Friday, February 16, 2024

Yes, you can have Pinoy food—and a healthy heart

If there’s anyone who loves to eat, it’s Filipinos—and there’s even a survey to prove it. After polling 25,000 participants from 24 different countries, global market research firm YouGov cited that 97% of Filipinos love eating Filipino food.  


And why not? A result of different cultural influences and ingredients of neighboring Southeast Asian nations (not to mention the cooking styles from 22 regions scattered across over 7,000 islands), Filipino cuisine is characterized by its unique balance of salt-sour-sweet. The sociocultural research firm Fourth Wall says Filipinos have a hankering for fried food—the better to indulge in a wide variety of savory sauces, and of course, unlimited servings of piping-hot white rice. 


But too much of a good thing can be bad for you, and when you combine rich Filipino foods with a sedentary lifestyle and unshakable habits like smoking and drinking, you’re setting yourself up for some serious health problems. Of these health problems—obesity, type II diabetes, cancer, hypertension—it’s heart disease that Pinoys should be most concerned about. 


“In 2022, heart disease, yet again, ranked as the leading cause of death in Filipinos,” says Noel L. Rosas, MD, a cardiologist from top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed). “The Philippine Statistics Authority, which conducted the study, revealed that ischemic heart diseases, or heart diseases due to reduced blood flow, were responsible for 18.4% (103,628 deaths) of the total deaths in 2022.” 


Despite these facts, Dr. Rosas reminds Filipinos that simple lifestyle changes can reduce risk for heart disease: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week. Drink moderately if you must, but do quit smoking. Smoking builds plaque in the blood vessels, narrowing them and making it difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart. Moreover, the chemicals found in cigarette smoke thicken blood and form clots in your veins and arteries. As for food, you can still relish your favorite Filipino dishes. “Just eat in moderation, practice portion control, and make heart-healthy choices, like using low-sodium soy sauce and skipping the extra salt,” Dr. Rosas points out. 


MakatiMed also suggests three ways to eat Filipino foods and keep your health healthy: 


Load up on fruits and vegetables. “The Philippines is absolutely teeming with highly nutritious fruits and vegetables that are known to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease,” recommends Dr. Rosas. Kangkong (water spinach) helps reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It’s also high in fiber (which aids in regular bowel movement). In addition to its cancer-fighting properties, ampalaya (bitter gourd) is associated with controlling blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Kamatis (tomato) contains lycopene, a natural chemical that gives it its red color and lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. And talong (eggplant) has anthocyanins, which also lower your risk of heart disease. 


“For fruits, I would recommend avocado, which is a source of monounsaturated fats, which prevents heart disease and stroke and citrus fruits like kiat-kiat or mini mandarin oranges, kalamansi, and pomelo as they contain vitamin C that boosts the immune system and protects the heart,” adds Dr. Rosas. 


Pick lean protein. Go ahead, have a serving of that irresistible lechon at someone’s birthday party. “But as a rule, stick to lean protein,” shares Dr. Rosas. Animal protein can be heart-healthy too, for as long as you choose lean cuts of pork and beef, as well as skinless chicken breast and fish. “Besides being great sources of vitamins, minerals, and protein, tuna and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat known to elevate HDL (or good) cholesterol.” 


Cook healthy. “How food is cooked definitely impacts your heart,” reminds Dr. Rosas. “Fried foods are loaded in saturated and trans-fat, which builds plaque in the arteries, leading to heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. By contrast, boiling and steaming are done at low temperatures and do not require oil or butter.” 


For more information, please contact MakatiMed On-Call at +632.88888 999, email, or visit  Follow @IamMakatiMed on Facebook and Twitter.


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