Tinolang manok. Handout photo from Sentro
MANILA – While Filipino food is usually represented by fatty dishes like lechon and sisig, there are actually local dishes that are good for you.
Registered nutritionist-dietitian Harrell Wong, who is a firm believer that no food is off-limits as long as it is consumed in moderation, came up with a list of 10 Filipino dishes which he considers healthy.
"The common Filipino diet is disproportionate and is heavy with fatty meat and sweets which lacks essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs to properly function," Wong said in an article posted by the Department of Health on its website.
"To help you eat healthier, here are 10 healthy and delicious common Filipino dishes that you can include in your diet to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs," he said.
This spicy Bicol favorite, which is best enjoyed with steaming hot rice, is made from gabi leaves and coconut milk. According to Wong, the taro leaves are rich in Vitamins A, C and iron.
The Ilocos staple pinakbet features several vegetables like talong, ampalaya, kalabasa, okra and sitaw mixed with bagoong. "The dish is generally high in fiber and Vitamin A," Wong said.
3. Tinolang Manok
One of the most popular Filipino dishes, tinolang manok features chicken in a ginger-based soup with green papaya wedges (an alternative is sayote) and dahong sili.
"Sayote used in the dish is high in folate which cannot be synthesized by the human body and must therefore be supplied through our diets. Folate is essential in the production of red blood cells and can be found in green leafy vegetables," Wong wrote, adding that chicken is a rich source of protein with considerably less fat compared to other meats.
Wong did not cite a specific dish, except to say it can be substituted for spinach in soups and other vegetable dishes. But he noted that the malunggay leaf, which has been dubbed a “miracle vegetable,” is rich in Vitamins B, C, iron, and magnesium.
5. Lumpiang Ubod
Lumpiang ubod is made with fresh coconut shoot or ubod, carrot, spring onions, singkamas and lettuce, which are wrapped in an egg wrapper and served with a thick sauce and crushed peanuts. "The dish is high in Vitamin A," Wong said.
6. Ginisang Munggo
The humble ginisang munggo is prepared by simmering mung beans and ampalaya or malunggay leaves in water. "this tasty dish is packed with folate, thiamine, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus – all of which are needed for the human body to properly function," Wong said.
7. Sinigang na Isda
With a variety of fresh fish to choose from – take a pick from milkfish (bangus), red snapper (maya-maya), salmon, and grouper (lapu-lapu) -- this dish features a sour soup base mixed with vegetables. "The fish is a good source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids, while the water spinach (kangkong) provides decent amounts of Vitamins A and C," Wong noted.
8. Ginisang Sitaw
The primary ingredients of this simple dish are sitaw and kalabasa. These two vegetables, Wong said, "provide good amounts of fiber and Vitamin C."
9. Gising Gising
This vegetable dish, which is prepared by mixing chopped green beans in coconut milk, is bound to wake you up with its spice level. Wong said the beans are an "excellent source" of Vitamins B6, C, K, manganese, zinc and fiber, while the coconut milk is rich in iron.
10. Ensaladang Talong
One of the more popular side dishes for grilled meats, the ensaladang talong is made of chopped eggplant and fresh tomato. Wong pointed out that the eggplant provides B vitamins and manganese, while the tomato is rich in Vitamin C and lycopene.