Chinese food is the UK’s favourite foreign dish. With our takeaway market now estimated to be worth around £5bn, it’s clear that our love of fast food is on the rise. But according to the British Medical Association (BMA), Doctors are becoming more and more concerned about the effects of poor diet in the UK, “which is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year.”
So, we got in touch with Jo Travers, The Harley Street Nutritionist, and Kurtis Lynch, a senior trainer at Matt Roberts, to find out more about the negative impact that eating the popular takeaway dish – sweet and sour chicken – could have on your body.
What are the effects?
High blood pressure
A portion of sweet and sour chicken contains about 5g of salt – almost your whole daily recommended allowance in just one sitting. Lynch warns that “too much sodium will make you feel bloated” because of a buildup of fluids. Travers tells us that excess salt is also “known to increase blood pressure both by increasing blood volume as it causes water retention, and by reducing the elasticity of blood vessels over time.”
High blood pressure, called hypertension, is a serious risk factor for coronary heart disease, and can put stress on your heart by making it work harder. With heart disease causing 74,000 deaths in the UK every year, ensuring your diet doesn’t contain too much salt is really important to help protect your heart as well as your overall health.
This dish can contain nearly 2000 calories – almost reaching your recommended daily calorie intake in one go. As a result, Lynch warns “that eating this meal on a regular basis is very likely to lead to weight gain.” He goes on to explain that although the takeaway has 113g of protein, “you should consume no more than 20g of protein per meal.” This is because your body cannot use more than 20g in one go, so too much protein could also cause you to gain weight. Aviva’s latest Health Check Report revealed that only 39% of men and 46% of women are a healthy weight – so it’s clear that our soft spot for takeaways could be one factor responsible for Brits piling on the pounds.
Sweet and sour chicken has a big amount of carbohydrate – at around 176g. Lynch tells us that by regularly consuming this many carbs “then you increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because it causes a quick rise in blood glucose which puts a high demand on your pancreas for insulin.” Our report revealed that one in 10 commonly prescribed medicines in the UK are to manage diabetes; so cutting down on these takeaways could help to reduce your risk.
High blood sugar
This type of meal is high on the glycemic index, which is a way of ranking carbohydrates according to their blood glucose response. Lynch explains that “high glycemic index foods can have a profound and quick impact on your insulin levels and blood glucose. When you feel a sugar rush you are experiencing an insulin spike. This will come down after about one hour inducing hyperglycemia,” which is an abnormally high blood glucose level. You might experience symptoms like “headaches, increased fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.” Not only this, but these sugary foods which cause spikes followed by a crash can lead to hunger pangs – so you’ll soon feel like eating again.
With 80g of sugar, you may also develop tooth decay in the longer run by regularly munching this type of high sugar diet.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Travers warns that by “eating a diet high in calories, fat and sugar, particularly with obesity, can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” This is caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. More advanced stages of the disease may lead to pains in the top right of your tummy or extreme tiredness.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a controversial flavour enhancer, which “is commonly used in Asian dishes,” explains Travers. “Some people are sensitive to it and may experience some symptoms,” with reactions which could include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or chest pain
- Rapid heartbeats or heart palpitations
- Sweating or flushing
- Numbness, tingling or burning sensations
- Pressure or tightness in the face
Although it’s “unlikely that eaten in moderate amounts, MSG will have any negative health effects,” dodging takeaways like sweet and sour chicken is a sensible way to help escape the risk of suffering any of these symptoms.
Homemade and healthy
Treating yourself to a chinese every now and again probably won’t have any serious health implications, but Travers advises that “eating food that is high in calories, fat, salt and sugar should be the exception rather than the rule.”
So, next time you feel a craving coming on, why not try knocking something up at home using some basmati rice, chicken breasts, herbs and spices? Our report showed that nearly four out of five people are failing to eat their recommended number of fruit and veg portions a day – so try to make sure you load up your plate with plenty of vegetables too.
You’ll be surprised that homemade food can actually be a much healthier, cheaper and more delicious option compared with fast foods. According to Lynch, it’ll also “be a lot lower on the glycemic index, contain less carbohydrate, less sodium, more protein, and it can taste great.”
Understanding your calorie requirement
A number of factors – such as your age, weight and height – affect your ideal daily calorie intake. Work out your daily requirements with our easy to use calorie calculator.
Your body after a Chicken Korma Takeaway
Read the next article in our take-away series to find out what the short and long term effects eating a chicken korma takeaway can have on your body.