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Let food be your medicine

By LAI S. REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 25, 2020 8:39 am

There’s this adage that goes: “Every time you’re eating a meal, you’re either feeding a disease or fighting it.”

We humans rely so much on food as our source of energy, health and medicine. And it’s true. What we eat greatly impacts our overall health and wellness.

As people become more aware of the negative effects of highly processed food items and sugary products in our body, they turn more to vegetables, fruits, even plant-based food supplements for nourishment. But going back to nature might not be enough. We still need science-based evidence to help make the most out of the power of plants.

To help Filipinos come up with informed choices about the products they consume, Sekaya, a Filipino plant-based food brand, recently held its “Prescribing Nature Series: Transforming your Life with Food,” an engaging panel discussion that presents both medical expertise and real-life experiences.

The power of food

We all know that natural is better and healthier for us, but having medical experts in the field confirming this premise provides stronger proof and assurance.

Dr. John La Puma, an internationally renowned international medicine specialist, chef and co-founder of ChefMD and Plant With a Doc; and Dr. Oyie Balburias, a functional medicine pioneer in the Philippines, discussed how the right food can have huge implications on improving our personal, physical and mental health.

“Our body isn’t just made up of organs,” explained Dr. Balburias. “It’s also made up of energy and information fields functioning as a system.”

As a system, it requires a lot of substrates like micronutrients and macronutrients — that we get from food — to nourish our bodies in order for them to function properly.

“The way our body functions is ingrained in nature,” noted Dr. Balburias. “The problem is our lifestyle. The way we live right now is not aligned with how our body was designed. We not only have a pandemic of infectious diseases, we’re also experiencing a pandemic of chronic, lifestyle-related diseases. Most of us are nutrient-deficient. That’s why we get sick easily.”

Let thy food be medicine

Being healthy not only means exercising regularly but also putting the right fuel in your body. Whole foods (real, unprocessed food items) act as medicine that protect and heal, and give your immune system a break from toxins and additives found in processed food.

Dr. John La Puma, internal medicine specialist, chef and co-founder of ChefMD and Plant With a Doc

“Always look at food as something that can benefit you medicinally,” says Dr. John La Puma, a Culinary Medicine practitioner. “It’s always best to introduce whole foods into your diet — foods that look exactly like how they looked like when they came out of the ground, the ocean or the tree,” said Dr. La Puma, who also shared three simple tips to being healthy: “Have vegetables in every meal, eat more soups, and use more herbs and spices that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.”

Dr. Rico Jose Manuel “Dok Bok” B. David, a Functional and Integrative Medicine practitioner, shared how his personal health challenges led him to Functional Medicine and the health benefits he gained just by incorporating more natural and plant-based food items into his daily life.

Dr. Rico Jose Manuel “Dok Bok” B. David, a Functional and Integrative Medicine practitioner

“Ten years ago, after I graduated from my medical degree, I had lots of health issues. I was obese, I had diabetes, hypertension and suffered from skin disorders like acne and atopic dermatitis. I had anxiety attacks, too,” shared Dok Bok. “I saw myself not as a doctor but as a patient. I started looking into the science of food as medicine, which led me to the Institute for Functional Medicine, where I met Dr. Balburias and some other Functional Medicine experts in the country.”

At first, Dok Bok did a lot of exercise. He did lose weight, but his blood tests showed that his sugar level was still up.

“The next step was making healthy food choices. That part was really hard for me because I love to eat — unhealthy food. I didn’t eat veggies before at all,” he added.

To jumpstart his healthy food journey, Dok Bok started with an apple a day. Soon, his relationship with the apple evolved and he found himself eating tomatoes, nuts and seeds. He also started introducing more dark greens in his diet.

“I can say that I’m healthier and happier now,” Dok Bok enthused.

JP Alipio, NatGeo explorer and Cordillera Conservation Trust co-founder

For JP Alipio, a National Geographic explorer and the first Filipino athlete to finish the Dragon’s Back Race, one of the toughest mountain races in the world, going vegetarian helped him recover from his injuries faster.

“For a lot of athletes, the diet tends to be meat-heavy because we think that protein helps build muscles, etc. But about three years ago, I injured myself. I had a bad injury that took so much time to heal. That’s when I tried to be fully vegetarian and it worked. I was a vegetarian for six months, but I realized it wasn’t sustainable (for me). I still indulge in steak once in a while, but 70 percent of my diet consists of whole foods,” added Alipio.

As for Tanya Maria Aguila, OneLife Pilates and Physical Therapy Studio founder, the right amount of exercise and proper food intake keeps her body in tiptop shape.

Tanya Aguila, OneLife Pilates and Physical Therapy Studio founder

“I was in the corporate world for 10 years. And I got so obsessed with my career that I forgot about my health. On my seventh year in the company, I started feeling that I was aging faster than I should; I gained a lot of weight and my hair was falling,” related Aguila.

Tanya isn’t a fan of dieting, so she makes it a point to choose what she eats and exercising regularly.

“I went vegetarian for a year, but just like JP, I didn’t find it sustainable because my family loves to dine out,” shared Aguila. “So what I did was ‘paint’ my plate with colors and changed our rice to adlai — small but sustainable food choices that we can all do together.”

Prescribing nature

With the mission of helping people improve their overall health and well being, Sekaya introduces Sekaya Raw Actives. This curated line of nutrient-dense superfoods provides a high-quality, science-backed source to supplement what we eat and boost our nutrition to help us stay healthy and active.

Sekaya’s curated line of nutrient-dense superfoods in powdered format provides a high quality, science-backed source to supplement what we eat and boost our nutrition to help us stay healthy and active.

“In the time of pandemic, when it’s not easy to get access to fresh produce, it’s good to have Sekaya on hand,” enthused Bernice Gonzales, marketing head of Sekaya, the flagship brand of Synnovate Pharma Corporation, the natural products company of Unilab.

Sekaya’s lineup of powdered superfoods includes the Daily Greens, made from organic spinach and kale that provides micronutrients and phytonutrients needed for energy metabolism and vascular health; Barley Green, made from 100-percent-organic barley grass, which can serve as a natural detoxifier. Then there are the energy optimizers: Maca Factor, which aids in increasing the body’s ability to adapt better to stress and have more energy; and Powerboat to boost nitric oxide production for more energy and better endurance.

Those looking to increase their protein intake can benefit from Sekaya Raw Actives’ plant proteins such as Vegan Protein that provides 18g of protein per serving and micronutrients such as potassium, iron and calcium; and Pea Protein that offers a higher protein content, with 23g of clean, plant-based protein per serving.

“Every meal that you eat influences the way you feel. So the more nutritious food you choose, the closer you are to getting optimum health,” added Dr. Balburias.

(Sekaya Raw Actives is available at Real Food and online at Lazada, Zalora and Shopee under the S Sentials Store. You can also order through the Synnovate Flagship Store in Lazada, or by messaging via Facebook or Instagram, and SMS or Viber at 0917-5SEKAYA (735292). Get more science-based health tips and information by following @SekayaPH on Facebook and Instagram. To know more about Sekaya, visit