Jul 17, 2015

Health benefits of Kimchi


Kimchi is one of the the lacto-fermented foods that I must learn in my lifetime. Kimchi is that tangy lacto-fermented food that is a staple among Koreans. It may be the secret to their svelte figure and clear skin -- enough reason to get this food into our system, right? But then there are other health benefits it offers as well.

I love my Sauerkraut and my Curtido but I love the taste of Kimchi more. It’s a spicy, tangy, umami-rich and crunchy all-veggie dish that’s wallowing in rich and spicy red sauce. My Korean friends tell me there are about a hundred variations to the Kimchi recipe, with each region in Korea boasting of a specific flavor, yet the one I recently tasted, made and given by a Korean friend, beats all the other Kimchi I’ve tried. In fact, my Korean friend and I are on to making Kimchi soon. I will hang on to her every word during the tutorial, for sure. I can’t wait to churn Kimchi by my own and have a jar of it in my ref at all times.

Kimchi is lacto-fermented napa cabbage (Filipinos call it Chinese cabbage, however) and consists of other spices and seasonings such as garlic, ginger, onions, green onions, chili pepper and fermented seafoods for an umami-rich taste. The dish is native to Korea and has been developed in the 7th century.

Nutritional profile of Kimchi

  • Low in calories
  • High in fiber
  • Rich in Vitamins: A, B1, B2, C
  • Rich in Minerals: iron, calcium, selenium
  • Teeming with probiotic Lactobacillus bacteria
  • Packed with antioxidants such as capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids and isothiocyanate

Health benefits of Kimchi
On the digestive system
Like all lactofermented foods, Kimchi provides high doses of healthy lactobacillus bacteria which keep the gut microbiome in good shape. Some good bacteria actually fix nutrients and make them more absorbable into the bloodstream. Cabbage in itself is already an established high-fiber cruciferous vegetable which can clean the gut of toxins and wastes.

On blood cholesterol levels
Kimchi has lots of garlic and we know garlic as an effective cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure-reducing spice, owing to its allicin component.

On inflammation
Lactofermented foods are raw as they have not undergone heat and as such are naturally rich in antioxidants which scavenge for harmful free radicals in the body. Kimchi is thus an anti-inflammatory food and confers benefits on the whole body as inflammation is behind most degenerative diseases including cancer.

On weight
As mentioned, kimchi is simply cabbage plus spices and herbs which are all fibrous. Fiber is of course a proven aid in weight maintenance and loss. Capsaicin in red chili pepper also revs up metabolism for more efficient fat-burning. On top of that, good bacteria in lactofermented foods suppress appetite and control blood glucose levels. However, it must be noted that for kimchi to effect weight loss, it must comprise a significant proportion of the diet. Koreans, for example, eat kimchi at almost every meal.

On the immune system
Fiber, nutrients, antioxidants, good bacteria and all the other substances present in raw cabbage, garlic, ginger, onions and red chili pepper make kimchi a powerfood. Koreans report robust health when they’re in their default diet of kimchi and say they come down with flu whenever they get off that diet during overseas travel, for example.

The American Health magazine has listed kimchi as among the world’s healthiest foods. It is so nourishing, immunoprotective, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-mutagenic. It is also darn cheap and tasty too. I hope to incorporate this ancient Korean food into my diet.

Reference: organicfacts.net

Jul 3, 2015

Stinging Nettle Health Benefits

stinging nettle
It was a family encounter with a German gentleman on a beach one fine Saturday morning that introduced me to the wonders of nettle. We initially just talked -- rather animatedly -- about Sauerkraut when our chat spontaneously deviated towards healthy living in general. Apparently excited by how a Filipina (me) taught a kindly old German a traditional German recipe -- he sort of paid me back and gave me a pot of herb which he said is as valuable to Germany as moringa is to the Philippines. I was surprised to find that the herb he was referring to is what we Filipinos consider as an inedible weed growing wild along out-of-the-way grasslands -- the stinging nettle.

If you’ve been to off-the-beaten farmlands in the Philippines before, you would have frequently seen the stinging nettle as a common fixture. What waste that we have relegated this herb to the class of annoying weeds when it really is a superb nutritional powerhouse.

Nettle grows so abundantly across the US and Europe -- and even here in the Philippines. I find it so amazing that God has made widely available all these kinds of herbs and weeds that have so many prophylactic and therapeutic properties. I think that if we spend more time foraging for these herbs, we wouldn’t have to spend much on expensive health and food supplements.


I hope the photo above of the stinging nettle that my German friend graciously gave me, would give you visual clues on how to spot nettle yourself. For better guidance, here are the characteristics of stinging nettle:
  • Single-stemmed plant
  • The leaves are heart-shaped and the surface has a coarse and rough texture because of minute sharp bristles. The leaves literally sting the skin upon contact so be wary. To relieve itching, squeeze the juice out of fresh nettle leaves and apply on affected area. Amazing, eh?
  • The stems are thick, squarish and hairy as well.

Consider these multitudinous health benefits of the lowly stinging nettle:

  • Stops external bleeding
  • Stops internal bleeding
  • Purifies the blood
  • Softens the hair
  • Nettle is rich in iron and is thus helpful for anemia.
  • Nettle regulates female hormones and may help with hormonal reproductive problems such as fibroids, PMS and menopause.
  • Nettle tea relieves mucus congestion, diarrhea, skin irritations and water retention.
  • Nettle tea also increases breast milk production and stimulates the enzymes of vital organs.
  • Nettle tea is also excellent for mouth and throat infections and can be used as gargle.
  • Nettle tea applied topically cures acne and burns.
  • Nettle tea is also a hair-grower and tonic.
  • Relieves rheumatism
  • Stinging nettle leaves are -- strangely -- homeopathic treatments for all kinds of allergies.
  • Induces chickens to lay more eggs
  • Nettle hay fed to cows induces more milk production
  • Nettle hay makes good gardening mulch because of its high nitrogen content.
  • A bunch of fresh nettle leaves hung from the roof is even said to repel flies.

  • Boil a handful of stinging nettle leaves in a stainless steel pot for two hours and then strain. Store in a glass bottle and you’ll have an all-around potion for most any skin, digestive and inflammatory condition.
  • Add nettle leaves to soup. (I haven’t done this yet as my pot of nettle has too sparse leaves as yet.)
  • Boil nettle leaves in brine for 10 minutes, strain and use to curdle milk in cheese-making.
  • Drink a cup of boiled nettle leaves a day to relieve symptoms of gout, arthritis and rheumatism. Nettle has a diuretic and alkalizing action which releases uric acid deposits from painful joints.

I know this makes nettle sound like a panacea (and there is no such thing in my opinion) but I hope you get the idea that nettle does have many health benefits and for this reason (plus its low cost and wide availability), I think it’s high time we incorporate this herb for internal and external applicatons.


Jun 19, 2015

Happy Father's Day to my Dad


A dear friend’s father died yesterday. It got me thinking about my own Dad. Tatay Cargo, like my Dad, is a Pangasinense -- a group of people in the northern Philippines who pride themselves in those age-old traditional values of solid work ethic and diligence. I was not really planning on writing this, or rather I was planning to write about my Dad on his birthday next month, but I am just gripped right now by an urgent need to write this Father’s Day tribute to my Dad, in light of Tatay Cargo’s passing, or rather graduating into Heaven.

My Dad was born in 1944, so that makes him 71 next month. The Bible says the average lifespan is threescore years and ten (a score means 20 years) and so Dad has just passed that average by a year. Every day that passes by I think about it as a bonus day for Dad.

Not a day passes by that I do not feel sad by what I could not do for my Dad. I am the eldest in the family and I’m now 40 years old, now feeling a little too late about paying Dad and my parents back. Part of me yearns for the capacity to give Dad more -- perhaps tours around the country, a nice house, more of my presence, more of my time, and more of my resources with them.

In Jewish customs each household was to sacrifice the firstborn, or the firstling of his livestock, to God. The firstborn son can be redeemed by an animal sacrifice though. Nonetheless, the thought is that the firstborn is supposed to be given up wholly for God. I would like to think that God’s calling me into the ministry is God’s way of calling Dad to give me up as a sacrifice.

So that what looked like such a lucrative future for me in the years past became nondescript instead (by worldly standards). I was class valedictorian in elementary (bukid nga lang), I managed to get into a science high school and got some awards in debate, graduated cum laude in Zoology, seized a Nancy von Kellog academic scholarship grant in medicine… and then suddenly quit it all for love and ministry.

To this day, I do not know if my decision (as well as my husband’s, for he was a promising metallurgical engineering graduate and a school mate in science high school as well) was misguided or not. Mary who broke the alabaster box was perceived by many as having wasted it. But I do know that had I become a doctor, I would not have been as involved as I am now with the ministry. Or maybe not, I don’t know. I would not be able to carve a normal private home life for my kids in the very public nature of ministry, had I been in a cozy cubicle treating physical illnesses of other people.

But then this is not about me and so I go back to my Dad. I love, respect and admire Daddy. I may be so much like my Mama in terms of personality. Dad is people-oriented. I am private. Dad is stoic. I am emotional. We are both stubborn though, and we both stand on what we believe, to the point of sacrificiing our convenience. He always instilled in us to study hard, to use our brains, to not mind gossip, to deal fairly with people, to always smile and to be polite and honest.

Dad used to be a mahjong addict. He can go on a 48-hour mahjong spree fueled only by cups of coffee and sandwich. Yet he never went beyond the set amount of money Mama allowed him to spend out of his own salary as a Civil Engineer at the National Power Corporation. When he was in his 40’s, he repented of his sins, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, read his Bible and was enabled to give up the vice that has held him for so long.

He was soon talking everybody’s ear off about the Gospel. His favorite verse was about preaching in season and out of season and he seemed like preaching out of season a lot of times. I used to dread bringing my classmates over to our house because I knew he would preach to them. I know he came across as annoying -- preaching in streets, neighbor’s houses, busses, terminals, etc -- but I know heaven has a special place for these annoying preachers who are snatching souls from hell.

No one would wonder why, at midlife, Dad opted to retire early to become a pastor. He is still the wings behind my Mama, that amazing superwoman who has achieved so much because Dad encouraged her to. He is still a pastor now, still hollering the Gospel at times, building a vibrant church, running a Bible School. Yeah, building lives, restoring homes and grooming men for the ministry -- all at 71 and counting.

I comfort myself with the thought that though I haven’t showered my parents with much material things, (I'm working on it, I hope I still have time), I have showered them and my sibs with prayers. All of them are successful, godly, responsible, polite and involved in the ministry. Biboy plays the saxophone in church and manages a farm; Alvin is a civil engineer, the choir director in church and savvy church violinist; Micmic is a nurse, clinical instructor at a state university and the church pianist, Pongpong is a nurse as well, the registrar of our Christian school, church pianist as well and now studying his second course, Plang is a teacher in our Chrisitan school and powerful alto and soloist, Grace is a 2nd year medical student (who will hopefully finish what I have given up) and Janjan, our youngest, is a most talented guitarist.

Those that are married have married into godly and good spouses as well. I myself have settled in my heart to marry only a godly, responsible man and I have -- and a pastor at that. God has rewarded my Dad with blessings that would live on for eternity. Dad stands tall in the sight of us his children and I know, before God. After all these years, he still never fails to wake up at dawn to lead the family devotions. We all joke that he is our alarm clock. He is still doing good physically, financially and spiritually.

Unlike other old men, he has not gone cranky at all. He still has incredible patience and an easy-going air about him. Give him a board of chess (he was once chess champion in the whole Cotabato province) and a Bible and he would rest content. I love you, Dad. You have never been mushy with feelings and expressions but I know you love us so much and we love you back so much. I always thank God for bringing me into your home.

I am writing this because I want all and sundry, and especially Daddy, to know this while he can still read this. I don’t ever want to read a eulogy that he will no longer hear. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!
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