot-Dii and other Taste and Color enhancing, meat tenderizing Agents are used!

Fishsauce, Oystersauce, light and Dark Soya Sauces are rather low in Salt, compared to the rather free use of salt in western kitchen and food.

These Sauces are used for flavoring, salt content is secondary, saltyness, salty taste "chem" is not very much liked in asian taste...



I love Thai food and eat it regularly and so I find it somewhat surprising to hear it said that in a genuine Thai kitchen no MSG is used and that fish sauce is rather low in salt and that saltiness is not much liked in asian (well Thai anyway) taste, because that's not what I've seen and experienced. The major ingredient in fish sauce other than fish is salt. Salt encrusted pla khem is for sale at street vendors on nearly every soi, the section in convenience stores selling salty snacks like crisps (potato chips) and dried squid is enormous and the MSG (pong choo rot) section in the supermarket takes up entire shelves. It would also be quite a stretch to say that it's not mostly Thais who are buying all these products.

Edited by Groongthep, 2008-10-31 16:32:07.


#12 whiterussian

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Posted 2008-10-31 16:59:59

Are there any dishes that people know of that are JAM PACKED with vitamins. I have a cold, and im sure eating veggies will be good, but i wonder if there is a special dish out there that really packs a punch? Ant egg soup? - hope not. I drink passion fruit drinks - fresh.. anything else? b vits?

thanks.... sniff***

#13 Samuian

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Posted 2008-10-31 17:27:56

Thai Food is generally healthy, sure and in genuine Thai kitchen no MSG, Aromat, Rot-Dii and other Taste and Color enhancing, meat tenderizing Agents are used!

Fishsauce, Oystersauce, light and Dark Soya Sauces are rather low in Salt, compared to the rather free use of salt in western kitchen and food.

These Sauces are used for flavoring, salt content is secondary, saltyness, salty taste "chem" is not very much liked in asian taste...



I love Thai food and eat it regularly and so I find it somewhat surprising to hear it said that in a genuine Thai kitchen no MSG is used and that fish sauce is rather low in salt and that saltiness is not much liked in asian (well Thai anyway) taste, because that's not what I've seen and experienced. The major ingredient in fish sauce other than fish is salt. Salt encrusted pla khem is for sale at street vendors on nearly every soi, the section in convenience stores selling salty snacks like crisps (potato chips) and dried squid is enormous and the MSG (pong choo rot) section in the supermarket takes up entire shelves. It would also be quite a stretch to say that it's not mostly Thais who are buying all these products.


Well, we might be on the brink of change, not too long that we have all this chip and crisps stuff around....

I had except the mentioned dried fish stuff never had a thai dish that was salty, even the "kai kehm" mentioned by sbk aren't salty as f.E. Chips or Crisps are...

And ever seen a salt dispenser in a thai kitchen?

if some dish is "khem" they usually add lime...

Most of the dried fish "pla khem" is cured with fish sauce, or has the natural residue from the sea of saltiness... well, is what my experience is.. certainly never saw a thai siting down at the table and first thing grabbing the salt dispenser and sprinkling freely salt all over the dishes....!

It's what my experience is... and I live here for quite sometime..

And yes, MSG is used freely ONLY by people who want quick results or" can't cook" I have been running a Restaurantfor 12 years we never ever had a bag opened in the kitchen!

ah...well... :o

#14 plastacasta

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Posted 2008-11-02 10:14:42

It's difficult to know what you're eating, when most of your meals are bought out, isn't it?

I have the same problem.

make sure if you order a juice, you ask for 'no sugar'.

another thing I've noticed here is the amount of sugar added to juices and shakes!

#15 brahmburgers

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Posted 2008-11-02 11:52:13

Saying Thai food is healthy is like saying the nud_e emperor has a a fine suit of clothes.

Thai food is unhealthy - for more reasons than those mentioned above.

Those that say Thai food is healthy, are the same sorts that bend over backwards to try to say nice things about Thais. Or perhaps that's their way of explaining things they don't understand - which somehow reflects the exotic mystery of the orient.

Thai food is only a shade healthier than MSG-laced Chinese food it's related to. Besides the profusion of oil, heaps of spices - there's rarely anything fresh in Thai cuisine (ok, I admit there are sometimes a few thin slices of cucumber, or a little sprig of parsley next to the overcooked concoction called 'food'). A Thai salad is small and smothered in non-healthy things. If you like heaps of dressing and spices added to a small amount of fresh things, then you might like a Thai salad.

Thai food must be disguised with a plethora of spices and other things, some of those things are completely inedible except perhaps by a bear or a pig (namely: bones, gristle, globs of animal fat, stalks, rinds).

I sometimes go to the market and buy fresh sweet red/yellow peppers or a head of red cabbage, just to chow down unadultered - as if my body were saying; "help, give me something fresh with vitamins!"

Rule of thumb for Thai cooking: make it very spicy or make it very sweet - then further disguise the original ingredients further with heaps of condiments at the dining table.

#16 piewarmer

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Posted 2008-11-02 14:05:16

I read an article in a health magazine about MSG
It concluded there was nothing wrong with this chemical at all.
apparently all the bad press over many many years was just misinformation.

#17 Captain Ron

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Posted 2008-11-03 16:12:44

Are there any dishes that people know of that are JAM PACKED with vitamins. I have a cold, and im sure eating veggies will be good, but i wonder if there is a special dish out there that really packs a punch? Ant egg soup? - hope not. I drink passion fruit drinks - fresh.. anything else? b vits?

thanks.... sniff***



Tom Yum cures colds, jet lag, lowers blood pressure and maybe prevents cancer.
fish, shrimp or chicken.

#18 whiterussian

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Posted 2008-11-03 16:24:51

Tom Yum cures colds, jet lag, lowers blood pressure and maybe prevents cancer.
fish, shrimp or chicken.


Tom Yum it is! Thank you!

My thai GF, as im sure a lot of Thai GF's do, eats Thai food that is incredibly healthy.

Mainly boiled veg, with some kind of fish/prawn/spicy dipping sauce.
Country food, canom jeen - chinese noodles with thick suace and loads of veg, boiled.
somtam - how healthy is that!! awesome!
lots of soups, broths and gruels..
Hardly any oil involved at all..

Im ashamed to say i can eat spicy food, but veer away from the rich sauces they eat, either too much chilly or too fishy. Whicjh leaves me with the wok made food... oh dear.

Edited by UKWEBPRO, 2008-11-03 16:25:54.


#19 Smithson

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Posted 2008-11-03 16:49:22

The Isaan dish of steamed fish and steamed vegetables with some nam prik is very healthy. The fruit carts are great for a healthy, convenient snack.

Traditionally the Thais would have eaten better, however as they have become affluent they've added more fried stuff and meat (especially the fatty pork).

Rather than being unhealthy, I think there is a lack of awareness of what healthy food is, they just eat whatever they feel like, with way too much sugar.

#20 Sheryl

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Posted 2008-11-03 19:29:49

The various Thai salads are very healthy (and delicious!)

yam het
yam mekreu

etc

#21 brahmburgers

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Posted 2008-11-04 07:50:14

I read an article in a health magazine about MSG
It concluded there was nothing wrong with this chemical at all.
apparently all the bad press over many many years was just misinformation.

Did the article mention that some people get toxic reactions from ingesting MSG? Though rare, there have been some fatalities from overdosing on MSG (NYC, two men, years ago, didn't know a salt shaker in a restaurant was mistakenly filled with MSG). More common are symptoms (among some who ingest MSG): weak and racing pulse, insomnia, quick to anger, headaches, irritableness. Little by little, Thai restaurants appear to understand that farang (in particular) don't want MSG put on their food, yet MSG is rife in all the sauces on their shelves - most of which come from China. When foreign dignitaries attend functions in Thailand, the chefs involved are instructed to not use any MSG. I would assume it's same for Thai VIP's and the Royal family - if they know what's good for them.

Brahms

#22 Gary A

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Posted 2008-11-04 09:09:35

My Thai wife hates and has a fear of all sorts of chemicals. I used to get irritated with her for buying vegetables with lots of insect holes in the leaves. There are beautiful looking vegetables at the fresh market but she avoids them. When I finally asked her about that, she told me that if the insects didn't want to eat those vegetables, then we shouldn't eat them either.

#23 stevenjm

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Posted 2008-11-04 09:54:55

Although i disagree with you on the unhealthy food issue i do agree with the msg comments. Nothing quite like a good dose of aji no moto for a sleepless night.

#24 Tolley

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Posted 2008-11-04 10:59:10

Thai food can be healthy but like most food it is probably better if you cook it yourself.

That way you know exactly what the ingredients are.

You can then control the type of oil,amount of sugar and salt etc and of course the quality of the meat and veggies.

Wherever there is a profit motive involved there is always a tendancy to take shortcuts.

#25 wpcoe

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Posted 2008-11-04 11:29:25

I read an article in a health magazine about MSG
It concluded there was nothing wrong with this chemical at all.
apparently all the bad press over many many years was just misinformation.

Did the article mention that some people get toxic reactions from ingesting MSG? Though rare, there have been some fatalities from overdosing on MSG (NYC, two men, years ago, didn't know a salt shaker in a restaurant was mistakenly filled with MSG). More common are symptoms (among some who ingest MSG): weak and racing pulse, insomnia, quick to anger, headaches, irritableness. Little by little, Thai restaurants appear to understand that farang (in particular) don't want MSG put on their food, yet MSG is rife in all the sauces on their shelves - most of which come from China. When foreign dignitaries attend functions in Thailand, the chefs involved are instructed to not use any MSG. I would assume it's same for Thai VIP's and the Royal family - if they know what's good for them.

While not fatal (at least not yet), I have a distinct reaction to ingesting MSG: My sinuses swell and close, so I can only breathe through my mouth. The reaction starts a few minutes after ingestion, and lasts no more than maybe 45 minutes, but it's irritating, at the very least. I used to work in a Thai restaurant in the USA, and the menu proudly displayed "No MSG added," but after I experienced my reaction a few times, the manager weakly admitted that MSG is in some of the pre-packaged sauces they used...





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