Chinese food is one of the most popular around. They come in all shapes and sizes from the quick delivery baskets to the more formal sit down meals. But is Chinese food bad for you?
There’s no question about it that over the years Chinese food has become very popular here in the U.S. You’ll see a good number of shops providing different cuisines from across China.
These include the tasty Chinese BBQ where roast duck and pig are hung before a glass window, all the way to the hot pot restaurants.
But probably the most popular among them is the cheap and quick take out. These cost under $10 and offer fast delivery to almost anywhere.
As we consume more of this cuisine, it bears asking whether or not it is good for our health. And that’s what we explore below.
Is Chinese Food Bad For You?
We as Americans tend to think that Chinese food is healthier and better for you than getting food from a fast food joint.
It’s true that traditional Chinese food is healthy. But, not the Chinese food that we eat.
In fact, the “Americanized” Chinese food that’s often served in restaurants nowadays is just as unhealthy as a few double cheeseburgers or Big Macs from McDonalds or even worse.
Traditional Chinese food is nutritious and packed full of vitamins, nutrients, and so on. Chinese restaurants here in the U.S. however, have changed the way they make their food for us. They tried to make it more appealing to Americans.
The main reason, it’s what we like. And by selling what we prefer, they’ll be able to make a living and keep their restaurant businesses running.
Basically, this means there are less vegetables in the meals. The majority of the food is also coated and fried. And, we drench the food in sugary or salty, fattening sauce.
Traditional Chinese Food
Traditional Chinese food is often steamed, boiled in some broth or stewed. In the more northern areas, they rely a lot on grilled and hot pot cooking as well.
Either way, there are plenty of healthy vegetables included in these meals. And, most importantly it is not fried. It is light and healthy.
And there isn’t as much MSG or salt included in them.
We as Americans have even made healthy food, unhealthy.
If you want to get a feel of what traditional Chinese food is, try dropping in on a Chinese friend’s house around dinner time. You’ll see their home cooked meal prepared by their mother. Often, the meal is a combination of various vegetable dished, fewer meat dishes, and some rice.
The dishes are also cooked very simply, often stewed or quick stir fry that helps keep the nutrients in the food.
Even in restaurants, more traditional Chinese families will order food that’s totally different from what you’ll see American family order in the same restaurant. This is why you’ll often hear they have a secret menu just for Chinese customers.
Yes, that’s a real thing, not a myth.
Why Chinese Food is Bad for You
As mentioned earlier, it’s the “Americanized” Chinese food, or American Chinese cuisine that’s bad for you. Traditional Chinese food is often lighter and healthier.
In fact, if you look at many of the menu items we have here, and compare them to menus across the restaurants found in Beijing or Shanghai, you’ll quickly notice that sans for a few dishes, many Chinese foods of what we’re used to eating aren’t available there.
That’s because they were invented, or modified here to fit the American palate.
Common Ingredients Found in Chinese Food
Here are some common ingredients found in Chinese dishes to watch out for.
One of the biggest factors making Chinese food bad for you is the amount of sodium in the food.
The body needs sodium to stay healthy and properly function. However, too much sodium is bad for you. The most common problem of having a high sodium intake is high blood pressure.
One dish of certain Chinese foods contains almost enough sodium intake for your recommended daily allowance. That’s just one dish.
And that does not include the appetizers you will eat. In addition to the dish and appetizer, we’ll maybe have a bowl of soup too before the main course arrives. This all adds up.
Too much sodium can lead to serious health problems. And this is one reason you have to take it easy on the Chinese food if you know you have high blood pressure.
Loading on Sauces
When eating Chinese food, people tend to load on the sauces. Most sauces are high in sodium content. Or, the sauces contain other unhealthy ingredients.
Two of the worst sauces there is when it comes to Chinese food is duck sauce and sweet and sour sauce. Many people think they are the same thing but, they aren’t. Duck sauce is somewhat orangey in color.
Meanwhile, while sweet and sour sauce is red.
They are both popular and used frequently.
The bad thing about these two sauces is they are packed full of sugar. Fattening sugar that is not good for you at all.
The other most popular sauce is soy sauce which is packed full of sodium. Soy sauce tastes like pure salt and it basically is.
These three sauces are the most popular sauces in Chinese food and they are also the worst for you.
There is nothing like trying to eat healthy. So, you order a serving of steamed brown rice with steamed vegetables. And then, ruin the healthiness factor by drenching the rice and vegetables in half a bottle of duck sauce. It has been done. I’ve seen a good number of people do that with soy sauce as well.
The oil that Chinese food is cooked in also adds to making Chinese food a poor choice for healthy eating.
The chefs that cook and prepare our Chinese food use a lot of oil. This is done not only in the meats but also in other foods that are deep fried such as General Tso’s, fried dumplings, crab rangoon, and so on.
Oil is used to cook just about everything they make. When making vegetables, rice, stir fry, preparing noodles, oil is used.
Point being, if you want a healthier version ask the chef to go light on the oil or order your food steamed. This way there is no oil involved.
Chinese food in its original form is considered healthy. It is why the rate of metabolic related diseases in China was low before. At least until the fast foods and multinational food chains in full force in recent years.
However, most of the food we find in Chinese restaurants here today have been modified to fit the American palate. And with lot of sodium, MSG, oil and unhealthy sauces on many of our favorite dishes, the Americanized Chinese food we know isn’t healthy.