Filipino cuisine is a mixture of many different cultural flavors from around the world. Native Filipino food is comprised of a mixture of Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Indian flavors and is added with the Filipino’s unique style and flavor. With this many influences, the Filipino recipes have become the delicious and unique melting pot of cuisines from many different cultures that is sure to tickle the palette.
Filipino’s love the salty, sweet and sour flavors in their dishes and has become quite innovative in combining these flavors for a uniquely delicious Filipino meal. Although many of these dishes incorporate unhealthy meats and fats in their recipes, it is quick and easy to find healthy alternatives to some otherwise unhealthy ingredients in Filipino dishes. One example is white rice which has become a staple in meals for Filipinos. However, this can cause a build-up in carbohydrates. A quick solution is to replace it with the healthier alternative of brown rice to go along with your favorite Filipino dish.
Several traditional Filipino recipes can provide for a healthy meal. And with a little creativity, Filipino dishes can be made healthier with just a few ingredient changes in the recipes without sacrificing the rich and delicious Filipino flavor.
Below are examples of healthy native Filipino foods:
Laing is a green leafy dish that originated in the region of Bicol that has delicious the flavor combination of creamy and spicy, best served with a cup of rice. It’s made up of taro or gabi leaves with shrimp paste that is reduced in coconut milk with added chili peppers. This healthy dish is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. Laing can help boost the immune system, improve eyesight, and regulate blood pressure.
Pinakbet is a vegetable dish that originated from the region of Ilocos. It features healthy leafy greens like eggplant, okra, squash, tomatoes, bitter lemon, etc. It’s a dish rich with fiber, nutrients (generally, vitamin A), and minerals that provide the body with multiple health benefits, depending on the veggies you add to the ingredients. Vitamin A, in general, promotes healthy vision, bones, and skin.
Lumpiang Ubod is also known as Lumpia Sariwa (fresh lumpia or rolls) because it’s mostly composed of fresh vegetables and is the healthiest type of lumpia preparation in Filipino cuisine. The vegetables used for lumpiang ubod are usually ubod or coconut shoot, carrot, spring rolls, singkamas, and lettuce enclosed in a soft crepe-like wrapper. The dish is high in vitamin A that promotes eye health and strengthens the immune system.
Ginisang munggo or sauteed mung beans is prepared using munggo beans and ampalaya leaves or malunggay leaves and is usually enjoyed every Friday. Munggo came from India and Pakistan and was exported to the Philippine where Filipino easily incorporated into their recipes. The dish has plenty of health benefits. The munggo beans itself is rich multiple nutrients and minerals and the entire dish can provide vitamin B, folate, thiamine, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, all of which gives immense health benefits and allows the body to properly function.
Ensaladang talong is an eggplant salad that is often used as a side dish for grilled but is filling enough to be served as its own dish. This eggplant salad is made up of chopped eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes boiled eggs. The eggplant is rich with vitamin B and manganese while the tomatoes are full of vitamin C and lycopene. These nutrients can lower risks of heart disease and lowers cholesterol levels in the body.
Ginisang sitaw is a simple Filipino dish that comprises of sitaw and kalabasas (green beans and squash). This dish is best served with rice and a small portion of protein, fish is highly recommended. Its two main ingredients are high in fiber and are a rich source of vitamin C that helps boost the immune system.
Fish sinigang is one of the favorites of Filipinos to eat with their family. The dish is a sour fish soup that features several healthy vegetables and is best eaten with rice. There is a variety of fish to use for this fish, from milkfish, grouper, salmon, and red snapper. This choice of protein and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids which can lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and depression. While the vegetables, usually water spinach and green beans, but varies with each recipe, are rich with vitamin C and vitamin A. This boosts the immune system and provides the body with plenty of antioxidants that fight against free radicals that cause cell destructions.
Kare-kare is a traditional Filipino dish that is said to be borrowed from India. It is a peanut-based stew that is served with, usually oxtail and other protein, with a mixture of healthy vegetables and bagoong or fermented seafood paste on the side. The health benefits mainly come from the ample serving of vegetables in the dish. To maximize its health benefits, the meat can be substituted with the healthful tofu instead.
Tortang talong or eggplant omelet is a popular eggplant dish that is a favorite meal for breakfast and is best served with hot rice. The eggplant is broiled then is cut in half and is dipped in egg to be pan-fried. This dish can help in the process of weight loss as eggs can suppress appetite. Eggplant in of itself is rich in many nutrients and is high with antioxidants that help the cells defend against free radicals. All in all, tortang talong is a great meal for breakfast that has health benefits and helps with weight loss.
Malunggay is the Philippines’s national vegetable and can be cooked in a variety of different ways. This leafy green vegetable is most popular to consume among breastfeeding mothers as it’s said that the vegetable can boost the production of breastmilk. Malunggay is often used as a substitute for spinach and contains nutrients and minerals that are beneficial to the body. Malunggay is rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium. Malunggay provides plenty of nutrition to those who lack it and can reduce blood sugar and cholesterol in the body. Additionally, it is rich in antioxidants that can fight against free radicals that can destroy the cells in the body.
11. Ginataang Gulay
Yet another healthy Filipino dish with coconut milk. Ginataang gulay is perfect for people who want a break from all the meat common in Filipino recipes. Choices of vegetable along with an optional choice protein are cooked in coconut milk that results in creamy healthy goodness. The vegetables are usually squash, bitter lemon, and string beans but can vary with each recipe.
12. Tinolang Manok
Tinolang Manok is a favorite dish among Filipino, noted to be a dish highly beneficial for pregnant women to eat. Tinolang manok is a chicken soup full of vegetables, usually sayote and malunggay with added ginger. Sayote is rich in folic acid that is essential in creating red blood cells and malunggay leaves are used to boost breast milk production.
Gisisang ampalaya or sautéed bitter lemon is a popular Filipino dish that packs a delicious bitter flavor. The ingredients of usually garlic, onion, and tomatoes, plus other miscellaneous ingredients depending on your recipe, are sautéed with a handful portion of its main ingredient, ampalaya or bitter lemon. This bitter vegetable dish can be an acquired taste to some but its health benefits are undeniable. Bitter lemon is packed full of vitamin C and vitamin A that boosts the immune system and promotes healthy skin and eyes.
14. Gising Gising
This dish originally came from the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Pampanga. Gising gising is another creamy but spicy dish that is packed with nutrients and minerals from its main ingredient, green beans. This healthy dish is an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, zinc, iron, and fiber. This can lower risks of cancer, boost the immune system, strengthens vision and bones, promotes a healthy digestive process, etc.
This last one may be surprising to some, but balut is shown to have some health benefits. Balut is said to have originated in China thousands of years ago and can now be found throughout Southeast Asia. It has become a favorite snack for Filipinos, especially at night time. Balut is the fertilized duck embryo which is a good source of protein. Additionally, it is rich with Vitamin C and beta carotene, antioxidants that help strengthen the immune system and eliminates free radicals in the bloodstream. They are also a good source of phosphorus, iron, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine that helps to metabolize energy.
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