How Race and Culture Affect Your Diet

A lot of people do not realise that your race can actually affect your fitness goals. Be it to lose fats or gain weight/muscles. This article is not intended to discriminate, stereotype or be racist towards any of my readers. It’s written factually and meant to help you see how food culture – the foods you grew up with and eat as part of being Singaporean Malay/Indian/Chinese – can be a major factor in your fitness journey. I sincerely hope you will not take offence. I gave this article a lot of thought and I think it is extremely important because a lot of us don’t realise that through our upbringing, usually according to race, we stick to certain foods and methods of food preparation. Let us explore further below:


Most Chinese consume soup, porridge, noodles, like ‘mee pok’ and mixed vegetable rice. These are staple foods for many Chinese people. Do you remember when your family would always drench your rice with soup or gravy? Soup is traditionally a must have for Chinese families during lunch/dinner. That’s why the fish soup and Yong Tau Foo stalls are always packed during lunch hours. The food is considered ‘cleaner’ and calorie intake is less. The next popular dish is ‘Mixed Vegetable Rice’, a Chinese version of ‘Nasi Padang’, which can be quite oily and defective for a healthy diet. Most Chinese are lean or underweight. Losing weight is simple for them because Chinese usually have dinner prepared at home. Gaining weight and muscles can be a challenging task because the protein content tends to be insufficient for a meal.


Most Malays eat Rendang and food that contains lots of coconut milk or are goreng (fried). Gravy is the next MUST have for a meal to be complete. Personal experience – every single Malay auntie will keep asking me to have gravy on my nasi padang when I clearly ask for no gravy. Furthermore, most females grow up learning Malay cooking style from their mum and this goes on for generations. Gravy is a killer to your diet plan because it contains starch. Addition of excessive gravy to your meals means unwanted net carbs / excess calories. When a wife cooks for her husband, he being the husband cannot reject the food his wife cooks. Hence, this leads to the majority of the Malay population being over sized. Losing fat for Malays will be rather difficult because of the gravy content. Once this gravy factor can be eliminated, it will be easier to lose body fat.


Indians usually have Chapati or Naan as their carb source. A lot of my clients have either Chapati or Naan as a staple carb for dinner. Another must have is curry. Most Indians have their basmati rice drenched in curry. Although the curry leaves used provide a lot of benefits for the human body, it is the curry gravy that adds on the unwanted extra calories.

Now that we’ve covered the staples of different diets, let us take a look at what is surrounding us and how it can complicate our diet. Have a look at the landscape of Singapore. Everywhere you go, there are shopping centres. Nowadays, shopping centres have a myriad of fast food and fried food, available at anytime for you to munch. Who can actually resist golden, crispy fried food? To be honest, I can’t resist either. My favourite is Old Chang Kee fried sotong. This struggle within yourself, external food from shopping centres and stress generated from work are the culprits of your current diet. Probably the main reason why people are getting more obese in Singapore: people are just eating what they see.

What can you do now?

Now that you know what is actually happening, take a step back and re-look at how you can change your diet plan to achieve your fitness goals. Break away from all outside food for awhile and cook, prepare your food as much as possible. Healthily, of course. To learn how to prepare your own food in detail, you can refer to my article: Finally, to eat out healthily, you can refer to my article:

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Your Coach,
Amirrudin Ong


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