Alugbati is a common vegetable in the Philippines, and it's also known as malabar spinach, though it isn't spinach at all. The vegetable has heart-shaped leaves that grow along a vivid red stem. The alugbati plant bears fruit that ranges in color from dark green to red. Alugbati, though it's not spinach, can be used as a substitute for spinach in salads and other recipes. If you opt to expand your palate and give alugbati a try, you'll get a wealth of nutrients, as well as a few health benefits.
Calories, Fat and Fiber
A 1-cup serving of alugbati contains 10 calories and 0.34 gram of fat, of which none of it is saturated fat. That low calorie and fat count makes alugbati a healthy addition to your diet, especially if you're trying to lose a few pounds or maintain your current weight.
That same serving of alugbati also supplies almost 1 gram of fiber, which is 4 percent of the 25 grams of fiber women need each day and about 3 percent of the 38 grams men require on a daily basis. Fiber helps prevent constipation and might cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Vitamins and Minerals
Alugbati delivers 26 micrograms of vitamin A per 1-cup serving. That translates to 4 percent of the 700 micrograms women should have each day and 3 percent of the 900 micrograms men should have on a daily basis. Vitamin A is crucial for healthy eyesight and also helps keep your bones and teeth strong.
The same amount of alugbati also provides 0.65 milligram of iron, which is 4 percent of the 18 milligrams women require each day and 8 percent of the 8 milligrams men need each day. You'll get 50 micrograms of folate from a cup of alugbati, too. That's 13 percent of the 400 micrograms healthy adults need on a daily basis. Folate helps prevent certain types of birth defects and promotes proper DNA and brain function.
Alugbati is used as both a food source and a medicinal plant in the Philippines, according to Dr. Bahram Tadayyon, author of "The Miracle of Vegetables." Alugbati contains phytochemicals called saponins, Tadayyon notes, that might reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. The plant is also diuretic and works as a mild laxative. Alugbati is used as a remedy for headaches, inflammation and ulcers, too, Tadayyon reports.
Tips and Considerations
Alugbati usually grows in tropical regions, but you might be able to find it at specialty markets or farmers markets in your area. You might also order seeds and try growing it yourself. Once you get your hands on a bunch of alugbati, coarsely chop the leaves and stir them into soup or stew. Experiment with recipes and try adding alugbati to salad, stir-fry or curry, which are a few of the ways it's eaten in the Philippines.
Source: Healthy Eating
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