Healthy oils – where to find them

Most people I know use vegetable oil for cooking. I grew up thinking that they were the healthiest. I mean, they were from plants right? How fatty can they be? I learnt that ghee was bad for me. I learnt that margarine was better than butter. But when you eat paleo style, you realise that these beliefs passed down from our parents are wrong!

First, vegetable oils tend to come from genetically modified plants such as corn and soybean. They also contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes them easy to oxidise through contact with air or heat. When that oxidation happens, these fatty acids release free radicals that damage our bodies. Margarine is made from these vegetable oils and faces the same problem. To find out more about the problems with vegetable oils, go here. To find out what kind of oils are good oils, go here.

The good oils are the ones that contain saturated fatty acids and monosaturated fatty acids. This makes them shelf stable and they do not turn rancid as easily as vegetable oils. To start with, we have:

Coconut oil

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These were purchased from Nutrimax Organic shop at Golden Landmark. They sell two brands. The one of the left is from the Philippines and the one on the right is from Thailand. I paid $20 for 500ml. I’m quite surprised that it’s so expensive actually. Maybe I haven’t been buying them from the right places.

EDIT:  I stumbled upon Naturaworks, which is an online store selling the same 500ml coconut oil for $17. They also have another brand that is selling for $24 for 1000ml.

I love coconut everything so this is my favourite oil for cooking and baking. It gives off a sweet smell when heated and conjures images of rustling palm trees at the beach for me! Its health benefits are numerous too. It contains lauric acid, which helps to boost our immune system. Most importantly, according to Dr Oz:

“One¬†2009 study¬†found that women who consumed about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.”

If there is anyone who needs help with her abdominal fat, that is me!

Armed with knowledge of all these health benefits, I told my mum to buy coconut oil for cooking and she said, “No, it will make you fat!” Looks like coconut oil has truly been villainised. This¬†article¬†explains why the oil gained such a bad reputation in the past.

Macadamia oil

Macadamia oil Fairprice

This bottle of macadamia oil was purchased from NTUC Fairprice. It’s cheaper than coconut oil. I think I bought it for about $8.

I love macadamias! They are my favourite nuts – so buttery and satisfying. So when I saw this at Fairprice, I thought it would make a great oil for Paleozilla to cook with (Yes, the man cooks in this instance and the woman cleans.)

Macadamia oil has a high smoke point so it’s good for cooking. The smoke point is the the temperature at which it begins to break down, losing nutritional value and releasing potential carcinogens.¬†The taste is also less strong than coconut oil so it won’t overwhelm the food you’re cooking. From a nutritional perspective, it has more monosaturated fats than olive oil and seems to contain some amount of antioxidants.

Avocado oil

unrefined_extra_virgin_cold_pressed_avocado_oil

I have also seen avocado oil in Fairprice but have not purchased it yet. This will be next on my list once our macadamia oil runs out! It’s also more expensive than macadamia oil so I didn’t purchase it. The smoke point is higher than olive oil, which makes it more appropriate for high-heat cooking. It would be interesting to use this in baking as well, I think, to see what kind of flavour it will impart to my paleo bread.

Nutrimax Organic sells a bottle of 375 ml avocado oil for $21, excluding shipping.

Olive oil

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Olive oil, or more specifically extra virgin olive oil, has been touted for its numerous health and beauty benefits. I’ve read about people using it to remove makeup on beauty blogs (no need for a $100 bottle of Shu Uemura cleansing oil!). When you are not slathering it on your face, consuming olive oil will purportedly help protect your cells from damage, thanks to the high content of polyphenols antioxidants.

I like the mild taste of olive oil, although some people have suggested that we shouldn’t use it for cooking because its smoke point is not as high as the other oils. That being said, it’s still a good oil to drizzle on salads and with vinegar as a paleo bread dip.

Ghee

Sunflower

Out of all the oils I ate while growing up, ghee was the most demonised. I remembered my mum telling me not to eat too much Indian food because it was cooked in ghee and was bad for my heart. Ghee is similar to butter; they are both made from the fats of whole milk, but ghee may be preferred by people who are lactose-intolerant because there are no milk constituents.

I read somewhere that most roti prata stalls here in Singapore now use hydrogenated vegetable oils instead of ghee because the vegetable oils are cheaper. I’ve even seen signs at stalls saying that they don’t use ghee. This is quite sad since ghee is part of traditional Indian cooking and is actually much better for our health.

Let me end here with this hilarious quote about oil:

“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.” – George Bush,¬†Sept. 25, 2000

What I do at the gym

Every time I decide to do a workout, I’m faced with a myriad of choices. My subscription to a mega gym means that I have access to many clubs in the same area. At work, I have three gyms in the vicinity. Near home, I am a five-minute drive away from the nearest gym. I also have the option of going for an outdoor run.

Once I decide to go for a workout, I pull out the online schedule and my thought process goes like this:

Yoga Singapore

1. Are there yoga classes today?

Yes -> Taught by a teacher I like? -> Yes -> Go for yoga; if no, go to Option #2.

No-> Select a high-intensity interval training type of class -> Option #2.

2. Are there circuit training/body pump classes today?

Yes -> Do I have a lot of energy today and feel like kicking ass? -> Yes -> Go for circuit training/body pump; if no, go to Option #3.

No-> Select another cardio class -> Option #3.

3. Are there body combat classes today?

Yes -> Can I stand the thought of punching imaginary people, yelling in class and learning bad martial arts form? -> Yes -> Go for body combat; if no, go to Option #4.

No-> Select another cardio class -> Option #4.

4. Are there dance classes (Sh’bam or Body Jam) today?

Yes-> Am I in the mood to use my brain in an exercise class? -> Yes -> Go for dance class; if no, go to Option #5.

No -> Run on the treadmill or outdoors -> Option #5.

5. Run on the treadmill or outdoors

This is my last resort if I cannot find a suitable class in the gym.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realised that this pretty much means that I prefer yoga, circuit training and body pump over all the other group exercise classes. For yoga, it is very much dependent on the teacher. I like teachers who focus on fitness, body alignment and throw us challenging poses to stretch us. I don’t like teachers who give us strange breathing exercises (fire breath) at the start of the class and expound on the spiritual essence of yoga. But yoga with a good teacher wins all other group exercises anytime of the day.

The next is circuit training. Unfortunately, I only have one circuit training class every week that falls on a Friday lunch. This class is a killer. It’s very difficult and usually I’m collapsed before the end of each round but I can tell that it’s doing good for my muscles and toughening me up.

As for body pump, this class is great for women who are intimidated by the weight lifting. I have never used the weights and machines at the gym because I don’t know how to use them. I am also frightened by the grunting and heaving in front of the mirrors. But body pump classes are great because the instructor will tell us when to add weights and when to remove them depending on the muscle we are exercising. I can also imitate the instructor’s posture because good form is crucial for lifting and it’s important to learn it to stay safe.

If I had more time and money, I would prefer other types of exercise. I found a lot of interesting little gyms online that offer fat loss boot camps, kettlebell classes, outdoor circuit training and even crossfit. But they are not cheap considering that I would have to add it on to my costly two-year gym membership.

What are your favourite group exercise classes and most importantly, which do you think are the best for burning fat?

Where to eat at Raffles Place

Eating paleo can be treacherous if you are dining out. The best way is to cook your own food at home and bring it to work. However, if you find yourself around Raffles Place without home-cooked food, here are some places that are good for paleo eating. Most of them still require careful thought on your part in choosing the correct ingredients. In order of decreasing cost, they are:

1. Urban Bites Mediterranean Cuisine $$$

532633_415895891779234_1179339792_nSource: Urban Bites

Address: 161 Telok Ayer Street

Urban Bites serves Lebanese food, which includes lots of meat, cheese, yoghurt and fresh salad. I visited their restaurant last week for dinner and was blown away by the food. I wanted to try everything on the menu! Even before the meal was finished, I was planning my next visit. Just remember to pass on the rice and flat bread.

2. Sushi Tei $$$

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Address: 20 Cross Street, China Square Central, #01-28/30

I love Sushi Tei’s sashimi salad. The sashimi is always fresh and portions are generous. Very strict Paleos may have issue with the salad dressing, which contain soy sauce. The problem with soy is that it contains phytoestrogens, which can contribute to breast cancer.¬†I also can’t tell if the dressing contains sugar.

3. The Rotisserie $$

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Address: 51 Telok Ayer Street #01-01, China Square Food Centre

I go to The Rotisserie for both breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, they serve something called the Aussie Breakfast, which is essentially a “full breakfast” or “English breakfast” that allows you to choose from a variety of fried dishes, including eggs, bacon, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. It’s not cheap at $12 but it can be an occasional treat. The meal comes with two slices of sourdough bread that you can request to be left out. For lunch, you can order their roasted chicken, which comes with a choice of vegetables or salad.

4. Salad Stop $$

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Address: 1 George Street, #01-01

Salad Stop sells quality salad. The variety is really good, which means that it should be quite easy to pack your salad with hearty, clean ingredients. You can choose your own ingredients or take one of the pre-designed salads. It’s better to make it yourself so you have full control over what you’re eating. The dressing will be the issue here as I can’t tell what goes into them. If in doubt, choose the oil and vinegar dressing.

5. Platypus Gourmet2Go $$

platypus

platypus gourmet2go

Address: 50 Market Street, Goldenshoe carppark, #01-14A

Platypus Gourmet2Go deserves kudos for their twist on the burgeoning salad trend. Instead of having a huge variety of ingredients, they focused on a few well made dishes and is cheaper than Salad Stop. You can stuff a small lunch box for just $6.50 with a maximum of two meat dishes. The salmon is the best and the most popular. Alas, by the time I headed to Platypus, there were none left and I had to go with two chicken dishes. Buried underneath the meat are olives and almonds – yummy!

There are no seats. Everything is take away.

6. Munch Salad Smith $$

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munch china square

Address: 112 Robinson Rd

Munch is located at China Square food court. They are similar to Platypus in that the salad is warm and cooked rather than cold and raw. One meat and two side dishes (as above) cost $13.90. They also sell breakfast including bacon and eggs, as well as mushroom omelettes – those go for $5.

7. Sarnies $$

Sarnies paleo

Address: 136 Telok Ayer Street

Sarnies is a nice little cafe tucked way at Telok Ayer Street. Two items on the menu caught my eye when I last visited:

  1. Paleo steak salad with mixed lettuce, tomato and guacamole $16.50
  2. Grass fed steak with mushrooms, caramelised onions and mix greens. $16.50

This is paleo heaven. Plus the coffee was really yummy. Pricey but then good quality food is always pricey.

8. Yong Tau Foo $

yong_tau_foo_550Source: Travelfish

Address: Mei Hua Foodcourt, 9 Raffles Place, #01-01 Republic Plaza

Yong Tau Foo can be found in most hawker centres and foodcourts. These are all the ingredients you can put into your bowl of soup, including vegetables, tofu, fish balls and squid. I usually take a glance at the type of ingredients the stall has before deciding to eat there. If everything is stuffed with tofu, I will not eat at the stall. Fishballs are not to be eaten too. Contrary to the name, the balls contain flour and sugar as well. But if the stall is selling lots of vegetables and meat, yong tau foo dishes are a good and cheap choice for healthy eating.

My favourite is the yong tau foo at Mei Hua Foodcourt. The portions are generous and they have a good balance of leafy and starchy vegetables. I always go for the pumpkin, tempeh and brinjal. Beware though, it gets extremely crowded during lunch time.

9. Chicken rice $

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Similarly to yong tau foo, chicken rice can also be found in most hawker centres in Singapore. Order chicken rice (without rice) and you’re all set to go. Yummy yummy.

10. Economy rice $

The final option is economy rice, also known as cai fan in Chinese. I love cai fan. I practically grew up on it. I love that you get to choose your dishes so every meal is different and interesting. Technically, you can order meat, vegetable and egg dishes without the rice but I find that most stalls drench their dishes in questionable sauce. The sauce tends to be thick and contain thickeners like corn starch. There are very few dishes cooked simply in just garlic and oil. So I would avoid those dishes that are covered in sauce.

What do you think of these paleo options around Raffles Place? Do you have your own favourite restaurants and eateries?

Yoga – dancer’s pose

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Source: Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev, one of my favourite actresses, is also apparently an accomplished yogini. Here is a recent photo of her (pictured on the right) holding a Dancer’s pose, also known as the¬†Natarajasan.

Now I’m not sure if being paleo has anything to do with yoga but I really enjoy practising yoga and have been trying to increase my flexibility for the longest time. I’ve been really lazy about it because it’s so painful to train. But for the past two years, I’ve been making new year resolutions to be flexible enough to do a split and have never reached that goal. I’ve gotten more flexible ever since I started yoga, yes, but the progress has been excruciatingly slow.

Dancer's pose

Here’s my Dancer’s pose. Terrible, I know. This pose requires both hamstring and spine flexibility, both of which I lack.

Dancer's pose

This is my good friend Alicia, who is also my yoga inspiration. Her Dancer’s pose is incredible as you can see. Her leg is nearly straight. I suppose she is even more flexible than Nina Dobrev! On a side note, Alicia’s sister Michelle has an interesting blog about travel and life in Singapore if you’re interested to visit.

I’m going to revisit this pose in a couple of months to see if I’ve made any improvements.

How it all began

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It all started six months ago when I stumbled on Mark’s Daily Apple. This website talked about the Primal Blueprint, a set of principles to live by that brings us back to our paleolithic roots (thus, the name of this blog – Paleorina). It talked about the right way to eat, the right way to move and the right way to sleep. It was about making sure no processed food entered our bodies and about how grains and so-called healthy cereals were actually making us sick. It was about eating what our ancestors ate instead of the modern convenience food that contained preservatives and strange chemicals we cannot even pronounce. In return, your health and energy would soar.

I was enthralled.

I was already eating quite well in the paleo sense. I consumed very little rice. I hated pasta and pizza and stayed off biscuits ( I really really love bread – although that’s for another post). And before this I was already an aspiring hippie. Yes I was a city girl but I wanted to live my life in a way that shunned blatant consumerism. The boldest thing I tried was to wean myself off shampoo and relied on baking soda to wash my hair for one month (I didn’t stink). But to have everything articulated and put together in a sensible philosophy turned a¬†light bulb¬†on in my head. It clarified why we should live as simply as possible, be it in terms of eating or the products we use.

I read Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution, followed by Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation book. For a more complete list of good paleo books, check out Food Education on the header.

Since then, I have started on our paleo journey here in Singapore. It’s not easy, this being the land of yummy roti prata and char kway teow. I hope that by documenting our adventures in this blog, I would be able to inspire and help other paleo-poreans. I also love to hear from you and your tips and tricks for improving your health and fitness.