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.

Is bone broth the next super food?

Published by Manila Bulletin on January 20, 2015

When I was a child, my mother and grandmother used to give me soup whenever I’m down with the flu or suffering from stomach upset. Now that I am all grown up and living thousands of miles away from my parents, I still look for soup whenever I’m sick. It always made me feel better. Perhaps it contains nutrients that help my body recover. Or maybe, it simply reminds me of the love and comfort that I felt during my childhood “sickly” years. Either way, soup has always been one of my comfort foods.

20SuperfoodWhat I’ve always thought of as a very common, old simple recipe has recently been gaining much popularity and could possibly be the next superfood that will be the solution to many types of illnesses.

Search the internet and you will find numerous articles on bone broth and its health benefits. The main question is, do these claims have scientific basis or is the public being made to believe something that has not been proven at all?

It is prudent for us consumers to first and foremost obtain all the facts we can get before deciding on whether or not something is beneficial to our health or not, agree?

What then is bone broth and why is it on the verge of dethroning the current antioxidant-rich superfoods from the limelight in the world of wellness?

Bone broth is made by boiling bones from beef, pork, poultry (chicken), or fish for several hours until they breakdown and supposedly release protein and minerals specifically collagen and calcium.

Collagen is a component that keeps the integrity of our skin intact. It’s degradation causes what we all dread—wrinkles! It is also found in our hair, bones, teeth, tendons, cartilage, and serves as connective tissue for the body cells.

Calcium, on the other hand, is commonly associated with bone health but this mineral also plays a big role in keeping the heart and muscles functioning properly.

Bones used in bone broth also contain other minerals like magnesium and iron. This budding superfood has been linked to bone health, increased immunity, digestive health, inflammation, and reduction of joint pain.

Bulalo, anyone?

Knowing all these health benefits, should we start gulping down bowls of bone broth every day? What about the Filipino favorite bulalo soup or bone marrow soup?

Despite the fact that some health practitioners and health enthusiasts claim that they have seen favorable results through their experience in taking bone broth, there are still no clinical or strong scientific evidence that bone broth can actually help cure some illnesses. Until further studies have been conducted, bone broth, as of this very moment, cannot be considered the next superfood.

As for the bulalo soup, delicious it may be, too much and frequent intake will surely clog your arteries causing life-threatening diseases.

In doing my own research, I came across a rare international peer-reviewed journal entitled Bone and Vegetable Broth published in 1934 by R. A. McCance, W. Sheldon, and E.M. Widdowson from the Biochemical and Children’s Departments of King’s College Hospital in London.

Results of their study showed that by chemical standards, bone and vegetable broths have low nutritive value. Nitrogen loss was evident within seven hours of boiling and minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron) were completely lost within one to two hours of boiling at 100 degrees Celsius.

They also concluded that after qualitative analysis, the only protein obtained from the bones was gelatin (from collagen), which does not have much biological value considering that it lacks some essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) which our body cannot produce on its own and therefore need to be derived from the intake of protein-rich sources like beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and fish.

Now, given these facts from the experiences of some health practitioners and this one study that I have found, would I still have bone broth? My answer is yes. Pending further studies to prove these claims, warm bone broth does have practical benefits. It is soothing, enhances satiety, reduces caloric intake, helps in weight loss and keeps us hydrated.

In her interview with The Huffington Post, Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet said, “It’s not a miracle cure like some outlets talk about, but still a good-for-you food. It is hydrating, contains veggie and herb anti-inflammatories, and the bones provide collagen, a protein which may help with our own bone, joint, and skin health.”

Bone broths prepared at home are your best option. Remember to read nutrition labels for sodium content when buying commercially prepared broths and soups.

Start your year right

Published by Manila Bulletin on January 13, 2015

We all want to start the New Year with a clean slate, don’t we? Some of you might be thinking of going on a restrictive diet, starting an exercise program, undergoing detox, and anything that could help you effectively lose the excess weight you’ve gained over the holidays. I say to you now: Hold your horses and allow me to shed some light into how you could start a happy, healthy new year the right way!

The first thing that you should do is set realistic health goals and write them down. Any goal that has not been written down is considered a dream. And I’m sorry to say this but, sometimes, dreams just don’t come true in the real world. Read your goals and review them regularly to be able to keep track of your progress throughout the year.

13dietLet’s talk more about setting realistic health goals. Think of your health as a journey and not something that has an endpoint. Why? Because we should be aiming for something that is sustainable. One that will make you healthy for the rest of your life. If your goal is to lose 20 lbs in one month by going on a very low calorie diet and excessively working out each day, then yes that goal is possible. However, if you do not have the proper mindset to truly change your lifestyle into a healthier one, then all your hard work will be futile. You will easily regain those 20 lbs, or maybe even more. When your body tells you that it has been deprived and overworked, you will be compelled to give in to the temptation of overeating again and not exercising. This cycle of deprivation and indulgence will never end. You will be setting the same goals each year and end up making the same mistakes over and over again.

Let’s put an end to that, shall we?

There is nothing wrong with being specific as to the amount of weight you wish to lose this year, but bear in mind that it will take more than just dieting and exercising to help maintain your weight loss. You need to change your eating and exercise lifestyle patterns one step at a time.

Start by gradually decreasing your portion serving sizes. For example, if you’re used to eating two cups of rice per meal, reduce it to one and a half cups then a cup or half a cup depending on your body’s requirement. If you love to eat sweets everyday, do not totally cut down on it so you won’t feel deprived rather start reducing portions and incorporating fruits and smoothies into your diet to get that sweetness you are craving for.

It is also important to make a grocery list or plan your meals by adding some vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy products instead of just drinking juices or eating soup, and crackers the whole day. Variety is key. You cannot get all the nutrients that your body needs for optimum health from just one type of food.

If you have been physically inactive for a long time, do not begin an intense exercise program. Slowly start with 10- to 15-minute exercises and gradually increase the duration, intensity, and frequency as you build more strength and stamina.

In the process of adapting healthy habits and slowly letting go of the unhealthy ones, you will eventually and steadily lose weight. Just be patient and realistic. You did not gain weight overnight therefore you will not lose weight overnight.

Drastic weight loss is difficult to sustain but gradual weight loss cannot be easily regained. So instead of focusing on being skinny right away, pursue health through holistic lifestyle modification, after all, healthy is the new sexy.

Holy cramps!

Published by Manila Bulletin on January 6, 2015

After all the food you have eaten to celebrate and welcome the New Year, it suddenly comes like an uninvited and unwanted guest. It makes you feel queasy, gassy and bloated. You may also experience abdominal pain, heartburn, difficulty in breathing, belching, acidity, or may even throw up! These symptoms may last for days on end. Say hello to indigestion.

124Indigestion can happen to anyone who eats too fast, eats too much food, consumes high fat foods, drinks too much alcohol, eats when stressed out, and smokes cigarettes. The factors I have mentioned commonly happen during or even after the holiday season when almost everyone had the tendency to have eaten eat more than usual and may have had more than a drink or two to celebrate the happy season.

Indigestion can be prevented by adapting healthy eating habits and learning how to manage stress. However you may still get indigestion due to some diseases, medications, and pregnancy. The following tips can help ease your pain and discomfort. These may also help prevent this condition.

• Drink peppermint tea. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. As a result, food passes through the stomach more quickly. However, if your symptoms of indigestion are related to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, you should not use peppermint.”

• Eat smaller portions while taking time to chew your food properly. Be mindful not only of what you eat but how you eat as well. Decreasing your eating pace has a lot of benefits, too. It will enhance satiety and decrease the amount of calories consumed. It will also allow you to socialize more.

• Avoid stressful situations if you can and seek relaxation during and after meals. Listen to calm music, read, meditate, or engage in relaxing conversations. Save those serious topics and sad news for later.

• Don’t talk when your mouth is full. You will swallow more air which will cause bloating and make symptoms of indigestion worse.

• Loosen tight clothing or avoid wearing tight fitting clothes. They compress the stomach which can cause a reflux or backflow of the contents into the esophagus. This condition may cause pain on your chest which is also known as heartburn.

• Avoid lying down right after eating. Sitting down or walking can help facilitate the movement of food down your digestive system.

• Avoid eating before bedtime. Your last meal or food intake should not be less than three hours before sleeping to allow time for proper digestion.

• Do not exercise right after eating. It is best to exercise before a meal or one to two hours after.

• Drink fluids after eating instead of during a meal.

• Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.

• Avoid spicy and high fat foods.

• Avoid smoking cigarettes before and after meals or consider quitting altogether.

If symptoms persist, it is best to seek medical advice to be given proper diagnosis and treatment.

Prevent holiday heart attack

5 easy steps to remember for a happy, healthy holiday

Manila Bulletin published December 16, 2014

We have seen an increase in the incidence of heart attacks occurring during this time of the year. Unfortunately it peaks around Christmas and the New Year’s when everyone is enjoying the festivities over rich, sumptuous, and delicious dishes.

And what do these yummy, fatty foods have in common? You got it—cholesterol!

There are two types of cholesterol—HDL (good) and LDL (bad). The good one has more proteins attached to it and helps carry cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down and removed. On the other hand, bad cholesterol can clog arteries and block blood flow while increasing risk for heart diseases.eat1

A heart attack happens when blood flow is impeded causing the heart muscle to get damaged or worst, die. Blockage of the arteries where the blood flows is caused by the buildup of cholesterol. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.

Here are some tips on how to prevent the holiday heart attack.

Practice portion control. Now is not the time to go on a strict diet. Depriving oneself is a sure way to ruin the holiday season. However, it is also important not to indulge on too much food. As the saying goes, too much of anything is not good. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Take small bites while engaging in table conversations. Drink water while eating. If you have to, taste small portions of foods prepared with fat and sugar occasionally. Don’t devour a plateful of high fat, high sugar, and high caloric foods in every meal.

Easy on the fat. Watch out for foods that contain saturated fats and cholesterol like thick sauces, gravies, dressings, processed foods, casseroles, baked goodies, desserts, egg yolks, and our noche buena staples hamon, lechon, and leche flan. Have small portions of these and balance intake with high fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as well as foods that contain omega 3 like fatty fishes (tuna, salmon) and walnuts.

Limit salt intake. Sodium in salt affects the blood pressure. Hypertension is a risk factor for heart attack. Since dishes are usually seasoned with salt and other herbs and spices while cooking, there is no need to add more table salt and condiments that contain sodium such as soy sauce, fish sauce (patis), bagoong, and the like while eating. Consume potassium-rich foods like bananas and sayote.

Keep track of your sugar level. Diabetes is also a risk factor for heart attack. It is important to monitor the blood glucose level if you are diabetic. Avoid sweetened beverages. Eat well-balanced meals with lots of fiber and observe proper meal timing every four to six hours to have a consistent and normal supply of glucose in the body. Drastic changes in blood sugar level (highs and lows) may cause serious medical conditions.

Do not overdo exercise to compensate for guilt feelings after overeating. Be physically active without exhausting your heart to increase your metabolism. This will surely help control your weight and keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels down. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your exercise as you build strength and stamina. If you have been sedentary for a long time, don’t lift heavy weights or hop on the treadmill for 60 minutes the first time you decided to be physically active. You might just pass out and do more harm to your heart. Start with light activities on short duration only. For example, 10 minutes of walking three times a day on most days of the week.

Skip the santa belly

Manila Bulletin published December 9, 2014

2SantaChristmas is the season to be merry but how can one be truly merry after all the festivities when one’s belly is trying to mimic that of Santa’s?

It could get frustrating when you can no longer fit into your tight jeans or feel heavy and sluggish during the holidays right?

Wish you didn’t indulge yourself with those calorie-laden foods that are so irresistible? Too much sugar, fat, and excess calories from the food we eat coupled with physical inactivity will definitely make us gain weight in no time. As the saying goes, a moment on the lips, forever on the hips!

However, it’s not just about what and how much food you eat. There are other factors that could make you gain weight over the holidays.


• The number one culprit is being sedentary.

“Hey! This is the only chance I get to rest and do nothing but sleep and eat all day”, you say. Yeah, I feel you and believe me I want to do that, too. However, being on vacation is no reason for us not to move around and burn some calories. In fact, this is the best time to include at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week since you have a lot of time on your hands when you’re not out partying or entertaining guests at home. Be conscious about your physical activity by choosing a type of exercise that you enjoy doing, set a schedule and stick to it.


• The second santa belly buster secret is to keep yourself well hydrated.

Inadequate water intake will wreak havoc with your body’s metabolism therefore making you inefficient in burning calories. Drink one to two glasses of water upon waking up and before going to bed. Drink one glass of water or clear soup before every meal. Drink water all throughout the day. Do not wait until you get thirsty because that is a signal that your body is already dehydrated.



• More Zzzzz.

Quality sleep is often neglected during the holidays. When that happens, the balance between hormones that control our appetites and cravings go berserk. We tend to eat more to keep us awake which leads to excessive caloric intake and weight gain. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep. You can also take 15 to 30-minute power naps during the day. Keep this in mind: When one is asleep, one cannot eat. However, for some, oversleeping is the problem. It can make you feel more exhausted and sluggish. When that happens, you don’t have enough energy to exercise and may tend to eat more to try to get energy. Lack of sleep or too much of it can affect your eating pattern and weight.

Have a happy healthy holiday season!

Have yourself a BEERy merry Christmas

Published by Manila Bulletin, November 25, 2014

Christmas is in the air and for us Filipinos it may be the most celebrated holiday of the year. The festivities are not just about eating. For some, it’s all about drinking too!

Although this article is not meant to encourage non-alcoholic drinkers to start drinking solely for health benefits, people who enjoy drinking need not say good bye to alcohol either.

464Red wine has long enjoyed the limelight of being the No. 1 alcoholic beverage that has astounding health benefits due to it’s resveratrol content. Resveratrol is an antioxidant derived from grapes that promotes heart health by preventing platelet aggregation which causes atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease. These could lead to a fatal condition known as stroke.

While red wine is basking in its popularity around the world, let’s move closer to home where beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage.

Surprisingly, beer has a number of health benefits tantamount to that of red wine. It is primarily the ethanol in beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages that increases good cholesterol (HDL), lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), and reduces the risk of blood clotting.

Moderate beer consumption decreases the risk of developing kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages. This may be due to its high water content, diuretic effect, and compounds that slow the release of calcium from bones which is linked to kidney stone formation.

Beer also contains soluble fiber like the type found in oatmeal which can help lower cholesterol levels. The darker the beer color gets, the higher the fiber content.

Vitamin B12 and other B-Vitamins are also found in beer. Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell production, nervous system and brain health. However, alcohol can actually block the effectiveness of these vitamins.

Beer can also greatly impact bone health due to its silicon content. This element can help strengthen your skeletal system by increasing bone density. But take it easy and don’t replace your dairy products with beer because too much intake can actually weaken your bones.

How much alcohol consumption is beneficial and how much is detrimental to our health?

According to an article by James H. O’Keefe, M.D. et al which was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings on Feb. 26: “Habitual light to moderate alcohol intake (up to one drink per day for women and one or two drinks per day for men) is associated with decreased risks for total mortality, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, and stroke. However, higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with increased cardiovascular risk.”


Beer – 12 ounces or 360ml

Wine – 5 ounces or 150 ml

Distilled spirits (80 proof) -1.5 ounces or 45 ml

Although beer has its health benefits, it should be consumed in moderation. After all, too much will not only damage your heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs but also cause you to gain weight. A 12-ounce bottle or a can of beer contains approximately 150 kcal. That is equivalent to eating 3/4 cup of rice.

People with medical conditions should avoid alcohol consumption and seek medical advice.

As we toast to good health this holiday season, remember to drink moderately and responsibly.