Written by Catherine Rose P. Josue of FNRI
With the advent of fastfoods around the corners and tempting food advertisements nowadays, local rootcrops such as camote, cassava and tugi, and legumes such as peanuts and green peas are not so much considered for snack. There are more reasons why we should think otherwise.
Root crops are rich in carbohydrates, our cheap and main source of energy. Legumes, on the other hand, are good substitutes for meat as protein source. But aside from being carbohydrate and protein sources, respectively, root crops and legumes can also be considered as functional foods. They have other nutritional and health benefits. They are both good sources of dietary fiber, a food component which has been associated with the prevention of several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and control of diabetes.
A recent study done by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) determined the effects of local root crops and legumes in lowering cholesterol levels among humans with moderately-raised cholesterol levels. Five rootcrops and six legumes were studied. The subjects were given 50 grams available carbohydrates from the test foods for 14 days and venous blood samples were collected for analysis of total cholesterol, triglyceride, and HDL/LDL cholesterol. The study showed that camote and cassava have significantly decreased the total cholesterol levels of the subjects. This is also true for legumes like peanut, abitsuelas, green peas, mungbean, pigeon pea, and chick pea, with peanut showing marked decrease in total cholesterol levels among the subjects.
The study also showed that cassava, abitsuelas and peanut have significantly decreased low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) levels of the subjects while camote, tugi and mungbean significantly decreased triglyceride levels. The study concluded that root crops and legumes may have a significant role in reducing lipid biomarkers like total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride due to their high total dietary fiber content.
How does dietary fiber lower blood cholesterol? Cholesterol is the main component of bile acids secreted during digestion in the intestine. Dietary fiber coats the bile acids in the intestine and excreted in the body. The body then draws cholesterol from the blood to form bile acids, thus, lowering blood cholesterol level.
Messages 4 and 5 of the Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos developed by the Technical Working Group led by the FNRI-DOST suggests consuming root crops and legumes. So why don’t we try eating boiled camote or peanuts the next time we have our snack?