(Beautiful Inside Out: a column by Lyn V. Ramo)
"Sayote manen? Mangipa-high blood!," (Chayote againt? My blood pressure rises!) is a familiar joke among Baguio City natives and settlers alike .
The truth is that sayote actually prevents the onset of high blood pressure that may lead to stroke.
The lowly crop regarded as green gold in Kibungan, Benguet san actually help reduce high blood pressure. The Department of Health's Council for Health and Development (CHD-DOH) recently tackled nurtition statistics that debunks the fallacy that sayote is just water in the diet.
The potassium in sayote helps lower blood pressure levels, according to Dr. Flora Pelingen of the CHD-CAR.
Besides helping reduce blood pressure, Peling en went on enumerating the various vitamins present in a sayote dish. Magnesium, and manganese in sayote, help prevent muscle cramps, convert protein and fats into energy, thus strengthens the body. Further, copper and zinc prevent goiter and acne, respectively.
Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and folate are also present in sayote. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, B6 aids in improving memory while folate, also a B vitamin, prevents stroke and coronary heart disease.
Why do people look down upon the sayote, with appendage of "lowly," "poor man's fruit," and other terms that push the sayote into the dark corners of the pantry?
Manila residents find the sayote not interesting, tasteless and "tubig lang." One of my friends would say, "Pakainin mo ako ng munggo araw-araw, pero parang awa mo na, huwag sayote," (Give me mung beans daily, but please no sayote.)
In Baguio City, the sayote grows in any soil it is laid on. Leave it anywhere and chances are it will show its shoots in no time, even without soil. It greens slopes, occupies seemingly unwanted unkempt spaces and covers unsightly garbage dumps.
During the rainy season it produces tops good for pinikpikan, salads or sauteed greens that accompany meat and fish dishes.
Little is written about the sayote even after the local government of Kibungan came up with the Chayote Festival some five years ago, when little school children came up with a thousand and one ways to utilize sayote.
It is nutrition month and the theme is "Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain," (Make eating vegetables a way of life, serve it daily). It is but fitting that the sayote takes center stage in nutrition-related activities here, but there are other vegetables available locally that may enhance the vitamins and minerals present in sayote.
One thing I learned from the teachings of Dr. Susan Balingit and Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan is that to eat right is to eat local produce. These are the cheapest and freshest and are unlikely to have received preserving agents.
Balingit, an advocate of indigenous nutrition, says that temperate vegetables like sayote, cabbages, carrots, or broccoli gives the body heat necessary to survive the cold climate. On the other hand, lowland vegetables like malunggay, ampalaya, eggplant and the like, lower the body temperature for lowland dwellers to cope up with the heat.
Tan advises several colors, literally in the dinner plate. So we do not only have all the shades of green we get from sayote, but also all the shades of red, blue and yellow and the colors in between in the color wheel.
It makes sense why my Manila friend cannot appreciate sayote day in and day out. In the same manner as my odler friends in Mountain Province had painful knees when served munggo and cardis during a local community leadership training.
Eating a variety of foods from the food pyramid will alleviate the high blood pressure from eating sayote in the morning, noon and evening. By the way, green is my favorite color, incidentally, I can survive a week with sayote alone but not without my favorite sesame seeds, yellow and white ginger and a tray of condiments. #