Eating zongzi (粽子), or glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, is a traditional part of the Dragon Boat Festival, but nutritionists are warning diabetics to keep in mind that the holiday treats can contain up to 500 calories each.
Zongzi usually contain glutinous rice, peanuts, egg yolk, chestnuts, pork, mushrooms, tiny shrimp and other ingredients depending on family traditions or individual preferences. The pyramid-shaped dumpling is wrapped in bamboo leaves, tied with string and boiled.
But for some people, especially those with diabetes, too many rice dumplings could push their blood sugar level too high.
Liu Jia-yu (劉家余), a nutritionist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Linkou Medical Center, said zongzi are high in fat and calories.
A zongzi containing egg yolk, shrimp and pork can contain between 500 and 600 calories, Liu said, which is the amount of calories an average adult should consume per meal.
However, many people eat more than one at a time, he said.
Liu recommended substituting egg yolk and fatty pork with healthier options that make the stomach feel full, such as gelatin or tofu.
Switching ingredients can cut calories in a zongzi by up to 50 percent, he said.
“You would only be putting about 270 calories in your stomach after eating one zongzi. Compared with a northern Taiwanese-style rice dumpling that contains 500 calories, it is not as bad for the body,” Liu said.
Another way to make zongzi healthier is to use multi-grain rice or oatmeal, he said. Because glutinous rice is difficult to digest, those with ulcers, gall bladder stones or weak digestive systems should avoid eating too much of it.
Diabetics should also take care not to overcook zongzi, because if the rice becomes lumpy it can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, he said.
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