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Eating Healthy in the Philippines?

 have written a few articles about the healthy fresh vegetables here in the Philippines. That is true, there are many vegetables available and especially on Mindanao where agriculture is a big business. But there is a large amount of people with High Blood Pressure.

At the markets, there is a fresh supply of vegetables delivered daily. If you eat at home a lot and if the person doing the cooking is educated on cooking in a healthy conscience way, you can eat well and healthy.

There are 3 things in the normal Filipino cooking culture that is not very healthy. They are fried foods, salt and msg. Most of the main items are fried, chicken, fish, beef and pork. Frying is the main way of cooking. When I first visited Elena’s home and when I first moved here I noticed so much frying. Items not usually fried in Western culture are fried here.

I experienced bacon, hamburger, canned corned beef hash fried in oil. There is also the usual Filipino diet of dried fish that is fried. Chicken, pork, beef and fish is fried. Filipinos will also add garlic to left over rice and fry that too.

Also soup cubes or otherwise known as bouillon cubes are used often for soups and sauces. The 2 main ingredients are salt and MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate). Then most foods are eaten with Soy Sauce which is high in salt also. Many homes have MSG and add it to their cooking too.

I heard MSG was actually a neurotoxin. I tried to research this fact and found supporting and non-supporting reports about MSG. I do know as I child, I would get severe headaches after eating Chinese food at one restaurant. I also noticed here, after eating in local restaurants serving local foods I would feel tired and had dry mouth.

I am not a doctor, but I know too much salt and too much fried foods are not good for your health. When I was young, and in Basic Training in the U.S. Army, I saw in the Mess Halls dispensers for Salt Tablets. I was in Basic Training during the winter, but was told, in the summers, they used to give the recruits salt tables to help retain fluids in the body. I was also told this practice was stopped for health reasons, but the dispensers were not removed as of yet.

I remember, one of the reasons for the need of some salt is for the iodine. Well, living so close to the gulf, there is enough salt and iodine in the air you get most of your needed intake just from breathing.
Here at home, we do not use granulated MSG, bouillon cubes and cook with less salt. Also there is more foods sauteed in Olive oil. We also use a pressure cooker for a most of the beef and pork.

If you are conscience of healthy cooking, and your wife is willing to learn, you can eat healthier here in the Philippines.

16 Responses to “Eating Healthy in the Philippines?”

  1. don m. says:

    Very good advice. My wife still fries way to much food and loves her msg. I have been on a diet the last two months and lost 29 pounds. I don’t eat fish. The last two months I have mostly had turkey. The last time I was in the philippines I made a cabage salad for my in-laws and they said it was very good. Diet there is often based on the lack of money and the habits developed over a life time of eating. It is very cheap to add salt to make food taste better. I know that fish is good but that for me is also a food distast from my childhood. This is a bit disjointed. Keep up the good writing.

    • Bruce says:

      Don M,
      I remember when the Chinese restaurants in the US stopped using MSG and I never tasted the difference. According to something I read, MSG actually does not enhance flavor, it triggers the brain to enjoy. I had for many years disliked fish, mainly because the bones and trying to find them once felt in the mouth. I started eating Sawfish since it has no bones, then I went back to salmon for the taste. There are many “white” meat fish that has light flavor and picks up the seasoning like Halibut and Chilean Sea Bass. In the US I would buy Talapia fillets breaded, I put a mango salsa over it and loved it.

  2. Hi, Can you purchase Olive Oil and a Pressure Cooker in the Philippines? Just curious.

    You are right on the excess of fried foods, but a fry pan is so fast and convenient. 🙂 as most people cook on gas.

    One other item to add that is used a lot down there as well as salt and MSG is sugar. They like their sweet stuff too.

    • Bruce says:

      John,
      Olive oil is avaliable here in the import section, and I have seen pressure cookers here. I purchased mine in the US and brought it with me.
      I agree, they add sugar to premixed Hot Chocolate and other premixed drinks.

  3. Palawan says:

    Very nice post bruce, I’ll comment in a hurry..hehehe..we Filipinos love salty foods. When we eat mangoes that are not ripe, there has to be salt to eat with eat. That also goes to some fruits we eat that are not ripe…. I like to eat cooked bananas, (those that are not ripe) together with ginamos…hehehe…but as of now I try to refrain from those since I already have UTI…hehehee

    • Bruce says:

      JohnRay,
      I do not think salt causes UTI, maybe it is all your girlfriends (Just joking Bernadette). I have found I like the tastes of food so I use very few condiments on anything. Just a little soy sauce on plain rice to give it some flavor. For cooking there are many seasonings to add flavor and not salt.
      When your young you think you are infallible, nothing can harm you. You get older and your body reminds you of all the damage you have done in your youth. My whole digestive system from top to bottom is shot. I know it was all the fast foods, cakes and not a lot of fruits and vegetables in my younger years.
      It is your health and your body. It is up to you.

  4. Very interesting topic. I have started to eat a lot better now since I started to run regularly. I have never been so fit in my life as I am now at 39 (soon), and then I have been playing icehockey and football when I was young so I can compare with that time.
    With regular exercise one gets a lot of things for free. But I am very interesting in eating healthy if I ever move to the Philippines. That is very important to me.
    What I do try to eat a lot of is fish (only eat salmon here in Sweden) and vegetables and a lot of fruit. It doesnt pass a day without a banana. I cant live without them. Bananas are really good for the stomache. I also eat a lot of olives. But I like to fry many kinds of food I cook, even the salmon :-(.

    • Bruce says:

      Stefan,
      I am jealous. Salmon is a cold water fish and as you know there is no cold water here except from the shower. 🙂
      I love samlon, fresh, canned and ummmm smoked. In America I ate salmon an average of twice a week. I at times think of the packages of smoked Norwegian salmon that does not have to be refrigerated. MAybe some day someone will ship me a present.

  5. I will never forget the Mango I bought near the Davao city hall a few months ago in a stall. It was so much salt on it that I couldnt eat it!!!!

    • Bruce says:

      Stefan,
      Your so right, Filipinos love salt. In cooking, on foods, over fruit. The funny part is you rarely see salt and pepper shakers on restaurant tables.

  6. Evelyn says:

    it is a filipino culture..filipinos love to eat,sing and laugh according to one article i have read…we eat at least 5 times a day.would you believe that? why 5x?here it is:breakfast,midmorning snack,lunch,mid afternoon snack and supper and sometimes snack while watching tv at night..so that is a total of 6…hamburger and spaghetti are considered snacks not a meal..in the USA ,hamburger with french fries is already a complete meal or spaghetti with garlic bread is one complete meal but here they’re just under the snack category..

  7. Evelyn says:

    you are right,bruce….it is just a snack if you eat something that does not have rice with it..
    actually, i am now blogging here in gensan..just arrived this morning and i am sweating sweat already..hahaha..i am used to this kind of weather because i have lived here almost all my life but after having lived in the US for quite a while it(weather) seemed different. i remember before– i have a friend who went home after a year of staying in the US(take note the JUST A YEAR) and she complained about how hot the Phil is and i raised one of my brows (meaning i was sort of disagreeing to her story). but now i have understood everything what she said before having experienced the same..actually,it is the humidity that makes us uncomfortable…
    anyway,since the topic is about eating healthy in the Phil, my first food today was my comfort food..my cousin cooked LAW-OY(PRONOUNCED law as in how change the h to L and oy to like saying boy but without b) .Well, this is a kind of soup making use of different vegies mostly green leafy vegetables but no oil of any kind..please ask elena.i’m sure she knows this.My cousin used, sweet potatoes (called camote),eggplant,camote tops,alugbati (similar to spinach)and plenty of malunggay leaves.and mind you ..there was no MSG..Geez, i ate like a hungry horse..one can also put other vegies to this like string beans,okra and squash or upo( bottle gourd)or what ever vegies available in the kitchen..as long as it is cooked witout sauteeing..
    well, since i am now here in the Phil, why don’t we get to see each other..i’ll plan on meeting you and your wife sometime soon after i have adusted to my body clock–after the jet lag flies away..bye for now and see you SOON..

    • Bruce says:

      Evelyn,
      Welcome back to the Philippines. Remember to drink lots of water and take umbrella with you.
      Elena makes law-oy, but I just eat, never ask what it is called.
      I love vegies here, except maybe okra, and like to see some at every dinner.
      We would love to meet up with you. Next week is bad with Holy Week. How long you planning to visit here.

  8. Expat 21 says:

    One other thing I’ll add to your post is that when I traveled in Indonesia I noticed that they fried everything in PALM oil in paricular, which is supposed to be especially unhealthy. I’m guessing they might use palm oil in the Philippines, too?

    Expat 21

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