Ep 51: Caring for Our Asian Elders through Food w/ Felicia Gunawan, Functional Nutrition Advisor

asian podcast Apr 27, 2023
nutrition asian elder food

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Caring for parents or grandparents is different in Asian culture. Today I chat with Felicia Gunawan, who is an Indonesian Functional Nutrition Advisor. We talk about how food can be used to care for our elders as they age, when they're sick, or simply need some comfort. If you are an Asian adult child or caregiver, be sure to tune in for insight, encouragement, and inspiration.

Caring for Our Asian Elders Through Food is part two in the Asian American series of The Value of Wrinkles podcast.


Intro by: Me using my Cantonese!

 

Highlights

  • Learn about how food is used as a way to connect and to show love, care, and support in Asian culture.
  • Learn about why it's helpful for your older loved ones to eat familiar foods.
  • Learn about the nutrition that is essential for older adults.
  • Get practical tips and examples of traditional Asian dishes that support elder nutrition and well-being. 

Resources mentioned

 

 

Transcript

Ep 51.mp4: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Ep 51.mp4: this mp4 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Isabel Tom:
[Introduction in Cantonese].

Isabel Tom:
Hi, I'm Isabel. My good friends call me Bel, and I am Asian American. My story is that I grew up in a multigenerational household and grew up in the same household as my grandparents. Today is the second episode of the Asian American series of the Value of Wrinkles podcast. Whatever age that you're at or consider yourself to be, whether that's young, youngish, midlife older, or maybe you just call yourself old, you are welcome here. Let's explore how to love the older generation and ourselves more. This entire series of podcast episodes is sponsored by AARP. Aarp is an organization that is dedicated to helping people as they age. They have a ton of resources, guides, and articles to help you age and to help you care for your older loved ones as they age. In my show notes, which is essentially where I put all the notes and links of things that I mentioned in each episode, that's where I'm going to have a link to the resources that AARP provides free of charge for caregivers. So be sure to get those links and resources by going to Value of wrinkles.com/listen and then click on episode 51. Well. Welcome friends. Today I pulled out some of my Cantonese. That's Canto for today's intro. I mentioned in the last episode, episode 50, that I have a resource. I have something that I've been working on, and I'm trying to translate it into several Asian speaking languages.

Isabel Tom:
I've been really working hard on it. It's taking a ton of time, but I am pushing along. One of the languages that I'm trying to translate this resource into is Cantonese. That is a dialect that is spoken by, um, mostly people in Hong Kong and southern China. And that's the language that I grew up speaking with my grandparents. And my parents didn't always do a great job of trying to learn it and didn't always pay attention in Chinese school. But I am determined to be able to say the whole video that I recorded in English into Cantonese by my 40th birthday, which is in less than a month. Can I do it? I honestly don't know, but I have been practicing in. Like I said, I'm pushing along so wish me luck. Say some prayers if you want to get this resource now in English, it is a resource that will help you to have the conversations about the future with your older loved ones, with your parents, with your grandparents. That's not an easy thing, which is why I created this resource. It is part of my Prepare to Care digital course, and I pulled it out, and I'm sharing it with you all for free. And I'm going to translate that as well so you can grab that resource now if you want in English at valueofwrinkles.com/talk. And you're going to be hearing more about that coming soon.

Isabel Tom:
So can you tell me what your favorite food is? I'm in the DC area and there are so many choices of what types of food you can eat. I mean, there are so many different restaurants with so many different cuisines. On top of that, you can pretty much make anything that you want by searching it on YouTube. And if you're like me, then you can waste a lot of time on Instagram looking at videos and reels from influencers who make food, taste food, take pictures of food. I figured, you know, why not bring food into the conversation here on the Value of Wrinkles podcast. The truth is that food, it impacts the well-being and it impacts the quality of life of our lives, but also the quality of life and well-being of our elders. It's just food. So it seems like it's just a small thing when it comes to caregiving and loving our older loved ones. But if you are caring for your pawpaw, gong gong, mama, Yaya, Lola, Lolo, nai nai, uh, your grandparent, Grampy um, I don't know all the names, or even your spouse. And if you're in Western culture, like in the US or Canada, you're probably really well aware that the food your elder eats is not usually the same food, like the food they usually eat on a regular basis, and they love is probably not usually the same food they serve in hospitals or senior care communities and all.

Isabel Tom:
It's probably very different. And so that causes a problem. When our loved ones go to the hospital, it causes a problem when we have to find an assisted living facility for them, or a nursing home to care for them as they recover. Food matters with mama, which is my paternal grandmother in particular. I remember how she loved Chinese soup. She loved dundun or dunai, which is steamed milk and or steamed, um, steamed egg or steamed milk. And that's like a dessert she loved. Um, hongdao sa, which is like red bean soup. She loved hongdao juk, which is red bean congee, and she liked congee in general. And basically, if you just fed her one of her favorites, it was a good day for mama. Food can make such a difference in boosting the mood and helping your loved ones stay healthy, right? So today I invited Felicia Gunawan, a friend of mine, to have a conversation with me about food and how it can impact our older loved ones. I think you're going to find this conversation helpful, insightful, fun and maybe it will give you some inspiration to cook up or learn some new recipes that you can share with your older loved one. So let's just get in to today's episode with Felicia Gunawan. Welcome, Felicia. I'm so glad that you're here to join us.

Felicia Gunawan:
Hi. Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so humbled for the opportunity. Thanks for having me.

Isabel Tom:
So. Felicia, for the people who are listening, can you give them a little bit of background first, like of maybe tell us a little bit about yourself?

Felicia Gunawan:
Sure.

Isabel Tom:
Maybe where you've lived. Um, you know all of that?

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah. So, um, I was born actually, in Mississippi, but, uh, one year old, I moved back to Indonesia. I grew up in a city called Semarang. If you guys know the Java island part of Indonesia, it's the central part of that island. Um, so I moved back to the States for college. Um, so I feel like I really value the experience of growing up in Indonesia because it's a very diverse culture in terms of food, the real, you know, religious groups, the cultures and everything we've been, you know, taught to respect each other's differences. And then and I also studied, uh, pre-medicine in bachelor's, uh, degree. And then I have master's in nutrition. It's actually, uh, human nutrition and functional medicine. So a little bit about that. Functional medicine is basically we care about the root cause of disease. Um, more like prevention instead of, um, sick care. We're more doing more like prevention and how to see things and connect all the symptoms and, um, trying to tie it all together to the root cause of certain diseases. With that in mind, also considering like people's, you know, lifestyle, diet and then their stress level, they're not just food. So basically everything about themselves and considering all everything about them.

Isabel Tom:
So it's really holistic. It sounds like.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah. Mhm.

Isabel Tom:
It includes everything.

Felicia Gunawan:
Right.

Isabel Tom:
Can you tell me then what is it that drew you to working in the nutrition field or like interested in this.

Felicia Gunawan:
I think subconsciously I think influenced by my mom she's always been like she always blend this weird combination juice every day with with like the actual everything sex smoothies basically. Um, but it's not like the typical Western smoothies. That looks great. Smells great. It's just like everything that she can blend, she'll just blend. It felt like a torture because she would pour it into like a very big, like a beer type of glass. You know that beer glass, the big one. And we have to chug it, like every morning. Yeah, like me and my brother. So I think that. And then just like the awareness itself within growing up within the family of like, oh, don't eat a lot of sugar, you know, not try not to, you know, reward me a lot with sugars and try to be careful with that. And then just, just overall, she's not religiously like health freak, but she I think subconsciously she influenced that. And then in school, um, I think one of the classes that really opened my eyes and fascinates me is when I took the biochemistry course. When we have we can, you know, all everything ties together. The biological, the the biology class and the chemistry class connect in that, um, course. And you able to learn more about how your body works, basically all the enzymes and how the body processes and things. It just fascinates me. So and then when I'm looking for a master's degree program and then read more about this, you know, different approach of nutrition care through functional medicine lens, it really captivates me. And just really, you know, it's just took off from there. Yeah.

Isabel Tom:
It's so interesting. I love how your mom like it seems like she was she she has a mother. And I feel like this is common. Right. You want to you want your family to be healthy. So yes, the the mom often is like the family nutritionist, right?

Felicia Gunawan:
Yes, yes.

Isabel Tom:
But I love how she just threw everything into a blender or smoothie. And yeah, that sounds really interesting. I don't I don't know if my kids would do that, but [laughter].

Felicia Gunawan:
One thing that I noticed, like in college, like hanging out with our friends, we like to cook a lot or like, eat out a lot, like I, I'm not that religious or like, oh, it has to be all the rainbow. No, like I'm living my life. I'm trying to enjoy my life too, with food and connect with people through food. But my friends often comment about how, oh, Felicia is so healthy she always try to eat veggie. [laughter] Like, uh. You know.

Isabel Tom:
It's part of your life.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah, it's part of me. But I don't think I'm that, like, healthy, healthy nuts, you know? Freak, because I've seen people out there who's like, more, you know, restricting. Very extreme. Yeah, very extreme than myself.

Isabel Tom:
But you're very realistic, which is what I like.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah. So I think so what I'm trying to say is like, it's just become me, becomes my nature and the way I see things.

Isabel Tom:
One of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on for this series is because when we talk about, like, caring for our grandparents or parents, and I think in Asian culture, like there was a lot of grandchildren who are involved in, like supporting their grandparents or even different elders. One of the first times we talked, you talked to me about food and how hard it is for, you know, older people to get food, even if they know what's good for them. Right, like going out shopping for that, um, for the things that they need, right, to be able to eat a healthy meal or have a healthy meal. So I wanted to talk to you and just kind of delve into that topic of like what the role of food is. We know that physically it helps us, right. And we can talk about that later.

Felicia Gunawan:
Mhm.

Isabel Tom:
But what is the other connections that we have with food and how does that affect like how we care for our older loved ones.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah I think we need to raise the awareness of the importance of the other aspect of food in terms of just it for our health fueling our body. It also has other aspects, which is the emotional aspect. Um, it's so funny when you said all that earlier, this thing pop up in my head, by the way, it was like my parents are planning to visit me because I'm about to give birth soon, and my mom made a comment like. No offense everyone, but she said, oh, I think I prefer an Asian airlines because, you know, the food is warm and it just makes it so much better when if it's a Western airline, a lot of them are like cold sandwich and it's just just not it's just just not a pleasant experience for the trip itself. So. Right. So well let's talk about food. Right. So the emotional part of food, I think food is the primary need in in human right other than place to live and other things like clothing. So food is what fuel us. And it's very important. And regardless the emotional connections for some people, it can give them a negative. So it can associate with negative memories, but it can also associate with positive memories or happy memories.

Felicia Gunawan:
So there's another aspect with, if we think about baby, all they need during the first few months of their life, uh just milk, right? So the majority of the time they're crying, upset, fuzzy, or just just they simply get comforted by. You know, breast milk, right? So is that that emotional aspect. And we think, look, we think back now, um, let's say when we get sick, we always tend to, tend to feel like, oh, I want chicken soup. You know, like I want whatever it is that your mom used to give you when you're sick. Right. So and we see also, I feel like what I observe in society, I feel like in, especially in Asian culture, um, a lot of our gatherings and fellowship are, revolves around food too, right? So it has food also have that connection aspect to connect people, uh, make people more relaxed, you know, or be comforted. So I'm not saying that food is the sole solution for our emotional distress. I'm just saying that food has the ability to give us comfort. Right. So a lot of times what I see in my, my people like older generation and my, um, group of people, they tend to they prefer like having Asian food. Right.

Isabel Tom:
So what type of food, um, at least in Indonesia, is like when you're sick, what type of thing would you eat?

Felicia Gunawan:
Uh, I think majority of soup. Soup stuff. Chicken soup, like our style chicken soup or, like, definitely congee. Now it's it's like it can be slightly different because in Indonesia there's a lot of ethnic groups. But my family, uh, my ancestors came from China. So a lot of our food, a lot of time are more like Chinese oriented Chinese, Indonesian cuisine, basically. Uh, yeah. So like, you'll have, like, maybe like ginger tea or like we also adopt like, other culture, Indonesian culture thing, like where they make this type of drink that they have lots of herbs in it along with ginger and then cinnamon and, and they add a bunch of stuff. So those are the common thing that they'll, they'll have when they're sick.

Isabel Tom:
Yeah. So I love how you say, you know, I [laugh]. You know what it makes me think of? It makes me think of like in at least in Chinese culture, like very traditional Chinese culture. If you have a baby, right. They often make you this. I don't even, I've never been given it. But my sister in law. Like they have to have this, like soup.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah.

Isabel Tom:
Really gross. And it's like brown and I think, like, sweet and all this other stuff. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah, yeah.

Isabel Tom:
And it's like, got a lot of nutrition in it. And then they make tons of these soups. Right?

Felicia Gunawan:
Yes.

Isabel Tom:
Share with, is it for you or to share? I don't even know.

Felicia Gunawan:
Well they tend to make, like you said, in a large batch. So sometimes the house member ended up having them it to like your spouse and...yeah yeah. So that's why it ended up become everyone at home having it. Not just you. Yeah.

Isabel Tom:
Yeah. It sounds like that's well I guess for us in terms of comfort foods that help us to feel safe or comfort us like, you know.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah.

Isabel Tom:
We're saying memories or.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah, in terms of that, let's say let's talk about that herbal soup, post-partum herbal soup. I think that's also a language of love. Yeah. From whoever made it for the mom, it's to say, hey, I care for you. This is a really good stuff. And then I know this is going to be good for you and comforting for you. It's warm. Uh, I want you to have it right, because my mom also told a story when she gave birth. To me, it was just her and my dad and my older brother. But then she was part of this, like, um, Asian church. Um, and then there was this couple from Taiwan that keep making this chicken soup thingy with herbal stuff in it. Um, to my mom almost every day. And it's just overwhelming for her because it's like, I get so bored with all this chicken soup. But she knows that it's the language of love, right? In an Asian culture, food is also a language of love.

Isabel Tom:
I think that's actually important for a lot of maybe like second generation Asian Americans to remember, because I think sometimes my grandparents would always say, nice job, Maya, have you eaten in Cantonese? And they always ask you that and you're like, stop asking me, I already ate, but remember that it's it's not so much what they're asking. Like, did you eat? It's not even so much that they care about that. It's that they care that we are. You know, they care for us. Yes. More of when they feed us, when they give us food, when they bring us something, even if it's not something that we necessarily love or like they're just trying to show us care and love.

Felicia Gunawan:
Right.

Why don't we go into the nutrition part or really, I'm really interested in just finding out what type of nutrition is important to focus on when somebody is getting older.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah. So I think we need to focus a lot on protein. Right. So it can be any protein from fish, chicken, beef because it has a lot of amino acid, B, Vitamin B12. And it's what's needed for the muscles to a lot of time. That's what happened a lot with elderly person. They they don't build their muscles anymore but they need that. Right. So protein is really needed. And it also helps a lot with has something to do with the osteoporosis too with their muscles. So that leads me to the second thing that's important calcium. So a lot of times I think a lot of the treatment protocol, prevention protocol. Nowadays, once you hit certain age, you have to do a bone scan density. Yeah. Yeah. So that's a good thing too. But that's why calcium is very important. Vitamin D, vitamin A. So iron and vitamin B12 those are the iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12. You can easily found that in you know protein meat source. And if you if you don't if you're someone that's not, is a vegetarian or vegan, you need to find, you know, a good source, or you probably just need to consult with somebody who can really help you to really focus on getting the good source of those things, the B12 and the protein. Right.

Isabel Tom:
B12 is, also, what does that do?

Yeah. So vitamin B12, you can find that a lot in. Well a lot of vegetables, seeds, nuts too. But you can find it a lot in meats. Vitamin B12 involves a involves a lot in along with other B's, vitamin B's. But it's very important in a lot of our body's metabolic processes right. In our gut. It's just think about like in our body, there's millions of different metabolism processes happening right now as we live. Right. So when you think about a cycle of metabolic process, a lot of times of the ingredients in or the cofactors that's needed is vitamin B12. So it's very important. It has something to do with muscle. It has something to do with hormone. It has something to do with a lot of things. Um, especially. So that's another a lot of things that, um, adults need to focus on.

Isabel Tom:
Can I stop you for a second and ask you, like, when it comes to foods like an Asian culture, what type of foods? Like, I would love to just brainstorm and think about like.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah.

Isabel Tom:
What foods have.

Felicia Gunawan:
For example, like actual concrete.

Isabel Tom:
Like different foods you can think of.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah, yeah. So, um, I actually thought about that. You can have, for example, like black pepper beef, right? You can have black pepper beef that actually comes with peppers, red green peppers with onions. Right. So that itself give you the um protein protein source. And also all the you know when you think about vegetables, you see all the colors, especially the red ones, you know this those anthocyanin, the active ingredients that gives color to the vegetables, those also give um, you know, health benefits to your body. The fibers from the vegetables also give benefit for their digestion, right. Calcium. You can also obtain it not. Only from dairy cows milk. You can also find it a lot in dark leafy greens, vegetables. So a lot of Asian Chinese. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So snow pea leaves. Or you can just stir fry it with garlic or I talk about a little bit about gai lan earlier. Um, you just chop it and then have it with your homemade meatballs or you made that shrimp, pork shrimp wonton and have that bunch of gai lan goes into your soup together. Um, you can have, you know, minced pork green beans. Right? So there's a lot of. Yeah, like you said, in Asian culture, there's a lot of.

Isabel Tom:
And tofu.

Felicia Gunawan:
Yeah, yeah. So you can do green bean, green bean tofu too, right.

Isabel Tom:
That's, I'm thinking dairy. A lot of like, lactose intolerance is actually quite common in a lot of Asians. So that's why I was trying to think of different things, like not, non-dairy things for the calcium and then also protein. Like, I don't know if meat is that uncommon with Asians. I guess it's kind of big.

Felicia Gunawan:
Well, you know, there are some Asian beliefs like the Buddhist people. They're tend to be vegetarian, right? Um, so that's why I mentioned that.

What kind of things do they eat then to get that protein?

Felicia Gunawan:
Mushrooms has a lot of protein, you know. And then you said soy products like tofu has a lot. Um, but when it comes to when you're elder, I think personally you just need to consult with somebody to incorporate that more. When I say that, it means will, that person will most likely in, quote, prescribe that person to take certain supplements that will help to boost more because they're not getting it from. And bone broth too is a very good, I'm just, in general example for Asian dish. Uh, bone broth is very healthy and you can make like, um, that, you know, put a bunch of like beef ribs or pork ribs chopped in slow cooker, right, and then become bone broth and then put bunch of garlics in it and then a little bit of ginger. And when you have it, a lot of people will make a little bit of radish too in it. In our case with like having more veggies we can add more veggies too in that dish.

Isabel Tom:
Well, thank you for coming on the podcast today just.

Speaker3:
Thank you.

Isabel Tom:
Like from your background and your expertise. Like I really, really appreciate it. And if somebody wants to find out more about your work, where would they go? Is there a website they can go to or.

Speaker3:
Yeah.

Felicia Gunawan:
So I have a website called Agathon Health A, G, A, T as in Tom, H, O, N as in Nancy, Health dot com. Uh, Agathon means good. Um, so it's a Greek word of good. Um, because I do believe that everything that God's created is good, and it's for our good. Um, so I hope that what I do will influence in people producing people's good health. I don't have any podcasts right now, like The Value of Wrinkles, but hopefully in the future, because right now I'm just focusing on having a baby soon.

Isabel Tom:
Congratulations. I'm so excited for you.

Felicia Gunawan:
Thank you.

Isabel Tom:
So I will put your website. I'll put Agathon.com in the show notes of our podcast episode so that people can find you.

Felicia Gunawan:
Sure. Thank you.

Isabel Tom:
When they listen to this episode. So thanks, Felicia.

Felicia Gunawan:
You're welcome. Thank you guys.

Isabel Tom:
I hope you enjoyed this episode, episode 51 of this Asian American series. Well, Felicia and I talked for a long time before and during and after this recorded conversation, and I feel like after she has her baby, I would really love to do some type of class or course with her, because food it is everything to our elders. Um, and I think it makes such a huge difference. If you love talking about food, then in the show notes I'm going to link to episode 18. Feels like a long time ago, but episode 18 is titled Loving Our Grandparents Through Food. I had done this series way back, starting at episode ten on the Five Love Languages. Well, then I realized that there is another love language that especially Asians often use to communicate love, and that is food. So I added an extra episode in that series and that is episode 18, so be sure to click on the link in the show notes to listen to episode 18 on loving our grandparents and parents through food.

Isabel Tom:
That is it for episode 51 of the Value of Wrinkles podcast. This is the second episode of the Asian American series that I'm doing, and I'm wondering, are you enjoying it? Have you found it helpful? If you have found today's episode helpful, would you review this podcast? I know you hear me say this all the time, but would you review it wherever you listen to podcasts? It really helps raise the voice of Asian American podcasters like myself, and even more when you review my podcast, it helps other Asian American caregivers find this podcast who might not be able to find it otherwise. Being Asian and caring for an Asian parent or grandparent, it is different. And so I hope this series is something that you would review and then share it. Please share it with any other Asian adult children or grandchildren in your circle. Stay tuned for next week's episode, where I'm going to answer the question that everybody's always asking, which is what senior care resources are out there for Asian families and their elders. So stay tuned and I look forward to seeing you next episode.

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*A special thanks to AARP for sponsoring the Asian American series of The Value of Wrinkles podcast! 

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