Stir fries are often deemed the healthy go-to recipes for busy weeknights. However, there are wolves amongst the heard. We took on the challenge to assess what makes for a healthy stir fry dish for your Stir Fridays*.
1) How many calories can you cut by replacing beef with tofu?
Turns out there's not a huge calorie difference. After running two stir fry recipes - one with 350 g tofu and the other with the 350 gm flank beef, but otherwise entirely identical - through Meal Garden's soon-to-launch app, these are the nutrition results we got.
* Meal Garden’s soon-to-launch app was used to generate the nutritional information of these recipes. The health meter at the bottom is designed to give you an idea of how much of the dish consists of healthy ingredients and cooking methods. The ingredients and cooking methods are rated based on research backed nutritional health risks and benefits.
A 60 calorie difference may not be incentive enough for most people to ban beef from stir-fries entirely. However, calories are not the only nutrition factors that have health implications. A wealth of scientific literature shows a significant link between long-term consumption of red meats (like beef) and increased risk of colon cancers.² However, this doesn't mean the research is conclusive in identifying the mechanism by which red and processed meat consumption causes cancer. All we know is that an association exists. So... replacing beef with tofu, chicken, or seafood more often than not is probably the safest bet.
2) What about oil?
There are two fats our bodies cannot synthesize on their own and thus, must obtain through diet: omega-6 (found in most vegetable oils) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in flaxseed, canola, soybean and walnut oils). However, most stir-fry recipes call for sesame or peanut oil, which aren't great sources of omega-fatty acids.
Furthermore, oils pack on 9 calories per gram. A mere tablespoon of oil is around 120 calories - the calorie equivalent of a slice of bread. Thus, any recipe that calls for deep frying or excessive amounts of oil will definitely be calorie dense and should be eaten sparingly.
3) Stir fries are your chance to throw in your favourite veggies. Don't hold back!
This one is a no-brainer and a tale we've been told since childhood. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of essential micronutrients and minerals that are difficult to obtain through other sources of food. A wealth of scientific literature shows a reduction in all-cause mortality risk with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables - in other words a diet high in fruits, leafy greens and colourful vegetables promotes longevity. That being said, make Stir Fridays* your chance to toss in your favourite vegetables.
4) Is rice really all that bad?
Books can be written on this topic! The bad reputation white rice has garnered is, however, not without cause. To produce white rice, the whole grain rice must go through a refinement process where the bran and germ are removed and the rice is polished. Removing the bran and germ (parts of the grain that are rich in dietary fibre, essential vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids) leaves the rice nutritionally bankrupt.
Furthermore, white rice is a high glycemic (GI) index carbohydrate. This means that it has the capacity to cause drastic fluctuation in blood-glucose glucose levels. The high peeks in blood-glucose caused by high GI foods have been linked to increasing the risk of developing Type II Diabetes.
Here's a list of healthier alternatives to white rice:
1) Brown rice (isn't low GI but contains most of the nutrient rich germ and bran of whole grain rice)
2) Parboiled rice
6) Noodles (noodles are not usually made of whole grains. However, they are low GI carbs)
Got questions? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!
¹A term first used in the animated comedy TV series, Archer.