Kamote: a “poor man’s diet”?

Sweet potato, or kamote (camote) in the Philippines, may be considered the “poor man’s diet” in developing nations because it is the cheapest and readily available staples among many poor farmers.  But little do many of us know – including me, of course – that kamote is very rich in vitamins and minerals.

Our body has its own way of communicating what it needs.  It may not be in the language that we know of but it speaks to us nonetheless.  Oftentimes, though, we fail to listen or we simply choose to ignore the pains and longing of our bodies to attend to the “more pressing issues” or we’re just too preoccupied with “busyness in everything and anything”. We tend to slow down only when we get (seriously) ill and can no longer function the way we want our body to. This time it could be too late! This could now be the time of regretting what we should have or have not done!  We might just find ourselves uttering words, such as:

“I wish I did….”

“If only I could…”

“I should have…”

Uncooked kamote
Uncooked kamote

Some years ago, a close friend told me to always listen to what my body has to say because it does not lie.  I didn’t pay much attention to it, though.

Lately, I got tired easily and find it difficult to concentrate on my work. No matter how I got myself to write, I seemed to have run out of ideas. In a sense, I was sort of suffering from brain drain!

At the same time, I was craving for boiled sweet potatoes (Kamote or camote in our dialect). And so, remembering the advice, I decided to buy some kamote from the nearby market, and cooked all one kilo of it. Funny but after some helping, I felt recharged and eager to hit the keyboard and write again.

Curious, I decided to check on the internet what could I have been missing – nutrition-wise. I found out that the humble kamote, which is sometimes called a “poor man’s diet”, is packed with powerful nutrients. And probably, I must have been lacking much, if not all, of these wonderful kamote health benefits:

That, it is a good source of vitamin C.  As we all know, vitamin C promotes digestion, blood cell formation and healing of wounds; protects us from cold and flu viruses as well as from toxins associated with cancer; facilitates in bone and tooth formation; produces collagen for healthy and youthful skin, and; helps us cope with stress.  Apparently, it was stress that kept me slow.

That Kamote is rich in vitamin B6, which is essential in reducing homocysteine in the body.  Homocysteine is a chemical said to be associated with degenerative disease.

That it contains vitamin D which plays a very important role in our immune system and general health.  Vitamin D boosts our energy levels, moods, as well as promotes healthy bones, nerves, heart, skin, and teeth.  Now, I know why I did not have much energy lately.

That it is great source of manganese. Manganese plays a very important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates useful in promoting healthy blood sugar levels.  This trace mineral in kamote stabilizes glucose levels by increasing adinopectin, a significant element in insulin metabolism.  And since kamote has a glycemic index of 50, it is considered a diabetic food.  I thank God I’m not diabetic, and I pray the humble kamote helps in protecting me from acquiring the disease, which has already claimed the life of my elder sister.

That it is a most potent anti-oxidant.  Kamote contains high level of vitamin A or beta-carotene, even higher than that of carrots. Vitamin A, as we all know, is an important anti-oxidant that helps prevent different types of cancer, and protects our skin from the harmful effects of the sun as it deflects and repair cell damage caused by too much exposure to UV rays, shielding us against premature aging. Beta-carotene in the body is converted into vitamin A (retinol), for good eye health and good vision, strong immune system, as well as glowing skin and mucous membranes.  Oh, I need this for my eyes.

That kamote is high in other vitamins, such as: vitamins B2, and E; as well as in minerals like copper, potassium, and iron.

Being one of the essential electrolytes that regulates heartbeat and nerve functions, potassium helps relax muscle contractions, minimizes swelling, and protects and controls the activity of the kidneys.

Iron, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in the production of red and white blood cells, fortifies the body against stress, and promotes metabolism and healthy immune system.

The magnesium content in kamote helps fight stress, allowing the body to relax.  It also promotes healthy bones, heart, blood, muscles, arteries, and nerves.

That kamote is rich in dietary fiber and less in fat content.  A medium size kamote is packed with 26 grams of carbohydrates, of which 3.8 grams are dietary fiber that helps minimize bad cholesterol and eases bowel movement.

That kamote is an effective detoxifying agent.  Kamote absorbs heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury that can build up in the body through consumption of commercially-processed foods, and effectively flushes them out of your system.

After knowing all the kamote health benefits, I now can’t seem to understand why it bears a connotation of a “poor man’s diet”.  Being the cheapest in terms of market value does not have to be of poor quality.

Boiled kamote
Boiled kamote

Kamote is even the best rice substitute.  I was just thinking that if we, in the Philippines, would make it a habit to make kamote a part of our daily diet, we could reduce the risk of getting diabetic, and we probably resolve the issues of rice smuggling and shortage of rice supply.  And eventually, eradicate the corrupt practices surrounding this “rice issues” in the country.

Misa de Aguinaldo: what do you wish for?

Tomorrow, December 16, starts the official observance of Christmas season, which will last until the Epiphany, or during the commemoration of the Magi’s visit to the Child Jesus.

Simbang Gabi

In the Philippines, the celebration commences with Misa de Aguinaldo or Simbang Gabi, a reverential nine-dawn Masses practiced by both the Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in deference to the Blessed Virgin Mary as they anticipate the birth of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

The liturgical importance of Christmas stems from the Season of Advent, the time when believers spiritually prepare and purify themselves to be worthy to receive the Child Jesus. Simbang Gabi, which literally means Night Mass, is actually done as early as 4 o’clock in the morning.

ParolDuring the Christmas season, Filipinos adorn their homes with colorful star-shaped lanterns called parol. Many, if not most, of which are personally hand-crafted according to the owner’s desire. The parol is traditionally believed to serve as an illumination for the parishioners in making their way to the church.  Also, during this period, children and adults alike would go from house to house singing Christmas carols in exchange for an amount of money or goodies.

Many Filipino Catholics believe that if a parishioner who makes a wish during the dawn Masses and is able to complete all nine dawns of the Simbang Gabi, his or her wish would come true. This has been a centuries-old belief that is still kept alive even up to the present.  Many priests, however, observe that only the first and the ninth dawn of the Simbang Gabi seem to have the greatest number of church-goers.

KakaninSimbang Gabi culminates on December 24 or Christmas Eve, which is called the Misa de Gallo or Mass of the Gifts. Shortly after the Misa de Gallo, families gather together in their homes for the Nochebuena, or the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, where they feast on local delicacies and some conventional dishes, like lechon (or roast pig), fried chicken, hamon, pancit, lumpia, fruit salad, spaghetti, quezo de bola, and a lot more.



The history of Simbang Gabi in the Philippines can be traced back to 1669 during the early days of Christianity. Since the Christmas season was also a harvest period, it was customary to hold thanksgiving novenas in the evenings. But the priests noticed that, although still enthusiastic to participate in the Mass, their parishioners, especially farmers, were already tired after a day’s work. And so, the Spanish friars decided to begin the Mass very early in the morning, instead, to allow farmers to participate in it before they proceeded to their fields.  

Since then, this important Christmas tradition became a distinct Philippine culture and recognized as a symbol of sharing. After each dawn Mass, Filipino families, and even individuals, would share different traditional Christmas foods and drinks, such as bibingka, or rice cake cooked in clay stove; puto; suman; tsokolate; salabat or ginger tea; kape (coffee) and; other regional delicacies.  

The reason why most of the pastries were traditionally made of rice or carbohydrates was to fill the stomach of farmers before they proceeded to their farms.  At present, however, other delicacies are prepared and readily available at the church’s premises for easy access to parishioners.

Bananacue: an all-time best selling street food

It’s merienda time! Time for bananacue!

bananacue 1

An all-time best selling street food in the Philippines, bananacue is made of deep fried banana coated in caramelized brown sugar.  It is usually skewered on bamboo stick when sold, for the convenience in handling and eating. It is not cooked on the skewer.

Bananacue is a favorite mid-afternoon snack for many Filipinos. It is a highly nutritious snack considering that its main ingredient is the saba or cardava variety of banana.

bananacue 2
saba or cardava

Cardava, a plantain banana, is found to have the highest content of nutrients because, compared with other varieties, its roots go deepest and absorb more nutrients from the soil.

Bananas, in general, are rich in potassium, which plays a vital role in delivering oxygen to the brain, maintaining a regular heartbeat, and keeping a proper water balance in the body.  Potassium is also important in reducing strokes and regulating blood pressure.

Besides, banana contains abundant vitamins and minerals that are good sources of natural energy. In fact, consuming just two pieces of banana will give you enough energy to exercise for an hour and a half. It also helps stop constipation since banana contains a certain type of fiber that facilitates in the restoration and maintenance of regular bowel functions.

In addition, bananas can help people who are trying to quit smoking because its B vitamins and other mineral contents help minimize the physical and psychological impact of nicotine withdrawal.  Likewise, its vitamin B6 content helps reduce menstrual cramps and regulates women’s general mood.  Banana’s calming properties can also help pregnant women overcome morning sickness.

Aside from the health benefits, bananacue is also a very affordable snack.  Its cost range from 5 pesos to 15 pesos, depending on where you buy it.

Just a bit of trivia about bananas:

  • They are plants, not trees.
  • Bananas are among of the oldest cultivated plants, native to the South and South East Asian regions.
  • Its blossoms are ideal for cooking as vegetables, and even perfect for salad.
  • Its leaves can be used in wrapping and for cooking.
  • Banana is the fourth most important global food crop.
  • Most of all, bananacue is authentically Filipino.

If you want to try our delicious bananacue, come to the Philippines.  It’s more fun here!

Health benefits of coconut water

In my previous post, Coco toyo: condiment from coconut water I shared how coconut water, one of the purest liquids known to man, can be made into a healthy substitute for chemically-enhanced soy sauce.

Now, let me share with you the other benefits derived from coconut water.

Refreshing drink.  Aside from being the best drink to beat the summer heat, coconut water contains electrolytes and minerals that hydrate your body.

Nutritious. Don’t you know that it’s also packed with a variety of nutrients? Let me enumerate some of those:

  • It is filled with abundant bioactive enzymes like acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, diastase, peroxidase, RNA polymerases, and more.  These enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.  In fact, coconut water contains more hydrating properties than tap water. Also,  it has less sodium and more potassium compared with the usual energy or sports drink available in the market.
  • Coconut water has a much better composition of minerals such as calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc compared to oranges and other fruits.
  • It is a very good source of B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates.
  • It is loaded with sufficient amount of electrolyte potassium.  In fact, every 100ml of coconut water contains 250 mg of potassium and 105 mg of sodium. These electrolytes replenish what is lost in diarrhea.  Studies have shown that the osmolarity of tender coconut water is a bit greater than what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for oral rehydration therapy (ORT) osmolarity.
  • Coconut water contains little amount of vitamin C and approximately 2.4 mcg of RDA.

Possesses cytokinins.  Coconut water has been found to contain cytokinins, such as kinetin and trans-zeatin, elements that possess anti-aging, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic properties.

Low on fat.  Hmmm, this might be what you want to hear. The water of a young coconut is ideal for the weight conscious among you. It’s very low in fat. Besides, it helps you feel full, thus reducing your cravings for more food.

Anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Coconut water helps keep flu, fever, herpes, and other ailments at bay. It can even stop all kinds of adverse drug reactions.  Likewise, it is effective in the treatment of damages due to improper administration of anti-microbial agents.  Coconut water is also effective in calming nervous and emotional imbalances.

Helps break down kidney and bladder stones.  Regular intake of coconut water eases kidney and bladder problem. It breaks down the stones into tiny bits so that they can be flushed down easily during urination.

Detoxifying agent.  Coconut water possesses a very strong, if not the strongest antidote against any form of poison infusion in the body.  It has the capability to neutralize the effect of poison in the blood.

These are but few of the many healthful benefits that you and I can get from coconut water.  If you haven’t tried this drink yet, you better get a bottle or two from your local store. Or, if you are somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, you can actually buy a fresh coconut at the market.

Coco toyo: condiment from coconut water


Soy sauce is one of the most important condiments that Filipinos cannot live without.  It’s the primary ingredient to the ever popular adobo dish.  And I bet you even have a favorite commercial brand that you can readily get from the supermarket or the nearest sari-sari store.  But, how about trying to make your own version of soy sauce? From coconut water, I mean.

coco water - toyoThere are significant bases why a coconut tree is called ‘the tree of life’. From its roots to the utmost tip of its leaves, you will surely find some good uses of a coconut. It provides several health benefits to mankind, as well as  hefty economic returns to those who cultivate it.

But, perhaps not many people are yet aware of the full potentials of coconut. Take for example the coconut water.  Even if most of us know of the amazing health benefits of this refreshing drink, it was only recently discovered that coconut water can also make a tasty and delightful condiment that can even be turned into an income-generating resource.  In fact, many coconut farmers today still discard this fluid when they do copra production.

Recent studies have found that coconut water can make very good substitute for the soybean-based sauce.  It is very easy to prepare, too.  You just collect a liter of coconut water and sift the tiny particles away.  Boil the coconut water in a pan for an hour or until the liquid thickens and turned dark.  Then, remove it from the fire.  Once cool, you may transfer your coconut soy sauce to a bottle container for proper storage.

That’s all it takes to make a healthy home-made condiment!

Aside from being healthy, coconut soy sauce, or coco toyo, does not necessarily have to contain preservatives; and it can last for around six months. It also does not require any additive to enhance its flavor because its natural taste is delicious enough.

Not only that!  You may even want to market it. It does not require huge capital to start a coco toyo  business.  Besides, it is now high time that we should turn to healthy eating habits and lifestyle.

Here is how to make “coco toyo”.  [Acknowledgement to Ms. Karren M. Verona, Executive Producer of Agri Tayo Dito TV program on ABS-CBN, who supplied this procedure]

coco toyo


      2 liters coconut water (Be sure that it is fresh and from any foreign particles)

  1. Put the coconut water into a pre-heated pan.
  2. Stir it constantly for about 10 minutes.
  3. Cover the pan and let boil.  Leave for 20 – 25 minutes.
  4. Stir the coconut water again.  This time the water must have already changed color from clear to light brown.
  5. Wait until the water becomes caramelized (or black).  Let cool, and store it in a clean bottle or other container.

See also Coconut water

What you should know about pineapples

Scientifically known as Ananas comosus, pineapples are tropical plants with sticky, sweet, juicy fruit (although sometimes it can be tangy and sour).  They are powerfully loaded with several vitamins and minerals, as well as exceptional juiciness.  Pineapples are readily available all year round in local markets.

pineapple plants

Pineapple plants are commonly grown in the Philippines, Thailand, China, Brazil, and Mexico.  You can also find it in Hawaii, the only state in the U.S. where these plants are still grown.

Health benefits

Some of the important health benefits you can get from pineapples are bromelain, vitamins, and minerals.

Bromelain. One of the most important enzymes found in pineapple is bromelain, a compound of several substances that can be drawn from the core fruit and stem. Bromelain is known to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce swelling as well as facilitate in the treatment of various ailments, such as:

  • acute sinusitis
  • sore throat
  • bowel disorders
  • acute constipation
  • gastric irritability
  • diphtheria
  • jaundice
  • arthritis
  • gout
  • venereal disease
  • suppressing coughs and loosen mucus
  • diuretic
  • powerful aid in removing intestinal worms

pineapple saladBromelain also aids in the digestion of protein.  Meaning, if you consume pineapple with other food, you can expect that bromelain is going to digest the other food.

And, have you tried using pineapple in cooking meat? Well, aside from enhancing the flavour of your dish, the bromelain content in pineapple juice is an effective natural meat tenderizer.

Vitamins and minerals.  Fresh pineapple fruits are a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, like:

  • Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K
  • pantothenic acid
  • folate
  • biotin
  • choline
  • calcium
  • dietary fiber
  • potassium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • manganese to help fortify and maintain healthy bones
  • copper

In addition, pineapples are effective laxative, and natural contraceptive.  Its fruit, juice, and peel have been used to treat corns, tumours, and warts. While, its leaf juice are said to have effective purgative, emmenagogue, and vermifuge properties.

Check out the In-Depth Nutrient Profile for more information on the nutritional value of pineapples.

Please take note, however,  that pineapples are not a commonly allergenic food, and not known to have measurable content of oxalates or purines. Some studies even include pineapple in the list of Allergy Avoidance Diets, partly due to its bromelain content and the abovementioned concerns.

Just a bit of trivia: Did you know that out of pineapples leaves, you can make an elegant textile?

Tips on how to select, store, and cut pineapples

Know that pineapples stop ripening as soon as they are harvested. So, when buying pineapples, take these simple tips:

  • If you prefer large pineapples, choose the heavier ones because they have the greater proportion of edible flesh. Although, this does not mean they are also greater in quality.
  • Make sure that they are free of bruises, soft spots, and darkened “eyes”. These characteristics indicate that the fruits are past its prime.
  • Smell the stem end of the pineapple and choose that which has a fragrant sweet smell.  Don’t get the one that has a musty, sour or fermented smell.
  • You may leave the pineapple at room temperature for one or two days before serving. This helps the fruit become softer and juicier.  But if you are not going to consume the pineapple within those days, you should wrap it in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator to extend its freshness up to five days.
  • Pineapples that have been cut up must be stored  in the refrigerator in an airtight container to keep it fresher and retain its juiciness and taste.  Don’t freeze the fruit because it can affect its flavour.

Watch the video below for more tips on how to select a ripe pineapple and cut them into pieces.

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