Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar (15th September this year) is one of the most important traditional festivals for the Chinese and also the Vietnamese. During this day, it is thought that the full moon will be the brightest and fullest of the year. The day revolves around family gatherings, thanksgiving and praying and is celebrated widely by holding family reunions.
Mooncake is a traditional Chinese pastry eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. This celebratory pastry however can cause you to put on a lot of weight, cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, and even potentially raise your blood pressure.
Here are a few reasons why:
Mooncakes are a caloric nightmare
Generally, traditional mooncakes are made of refined flour, sugar, butter, vegetable oil, and bean paste that are highly infused with sugar with/without egg-yolk. A mini red bean mooncake (60g) generally contains up to 270 calories, almost equivalent to a bowl of white rice. However, as egg yolks are high in fat, a mooncake with a single yolk may contain up to 420 calories, and the durian mooncake up to 800 calories (almost equivalent to 2½ bowls of rice). The average recommended daily intake of calories is 2500 for men and 2000 for women, so eating an entire mooncake could take up almost half your daily quota.
And one common misconception is that snow skin mooncakes are lighter and healthier than their baked counterparts – this is not necessarily true; it all boils down to the content of the mooncake.
Loaded with sugar and bad fat
Apart from the calories, the sugar and fat one mooncake contains are much higher than that found in rice. The acceptable daily intake of sugar should be no more than 10 teaspoons, and the content of a standard lotus mooncake can contain about 16 teaspoons of sugar and 11 teaspoons of fat! (subject to the recipe of the mooncake, generally 4g of sugar on the label is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar)
The fat content of the mooncake is mostly from refined vegetable oil, shortening, which is the bad fat that can cause blood clot and increase the bad cholesterol in your body. Some mooncake lovers will eat several cakes in one day. This can be detrimental to those with diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and coronary heart disease and will exacerbate atherosclerosis as well as cause diseases such as myocardial infarction and strokes.
Contains artificial flavouring and colouring
From traditional to the exotic, the mooncake is now available in interesting new flavours such as cranberry cheese, teh tarik (local pulled tea), strawberry, chocolate, coffee, mango flavour and others. Unlike the traditional variety like lotus, red bean and nuts, the new flavours often look more attractive and colourful. And young people love it. However, always read the label before buying them as many are made with artificial colourings and flavourings, which apart from the sugar and fat content, can also further burden your body.
So we have established that the mooncake is not one of the healthiest foods to have around, but of course refraining from having any during the festival is highly unlikely, so you should and can enjoy your mooncake but in a more mindful way.
Here are some tips on how to do exactly that.
1. Always share with your friends and family
It is recommended that one should not eat mooncakes excessively. When eating mooncake, it is better to divide the cake into smaller pieces and share with family and friends in order to avoid excessive intake of fat and sugar.
2. Do not have mooncake for breakfast or as a meal
Some people like to store some mooncakes and eat them as breakfast – this goes against the principle of balanced nutrition. The three meals in a day should be balanced with your good carbs, good fat and good protein. Mooncake contains high sugar, and if eaten in the morning, your blood sugar level will surge and then will crash during mid-day, which will result in you feeling more tired and craving for more sugary food. It is better to take mooncake as an add-on to your meal rather than the main course.
3. Go for sugar-free or healthier refined-sugar alternatives
Sugar-free mooncakes retain thier flavour with natural sweetening agents like isomalt or Stevia – which results in a lower sugar content and a healthier treat. Learn how you can make a raw, vegan mooncake here - courtesy of Raw Chef Yin!
4. Reduce your carbohydrate intake
Those who are overweight should reduce their rice and oil intake to balance the nutrition of the day if consuming mooncake. It is advisable that those with potential metabolic disorders, arteriosclerosis and diabetes should eat fewer mooncakes.
5. Drink tea
It is better to drink some tea, such as flower tea, green tea or oolong tea when eating mooncakes. Oolong or Chinese tea contain acetic acids which can help with digestion and prevents accumulation of body fat. Avoid carbonated beverages like Coca-Cola as they contain a lot of calories and sugar, so they further amplify the fattening effect of mooncakes.
6. Go pomelo
Pomelo, another traditional Mid-Autumn Festival food, is also recommended because of its high vitamin C content. The fruit is also known to lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risks of heart disease. Always have some pomelo together with the mooncake to avoid overeating.
In summary, mooncakes are delicious festival desserts, but when it comes to health, they should be classified as junk food so if you must eat them, it is better to eat them moderately. Those who have purchased mooncakes, do take note of the product labelling such as its sugar content, ingredients and fat content. Always choose mooncakes that has healthier and natural ingredients and lower calories that are made with “real” food.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!