March 6, 2023
21-Day Challenge for Health, Environment Launches in the Philippines
By Lineth Brondial
For the first time, Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines joins other Tzu Chi branches worldwide for the Healthier Me 21-Day Challenge, where participants commit to a three-week plant-based, whole-foods nutritional diet.
The whole-foods, plant-based program was officially launched on February 28 via Zoom together with the organizers, participants, and partners. As of this writing, the program already received 24 registrations from participants all over Metro Manila. The first run started on March 1.
This project seeks to support the goal of combating the three highs (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol), which are some of the main causes of chronic diseases.
For 21 days, participants are challenged to eat only plant-based and whole-food meals to be delivered to their doorstep in partnership with Vegameals, a 100% cruelty-free health food restaurant offering plant-based, vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free options using no dairy, no MSG (monosodium glutamate), and no preservatives.
“This is a pilot program by Tzu Chi Philippines, but worldwide, other Tzu Chi offices have been doing this this since 2020. This year, we are joining Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong, and Japan,” said Peggy Sy of Tzu Chi Philippines.
The Healthier Me 21-Day Challenge was first initiated by members of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Malaysia in 2020 and has since enrolled 14,000 participants with immense success, seeing improvements in the participants’ health indexes, including the three highs and weight loss.
All participants are subscribed to a meal plan inclusive of breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner to be delivered to their home for free daily, as well as a private consultation with the program’s partner nutritionist-dietitian specializing in plant-based nutrition. Under this program, they can also avail of a subsidized standard blood test from any Metro Manila branch of Hi-Precision Diagnostics, the medical diagnostic center and laboratory clinic that offers quality and affordable health screening services. Participants are recommended to have a blood test at the start of the program to give them a baseline of their levels of cholesterol, sugar, and other profiles.
“In the Philippines, one out of two Filipinos has high cholesterol, so based on these statistics, if we are a population of 100 million, 50% would have high cholesterol. Four out of 10 Filipinos have hypertension and three out of 10 have high blood sugar. This is alarming, because the symptoms may not be showing yet, but in the long run, you might be diagnosed with conditions that would require medications and may no longer be reversible,” said Jake Brandon Andal, RND, the program’s partner nutritionist-dietitian.
Andal adds that prevention is always better than cure and the way to do this is through nutrition. “We make decisions for our nutrition and diet at least five times a day. Health is an accumulation of all of our choices,” he said.
A well-planned whole-food, plant-based diet coupled with regular moderate exercise can improve more than 80% of obesity. It can also eliminate the three highs, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and reduce mortality from diet-related noncommunicable diseases, according to an article published in international medical journal The Lancet in 2019.
Besides its health benefits, eating plant-based contributes to the greatest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The same report concluded that a dietary shift toward plant-based foods and away from food sourced from animals is vital for promoting the health of our planet.
The Healthier Me 21-Day Challenge is linked to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include good health and well-being, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
This is a first run and Tzu Chi will work on similar programs to help reduce our carbon footprints through the food we eat. Institutions and organizations that are interested to know more about these programs can contact Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines through firstname.lastname@example.org.