Indonesian Food: A Health Perspective

Oozing with oils, stacked with sugars and sometimes crawling with chemicals. Some Indonesian foods aren't exactly the healthiest options, but darn they taste so good…

Indonesian food, simply speaking, is delicious. What's more we as Indonesians love to eat, we are a nation of foodies and we really appreciate our local foods too. Then again, there comes a time when we need to step back and think is 'taste' more important than 'health'? In this post we look at Indonesian eating habits from a purely health angle.

Gorengan Jalan

Oozing with oil 3 weeks old, our favorite fried street snacks like tahu isi or pisang goreng can be highway to a heart attack. What's more, displayed and open on the side of the street, they are definitely subject to a few pollutants.


From nasi-goreng to huge bowls of noodles, the balance of our dishes are way off. Traditionally this comes from our need to 'isi perut' (fill up our stomachs), leading to the culture of us not feeling satisfied without our fill of rice or noodles .  Carbohydrates normally should constitute 45-65% of each meal to allow for proteins, vegetables etc. In reality, here it's more like 85-90% (like below).

Rumah Makan Padang

An easy meal and not to mention delicious, diving into a Rumah Makan Padang and piling your plate with ready made dishes is a great quick fix… but have you ever stopped and thought "how long has that rendang been there?". Exposed meat, fish and vegetables are of course subject to slow rotting - but these are often disguised by the thick and flavourful sauces that covers them.

Sugar Overload

Indonesia, we have a sugar obsession. This can be seen in our beverages. In restaurants, ordering a teh manis or es jeruk is very often served with the glass filled half with syrup. These simple sugars have profound effects on weight, cholestrol, blood sugar etc., but because of their addictive and delicious nature we seem to put all that behind us!


Ah, Monosodium Glutamate. The heart of many meals. Instant noodles, your favorite Chinese restaurant and probably your everyday nasi goreng, many of the foods around you might be loaded up with this food additive because (a) it tastes so good and (b) its actually addictive and (c) it's easy to cook with.

Don't take this lightly though: did you know MSG is so good because "it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death". Thinking twice now?


Sambal is a meal's bestfriend, we all know that. Just a little on the side -whether sambal goreng, terasi or the millions of other concoctions now on the market- can make a dish so much better. However, the new fangled craze for 'chili limbo', i.e. 'how hot can you go?' is pretty dangerous. Too much can: give you mouth/stomach ulcers, constipation, appendix issues, tissue inflammation and more - so take it easy out there hot-stuffs!


Think about martabak as an example: Condensed milk, chocolate, peanuts, cheese, loads of flour and loads of eggs, sound healthy? It's the most magical pancake ever, we know, but we certainly pack our desserts with cholestrol-heavy ingredients. Same can be said for other cemilan and kue-kue!

Local "Health Supplements"

I'm not going to go on record for slander here, but I think we all know the 'supplements' and 'juices' on market that say will give you tons of energy and make you strong, or those that miraculously heal all ailments in one sachet - amazing! However due to the lack of accuracy and effort from our health departments the chemicals in them are more likely to give you heart issues...


Apart from lalapan, look at our vegetable dishes: tumis kangkung, cah toge, sapo tahu, etc… they all taste great, but the problem is they're all so overcooked. The problem with this is that overcooking veggies this way removes the majority of nutrients and vitamins, the main reason for eating them. So really, we aren't getting the benefits we think we are from what we see as our 'healthy' option.

We are all guilty of indulging in one of the above, how can we not? Indonesian food is the best!

 But, whilst our strong Indonesian stomachs protect us from much of the bacteria or possible problems, too much of anything is bad for us. So whether you're biting into your third martabak or dipping your krupuk in a huge pot of sambal, think twice about your health!