Chinese food is enjoyed by people all over the world. With its mix of vegetables, meats, grains, and sauces, Chinese cuisine offers a variety of flavors and health benefits.
This article will explore the nutritional value of popular Chinese dishes and ingredients.
What Makes Chinese Food Healthy?
Several elements make Chinese food a nutritious choice:
Chinese cooking uses a lot of vegetables. Dishes like stir fries are filled with broccoli, snap peas, mushrooms, and more. Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Eating a diet high in veggies can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce heart disease risks.
Many Chinese recipes call for small amounts of lean protein like chicken, pork, and seafood. These meats contain protein for building muscle, iron for healthy blood, and B vitamins for energy. Choosing lean cuts helps avoid excess saturated fat and calories.
Rice and noodles are grain-based staples in Chinese cuisine. Opting for brown rice over white provides more nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin B. Whole grain noodles and rice can also help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.
Cooking with oils like canola, peanut, and sesame oil provides heart-healthy unsaturated fats. These fats help lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream when used in moderation.
Herbs and Spices
Ginger, garlic, chilies, and other seasonings add lots of flavor without salt, sugar, or fat. Many Chinese spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
So, by focusing on plants and lean proteins cooked in healthy oils and seasoned well, Chinese food offers a balance of nutrients deliciously.
Analyzing Common Chinese Foods
To understand the healthfulness of Chinese fare, let’s break down some popular restaurant dishes and take a look at their nutritional value.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
This takeout favorite provides lean protein in the crispy chicken chunks. The sweet and sour sauce adds flavors from vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.
Bell peppers, onions, pineapple, and carrots mean you get servings of fiber-rich veggies and fruit.
One order averages around 650 calories and comes with rice, so it’s best shared as part of a meal.
Vegetable Lo Mein
With its mix of cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, and bok choy, this veggie-packed noodle dish provides vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and magnesium.
Whole wheat or brown rice noodles make it even more nutritious. One plate averages 300 calories without protein or around 500 calories with added shrimp or chicken.
Beef and Broccoli
Lean beef and broccoli florets add protein, iron, and fiber. Going easy on the savory sauce keeps sodium content low. Served with brown rice, this dish can provide half your daily vegetable needs plus 20 grams of protein for around 500 calories.
Egg Drop Soup
A warm cup of this light soup makes a nice starter. Eggs provide protein, while green onions and mushrooms add nutrients. The broth is lower in sodium than some solos. One cup of egg drop soup has about 60 calories and 5 grams of protein.
While tasty, these crispy appetizers are lower in nutrition compared to other options. The combination of crab or cream cheese stuffing and fried wonton wrappers adds calories and fat. Four raccoons have around 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbs. It’s best saved for an occasional treat.
Kung Pao Chicken
Spicy kung pao chicken offers lean protein in chicken pieces cooked with vegetables like onions, bell peppers, and bamboo shoots. Peanuts add extra protein and healthy fats.
But the classic kung pao sauce can be high in oil and sodium, so ask for it on the side if you want more control over calories and salt content.
Vegetable Fried Rice
Fried rice is a savory and nourishing choice when made with brown rice and plenty of veggies like peas, carrots, and onions. Eggs add protein while ginger and garlic season it.
One cup averages around 300 calories and provides 3 grams of fiber plus 8 grams of protein when shrimp is added.
Hot and Sour Soup
With shredded pork, tofu, mushrooms, vinegar, and chili paste, this soup provides a spicy kick. Tofu adds plant-based protein, while mushrooms have immunity-boosting properties. One cup ranges from 100-200 calories, depending on ingredients. Best to request low-sodium broth.
Wontons can make a flavorful appetizer, but it should be enjoyed in moderation. The fried dumpling wrappers are filled with a blend of crab meat and cream cheese, totaling around 50 calories and 2 grams of fat each. Four wontons have under 250 calories, which is reasonable for a starter.
These pan-fried dumplings are another appetizer option. Filled with minced pork and vegetables, they provide lean protein and fiber. But with around 50-80 calories and a few grams of fat each, it’s best to limit yourself to 4-5 potstickers.
Enjoy them with a dipping sauce on the side rather than spooned directly on top to help control sodium.
Tips for Ordering Healthier Chinese Meals
Now that you know what to look for on the menu, here are some tips for putting together a nutritious Chinese meal:
- Ask for brown rice instead of white to get more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Load up on vegetable dishes to increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants.
- For soups, request low-sodium broth and limit high-sodium options like hot and sour soup.
- Pick dishes with lean proteins like chicken, shrimp, or tofu instead of fatty meats.
- Use sauces and condiments sparingly to avoid excess sodium, sugar, and calories.
- Share or take home leftovers so you don’t overeat high-calorie fried dishes or heavy sauces.
- Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert to add vitamins and satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Opt for steamed or stir-fried dishes instead of deep-fried.
- Start your meal with broth-based soups or fresh summer rolls to fill up on veggies.
The Takeaway on Chinese Cuisine and Health
Chinese food offers a delicious variety of flavors and ingredients that can be tailored into healthy meals. Focusing on vegetable and whole grain dishes cooked with lean proteins and healthy oils provides important nutrients without excess calories, salt, and fat.
By choosing your menu items wisely and portioning dishes appropriately, Chinese takeout and restaurant meals can be a nutritious component of an overall balanced diet.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in your quest to find out more about the nutritional value of Chinese food.
As you can see, there are many benefits and healthy options for dining at a Chinese restaurant. Remember, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!
How nutritious is Chinese food?
Chinese food can be nutritious, depending on the dishes and ingredients used in its preparation. Some traditional Chinese dishes are high in vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, which can provide a range of essential nutrients. However, other Chinese words can be high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and added sugars, detracting from their nutritional value. It’s important to make informed choices when ordering Chinese food and to choose dishes prepared with healthy ingredients and cooking methods.
What is the healthiest Chinese food to eat?
Some of the healthiest Chinese food options include steamed vegetables, vegetable-based stir-fries, broth-based soups, and grilled, baked, or steamed rather than fried dishes. It’s also a good idea to opt for dishes containing lean protein sources, such as chicken, shrimp, or tofu and to limit or avoid words high in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
Is Chinese food very healthy?
It depends on the specific dishes and ingredients used. Some Chinese dishes can be healthy, as they incorporate a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. However, other dishes may contain sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. It’s essential to make intelligent choices when selecting Chinese dishes and to focus on whole-food ingredients to make the meal as healthy as possible.