FILIPINO food has, without a doubt, been heating up in the U.S. with Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike enjoying the burgeoning scene on both coasts.
But while dishes like chicken adobo, sisig, lechon, and kare-kare can make mouths water, vegetables and fruits that Filipinos have for long enjoyed also deserve some spotlight as many of them pack many impressive nutrients.
Below is a list of just some of the many fruits and veggies common in Filipino cooking, along with their health benefits:
Also called bitter melon, ampalaya has many beneficial nutrients and has been considered by many cultures to be highly medicinal. Many tout its wonders in helping curb diseases like diabetes.
Usually eaten in the Philippines sauteed with egg, garlic, and tomatoes, the bitter vegetable is packed with vitamins C, A, E, B-1, B-2, B-3, and B-9. It also has a number of minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.
Commonly sauteed, baked in pan de sal, or added to soups, malunggay (or moringa) is believed to have more vitamin C than oranges, more iron potassium than bananas, and more iron than spinach.
Believed to help fight and prevent problems like diabetes and heart disease, the small-leafed vegetable has been gaining recognition in the U.S. and can be bought as capsules, powder, or as an ingredient in nutritional bars.
Kamote (sweet potato) has long been a treat for Filipinos who enjoy it fried, boiled, baked on its own, or as an ingredient in pastries. In the U.S., sweet potatoes have too been hailed the healthier counterpart to the regular potato — replacing the latter in fries and chips among other potato dishes.
Though sweet, kamote has a low glycemic index (when boiled), which means eating them won’t cause blood-sugar spikes. The manganese it contains further helps regulate blood sugar levels by helping the body metabolize carbohydrates.
Kamote can also be great for the heart due to its B6 vitamins, high potassium content, and magnesium which plays a key role in how the body responds to stress.
Common to dishes across Asia, pechay (also known as snow cabbage, Chinese chard or Chinese white cabbage) also provides a great amount of vitamins. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, just one cup of raw pechay has 20.5 milligrams of vitamin C, 60 grams of folate and 32.6 micrograms of vitamin K. In other words, pechay is great for a number of things including our immune system, our bones, and even our cells.
Alugbati, or Malabar spinach, shares similarities with the common spinach found in markets in that it’s very rich in iron which helps the body produce healthy red blood cells.
It is also high in vitamin B9, or folate, which is beneficial for healthy brain function by helping retain emotional and mental health. Another vitamin alugbati is rich in is vitamin A which helps maintain a healthy immune system and eye health.
Eggplant, or talong, is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making it a very nutrient-dense crop. Just one cup of a raw eggplant at only 20 calories has three grams of fiber, and is a good source of manganese, folate, potassium, and vitamins C and K.
Eggplants are also particularly rich in anthocyanins, a pigment that acts as an antioxidant, and is responsible for its color.
Labeled as soursop in most U.S. groceries, guyabano is not only delicious, but it’s also packed with a good amount of vitamin C and fiber. It’s also low calorie while having a high content of antioxidants which protect cells against the effects of free radicals and work in lowering chronic disease risks.