Soluble dietary fiber found in root crops helps prevent chronic diseases: FNRI study

In a symposium on the innate nutritional benefits of root crop consumption, Dr. Trinidad P. Trinidad, Scientist II of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) said that root crops are good sources of soluble dietary fiber that actively lowers cholesterol in the body and also prevents tumor formation in the colon

These root crops include ube, gabi, tugi, potato, kamote and cassava, and legumes such as cowpea, mung bean, pole sitao, chickpeas, green peas, peanut, pigeon pea, kidney beans, lima beans and soybeans.

An FNRI study on soluble dietary fiber showed that it helps in the prevention of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.

A healthy diet that incorporates root crops, regular physical activity, and the avoidance of tobacco products can prevent at least 80 percent of premature heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as 40 percent of cancer, Trinidad revealed in the same symposium.

She said that kamote and cassava are high in calcium; gabi is high in iron and zinc; while ube rates high in tannic acid.

FNRI conducted a study on the glucose response or glycemic index (GI) of root crops and legumes in normal and diabetic persons and came out with this result: both root crops and legumes have low GIs at 60.  Ube has the lowest GI (39) and cassava has the highest (54) among the root crops.

Among the legumes covered by the study, chickpeas has the lowest GI (5) and mungbean has the highest (13).  Legumes have significantly lower GIs than root crops (P<0.05).

Lower GIs of food means better for proper control and management of diabetes mellitus and in maintaining body weights.

But health and nutrition authorities lamented that root crops are looked down as a  poor man’s staple and the consuming public would prefer to eat those salty, fatty junk foods being served in fast food chains.

“The trouble with most root crops is that these are not sexy and popular food for those living in urban areas. Take the case of gabi and kamote, young people would rather eat hamburger, chips and ice cream,” former DTI Secretary Jesli Lapuz lamented.

He said that root crops are not sexy food but these can help the person become healthy and sexy.

Conscious or not of the health benefits they get from consuming these root crops, many Filipinos now begin to include these in their regular diet. In fact, sweet potato and cassava are considered basic staple food in some parts in the Philippines as they are inexpensive supplement to dietary requirements and considered to be energy boosters. For example, a cup of rice can be substituted with two pieces of medium-sized boiled sweet potatoes.#