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Who could not recognize the song Bahay Kubo? A classic Filipino nursery song with lyrics of which mention many different local vegetables (...Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari...). Filipinos use, mix and cook vegetables in different methods and call them in different terms. Want to start singing the song?

Filipinos like vegetables cooked most often through sauteing (gisa), boiling, or cook with coconut milk (ginataan). Across the country, there are similarities among the dishes served at home and in canteens or restaurants.

For example, dinengdeng, and law-uy, are two dishes of Ilocano and Visayan origin, respectively. These vegetable dishes, however, both include several leafy and fruit vegetables as ingredients, cooked by boiling and without the use of cooking oil. For dinengdeng, leafy vegetables (e.g. saluyot, ampalaya leaves, squash flower, stringbeans tops, malunggay, etc.) are mixed together. Grilled fish is commonly added and fish paste (bagoong) is used to taste the dish. As for law-uy, leafy and fruit vegetables (okra, eggplant, alugbati, kangkong, etc.) are mixed, and fish is also often added using salt to taste.

Ginisa is a much used method of cooking by Tagalogs in preparing vegetables. Fruit vegetables such as upo, sitaw, kalabasa, puso ng saging, sayote and carrots, among others are often sautéed. Vegetables are cooked in a small portion of oil with garlic and a small amount of meat, shrimp or small fish then seasoned with salt or fish sauce to taste.

Vegetables cooked with coconut milk are more commonly prepared by Bicolanos and Visayans. Famous examples of vegetables cooked in coconut milk are gabi for laing, and nangka. Ginataang nangka is sometimes called salad na nangka by Visayans.

Another common method of cooking vegetables is by adding scrambled egg (torta) such tortang talong and ampalaya fruit. In general, Filipinos are not meeting the required intake of vegetables in their diet. Based on the latest National Nutrition Survey in 2013 of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), vegetable intake made up only 13.3 percent of the total food intake compared to 12.8 percent in 2008.

Vegetables are needed for proper regulation of body processes. They are rich sources of several vitamins and minerals. Green leafy vegetables like kangkong, camote tops, malunggay, gabi, ampalaya and others are rich sources of beta-carotene, iron, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, calcium and other minerals. Yellow vegetables such as squash, carrots and tomatoes are also rich in beta-carotene. Vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which prevent constipation by providing roughage for easier bowel movement. They are also rich sources of anti-oxidants to prevent certain diseases like cancer.

Three servings of vegetables, about one-half cup cooked per serving, are suggested for daily consumption. Two messages of the 2012 Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos recommend eating a variety of food and to eat more of vegetables and fruits everyday. These messages can be realized if the vegetables in the song Bahay Kubo are eaten regularly. This is especially true for children, whom we teach the song. At least it would make them appreciate and become more familiar with the vegetables in the song. Now, try singing Bahay Kubo and think which vegetable you will eat in your next meal.

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Telephone/ Fax Nos: 837-2934 or 837-3164; Direct Line:839-1839; DOST Trunk Line: 837-2071-82 local 2296 or 2284; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; FNRI-DOST website: http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph. Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/FNRI.DOST or follow our Twitter account at twitter.com/FNRI_DOST. (DOST-FNRI S&T Media Service: Press Release - CHARINA A. JAVIER)