Eat camote, keep your heart healthy

MANILA, Philippines - Don't underestimate that lowly root crop. It might just the thing that can help you avoid a heart attack.

A recent study by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) finds that eating root crops, which are abundant and fairly cheap in the country, can help keep your cholesterol levels 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 via a DOST press release. She adds, “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.

Research methodology, findings

The DOST-FNRI 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.

The subjects 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.

Corn as well

In another study, researchers found that corn is also good for the heart.

Corn 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. Like many Asians, however, most Filipinos are addicted to rice during meals. For the average Filipino, root crops and corn are often eaten as snacks. - Rappler.com

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