Fruits indigenous to the country have been found to be rich in antioxidants by researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

These fruits – as-is, binukaw, kamansi, kolong-kolong, niyog-niyogan, paho, sampinit, pili, and bignay – have been confirmed by chemists from UPLB to have high amounts of antioxidants or those that take damage-causing free radicals from the body.

Fruits 619x1024 - UPLB researchers find indigenous fruits rich in antioxidants
(PHOTO VIA DGEL NAZARIO/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The Department of Science and Technology said that free radicals in the body are formed either from our normal metabolic processes or from exposure to bad environments such as cigarette smoke and air pollutants. Antioxidants take up these free radicals, thereby preventing them from causing any harm to the body.

The World Health Organization and the Department of Health have been non-stop in reminding the public to maintain a healthy diet to protect the body from COVID-19.

One way to achieve this is to eat nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Among the nine fruits, paho, binukaw, and as-is have the highest total phenolics. Phenolics are a collective term for phenols, flavonoids, lignin, and tannins that are considered as antioxidants. Experts all over the world consider these chemicals to have strong anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory benefits, among others.

Whether ripe or unripe, the mango-lookalike paho can be eaten fresh or mixed with salads. They can thrive anywhere in the country but they are mostly grown in Cavite and Batangas.

Binukaw or batuan can be a souring agent or (“pampaasim”) in some dishes in the Visayas. On the other hand, the leaves and young shoots of as-is are a favorite in the Bicol region.

Pili could be the most famous among the nine due to pili nuts being brought as pasalubong by those coming back from Bicol. Pili was found to be rich in alkaloids that help protect the body from parasites.

Bignay is made as jams, wines, and vinegar, if not eaten raw. It is rich in terpenes which have pain-relieving and lipid-lowering properties. It grows in Batangas and in the Visayas.

Kamansi is sliced thinly and mixed with coconut milk to make a sumptuous vegetable dish.

Sampinit is considered as the local wild raspberry that grows mostly in Quezon and Laguna. All are found to be rich in antioxidants.

Kabuyaw or kolong-kolong, in some areas, can be used as juice for a sour but vitamin-rich drink. It is thought that the Cabuyao, Laguna is named after this because of its abundance in the area.

The Bicol-endemic niyog-niyogan has the highest cardiac glycosides among the nine. What cardiac glycosides do is that it increases the force of cardiac contraction, thereby preventing congestive heart failure. Others call this as lubi-lubi.

Except for pili, these fruits are considered indigenous because they are underutilized or are not as widely cultivated as the more popular ones like mango, banana, and pineapple.

Associate Prof. Mariam C. Recuenco of UPLB Institute of Chemistry and colleagues reported in the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS) that considering the diverse fruit species in the country, there are many more fruits that can be potential sources of bioactive compounds. PJS is a peer-reviewed publication of the Department of Science and Technology.

Looking forward, the UPLB researchers hope that other farmers will start cultivating these less popular plants and develop these underappreciated but very nutritious fruits into sumptuous food products to satisfy one’s cravings with healthier benefits.

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