Besides serving pro-heart food in your Christmas table, it also pays to avoid vices. photo
Holiday menu for a healthy heart
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo ( - November 23, 2016 - 3:14pm

MANILA, Philippines - While malls buzz with Christmas countdowns, hospitals are down with body count.

“As we approach Christmas, people die left and right because heart attack and stroke go up from November to January,” warns functional medicine physician Stan Chua.

When it comes to heart health, he says genetics play a small part. “But because you and your family live in the same house, you have the same diet and environment, so you may have the same outcome,” he explains.

“Our genes are still the same with Moses, except for one to two types, but people then didn’t die of heart disease. Genes are not our destiny, except if you have a chromosomal disease,” he adds.

Physician Stan Chua of Centuria Medical Hospital in Makati City. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

According to him, the number one best-selling drug in the world is for cholesterol. That drug alone, he says, earns about US$ 60 billion a year, which could be equivalent to the Philippines’ annual budget.

He says, it is sad that people spend so much on heart medications when they can save a lot more by using diet as therapy since they eat every day, anyway. Based on his research, heart attacks usually happen after lunch or dinner. Eczema, rashes or diabetes can come with heart health problems due to diet.

Besides serving pro-heart food in your Christmas table, it also pays to avoid vices, says Chua. Smoking, in particular, can cause cramps in the muscles, which include your heart.

“Walking is the best therapy for heart health,” he declares. “The gym is not always the best option. It’s hard to maintain because it entails fees or a contract.”

Thirty minutes of walking every day can be simple, he says, but it can change everything, including your stress, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is also the least expensive exercise with the least risk for injury.

If you are bored with just walking, the doctor suggests downloading exercise apps.

As for those too busy to workout, he says: “What fits your busy schedule more, exercising for an hour a day or being dead for 24 hours a day?”

To prevent cardiovascular disease, Chua recommends not to avoid food, but to pick the right ones. Since Christmas is full of colors, start with a colorful plate containing the following heart-friendly menu.

Chocolates, cheese and wine

May it be anger or excitement, extreme emotions could stress the heart out.

To alleviate stress or depression, Chua advises increasing your endorphins or happy hormones by eating more chocolates or taking cheese with wine. Make sure your chocolates are sugar-free! Chua reminds that fat-free products are also usually high in sugar.

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as Omega 3 and 6, can be found in fish like salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, tuna and cod; as well as in plants such as almonds, wheat germ, pecans, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Natural oils rich in EFAs include evening primrose, borage, flax seed and krill.

EFAs promote hormonal balance and strong immune system. They aid in nerve function and cardiac health by regulating blood pressure. While these are good for the heart, they could also be harmful if used in excess, Chua warns.

“Omega 3 is a blood thinner, which has twice the effect when combined with aspirin,” he attests. “Olive oil is good, but up to a certain extent. It is rich in Omega 9, which could become a blood thinner and lead to a higher cholesterol, just like Omega 3.”

Olive oil, he says, spoils at 120 degree-Celsius. Frying, which usually escalates to up to 180 degree-Celsius, kills all Omegas in the food and transform these into trans fat.

When cooking, coconut oil, he says, is one of the safer ones, as it has a high heat tolerance of 190 degree-Celsius boiling point. He also vouches for sesame oil and chili oil as they are “wonderful together.”

Should one would go on a diet, he recommends the Paleolithic or Paleo diet, not because it is all about proteins, but since it requires a balance between the Omegas, particularly, Omega 3 and 6.

He also points out that organic meat has a higher Omega 3 than 6, while farm or red meat has higher 6 than 3. So, to achieve a balanced Omega 3 and 6, the key is to take a mix of both red and organic meat.

Though organic meat is generally good, he says he is not a hundred percent for it as it still has all the bacteria that can trigger allergy.


In spite of the high pay, many doctors resign because of stress, Chua discloses.

To control stress, he recommends putting herbs into one’s meal.

According to him, to have a healthy heart does not mean one should remove meat from one’s diet and become a full-blown vegetarian. It would be sufficient, he says, to just add a cup of vegetables, or about five leaves of veggies, in your every meal every day.


Magnesium helps nerves and muscles function, as well as keep the heart rhythm steady. Magnesium, however, is the first nutrient to go down when you are stressed, Chua says.

Thus, the doctor prescribes replenishing yourself with magnesium from breads, whole grains, seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, beans, potatoes, bananas, kiwi, avocados, prawns, broccoli, and chocolate.

Vitamin B

According to Chua, B Vitamins are essential for energy production because “if you run out of it, you lose energy. You cannot use fats and sugar as energy for exercise.”

Vitamin B12, naturally found in fish, poultry, red meat, milk, eggs, and cheese, helps in making red blood cells and in proper nerve cell function.

Meanwhile, Folate or Vitamin B9 from dried beans, green leafy vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, asparagus, poultry, and fortified breads, cereals, and noodles, helps keep brain and cardiovascular systems healthy.

Together, Vitamin B 12 and Folic Acid are important for hormonal balance, especially if one is menstruating or trying to get pregnant, says Chua.

Vitamin D, Niacin and CoQ10

Found in fish oils, egg yolks, and fortified food like milk, Vitamin D modulates neuro-muscular and immune system functions.

Niacin or Vitamin B3, on the other hand, is important for nerve function. Its sources include fish, poultry, red meat, peanuts and fortified hot or cold cereals.

Chua says Vitamin D, Niacin, and CoQ10 is the best combination for heart health. Unfortunately, there is not enough of these nutrients found in food, so you need to get these from the sun and through food supplements.

Vitamin C

Over-the-counter vitamins have very low concentrations, according to Chua. For Vitamin C, however, only 10 grams a day is the safe dosage, he stresses.

Vitamin C is needed for healthy blood vessels, iron absorption, and brain function. Kiwi, red berries, tomatoes, red and green capsicums, spinach, guava, broccoli, grapefruit, and orange juice are rich in Vitamin C.


Yeasts and good bacteria are combined to form probiotics, which aid in immunity and the digestive process. These are common in yogurt, cheese, milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, brine-cured olives and fermented cabbage or kimchi.

Chua specifically prescribes probiotics to those unable to regularly include fiber in their diet. Fiber helps with muscle and nervous system function.

“You want living, not dead, bacteria,” he says, so keep your probiotics chilled to make sure the good bacteria live.

The probiotics and prebiotics (the food that sustains probiotics) in the milk brand Nido 3+ Protectus helps Zion protected from within and with a strong immunity against diseases, says Zion’s mom, actress Sarah Lahbati.

Actress Sarah Lahbati with partner Richard Guiterrez and son Zion. Instagram/Sarah Lahbati

“I’m more secured in letting him explore. Thus, he’s been more playful and interested in other fields such as music,” shares Sarah.

Her wish this Christmas is for Zion to have “good health, good grades, and more blessings and wisdom from above.”

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