By Yeo Chee Yew

Leave Old Ways Behind

There is this Mandarin proverb that roughly translates to “having an elderly in the family is like having a treasure in the house”. It does sound logical, at the very least. With age comes experience, and with experience comes a better understanding of how things work in this frantic world of ours.

Yet, when it comes to nutritional habits, the jury is still out on whether the old adage still holds true as more scientific research sheds light on how our body works. While some of these anecdotes aged like fine wine, others may not have passed as kindly through the passage of time.

In this article, we take a look at three common nutritional tropes espoused by our parents and/or grandparents and find out whether we should carry those into future generations. ***SPOILER*** We probably shouldn’t. This is why it would be in our favour to help our parents (or grandparents) break those habits to help them lead a better life.


Rotten Apples

The first revolves around the treatment of rotten fruit. In particular, one can just shave off the rotten part of the fruit and eat the rest. This trope was even a key concept of Jack Neo’s satirical comedy film (I Not Stupid Too), where it was used as an allegory to highlight the importance of not giving up on students who are deemed as “bad apples”.

While this practice may net you points on frugality, you are actually paying for it with your health. Confused? Let me explain. Fruits, with their high water content, allow for moulds and their microbial contents to spread easily through internal juices to the other parts of the fruit.

An investigation conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine found that, for a moulded apple, the content of patulin found in normal-looking sections can range from 10 to 50% of that of the mouldy parts!

Patulin is a heat-stable toxin produced by a number of different moulds such as Penicillium and Aspergillus. It can be found in damaged or mouldy fruits, particularly apples and grapes. It is capable of causing different health hazards, including nausea, lung congestion, epithelial cell degeneration, along with carcinogenic, genotoxic, immunosuppressive, and teratogenic effects.

So please, for your parents’ sake, throw away rotten fruits as soon as possible. If your parents are interested in gardening, however, they could turn them into fertilizer! There are quite a few ways to go about it, but make sure the rotten fruit they are using isn’t infected with diseases or pests.


Leftover Burger

The next trope would revolve around the frequent consumption of leftover food. Some people buy a rice or noodle dish at lunch, store it at room temperature for hours before reheating it for dinner. Or it could be when they realized that they’ve prepared too much for dinner and proceed to just chuck it into the fridge for future consumption. It could be hours or even days before that leftover food finally ends up in the stomach!

Turns out, you are not only feeding yourself when you consume leftover food. Air, saliva, or even a dirty fridge can aid in the proliferation of bacteria. Some of the scary bacteria include Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli, and the Staphylococcus aureus.

Bah, I’ve reheated it in the microwave. Heat = Safe, right? Right? Wrong*! "Warming the food doesn't kill the bacteria as the temperature isn't high enough and some toxins are heat-stable," said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. "Under harsh (read as cooking) conditions, they form spores, which cannot be destroyed. You can flame it, but you can't cook it. This is before even mentioning that, depending on the packing of the food, there may be uneven heating, where the center of the food isn’t heated properly!

Even refrigeration isn’t enough to ensure the safety of leftover food - it only slows the growth of bacteria, not exterminate them outright. So, while you may be thinking that you are saving money by eating leftovers, you might end up shelling out more on bills to treat food poisoning!

That said, this mainly refers to the treatment of leftover food that has been exposed to room temperature conditions for extended periods of time. If you intend to keep leftovers, chuck them into the (clean and sanitary) fridge as soon as you are done preparing the main meal.


Piping Hot Food

You don’t talk about the heating of food without mentioning what is probably the most infamous trope: eat it while it is hot. This follows food safety guidelines, right? After all, we’ve just spent the previous section talking about how food being left at room temperature accelerates the growth of bacteria.

When it comes to piping hot food, your oesophagus is the first to disagree. Think about it, would you be willing to stand under a boiling hot shower? Now imagine the much more tender inner walls of your gullet.

The upper band of food temperature that one’s oesophagus can take is around 50 to 60 degrees Celsius. Frequent ingestion of scalding hot food repeatedly damages the mucous membrane lining the inner walls of your gullet, promoting the growth of abnormal cells.

It doesn’t just stop at making it harder to swallow either. Because of the increase in the risk of oesophagal cancer following chronic thermal injury, we recommend avoiding frequent ingestion of extremely hot food and drinks.


We can’t give you health and fitness, but we can give you the know-how to acquire it. Don’t let the bad habits of yesteryear penalize your (and your parents’) future!


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