Lugaw, a local porridge, is so common and simple that we take it for granted, until we fall ill. Can you recall the times you had the flu or bouts of diarrhea and all you could think of was eating lugaw? Oh, the instant comfort a humble bowl of hot rice boiled in water brings! What makes it so comforting?
Generally speaking, porridge is prepared by boiling grains in water or milk. Variations come depending on the country of origin. Porridge in western countries use oats and milk. In Asian countries, porridge is known as congee in China, okayu in Japan, jok in Thailand, juk in Korea, and lugaw in the Philippines. Arroz caldo is a more flavorful version brought by the added ginger, broth, garlic, and chicken. Porridge varies in terms of grain quality. For example, glutinous rice versus short-grain. The consistency of the broth and other ingredients used to flavor also differ. But they all boil down two things: to give nourishment and comfort.
Are there any health benefits to eating lugaw? Could it possibly possess healing properties? First, let us consider how a sick person feels. Loss of appetite is very common, next to dehydration and difficulty in digestion. This puts him or her at risk of dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and fatigue. Lugaw can provide easy to digest source of energy through the boiled rice, which is high in carbohydrates. The high water content of lugaw can add to the individuals total fluid intake in a day, thus helping prevent dehydration.
Second, lugaw is a versatile bland dish that can be enhanced in many ways to add more nutrients and flavor. There are no rules set in cooking lugaw. Adding ginger will give multiple health benefits. It has antimicrobial properties that ward off germs, bacteria, and viruses. It’s anti-inflammatory effects aid in pain management, as well as fever. Ginger also calms nausea and indigestion. It helps control cholesterol and lowers blood glucose too.
Another ingredient common in lugaw is garlic. This close relative of onion and scallion has been used since ancient times to treat lung diseases, fever, high blood pressure, and stomach upset, which includes flatulence, indigestion, and colic.
Salt is a staple for lugaw. Caution, however, must be taken for individuals with high blood pressure and edema. Salt is not entirely bad. For someone experiencing diarrhea, salt will help improve electrolyte imbalance and prevent dehydration. Sprinkle some on your lugaw.
Adding some flaked chicken or fish, egg, and other seafood will give high biologic value protein for immunity and prevention of muscle loss. For a plant based lugaw, lentils, beans, and soy products can be added as good sources of protein.
You can also choose to make the humble dish fancier by trying on a sweeter and more sophisticated flavor instead of the usual savory one. Sprinkle some cinnamon powder, add cubed apple and banana slices, and drizzle some honey.
Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant. It helps lower blood glucose, quell inflammation, especially for those experiencing arthritic pains. Honey is a potent natural cough suppressant. It is also a prebiotic, which promotes healthy gut microbiome or bacteria in the digestive system. Apple and banana have pectin, which is good for the stomach lining and heart health. Having some apples and bananas during bouts of diarrheal episodes will help form stool.
Never underestimate the nutritional value of having lugaw, especially on sick days. Lugaw is essential.