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Enjoy good food and keep heart healthy too: Tips on how to be heart smart |

Health And Family

Enjoy good food and keep heart healthy too: Tips on how to be heart smart

Dolly Dy-Zulueta -
Enjoy good food and keep heart healthy too: Tips on how to be heart smart
MakatiMed reminds us to eat healthy and in moderation to stay healthy.
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MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos love to eat. Backing this up is a recent survey conducted by global market research firm YouGov, which concluded that 97% of Filipinos love eating Filipino food after polling 25,000 people from 24 countries.

It is said that many Filipinos are adventurous, leaving them trying all sorts of cuisines. Like many, Filipinos also love their comfort food, and most of these are Filipino food. 

The world is just starting to get to know Filipino cuisine, which is a result of different cultural influences and ingredients of neighboring Southeast Asian nations, not to mention the cooking styles from 22 regions scattered across more than 7,000 islands.

Filipino cuisine is characterized by its unique balance of salty-sour-sweet. What makes Filipino cuisine deadly in the eyes of food and health experts is that it is replete with “fried food, a wide variety of rich and savory sauces, and unlimited servings of piping hot white rice,” said the socio-cultural research firm Fourth Wall.

Too much of a good thing, as a famous adage said, can be bad, and when the rich Filipino food is combined with a sedentary lifestyle and unshakable habits, like smoking and drinking, these could only lead to some serious health problems.

Of these health problems — obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension — it is heart disease that Filipinos should be most concerned about.

“In 2022, heart disease, yet again, ranked as the leading cause of death in Filipinos. 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,” said Noel L. Rosas, MD, a cardiologist from Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed).

Dr. Rosas reminded Filipinos that simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk for heart disease. Here are some suggestions or tips on how to stay heart smart:

  • Exercise regularly. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week. That should make a good average.
  • Drink moderately. If one must drink, regulate the amount consumed.
  • Quit smoking. There is no compromise. 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 the veins and arteries.
  • Eat in moderation. One can still relish a favorite Filipino dishes but it is best to take heed the doctor's advice. “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 advised.

MakatiMed also suggests three ways to eat Filipino food but still keep one 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,” said Dr. Rosas. 

Kangkong (water spinach) helps reduce blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. It is 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 lowers 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,” added the doctor. 

Choose lean protein. 

Go ahead, have a serving of that irresistible Lechon at someone’s birthday party. “But as a rule, stick to lean protein,” shared Dr. Rosas.

Animal protein can be heart-healthy, too, for as long as one chooses 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,” reminded Dr. Rosas. “Fried foods are loaded with saturated and trans-fat, which build 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.”

RELATED: ‘Heart disease still leading cause of death in Philippines’

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