Healthy Oil Free Cooking

Joining Gallery Helios is nutrition consultant and health writer Mayura Mohta. She will be offering individual sessions and workshops, both in-house and for corporate venues.

A proponent of a plant-based diet, Mayura also believes in moderation. She knows that hardcore or sudden changes in habit do not work for most people. For them, she advises a 80-20 rule of thumb. 80% healthy and conscious eating, at least for the general public. The key is choosing nutrient-dense (not calorie-dense) foods.

Why wait for the extremes, as seen with former President Bill Clinton. You may have seen his dramatic weight loss but it wasn’t for vanity. After his bypass failed, Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn Jr (world renowned Cleveland Clinic), along with Dr Dean Ornish (NPO Preventive Medicine Research Institute) consulted Mr Clinton on a plant-based diet to stop the progression of his heart disease.

Based on the research of Dr Esselstyn Jr, Mayura co-authored The Heart Smart Oil-Free Cookbook. It was a love of labour for two years as chefs, nutritionists, and doctors both in Singapore and worldwide were consulted for the book. Recipes from vegan chefs, including Singapore’s own Original Sin, were collected. They were road-tested by Mayura and lab-tested by the Singapore Heart Foundation. Some, like local recipes that were a little heavy on the soya, were tweaked to meet nutritional standards.

These are good and tasty recipes and all ingredients can be sourced locally. In fact, eating locally and seasonally is important but as Mayura pointed out, we are lucky Thailand is so close for our durians, mangoes and other fruits and foodstuff.

So to clear up some confusion and to get some tips here are some questions we asked Mayura:

What is a vegan diet?
That is a diet that includes no animal products. The diet is based on plants – legumes, beans, greens, lentils, grains…no fish, no eggs, no dairy.

People say olive oil and avocado oil are good for us…are they not good when they are cooked or just not good for us at all?
For heart patients specifically and for people who tend to have obesity or excessive weight gain, no oil is the policy. You can have a bit of nuts and seeds – raw. Even if you don’t soak them, as long as the nuts and seeds aren’t toasted.

So I see it as two-fold – knowing you have to make a healthy choice and getting what you want on the go or when you are working 10 hours…what would you advise?
There are a lot of options in Singapore. Things like wraps are good. But you can also have our local foods. We have lots of brown rice and vegetables in the food courts. The Singapore government is initiating healthy eating and most food courts are now required to serve brown rice.

Smoothies are also a good choice – it’s a meal in a glass. There are many smoothie recipes in the cookbook.

Speaking of smoothies, what’s a good one?
Broccoli, pineapple, lime, orange…You have add seeds and nuts, if you want. You can have a banana, almonds, …You can put in agave or dates, apricots – anything naturally sweet. I normally pre-soak what I want to use. I use goji berries – any berries – they are good for antioxidants. I soak my seeds and the dried fruits for about 1/2 hour. Chia seeds and flaxseeds get soaked. So you can soak these and add them to your smoothie to increase the thickness.

If I give the seeds to my kids, they won’t have it. So normally I put the flaxseeds and chia seeds in smoothies. Because the chia seeds are grinded in the smoothie, this is good for kids. They don’t mind. This is a nutrient-dense meal so I’m happy as a mom.

(It’s important the blender doesn’t overheat. The enzymes get denatured.)

I think breakfast is the most difficult meal for many people…what do you suggest?
Oats, grains – unrefined cereals and top it with apples.Pineapples and papaya, with digestives enzymes, are also okay. But other fruits is not good to mix. Combining food is very important. No fruits for 1/2 hour before other food and 2 hours after – that’s the golden rule.

So.. in summary – eat breakfast, have many small meals during the day to sustain a constant level of energy, be a smart consumer, choose nutrient-dense foods, separate your fruits from other foods, stock healthy foods and eat at least two hours before sleeping.

80/20 because we still have weddings, parties, and dates to go to in real life.

Mayura Mohta is a Singapore-based nutrition consultant and a health writer. She is a qualified fitness and wellness coach and has an academic background in biochemistry, microbiology and nutritional science.

In 2010 Mayura founded Healthfriend, a social enterprise that combines her love for health and fitness with her desire to contribute to community welfare.

Mayura believes in prevention and reversal of disease through a plant-based diet. She has co-authored “The Heart Smart Oil Free Cookbook” which is launching October 2012.