Monday, 28 February 2011

Effects of Caffeine On Diabetics

Most of us need caffeine, be it tea or coffee, to jump start our battery in the morning. Hubby is no exception. In fact, he takes caffeine throughout the day, most of it in the form of coffee. Ever since he discovered that he is diabetic last Monday, he has been taking his coffee plain: black, no sugar. 

Let me sidetrack for a moment here. When I was in Penang, I visited my uncle on my mum's side, and was shocked to see what Parkinson's Disease (PD) did to him. Coming back to KL, I read up on PD, and found that caffeine and green tea contain properties that reduces the risk of PD. Nicotine, too, ironically. But that's another story, which will be in another post. For this post, we'll concern ourselves with caffeine.

While reading up tons of material on diabetes, I stumbled upon a single sentence: "Those with diabetes type 2 should avoid caffeine." I sat up. What?? And so embarked upon a research on caffeine and diabetes.

After having sifted through tons of material, I'm conflicted. There are reports that caffeine and green tea are health food, and reduces diabetes risk. It is claimed that the quinines found in caffeine increases the sensitivity to insulin, hence less insulin is needed to regulate the glucose in the blood (see and and Diabetes Type 2 is caused by decreased sensitivity to insulin, and the pancreas has to produce more insulin, which will one day wear itself out and fail. That is why hubby was prescribed medication to increase his sensitivity to insulin.

But there are lots more reports that contradict those findings. There were studies that showed that when Diabetic Type 2 patients were given caffeine, their blood glucose level spiked 8% (see and and 

So, which group is right? And the samples taken are rather small, to provide an accurate result. When hubby first heard that he might have to give up coffee, too, his reaction was not unexpected: he'd rather die from diabetes than give up coffee.

If I have to venture my personal opinion, I would say on the surface, it looks like coffee should be avoided. BUT on closer look at the composition of coffee, I think (warning: I may be wrong here, so don't rely on my opinion if you have diabetes) coffee on its own has its beneficial properties. It is the caffeine in it that decreases the sensitivity to insulin. So, the solution may be to drink decaf coffee, and in moderation. (See for the composition of coffee)

Living With A Diabetic Hubby

Last week was a week of major upheaval of lifestyle for us, for on Monday, hubby was confirmed as a Type 2 diabetic, with a reading of 14 mmoL/L. Which means, to a layman, a very high level of plasma glucose.

For the rest of the week, we were kept busy trying to figure out what he should eat and should not eat. A dietary plan has to be worked out, with the intake of carbohydrates, sugar, fat, protein, and even sodium calculated. Everything I put into the pot or wok, had to have its calories calculated, and broken down into the carbo/fat/protein/sodium/sugar levels. 

Eating out is worse. We were suddenly stumped for ideas on where to go or what to eat, as most food outside are not healthy. Of course, healthy foods are sashimi (not sushi as it contains white rice and sake, alcohol), or Korean grilled stuff or steamboat. But then, we had to take into consideration the sodium levels in the Korean grilled stuff and the soup in the steamboat. 

So, that left us only sashimi, which we already had a week earlier. So we decided on Chinese food on Sunday evening. Imagine our order to the cook of a Chinese restaurant: "Spinach soup with no salt, and no century eggs, please....fried beehoon with no salt, or soy sauce please." And on Saturday, we had to turn down an invitation to pancakes cooked by a "top English chef", in his own words. What a bummer! 

When I mentioned this, some friends of mum said, "Oh, I have diabetes, too. There's no upheaval. Just take less sugary food, and if possible, don't take any white sugar." 

Well, I'm sorry, it's not as simple as that. And this is the reason why I have chosen to write this post, to hopefully educate those who hold to the myth that if you have diabetes, you only need to stop taking white sugar and take less sugary food.

My father-in-law died within two years of injecting insulin. No, not from insulin injection, but from the complications caused by diabetes, which I think some people are not aware of.

First, the complications caused by diabetes:

  • Vascular disease - The large blood vessels are narrowed, resulting in nutrients not being carried to your body's organs which might result in heart failure or stroke.
  • Small blood vessel disease - Blood vessels in the eyes and kidney may be damaged, which might result in vision loss and kidney failure.
  • Nerve damage - The nerves in the feet and hands might be damaged, and cuts or blisters might be infected, which might result in having to amputate the limb.
  • Skin disorder - Skin disorder such as bacterial infections, fungal infections, itching, Diabetic Dermopathy, Necrobiosis Lipiodica Diabeticorum, Atherosclerosis, Eruptive Xanthomatosis and Acanthosis Nigricans (see: and

Two in three diabetic patient will suffer from the complications above. A good diet management will only manage to delay the complications, but if the patient lives long enough, the complications will come as surely as it will rain after a long dry spell.

Second, the list of food to avoid:

  • Refined and simple carbohydrates - Sucrose, glucose or fructose (sugar derived from fruits), white rice, white bread, white flour, table sugar (whether white or brown does not matter), sweets, honey and corn-syrup are to be avoided as they convert to glucose very quickly. 
  • High fat food - The list is endless and self-explanatory, too, I think, so I'll leave it as it is.
  • High sodium food - Canned food, preserved food, processed food, snacks like potato crisps, sauces and gravy are to be avoided as those food contain salt. 
  • Alcohol - this can cause liver damage and heart failure in a diabetic patient.
List of recommended food that hubby should take to prevent rapid peaks in the blood glucose levels:
  • Complex high-fiber carbohydrates - Oats, cereals, legumes, wholegrain products, dried beans, peas, lentils, fruits like oranges, strawberries, and dark green vegetables, or yellow peppers.
  • Omega 3 - Salmon, tuna, mackerel (but NOT king mackerel) and herring. These fish contain omega 3 and protect against the hardening of arteries.
  • Omega 6 fatty acid - Blackcurrant oil, primrose oil, borage oil. These protect against nerve damage.
Have I considered the Atkins Diet? Well, I have researched that as well, and found that the Atkins Diet is an over-hyped commercial diet, which might in the long term do more harm than good. Why? Because the Atkins Diet opt for a high protein and low-carbohydrate program, which causes a person to lose the water in their body rather than the fat cells. That is why anyone on Atkins Diet loses weight rapidly. (see the claims and reality of the Atkins Diet - )

So, I had to resort to planning our own menu. After calculating hubby's calorie needs, I have to calculate each and every ingredient I use. For those who may not know how to work out your own calorie needs, below is the Harris-Benedict formula I used:

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x W) + (5 x H) - (6.8 x Age) = Daily calories required
Women: BMR = 665 + (9.6 x W) + (1.8 x H) - (4.7 x Age) = Daily calories needs
W = weight in kg   
H = height in cm
Age = years

After I got the daily calories need for BMR, I multiply it by an activity factor for our lifestyle. 
Activity factor guideline table:
  • Sedentary - none or very little exercise = BMR X 1.2
  • Light activity for average of 2 days/week = BMR X 1.375
  • Moderate activity level exercising  4 days/week = BMR X 1.5
  • High activity levels exercise & sports more than 6 days/week = BMR X 1.7
  • Higher activity levels = up to 2 x BMR

And now, I have to go cook. I do believe I will become an expert dietitian by the end of two months!!  

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Book Review: Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

Although my favourite authors are the white Americans like Stephen King, David Baldacci, John Grisham and the likes, I do enjoy books by Chinese Americans and Amy Tan ranks rather high on my list of favourite authors. So, when I saw a debut novel by a Chinese American author on life as an immigrant in America, I knew I had to read it.

Girl In Translation is a refreshing book, profound in its simplicity. Kimberley, the protagonist, migrated from Hong Kong to the U.S. with her mother at a very young age and lived in extreme poverty in the squalors of Brooklyn, with no heating in their roaches and rats infested apartment. To keep warm during the cold winter, they turned on the oven in the kitchen and piled layers after layers of clothes over themselves. They also did not speak much English and Kimberley struggled for a very long time in school. 

Although the characters and the plot are fictitious, nevertheless such extreme poverty exists. It's stark in its bleakness, but in the end, Kimberley triumphed and rose above her station to give her mother a better life, at the expense of her own love life.

In fact, when I read about the author's early childhood in her website, it was as if she had written a memoir in Girl In Translation, and just changed the name of the protagonist.

This book managed to transport me into a different world, and I was totally engrossed in the struggles of this young, brave, talented girl. I would not be surprised if some movie producer contacted the author for film copyrights. If a film is made based on this novel, I would definitely watch it. That said, I'm looking forward to more books from this author.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Fujian (Hokkien) Food @ Restoran Hua Xing

Today being another public holiday (it's the birthday of Prophet Muhammad), we woke up at a fashionably late hour -- 11am -- and set off to hunt for lunch at two in the afternoon. Today, our aimless driving route took us to Sungai Way, the poor neighbourhood in PJ (Petaling Jaya). If you've been to Sungai Way, you would know what I mean. The neighbourhood, the extremely narrow lanes, the shops, they've not been the beneficiary of PJ's town planning. 

Plaza Seri Setia is nothing more than an old market-type of building, but on the first floor is a restaurant specialising in Fujian (Hokkien) food. Plastered on the walls are newspaper articles of the restaurant. The menu, though not very extensive, is rather interesting.

We ordered one of their signature dishes, Braised Pork in Soy Sauce with Alkaline Cake.
The pork was tender, and the alkaline cake went very well with the soy sauce. It is more common to eat this dish with steamed or fried buns (man tau) or rice, so the cool and soft texture of the alkaline cake was a refreshing change. 

The other signature dish we ordered was the Crispy Deep-Fried Brinjal with Dried Shrimp.
I'd say this was the most interesting dish of all. Even hubby who don't normally eat brinjals, loved it. The brinjals were crispy on the outside, and just a mite chrunchy on the inside. They weren't mushy like how most brinjals are, which was why hubby disliked brinjals. It was addictive, and I couldn't stop eating the strips after I sank my teeth into the first one. My favourite!

Since the braised pork came with alkaline cake, we decided against ordering rice, and opted for a noodle dish instead. We chose Fried Tapioca Flour Noodles.
The tapioca flour noodles was done the Hokkien Noodle style, fried in dark soy sauce. On its own, it was not bad, and certainly worth another order on the next visit, but a little over-shadowed by the crispy brinjal, I think. But then, this is a biased opinion from someone who fell over heels for the crispy brinjal.

The total bill came to RM37.50, including a pot of tea for two. The menu did not list the prices of the food, neither did they give a breakdown of the meal, so for those who always asked me to include the prices, I'm sorry I'm unable to oblige this time.

No. 1-12, 1st Floor, Plaza Seri Setia
Jalan SS9/2, Sungai Way, PJ.
Tel: (03) 7876 - 3288
Business hours: 11:30am - 3pm, 6pm - 10pm. 
Closed on alternate Wednesdays

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Penang Food

It has been said that the best food is found in Penang. As a person who was born in Penang, and who has tasted all types of food in almost all the different states in Malaysia, I feel qualified to say that the claim is a bit exaggerated. It would be more accurate to say that the best Penang hawker food is found in Penang, followed closely behind by Taiping.

That said, Penang remains one of my favourite local holiday destinations. (Will return to the subject of food later.) It is the ideal place to go to for a relaxing holiday. We always choose to stay at Tanjung Bungah hotels that have a beach-front and the route is serviced by Rapid Penang buses. 

Bus no. 101 is very frequent, once every 5 to 10 minutes while bus no. 103 is rather erratic. We took bus no. 101 to Batu Feringhi and Pulau Tikus, and bus no 103 to Kelawei Road, where we then walked to Gurney Drive. Depending on where we boarded the bus and our destination, the bus fare ranges from RM1.40 to RM2.00 per person, one way. 

Now, back to the subject of the post --- FOOD, what else?! 

Like anyone, I have my favourite haunts, and below are places that I like to go to again and again whenever I'm in Penang. And one of them is "Long Beach", the food court at Batu Ferringhi. Many Mat Sallehs eat here.

The lamb Calzone at the Northern Indian stall at Batu Ferringhi Food Court. It is really good, and is a must-try if you like lamb and mint sauce. Price: RM15. 

The  Ee Fu Mee at Batu Ferringhi Food Court used to be good, but on this trip, the quality has deteriorated. Price: RM5

This home-made fried spring roll is worth the long wait. It comes with a Worcestershire sauce mix. Price: RM3

We had our brunch at Kedai Kopi Swee Kong, opposite Pulau Tikus Balai Polis.
Hubby likes the fried koay teow whereas I prefer the Indian Mee Goreng.

Oyster Omelette at Sin Yin Nam Cafe, New Lane. The oysters are big and juicy, while the omelette is done just right, neither overcooked nor dry. It's not starchy, either. This shop has one of the better prawn mee and curry mee, but unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures. 

My favourite!! Real otak-otak, juicy, squishy, this type of fish mousse is available only in Penang. The Taman Tun Dr Ismail market in KL has an almost similar type of otak-otak, but it ranks a bit low compared to the ones in Penang. We always get one each from Song River Cafe, Gurney Drive.

Top Hat and Spring Roll from Gurney Drive. It looks better than it tastes. Not recommended.

We also discovered a new English cafe, Yorkshire Cafe, at Tanjung Bungah, near the Tanjung Bungah market, and along the same row of shoplots as Maxim and CIMB Bank. The cafe, owned by a Brit from Yorkshire (where else?!) just recently opened its doors for business two weeks before. 
It serves traditional English pub grub although the waitress didn't know that. She was telling us that some customers asked why they don't have soup, and she told them that soup is a Western dish and the English does not take soup. I had to tell her that her boss is dishing out pub food, though I don't know if she believed me.

The menu has all the traditional dishes like Ploughman's Lunch, Banger and Mash, Steak & Kidney Pie, Shepherd's Pie, Baked Beans on Toast, Apple Crumble and Trifle. It only serves Steak with Yorkshire Pudding on special festivals. They also didn't have Toad in the Hole, either, another traditional pub grub.

The Shepherd's Pie was a little burnt and dry, but the gravy more than made up for it.

Banger and Mash. The banger is a pork sausage. The onion gravy was authentically English. Yummy! However, according to hubby, the mashed potato is not as smooth as the ones I made at home. Well, I guess that's probably because I boiled the potatoes longer, or perhaps it's due to the butter and fresh milk I dumped in while mashing the potatoes up.

Another place that I always go to for breakfast is a corner coffee shop along the same row of shoplots as Yorkshire Cafe. It used to serve amazing dry wantan mee, but this trip, the quality has deteriorated. The man is no longer helped by his wife, and the sauce tasted different. The curry mee was still as good as ever, though.

There are more food that we ate than photos taken (it was quite hard to remember to fish the camera out before we stuffed the food into our big gap), and the result is.....we've put on weight, err, I mean, there's more of us to love. My resolution was to return to the gym every day to make it worth the monthly management fee we pay.....I've been back four days now, and have yet to go downstairs to the gym.....

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Malaysia Is NOT My Country According To Mahathir

Great! Thank you, Mahathir, for telling us that Malaysia is not our country. So, since I am not a Malaysian, I have no obligations to it!! Don't count on me to defend the country if there's a war. Thank you for making your thoughts on the subject crystal clear.

From now, I shall place my loyalty with UK, since it's the only other country I've ever lived in, and also because my late grandmother was a British citizen although she had never visited Britain, nor spoke the language. 

Sorry, no offense to China, but I've never been to the country, and I don't speak Chinese, and I can't relate to the people in China.......

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Happy Cat-Rabbit Year 2011

On 3 February 2011, the Chinese ushers in the Year of the Rabbit, while the Vietnamese ushers in the Year of the Cat. For me, I shall be ushering in (and celebrating) the Year of the Cat-Rabbit!!

Happy New Year to everyone, and may the Cat-Rabbit Year be a great one for you.