The underrated kamote can save our country
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-04-17
Too many wrong instructions have been programmed into the Filipino psyche. If we want to move forward, we must unlearn those things that bring us down. Our counterproductive mindsets prevent us from sustaining whatever beachheads we have accomplished.

We are among the hardest to convince when it comes to retooling ourselves and adopting scientifically-validated new methods. We’re afraid to venture beyond our comfort zone.

We are a nation blessed with tremendous natural resources and yet many Filipinos suffer from hunger and malnutrition. While it’s true that the nation’s wealth is cornered by only a few Filipinos, we must not lose sight of the fact that a good part of our malnutrition problem is also self-inflicted.

Rampant malnutrition could have been significantly checked had the government taken time to promote food alternatives that could even provide better nutrition than the usually consumed staples such as rice. Ignorance, not just lack of money, causes malnutrition.

Captive to our comfort zone, our people either do not know their food options or simply refuse to consider the other foods that are available to them. The underrated kamote illustrates my point.

Do you know that kamote far exceeds the nutrition and health values of rice? Here are the benefits of substituting rice with kamote:

1. Kamote is more filling and suppresses hunger pangs longer. It is also cheaper than rice.

2. Unlike rice, kamote is so easy to grow. It grows in backyards with or without fertilizers. Local government executives can provide their poor communities with idle government land for planting kamote which the entire community can share.

3. Unlike rice which needs to be eaten with a dish, kamote tastes good and can be eaten by itself. Thus, substituting rice with kamote saves money for other needs.

4. Rice cannot match the nutritional values of kamote. Because rice converts to sugar in the body, the Philippines registers as a top producer of diabetics in the world. The poor tends to load up on rice and less on the dish which are more expensive. That makes them vulnerable to diabetes, an ailment known in developed countries as a rich man’s disease.

5. The nutritional values of a 3 oz baked kamote are: calories 90, fat 0 g, saturated fat 0 g, cholesterol 0 mg, carbohydrate 21 g, protein 2 g, dietary fiber 3 g, sodium 36 mg, vitamin A 19,218 IU, folic acid 6 micrograms, pantothenic acid 1 mg, vitamin B6 <1 mg, vitamin C 20 mg, vitamin E 1 mg, calcium 38 mg, manganese 1 mg, carotenoids 11,552 mcg, potassium 475 mg and magnesium 45 mg. Compare that to a 100 g serving of white rice with: calories 361 kcal, water 10.2 g, total fat 0.8 g, dietary fiber 0.6 g, calcium 8 mg, phosphorous 87 mg, potassium 111 mg, sodium 31 mg, vitamin B1 0.07 mg, vitamin B2 0.02 mg, niacin 1.8 g, protein 6 g and carbohydrates 82 g.

6. Too much rice consumption can make you sick but kamote can bring you to health and keep away some health problems. These have been proved medically.

In a medical documentary I watched recently on KBS World (the South Korean TV Network), I was awed by the results of the research the Koreans conducted on the nutritional and medicinal benefits of kamote (which they refer to as sweet potato).

Few Filipinos realize that South Korean doctors are among the finest in the world. The Korean doctors have accomplished many key breakthroughs in the field of medicine. It was a Korean doctor working in Germany who was able to develop the successful liver transplantation protocol (and the Germans almost placed him in jail for having experimented at home with live animals).

The Korean doctors enjoy the benefit of knowing both the Eastern and the Western methods to tackling diseases. They may be low key but their level of medical technology is world class.

In that Korean medical documentary I watched (which I followed through the English subtitles), they presented the research findings on people with established health problems who were placed on a kamote/sweet potato diet.

Believe it or not — kamote lowers hypertension, bad cholesterol and even blood sugar when eaten as SUBSTITUTE TO RICE! The purple sweet potato (kamote) is particularly effective for lowering hypertension.

Not only that, the Korean medical documentary credits the sweet potato (kamote) as high fiber and is one of the best foods that one can eat to prevent cancer!

For those who are only impressed by US doctors, listen to this: the North Carolina Stroke Association, American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association have all endorsed the sweet potato for its disease prevention and healing qualities.

The Americans, the South Koreans — both progressive nations — have raised the kamote to a high pedestal. Many of them even call the kamote a “super food that heals.”

And just how do we Filipinos regard the kamote? Remember how we like to call a loser as one who is nangangamote (Filipino term for lagging behind)?

Truly, unless we unlearn many things, we will, as a nation, always be nangangamote.

* * *

(President Macapagal lost to Ferdinand Marcos in 1965, not 1961, as stated last Tuesday. Thanks to reader Manny Corbeta for taking note.)

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