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Top Five Pinoy Street Foods That Can Be Dangerous To Your Health


Crispy fried delicacies, scrumptious sweet & sour sauce and smoking hot barbecue fresh from the grills - – Mention any of these to a typical Filipino and within a few seconds, you will find him running straight towards stalls offering mouth-watering Pinoy street foods. There’s no arguing to the fact that Filipinos have shared with other Asian nationalities a set of taste buds with a natural inclination for exotic but delectable street foods. We have grown accustomed to the authentic taste of all-Filipino snacks being offered in different streets of the metro and provinces. These include fish balls, betamax (pork blood), helmet (chicken head), balut (17-day old duck chick), kwek-kwek; the list just goes on and on. And with the ever present financial constraints being experienced by a vast majority of Filipino workers and students, it’s not that hard to explain why most of us resort to these foods to silence our hunger pangs.

However, as much as we want to savor every spice and heavenly flavour that these original Filipino street delicacies have to offer, medical experts who have continued to become staunch advocates of sanitary food preparation and food safety are always in doubt of these Pinoy street foods. Yes, they can give some sort of gastronomic satisfaction but in general, they may pose significant health risks which the average Filipino always fail to acknowledge. As a matter of fact, Prof. Ma. Patricia V. Avanza, Ph.D. of the Food Science and Nutrition Department of the UP College of Home Economics in Diliman mentioned in her blog that street foods are the most “dangerous” Filipino dishes, largely because of the insufficient cooking methods involved. Let us try to take a look at the five of the most popular street foods in the Philippines today and reveal its bad side and a little bit of its good side.

Isaw 

Known as the quintessential Pinoy street food, “isaw” or also known as grilled chicken intestines, have become the favorite “pulutan” and “merienda” of a typical Juan dela Cruz due to its unique bitter/salty taste. One stick of isaw contains a rich supply of calories but there’s more to chicken gizzards than meets the eye.

Why is it bad for your health? For one, the bitter taste that you usually get from the juices oozing out from a cooked “isaw” is not something you must be playing around with your mouth. Believe it or not, the bitter taste is a sure-fire indication that you’re eating the residue of the chicken’s fecal material. In addition to that, Prof. Ma. Patricia V. Avanza, Ph.D.  has also pointed out that “….the internal temperature used when grilling isaw is not adequate to kill bacteria or parasites that reside on it”  But most of its negative health effects come from the fact that “isaw” is a rich source of cholesterol and excess calories; eating too much of it (ideally, it should only be one stick per day) can increase your risks of cardiovascular diseases and even cancer due to the benzopyrene it contains, according to Maria Francia Barela, nutritionist-dietician of the Hospital of Infant Jesus and assistant diabetes educator of the Diabetes Center of the Philippines.

Crispy Chicken Skin

When I was a child, I had always wondered why my grandmother cooked chicken dishes without any chicken skin included. I thought that tinola without any sign of a chicken skin was more of a tradition back then but as I grew up, I have realized that there’s a health information behind it. According to experts, the only healthy part of a chicken is its breast where all the white meat can be found. The rest, especially chicken skin, impose certain health risks that our body’s natural protective mechanisms can’t afford.

Why is it bad for your health? Chicken skin alone is fully-packed with bad cholesterol that if you’re going to prepare a serving of crispy chicken skin like what they do on the streets, you’re only exposing your body to further threats of excess fats. Always remember that chicken skin being offered by side-walk vendors are deep-fried in overused cooking oils and immersed in additional fattening ingredients to intensify its flavorful taste. Some of the possible health hazards related to chicken skin are kidney and liver problems, digestive problems,  brain strokes, cardiac arrests, cancer,  high blood pressure,  pimples and allergies.

Fish Balls/Squid Balls

Long been hailed as the “king of all street balls”, fish balls and its other varieties like squid balls are probably one of the most famous and affordable street foods to  date. Filipinos really adore  its sea  food taste that they sometimes buy a pack of  fish balls in the market and munch it within the comfort of their own homes. But nothing can beat the sweet and tangy taste of fish ball sauce- -the reason why many Filipinos can’t get enough of this sea food-inspired snack being offered on the streets.

Why is it bad for your health? 

Maria Francia Barela, nutritionist-dietician of the Hospital of Infant Jesus, pointed out in the January 30, 2011 issue of Health & Fitness magazine that fish balls and squid balls  are both natural sources of protein and carbohydrates. However, it’s the preparation of several street vendors, not the actual food itself, that can impose greater risks on the health of innocent people who eat them regularly on the streets. She said, “Actually, the possible dangers rely on the handling of the vendor. There could be a possibility of having cross contamination, like for example, the foods are exposed, and the dipping sauces are not well-monitored by the vendor.”

Calamares 

When it was exclusively served in fine-dining restaurants ages ago, an ordinary Filipino never had an inkling about what “calamares” is all about. However, the gradual introduction of crispy squids in the street food market have made “calamares” as one of the staple street foods being offered in the Philippines. With its succulent meat and crunchy coating, it’s really hard to resist even a single serving of a mouth-watering “calamares” .

Why is it bad for your health? In addition to the fact that some street vendors continue to secretly use formalin-treated squids in cooking “calamares”, the unsanitary food handling, increasing number of pollutants in the streets and disease-carrying flies have made this local street food one of the tastiest but most dangerous street delicacies to date.

Kwek-kwek 

You will never be a full-fledged Pinoy if you have no idea on what “kwek-kwek” is all about. Also known as deep-fried eggs coated in eye-popping yellow-orange color, kwek-kwek has been popular for its two sizes, the smaller one being entirely made from quail eggs. And because it is made from eggs, you will get an ample supply of vitamin A and extra calories by just munching on a single serving of this all-time most popular Pinoy street-food.

Why is it bad for your health?

This is a no-brainer because deep-frying a calorie-rich egg  which is also coated with other fattening components only produces a final product that can only increase your heart attack and hypertension risks with regular consumption. One serving is enough but too much of it is a big no-no if you genuinely want to stay longer.

Web sources:

“Street Delights: The Low-down on Cheap Grub” by euturistas. http://eaturistas.wordpress.com. August 21, 2011

“Health Hazards of Eating Chicken Skin” by Sean Nokes. http://healthy-diet.maxupdates.tv. November 6, 2011

“Street foods – to eat or not to eat” by Diana Grace Juaban. http://www.sunstar.com.ph. January 23, 2010

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©Copyright 2012, Filipino Nurses. All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER: The accuracy of all articles contained in this website are the responsibility of their respective authors. All articles are for informational purposes only and are NOT intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The owner of this site disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on these information. If you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician. If you feel ill, please seek medical attention immediately.

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  • I_am_a_SN

    This is why I never eat foods from carinderia and streetfoodcarts(?) again. I know someone who got hepatitis from eating foods like isaw, turon etc. that were bought in the street.

  • http://ofwdating.com/ Kathleen

    street foods are tasty but impose health risk. may be eat little or whenever you are craving but not regularly and be there are streetfoodcarts in malls better buy there instead on the street.

  • Lita Corazon Pablo Ifurung

    Holly molly! & I love eating “turon” it’s one of my favourite snack! Then you are telling me it could be full of germs especially when bought from the streets! Holly cow! That’s going to spoil the holiday excitement. Better be safe then sorry, okay I shall keep all your well intended warnings in mind next time I get the urge for a snack I’ll go get some banana “damilig” boiled one instead.

  • knk

    you only live once nigga…might as well eat like a king.

    • corazon Ifurung

      Yes white pig of course, you can eat like a cow & be a pighead in a skewer be a lechon meal for lunch & dinner! I wouldn’t eat you after wallowing in pigsty all your short life! KKK!

      • T-rex Rules

        My thoughts exactly. Thanks for taking the words right out of my mouth.

  • rusty

    for real though it doesn’t really matter what you eat and whatnot…just know the limits. you know what i mean? i laughed at the nigga joke though.

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