By Dr. Willie T. Ong (Internist-Cardiologist)
In a previous article, I wrote about “The Top 20 Healthiest Foods.” This time, let’s look at the opposite side of the coin. It’s the “unhealthy” or fatty foods we can’t resist eating, maybe because it’s sweet, succulent or simply adventurous. Let’s start our list with number ten in our countdown.
A scientific study links the amount of soft drinks one drinks to the development of diabetes and heart disease. Each bottle of regular soft drink contains 8 teaspoonfuls of sugar. It’s like eating pure sugar and taking in water. Even diet soft drinks (dark-colored colas) should be avoided. Kidney specialist will tell you that diet soft drinks contain phosphorous, a substance that is harmful to your kidneys. Phosphorous can make you lose calcium in the urine and make your bones brittle.
Like a traveler streaking on all four corners of the globe, we have unhealthy oil sinking into all four corners of your French fries. Too oily, too fatty and packed with calories, too. Limit your intake to a few sticks only.
Fatty sauces like gravy, mayonnaise, and lemon tartar sauce
For fast-food chicken, it’s the gravy that makes the chicken taste good. But it’s high in calories and fat, too. What about mayonnaise and Thousand Island dressing? Again, so much calories for so little amount. Spread it thinly and it’s bland. Dab a wadful and you’re bound to get fat. In reality, scientists have shown us that fat is an acquired taste. We are not born to like fatty foods. If you abstain from fat for two weeks, you will lose your taste (and craving) for fatty meals. Try it.
A little red wine may theoretically be good for the heart, like a bottle of beer or a shot of wine. However, doctors still do not advise non-drinkers to start drinking for the health benefit. This is because of the real danger of alcohol abuse, which can lead to a score of medical problems such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, stomach ulcers, oral cancers, brain damage, dementia, nerve damage and vehicular accidents. If you’re not a drinker, better not to start.
Potato chips and many crunchy snacks are unhealthy because of their high salt content. These can also be irritating to the stomach for some people. Junk food is also spiced with MSG, which makes them addicting and can cause headaches. Instead of snack chips, let’s teach our kids to eat healthy snacks like an apple, a banana or some vegetable sticks.
Eating medium-rare meats can lead to various parasitic diseases. If you don’t cook the pork well, you can get infected with icky pork tapeworms (called taenia solium). Steaks should be prepared well done to kill the beef tapeworms (called taenia saginata). There are also fish tapeworms for those fond of eating kilawin. Make sure your chicken isn’t bloody, because that’s how you get bird-flu. The common sense approach to eating is that if your food is still bloody, have it cooked again. Better say, “Well done.”
Eating street food is a dangerous habit. If food handlers don’t wash their hands, don’t wear gloves, or don’t use purified water, the parasites and bacteria can so quickly be passed on to you from the delectable and tasty fishball sauce, queck-queck, betamax innards, and what have you. Tempting yes, but no thanks.
Regarding small eateries, you have to be careful because some food stalls have no government certification of their food handlers, which means we are not sure if their food is clean or not. Be forewarned.
Liver, kidneys, lungs, stomach, intestines, hearts and brain tissue as food. These are the possible contents of the best-selling Sisig cuisine. If you think about it, it’s easy to suspect that they are unhealthy. High cholesterol, high fat and high uric acid. In addition, some experts suspect that these may cause bowel cancer. Since pork intestines are the organs where the animal’s waste products are stored, then why should we eat it?
Pork chicharons, including chicharon bulaklak
So tasty and so fatty. All these unhealthy oils can accumulate and block your arteries and put you on the road to a heart attack. I used to like chicharon bulaklak. But when I found out that they are made up of the small intestine, the omentum and lymph nodes (the bean-sized thingy in-between), I changed my mind. You don’t have to be a doctor to realize that you are better off avoiding these.
Lechon, crispy pata and pata tim
At number one, the most unhealthy food is the favorite of Filipinos. It’s the pig. Why? It’s the fattiest and it may cause colon cancer. It’s also high in calorie and very yummy, too. Need any more evidence?
There are other foods which are of questionable value, like preserved meats and smoked foods. Try to limit eating these foods, too.
On the positive side, I have listed my top 20 healthiest foods, which include nuts, coconuts, tea, soy products, wheat, sweet potatoes, oats, ginger, beans, ampalaya, water, apple, garlic, milk, banana, carrots, citrus fruits, tomatoes, oily fish and green leafy vegetables. Just by looking at the list, you can see and taste the difference. Eat well!