Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines--Nearing the end of the first month of the new year, are
you still putting off that rigorous exercise regimen you resolved to embrace
as part of your resolution to finally shape up?
A 'Balik Scientist'
of the Department of Science and Technology is offering a lineup of
affordable 'street food' that will not only help people
lose weight but also make them healthier--and help rewire their brains
for compassion and empathy.
Replacing his lab gown with an apron in
November 2010, Filipino molecular biologist Custer Deocaris, who specialized
in neuroscience, sports science and antiaging at Tsukuba University and
Tokyo University in Japan for five years, is taking his culinary creations
straight to the mainstream.
He has set up his own food cart business
right where the masses converge--at a public market, a church, the Quezon
Memorial Circle and the Centris Sunday Market on Edsa.
foods--all without meat--include a
fat-burning siomai that not only decreases one's craving for food but
also enhances the body's metabolic pathways; coco-sap gulaman that
counteracts diabetes; 'hamburger' that actually prevents
heart attacks; puto bumbong that helps lower blood pressure and
cholesterol, improve brain functions and delay the onset of Alzheimer's
disease; and rice porridge (lugaw) that also lowers blood pressure and
reduces the risk of heart disease.
Among the ingredients he uses are
carageenin, a seaweed known for its anticancer properties; okara, a highly
nutritious byproduct of soy (taho); and rice bran, a
Deocaris is also concocting healthy
Filipino desserts that are nutrient-rich and done vegan style. These include
biko and puto made with memory-boosting Gaba brown rice, karioka, yakon
low-calorie ube halaya.
Training the brain
While serving samples of his veggie burger, Deocaris disclosed another
side effect of partaking of his meatless fare.
Citing a May 2010
neuroscience article in PlosOne (a peer-reviewed journal) describing the
tangible differences between the brains of vegans and omnivores, he said the
brain would tend to rewire itself for compassion or empathy to fellow beings
when subjected to a vegetarian diet.
In other words, repeated
decisions not to eat meat 'trains' the brain to be more compassionate, he
Whether a vegetarian diet will actually rewire the brains of
meat-loving Filipinos remains to be seen. What is immediately evident is
that most first-time customers at Deocaris' stalls like what they see, smell
Deocaris launched his first food cart at the Mu'oz market
in November 2010; he launched another at the ritzy Banchetto weekend night
bazaar on Emerald Street in Ortigas Center (which ended on Jan. 21).
He maintains a stall (open daily) at St. Joseph's Church on Aurora Boulevard
in Quezon City and another at the Quezon City Memorial Circle (open every
Saturday and Sunday).
He opens yet another at the Centris Sunday
market (6 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on January 30.
Made entirely of vegetables, soy bean, wheat and selected spices,
Deocaris' dishes never fail to surprise first-time customers.
Banchetto food cart, gym buff Ryan Velasco, 23, ordered Deocaris' malunggay-basil
After the first bite, Velasco remarked: 'This tastes
like real burger, and the pesto sauce makes it better. There's less salt, so
The malunggay-basil pesto burger--with 300 milligrams of
fat-burning L-carnitine, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grilled onion, mustard
and eggless mayonnaise--is recommended for weight-watchers.
fat-burning siomai, which also has yakon and L-carnitine, costs from P25 to
P28, and is the personal choice of medical student Chiqui Biglaen.
siomai 'melts in your mouth,' said Biglaen, 21.
siomai connoisseur Rona Arches, 19: 'This tastes like the real thing!'
Low veggie consumption
According to Deocaris,
who prepares the food and serves customers himself, the Philippines is
blessed with abundant natural foods that promote wellness.
especially children, are weaned from Western-style diets dominated by meats
and processed foods, there will not be so many of our countrymen starving,
undernourished, obese or beset by debilitating 'lifestyle diseases' such as
hypertension, he said.
Deocaris said that each Filipino needed to
consume 69 kilos of vegetables per year to stay healthy but that
'three-fourths of the population' were consuming insufficient amounts of
vegetables and fruits.
'We are the lowest consumers of vegetables in
Asia. In China, an average person eats 250 kg of vegetables per year. An
average Filipino eats only 40. We have to change this meat-first culture,'
Deocaris said Filipinos' low vegetable consumption rate had
been directly linked to obesity, metabolic diseases, cancer and
The seventh national survey of the
Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that the Philippines had a
double-disease burden: 26 percent of children were malnourished, and 27 in
every 100 adults aged 20 and above were either obese or overweight.
Curbing crime rate
Deocaris also made a case of
eating vegetables as a way to curb criminality and violence.
national crime rate is up by 63 percent according to 2009 statistics. People
are getting more violent. Empathy is at a new low. We don't seem to care
about other Filipinos anymore. But if you get into the habit of eating more
fruits and vegetables, your brain will rewire itself toward compassion,
which, I think, will make us more Christian,' he said.
together with breast-feeding advocate Nona Andaya Castillo of the
nongovernment organization Nurturers of the Earth, is planning a project
with the Department of Education--a nationwide campaign to boost the
consumption of vegetables and brown rice in schools nationwide.
we all eat brown rice, the country will no longer have a rice shortage. Even
half a cup of brown rice will make you full,' Deocaris said.
eating two or more servings of brown rice per week would lower the risk for
type 2 diabetes by as much as 16 percent.
'Hopefully, we can convince
the next generation to be healthier, more active and less prone to
obesity/overweight and cardiovascular diseases,' he said.