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Please be careful with your heart

Published by Manila Bulletin (February 10, 2015)

There’s an old saying that goes: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It means that cooking food for a man will pave the way to win his affections. But I would like to literally interpret this as what you eat could directly affect your heart.

It is essential to practice moderation in food intake but it is also vital for your heart’s health to be mindful of food substances that could be harmful when taken in excess.



Not all fats were created equal. Saturated fats from fatty meats, poultry with skin, butter, whole milk, cheese, coconut, and palm oil can increase your risk of developing heart diseases by elevating your cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fat has less damaging effects. It’s abundant in walnut, fish, avocado, olives, olive oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil.


A fat-like substance that is produced in the body from cell membranes and hormones, cholesterol is not all that bad. But having an excess will surely be detrimental to your health. It can build plaques in your arteries which could lead to a fatal heart attack. Therefore, we need to limit foods that are high in cholesterol like organ meats, fatty meat, animal fat, whole milk dairy products, and egg yolks.


Sodium is an essential electrolyte that balances fluids in the body. A maximum of one teaspoon of salt per day is recommended by the American Heart Association to prevent increase in blood pressure. Avoid adding table salt and condiments which contain sodium during meal times. Use herbs and spices to flavor dishes.

Meanwhile, here are my favorite flavorful, heart healthy recipes from the American Heart Association’s Meals in Minutes Cookbook.


Serves four (1/2 cup per serving)

39 Calories per serving


1 medium to large cucumber

1 cup fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt or nonfat or light sour


1/4 cup fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried

1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 to 2 medium cloves,


1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt


Peel cucumber if desired. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon discard seeds. Slice cucumber into thin crescents.

In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Author’s note:

You can also use garlic powder to flavor.



Serves four (three ounces chicken and one cup pasta per serving)

319 Calories per serving


4 boneless, skinless chicken

breast halves, remove visible


Vegetable oil spray

1/4 cup bottled sun-dried

tomato pesto

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons dry red wine

(regular or nonalcoholic)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2

teaspoon dried basil,


1/4 teaspoon salt

9 ounces refrigerated fat-free

angel hair pasta


Boil water for pasta. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and spray with vegetable oil spray. Return to heat and cook chicken for two minutes on each side.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients except pasta. Pour over chicken. Reduce heat and simmer, cover for six to eight minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

When water for pasta comes to boil, cook pasta using package direction, omitting salt and oil; don’t overcook. Drain well.

To serve, place pasta on serving platter, arrange chicken on top, spoon sauce all over.

Author’s note:

You can also use whole grain pasta and fresh tomatoes with homemade pesto sauce.

What would Jesus eat?

Published by Manila Bulletin, January 27, 2015

“Don’t focus on me; focus on Jesus” — Pope Francis

His Holiness may have left our country but these words will remain in my heart forever. Being reminded to put Jesus in the center of our lives, it is my desire to encourage everyone to reflect on all aspects of their lives including health.

We often call on Jesus for help when we have financial and relationship problems. We ask for healing when we are sick. But when it comes to losing weight we often resort to “unhealthy quick fixes” that are detrimental to our wellbeing.

Losing weight is not bad. In fact, it will not only make you look great but also decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases. well1

Perhaps you have tried everything to bring your weight down but your efforts were futile. Frustrating, isn’t it? You may have asked these questions many times before: “I have done everything. What else should I do to achieve my goal?” or “I have spent so much on weight loss products and services. What have I missed?”

Let me ask you this question. Have you ever prayed to Jesus and asked for His help in making you lose weight? You see, for almost 13 years of being a dietitian consultant, I have met many people struggling with their weights. I, myself was not exempted from this when I had thyroid problems and I could personally vouch for the effectiveness of a weight management program when prayers are included.

Quoting with permission, award-winning actress Eugene Domingo who went through a weight loss journey herself and is an advocate of holistic approach to weight management recently said to me: “May faith and prayers din ang pagiging health conscious. [Being health conscious involves faith and prayers.]”

If you have decided to include Jesus in your wellness journey, wouldn’t it make sense to also know and adapt the way He eats?

Based on biblical principles and scientific researches, author of the book What Would Jesus Eat? Don Colbert, MD likened Jesus’ diet to that of the Mediterranean Diet we know of today.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean Diet is heart-healthy and is associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Will it help you lose weight? Yes and here’s how and why.

Plant based foods and whole grains are mostly consumed in this type of diet. It is important to choose grains that are not refined. Black, brown and red rice have more fiber than white rice. Whole wheat or multigrain bread also has a higher fiber content than white bread. Whole grain pasta, corn, potato, sweet potato, vegetables, fruits, and legumes are great sources of energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fish, seafood, poultry, and eggs are very good protein sources and when eaten in moderation will help decrease fat intake. Protein will also help build muscles which will make your body more efficient in burning calories.

Yogurt is rich in calcium and also contains probiotics which can enhance immune system, promote gut health, and aid in weight loss.

Unsalted and unsweetened nuts are good sources of unsaturated fats which are heart-friendly. Since nuts are high in fat, portion control should be observed. Do not exceed more than 1/2 cup per day.

This diet also uses small amounts of olive oil instead of butter which helps in controlling cholesterol and facilitating bowel movement.

Pork, beef, and other red meats are eaten sparingly only on special occasions to lower intake of cholesterol and saturated fats.

Sweets are also eaten in small amounts and only during special occasions to decrease sugar intake. Instead, fruits are eaten for dessert.

Herbs and spices are commonly used to add flavor in cooking instead of salt and sugar.

One serving of red wine (four to five ounces) is also included. However, there is no reason to start drinking if you don’t take alcohol.

As you go on with your weight loss journey, may you consider Jesus as your guide and allow Him to help you adapt a healthier lifestyle.