Gary Dawson, General Director of Pacific Cross Vietnam, on Health Insurance

By: City Pass Guide

Gary hails from Nova Scotia, Canada and spent 27 years with Manulife before moving to Vietnam 14 years ago.

He has been in the health insurance business here with Pacific Cross for 12 years. He wanted to bring international standards of healthcare to Vietnamese people and with about 80% Vietnamese to only 20% expatriate clients, he is achieving his goals. We sat down in Pacific Cross’ District 1 headquarters to discuss the ins and outs of health insurance. I was instantly struck by his professionalism and dedication to the people of Vietnam, whom he holds in high regard.

What is your opinion of Vietnamese health insurance providers? Are they reliable only for locals, or expats as well?

I think they are all fine. The insurance companies offer proper products and are providing a service to local people. But of course you get what you pay for, if someone is on a limited budget they are likely only getting a limited service.

Are there specific types of medical problems that health insurance in Vietnam has difficulty covering?

No, the service has come a long way. I have been here a long time and have seen lots of changes for the better. The companies understand the needs of their clients and cover all eventualities.

What rights do people have in Vietnam in regards to health insurance? What are the procedures in making a claim against a decision they think unfair?

They have all the same rights as international clients abroad. In the event of a disagreement, they would go to the insurance company first. If they are unsatisfied they can then go the Ministry of Finance and then the Association of Vietnam Insurance Associations. Then there is the Vietnamese Arbitration Board and finally if all else fails, the courts. Of course, you have to have patience, things take time here, but if they work it through they will get a fair hearing. Sometimes people think they have a grievance when in reality they don’t, this gives rise to stories of unfair treatment.

Is health insurance taken through one’s employer the most affordable and safest option?

Employers’ policies are normally more affordable, but of course they, and not the end user, are in charge of things. Individual policies don’t get the same discounts but you can tailor your policy to truly suit your lifestyle and of course, it’s portable.

What are the difficulties faced by international travellers with health insurance from their home country if something happens to them in Vietnam?

International policies are written and managed under the rules of that country. If you come to Vietnam and have a claim you need to get all the information about your claim before you return home. Contact the hospital and any local agencies and get everything. Customers will have to pay first and claim later. For large claims however, the hospital will call your insurance company to check the details of your cover.

What are the biggest obstacles in the way of better health insurance in Vietnam?

I don’t think there are any obstacles at all, but people have a misguided idea on the level of charges. People need to understand that insurance costs. They need to match the budget to their requirements. Age of course is a factor, the older you get the more the premiums go up. In my view insurance is for catastrophes, the big things in life. Why claim on an insurance policy for a small treatment, it will only affect future policies.

Is health insurance widely advertised in Vietnam?

Not really, it is getting more popular among employers, but there are not many streams of distribution here. There are not many agents out in the field.

What is the government’s stance with regard to health insurance?

The government wants everyone to be taking out insurance, they promote it and they want it regulated and are active in that sense. They want consistent administration of the medical policies.

How does the cost of health insurance for expats compare with the equivalent in Western countries?

People think it’s expensive but one year’s cover here costs about the same as one month’s equivalent cover in the United States. It could be even cheaper but certain medical facilities are known to hike the price if an insurance company is involved.


Water Filtration in Vietnam: Mere Fuss or A Must Have?

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

You know better than to drink water from the tap, of course. But is filtered water enough to protect you from the dubious water quality of Saigon?

Ask Aron Szabo, a water quality specialist with water filtration vendor BWT and the answer you get may not help you fall asleep tonight.

“It’s not just about drinking,” he said matter of factly. “You take in more water in a shower and bath. The largest surface for (liquid) exchange is your skin.”

Depending on where you’re showering in the city, your shower water may be served with non-negligible amounts of cyanide. In the North, you may have arsenic in your water supply.

A persistent problem that is ubiquitous almost everywhere is the levels of chlorine in the water. Szabo said the weak integrity of the city’s water pipe system—Szabo estimates about 26 percent of the water in Saigon’s water pipes exits through holes in the infrastructure—means that there’s an almost constant exchange of chemicals between the dirt outside of the pipe and the water inside the pipes. To combat this, the country’s water treatment specialists have introduced chlorine into the water treatment process.

water qualityImage source: ibb.co

That by itself isn’t a problem; in fact many European cities take the same approach to protecting their water quality. The issue is the amount of chlorine used in treatment. Water consumed in any city in Europe may have around .1 ppm (parts per million) of chlorine. A swimming pool has on average around .5 ppm chlorine in its water.

Vietnam’s water averages around .7 to 1 ppm in chlorine content.

Test your water to determine if this is a problem and how severe it is. But you’ll know if your chlorine content is over acceptable levels with a few telltale signs: irritated skin and damaged or lost hair.

Help On the Way

Saigon recently brought on-line a water quality control system used in more than 100 countries specifically to help recover some of their lost water.

Announced in January, the city’s water management company, Saigon Water Corp., launched an automated water-control system that will be able to, among other capabilities, immediately detect leaks, bursts and failed pipes in real time.

water qualityImage source: swic.vn

At the announcement, Saigon authorities noted that this is an important first step in recovering the 50 million cubic metres of water—the equivalent of 20,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools—lost annually. The losses add up to about $10 million in lost revenue per year.

Be Proactive

The incoming fix notwithstanding, Szabo said it’s within all Saigon residents’ interest to be proactive about this problem.

A home water filtration system can be an easy and painless addition to your home. BWT can install their home water filtration system in about 15 minutes.

Depending on the kind of water filter you settle on, you may not have to replace the filter for up to a year.

BWT’s water filters are nearly peerless in their thoroughness. The water filtration system filters items down to .01 microns in size, the size of your average virus and waterborne medication.

The city’s chlorine levels may be more serious than just the superficial concerns, like losing your hair or having itchy skin. Szabo cited emerging research showing breast cancer patients have high levels of chlorine in their cancer tissue. He warned that the link hasn’t been proven yet between cancer and chlorine but the possibility is one worth considering when weighing whether you can go without a high-quality water filtration system.

Video source: Severn Trent Water

Banner Image source: alighahary.ca


Zika Virus Rampant in Vietnam

By: Aleksandr Smechov

On 26 March, 2016, a 64 year old woman in Nha Trang began feeling symptoms such as headache, mild fever, skin rash and red eyes. Two days later she was admitted to a hospital, and tested positive for Zika on 31 March. Four hundred and twenty kilometres away, on the same day, a 33 year old woman in Ho Chi Minh City also tested positive for Zika. On 4 April, test results for both women were confirmed, marking the first documented cases of the Zika virus in Vietnam.

To date (25 November), Vietnam has had over 70 cases of Zika, 65 of them here in Ho Chi Minh City. While the disease itself is not fatal, it has been linked to cases of microcephaly in newborns whose mother had been infected with Zika during pregnancy. This genetic mutation causes arrested brain development and smaller head size in infants.

In 2015, Brazil had a staggering 497,593 to 1,482,701 suspected cases of the virus, with 2,100 newborns affected by microcephaly. Currently, nine pregnant women in Ho Chi Minh City have contracted Zika; out of these, there was one healthy birth and one miscarriage. The rest are currently being monitored.

Picture by: e.vnexpress.net

However, Vietnam officials are investigating only the third case of microcephaly, and have yet to confidently link the prenatal mutation to the Zika outbreak, since the current Asian strain may not be the same one that hit Brazil. In Malaysia, both an older Southeast Asian strain and one found in the Americas have been found, suggesting that in some countries both strains are circulating.

Symptoms are often mild, and death is almost non-existent (Brazil reported six, not including infant deaths and stillbirths). Patients get better after about a week. In some instance, Guillain-Barré syndrome – an autoimmune disorder that leads to weakness, numbness and eventual temporary or permanent paralysis – has been shown to have a possible link to Zika.

Zika was first identified in 1947 in monkeys in Uganda, and later in humans in 1952. The first breakout was reported in 2007 on Yap, a Micronesian island in the western Pacific Ocean. In the 50 years preceding this, only 14 cases had ever been reported. About 73% of the island’s residents were infected.

Julius Lutwama, head of the Uganda Virus Research Institute’s arbovirology department, said:

“Nobody knows where [Zika] first came from. It has been in many forests for ages, from West Africa to East Africa and in Asia. The only thing that happened is that it was first identified in Uganda in April 1947.”

The mosquitos carrying Zika cannot fly more than 400 metres, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is spread through humans having sexual contact or blood transfusions, or infected mosquito eggs carried over to different areas or even countries. Mosquitoes with Zika often lay their eggs in stagnant water. One idea is that fishing boats carried over larvae to Yap during the first widespread outbreak.

 

Most of the time, infected carriers show no symptoms, causing a delayed response from authorities as the disease quietly turns into an epidemic.

This year has seen Southeast Asian countries hit hard with Zika, with 680 cases in Thailand and 450 in Singapore. These countries, along with Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, and others, are along the “dengue belt”, where populations are more susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases.

While Zika cases do not seem to be slowing down in Vietnam, WHO announced on 18 November that the outbreak is not considered a world public health emergency.

"The Zika virus remains a highly significant and long term problem, but it is not any more a public health emergency of international concern," said Dr. David Heymann, the emergency committee chair for WHO. Despite the statement, the organization did not turn its back on the risk the virus posed.

"We are not downgrading the importance of Zika, in fact by placing this as a longer term of program of work, we're sending the message that Zika is here to stay and WHO's response is here to stay in a very robust manner," said Dr. Peter Salama, the director of WHO's health emergencies program.

Picture by: UNclimatechange

Not everyone sees in line with WHO’s Zika statement. "I think the international response to Zika has been lethargic, and with WHO's action to call off the global emergency, it has provided reason for governments and donors to pull back even more," said Lawrence Gostin, a global health and law expert from Georgetown University.

Currently, there is no cure for Zika. The Ministry of Health in Vietnam suggests people practice safe sex to prevent the spread of Zika, and avoid mosquitos as best as possible, especially if pregnant. Ho Chi Minh City’s health department allocated six special task forces to identify new Zika cases, spray insecticide and warn households to remove any stagnant water that may attract mosquitos.

Head photo by: Sanofi Pasteur


Tooth Loss in Vietnam: How to Prevent it

By: City Pass Guide

It’s a familiar sight in Vietnam: an elderly person chatting and smiling, with a few noticeable holes where tooth decay has taken its toll. If you don’t have any problems with your teeth, thank your lucky stars. You might not think about oral health often, but in many ways it’s a major key to your quality of life.

toothImage source: mimokhair365.files.wordpress.com

Where would you be if you couldn’t eat your food properly? If your jaws hurt and ached with every chew? If you had to endure a smile with empty gaps, marking the places a molar or a canine has fallen out?

Over the age of 60, these concerns often turn into a reality—especially in Vietnam. A survey in 2010 showed that the average 20-year-old in Vietnam has lost one tooth, and citizens over the age of 80 endure life without an average of eight teeth.

Even more tragic? There’s no reason to expect bad teeth as we grow older: with a few precautionary measures, it’s entirely possible to retain all of your teeth into the winter of your life.

Why Do People Lose Teeth?

One of the common misconceptions is that tooth decay is a natural process of ageing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, tooth loss and periodontal disease stem from a combination of causes—in particular, lazy hygiene (brush your teeth and floss!), lifestyle factors (smoking is a chief cause) and, more often than not, delaying regular checkups.

toothImage source: aboutsmileskids.com.au

So, if you don’t go to the dentist often, chances are your teeth will decay. But here’s the interesting part: if you stay vigilant and get a dental check-up every six months after you turn 60, you’ll actually need the doctor less!

Regular check-ups with a dental consultant who understands good oral health will nip potential infections in the bud and give you on-the-spot treatment for any issues that arise. The trick is, you need to find a dentist well-versed in geriatric treatments, who won’t charge an arm and a leg.

Good Health Means Good Options

Why do we know so much about geriatric tooth loss? Because we’ve made it our business to know, and to care.

Dr. Lam from Elite Dental, a celebrated professional in his field with a PhD earned in France, has made himself the foremost expert in geriatric dentistry in Ho Chi Minh City, taking particular passion in patients without teeth.

Last year, he researched 20 cases of complete edentulous (total tooth loss), and has made ground-breaking research in an effort to fight it: Pro Arch, a four-part implant that literally gives patients a second chance at oral health.

The professionals at Elite Dental don’t have just one way to restore an individual’s teeth to their former glory. Depending on each case, and each person’s budget, we might recommend a dental bridge to restore missing teeth or a dental implant to restore complete tooth function. Each unique case deserves the attention and professionalism on which we pride ourselves.

toothImage source: echofamilydental.com

Dental implants are a last resort once all other options have failed. Preventative measures are by far the better option, and by far the easiest and least expensive. There’s only one step to this process: book a dental check-up every six months!

Our Tips for Life-Long Healthy Teeth

1. Quit smoking

Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs—it also introduces harmful chemicals into your mouth. These increase bacteria levels, as well as your chance for periodontal disease.

2. Keep up with your hygiene regimen

A bit of a no-brainer, but worth mentioning nonetheless. If you leave food hiding in your teeth, chances are it’ll lead to tooth decay.

3. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out

If you think a sore mouth is just a sign of ageing, think again. Nobody has to suffer with bad teeth, so nip the infection in the bud!

4. If you do experience tooth loss, don’t panic

If you lose a tooth despite your best efforts, we know what to do. From tooth implants to dental bridges, we’ll make sure your smile is whole again.

5. Get regular check-ups

The top reason for bad tooth health is neglect, so this one can’t be overstated. If you’re over 60, we recommend seeing a dentist every six months.

Contact:

Location 1: 51A Tu Xuong, D3

Location 2: 57A Tran Quoc Thao, D3

Phone: 028 7306 3838 | Website:  elitedental.com.vn

Email: inquiry@elitedental.com.vn; info@elitedental.com.vn

Banner image source: c1.staticflickr.com


To Snub Vietnam’s Smoking Habit Doctors Enlist Families, Spouses

By: J.K. Hobson

Asia’s smoking rate has been high, and now efforts are being made to combat its pervasive effects in Vietnam.

It’s easy to start smoking in Vietnam. Packs of cigarettes are available on the street, often for less than US$1. The lack of regulation in their sale and distribution make them accessible, even to developing young people, who suffer the most from tobacco’s harmful effects. Warning labels with photographs of blackened lungs, tracheotomy wounds, and babies born sick and with low birth weights, have succeeded in curbing the habit in Vietnam more than text-only warnings, but the smoking rate remains quite high.

smokingImage source: hellobacsi.com

According to statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills roughly 6 million people per year around the globe, and the ripple effects of this loss cause the world’s economy to lose trillions of dollars per year. More than 30 percent of the world’s smokers live in Asia, with over 80 percent of that population coming from lower income groups.

More than one in four people in Vietnam smoke, and according to Vietnam’s Health Education and Communication Center the habit kills 40,000 people each year. Without cessation efforts, nearly a tenth of the population will die from diseases related to smoking by the year 2030.

smokingImage source: dantri4.vcmedia.vn

Dr. Mason Cobb practices with Victoria Healthcare in Ho Chi Minh City and has been a part of an ongoing smoking cessation campaign. Cobb discussed the ubiquity of smoking in Vietnam, and his organization’s efforts to curb Vietnam’s collective smoking habit. He recounts an experience first coming to Vietnam two decades ago. “When I first started coming out here 20 years ago there was a huge billboard at Tan Son Nhat Airport of the ‘Marlboro Man’ [advertising campaign featuring a smoking cowboy] from America. Cowboy hat, sheepskin, mustache roping a cow or something with a cigarette in his mouth. There is this image of [cigarette smoking] being very macho, and that was promoted”, he said.

The ideological correlation between smoking and masculinity is reflected in the demographics of smokers in Vietnam.

Somewhere between 45 and 50 percent of smokers in Vietnam are men, while only two to five percent of Vietnamese women indulge.

“Right now the social structure for many people, men especially, is after work you go to a bar with your friends. All the people in the bar smoking, your friends are smoking, and these are very difficult headwinds for anybody”, he said. Cobb’s organization seeks to use these demographics as a means of deterring men from smoking. “Most women are not entirely happy with smoking, especially in the house. What our program does is really try to enlist the family to be of help.”

Cobb believes that since women are more concerned with the effects of smoking on the family, their role is crucial to smoking cessation endeavors.

“People are becoming more aware of second hand smoke. Your chance of your child having more limited growth, asthma or some other conditions, or your child having slow intellectual development is even higher as a smoker”, he explained.

smokingImage source: suckhoedoisong.vn

Cobb believes that it is going to take a cultural shift in Vietnam for there to be lasting change, and there are already signs that this is occurring. “There’s another trend… that’s sweeping the country, and that’s health.” This change has already occurred places in the west such as the US, where smoking has declined from 20.9 percent (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 15.5 percent (more than 15 of every 100 adults) in 2016. “With education, more knowledge about what may be healthy and what’s not healthy and also more connection with what’s going on in the mainstream”, Cobb said.

Banner Image source: xomnhiepanh.com


Is Vietnamese Food Really Healthy?

By: Thibaud

Vietnamese food is delicious and it is often cited as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. To make sure that this was true, we spoke to Antoine Yvon, the head nutritionist at CMI hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. You will finally know if all those banh mi sandwiches are good for you, if you should drink the broth of your pho or not, and the name of Vietnam's only super fruit. The interview was translated from French.

The health benefit of a Vietnamese food diet

What is your general professional opinion about Vietnamese food? Is it as healthy as people think it is?

Vietnamese food is one of the most healthy and balanced in the world. As a professional, I have seen that dishes and ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine can cover all the dietary needs on protein, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals because there is a great natural diversity of agricultural products. It is this diversity and variety that are the foundations of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

The way to eat food is also a very important factor that can influence the nutritional value of food. Eating with chopsticks, using multiple dishes, and sharing with people allows you to eat more slowly, to chew the food longer and in the end causes a better digestion and assimilation of nutrients, without overloading the digestive system.

Therefore, the social and cultural aspect of eating Vietnamese food is a reason why eating Vietnamese food is healthy.

The reputation of Vietnamese food as healthy is correct as long as we eat traditional dishes.

The economic growth has considerably changed the way Vietnamese people eat by bringing some Western habits and products. Modern Vietnamese eating habits are straying away from the ideals described above, with more and more processed products, enriched with artificial nutrients, artificial flavorings, rich “bad fat” (trans fat and saturated fat are not essential) and simple carbohydrates added to food, particularly all the dairy products which were unknown a few decades ago (pasteurized cheese, sweetened condensed milk, flavored yogurts) and all junk food (cakes, pastries, ice creams, sodas, fast food). 

Even though Vietnam is one of the countries with the lowest rate of obesity in the world if we look at the overall population, some categories have results that are not so positive: children and teenagers. The number of Vietnamese children under five years old with weight problems has doubled in four years in Vietnam, while at the same time it has decreased by 25% in the U.S.

Bun Mam is a nicely balanced dish

What Vietnamese food should be avoided? What are the healthiest options?

As long as you eat traditional food, there is not food that you should avoid. You must just make sure to avoid processed food as much as possible. It is also best to avoid deep fried food and those grilled on a barbecue.

The most healthy dishes are the soups (among which are pho), spring rolls, fruit and vegetable salads, claypot dishes, rice dishes with meat or fish cooked in sauce and fresh fruit juices.

What are the typical health problems developed by Vietnamese people from their eating habits?

The change of habits mentioned above are causing an increase in the number of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders (infarctus, diabetes, metabolic syndrome), obesity, cancers, particularly among children. Also, the increased consumption of alcohol among men increases the number of liver and digestive system cancers.

The healthiest fruits in Vietnam

Is there any Vietnamese superfood (a dish or a product with superior health benefits)?

Though not often eaten apart from during traditional festivities, the little know “gac” fruit (or red melon), often nicknamed the “fruit of paradise” is the fruit with the highest concentration of carotenoids in the world (a precursor to Vitamin A). The gac contains 75 times more lycopene (an antioxidant) than tomatoes. It can be considered a super fruit. Its taste is close from red melon and carrots. It is more and more popular in the U.S. or Europe as a eating supplement.

Gac is know for being a superfoodGac is one of the healthiest fruits you can get in Vietnam. Image by Egor Kataev

What are the most recommended local fruits and vegetables (dragonfruit, sapoche, kumquat, etc)? You might know the expression, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” - what is the Southeast Asian equivalent of our trusted apple?

Even though there are a lot of vegetables in traditional vietnamese food, the average daily consumption is twice less than the recommendations from the World Health Organization. 40% of cancers in Vietnam are linked to food consumption (principally because of processed food, bad eating habits and bad eating hygiene). It is certain that if more fruits and vegetables were eaten, the situation could improve. Unfortunately, people are buying less fresh fruits and vegetables, because they are suspicious about the hygiene and sanitary conditions of them, and more canned products which are poorer in essential nutrients.

More important than the qualities of certain food, the most important is to eat enough and regularly the greatest variety of fruits and vegetables.

If we had to categorize them according to how rich they are in nutriments, we could differentiate:

- The richest ones in vitamins and antioxidants (lychee and rambutan, chinese celery, ceylon spinach, guava, papaya, kiwi, dragon fruit)

- The ones with the most sugar (to be careful with): lotus seeds, sweet potato, taro, banana, grapes, cherries, mango)

- The ones that are hydrating and less sweet: berries, watermelon, melons, citruses (oranges, pomelo, lemon, kumquat), apple, star fruit, gac fruit

Vietnamese are among the largest consumers of durian fruit, known for its smell more than for its qualities. It is called the king fruit here. In Indonesia, it is considered an aphrodisiac. In Vietnam, it causes several deaths every year (the mix of alcohol and durian is toxic for the liver and excessive consumption can cause hypertension).

The link between what people eat and how healthy they are is not obvious yet for many Vietnamese, which causes a lack of interest for nutrition.

Dragonfruit is packed full of vitaminsDragon fruit is a tasty fruit packed full with vitamins and antioxidants!

Eating street food in Vietnam: Sauces, pho, banh mi, herbs...

Should we avoid Vietnamese sauces?

Sauces are a very important part of the Vietnamese food experience. A meal without sauces is like a meal without bread in France. You should not ban them.

Even the sauces that are very sweet or salty should not be banned totally. At reasonable doses, they represent only a fraction of the food intake compared to carbs like rice. Keep it simple and traditional!

Is pho healthy? Should the broth be drunk or left aside?

The pho, the most famous Vietnamese food, is certainly one of the most balanced dishes I know. Eaten all day long, it contains carbs, good proteins (beef or chicken), few fat, a lot of water, a lot of dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals (herbs and vegetables) and antioxidants (spices, chili, lemon). Who does not feel full after eating a Pho?

If you want to balance it even more, you can add a raw vegetable salad with vegetable oil for appetizers or a fruit salad for dessert. Add a few dry fruit too like nutmeg, peanuts, almonds.

The broth should be drunk because a lot of water-soluble vitamins and minerals are dissolved in the water during cooking. They are intact inside the broth (except for the B1 vitamin, B3 and C that are partially altered), a gold mine full of nutritive ingredients. The broth is as important as other ingredients of the pho. It is a source of water and thus hydrates and cools the body (just like nomads in the desert drink hot tea: a hot brew cools and hydrates the body better than cold water). The body reacts to hot liquids with several cooling processes (perspiration, transpiration, more efficient digestion, etc.).

Pho is one of the healthiest dishes in VietnamPho is a healthy and balanced Vietnamese dish. Image by James

Is banh mi healthy?

The banh mi is a sandwich that can be made in a multitude of ways depending on where you eat it.

More often, it contains a source of proteins (pork, chicken, ham), some vegetables (lettuce, carrots, green bean sprouts), bread and sometimes industrial soft cheese (The Laughing Cow brand).

The white bread used is not as filling as rice and noodles and is poor in good fat and fibers.

You should be careful in making sure the ingredients added are not processed food (pate, sausages, cheese) and that not too much sauce is added (particularly if it sugar, or fat).

You could replace the processed cheese with a yogurt (made of milk! It is not bad if the portion is reasonable and it can complement well a banh mi, nutritionally speaking).

Contrary to pho, the banh mi does not hydrate the body well. You can accompany it with a fresh drink while you eat such as a lime juice, coconut water or sugar cane juice.

Do the herbs added to the recipes have nutritional or health benefits (cilantro, mint, cinnamon herb, etc.)?

Aromatic herbs contain a lot of antioxidants and vitamins, whatever they are, often with a higher concentration than that found in most fruits and vegetables. It is because they smell good that they are so interesting because the aromatic molecules, the ones responsibles for the good smell, are also directly responsible for the medicinal properties of those herbs.

They have diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Not only do they contain very little calories, they are an interesting source of fiber and contain phytosterols that could help, if taken in high dose, reduce the cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Very helpful to improve one’s cardiovascular health.

However, the overall daily intake is relatively small compared to other ingredients. Parsley contains three times more Vitamin C compared to oranges but you’ll need three bowls to cover the daily recommendations. Not very easy!

Still, if you consume herbs all day long at different meals, it will cover part of your nutritional needs.

I would recommend to consider them for what they are, aromatic plants. They can make your dishes more tasty and delicious. The healthy part is a bonus.

Cinnamon herb is an excellent diuretic and anti-inflammatory. Mint can help if you have nausea and it helps digesting, just like coriander.

Herbs add delicious flavour and comes with an added bonus of being good for you!Herbs add delicious flavour and comes with an added bonus of being good for you! Image Credit

Conclusion: Vietnamese recipes are healthy, but be careful with the ingredients

There is a Vietnamese paradox: even though Vietnamese food is naturally healthy, full of flavors and nutrients, the trend is towards artificially flavored, industrially processed and nutrient enriched food. Pay attention to where you eat and the ingredients used in the preparation of the dishes. A pho might be healthy somewhere because natural ingredients are used, while another one won't be as nutritionous because it uses food enhancers.

*Credit: Antoine Yvon - Dietetician/Nutritionist at the CMI Ho Chi Minh City. You can contact him for an appointment (in French). His website: www.nutrytion.fr.

References:

- Food database CIQUAL 2013

- SMILING 2013

- Food composition table for Vietnam, National Institute of Nutrition, Vietnam. 2013

- World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/publications/fr. 2014

- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2014

- L’histoire de l’alimentation. Jean-Louis FLANDRIN, Edition Fayard. 1996


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