By Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service
If you want to control your cholesterol level, better include camote or its cousins in your daily fare. In a study by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, it was found that root crops abundant in the country can keep bad cholesterol level down.
Led by DOST-FNRI’s Dr. Trinidad Trinidad, the study team discovered that daily intake of root crops significantly lowers bad cholesterol levels in the body.
“Root crops are able to lower bad cholesterol levels because of their dietary fiber content,” said Dr. Trinidad. Dietary fiber or roughage is that part of the vegetable or fruit that is not digested and not absorbed in a human's digestive tract.
“Dietary fibers come from a family of carbohydrates that ferments in the colon, turning into short-chain fatty acids that release energy,” Trinidad explained. “These fatty acids include butyrate, which prevents the risk of colon cancer, and propionate which helps prevent cholesterol synthesis.”
Aside from dietary fiber, root crops also contain vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
The study involved subjects aged 30-55 years, physically and mentally fit, and with moderately-raised serum cholesterol levels. The subjects were non-smokers and were not under any medication. They were all fed with test food for two weeks.
The team used various root crops such as camote (sweet potato), gabi (taro), tugi (lesser or Chinese yam), ube (purple yam), and cassava.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the cholesterol level of the subjects remained stable. Trinidad’s team concluded that root crops, due to their cholesterol-lowering effect, would be important in the proper control and management of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.
In individual analysis, the team found that all the root crops used in the study decreased the level of bad cholesterol, especially cassava and camote. The team also discovered that tugi, a root crop abundant in the north, even increased good cholesterol.
In another study, researchers found that corn is good for the heart. It contains
folate that lowers the level of homocysteine, a kind of amino acid that damages the lining of arteries and may make blood clot more easily than it should. High homocysteine levels may lead to heart attack.
Corn also has thiamin and pantothenic acid that help in producing energy for the body and in reducing stress.
Root crops and corn are traditional Filipino foods that, in some parts of the country, serve as staple food. For the average Filipino, root crops and corn are best eaten as snacks—tasty, filling, and inexpensive.
So if you want to keep your cholesterol down, junk the grease and go back to eating boiled corn, camote, and cassava. “These foods used to be labeled as ‘pagkain ng mahirap’ (food for the poor) but now it is also for the rich,” quipped Trinidad.
Even that sweet camote que is good, “as long as there’s not much sugar in it and you eat in moderation,” Trinidad advised.