Introducing Organic and Healthy Eating into your Life

local healthy food varieties

Originally posted at BlogWatch Features of the Philippine Online Chronicles where the Author has currently renewed its contract as a contributor writer. Part of this article was also published at DDG Magazine (May-June issue), a one-year old, bi-monthly social networking and lifestyle magazine, which you can buy at National Bookstore branches.

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organic vegetables

Organic or naturally-grown vegetables and fruits are your money’s best buy!

When I decided to start introducing organic produce into my life, I already know it was going to be a no walk in the park.

The first hesitation of most of the people I know about organic food is that it is expensive. Second is that organic food is not physically accessible anytime of the day or week. Third, organic or healthy food tastes yucky.

There are many factors as to why organic food is both economically and physically inaccessible at this point in time. Although healthy eating is on the rise according to recent surveys, many of these are targeted at A/B crowds. What are left behind are the regular rank and file workers and their children who are in most need of nutrition including also our call center agents. Yes, demands for healthy/organic foods are increasing but the country is still lagging behind in the supply side.

Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 (RA 10068)  recognizes the urgency of shifting to a sustainable organic and ecological agriculture model to increase rice production and productivity in the long run, boost farmers’ income, promote better health for farmers and consumers and increase soil fertility by arresting the degradation of the environment.  

Very few of the farmers are shifting from conventional farming to natural/organic farming because of little support and subsidy from the government. While there is an Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 (RA 10068), the law is yet to be fully implemented specifically on the subsidies for farmers interested in shifting. The certification process and costs are both tedious and expensive for farmers, who are among the poorest in society. This affects the promotion of sustainable organic and ecological agriculture negatively. Farmers think like economists and business people too. They want more yields so that they can be converted into income for their families. Therefore, educating them and encouraging them to make that shift is very crucial.

Organic agriculture and health advocates, environmentalists, consumers and even the farming community itself took note of the government’s silence or confusion on the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO) or the use of GM technologies in crop-raising and food manufacturing. At present, the government allows the entry of GM articles for food, feeds and processing; was already undergoing the field testing of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) Talong only that the Court of Appeals stopped it due to the petition filed by advocates using the precautionary principle (“better be safe than sorry” argument) and I believe recent reports confirmed that it has been permanently stopped; and, its push for the genetically-modified, Vitamin A-enriched Golden Rice.

Precautionary Principle sets in which states that, when human activities may lead to threats of serious and irreversible damage to the environment that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish the threat.

For us advocates, the government knows for a fact that a peaceful co-existence between sustainable/ecological, organic farms and GM farms is next to impossible due to the high possibility of contamination. Genetic Engineering is not a technology proven to be safe just yet. Once the GM produce is released in the environment, there is no technology available yet to recall or reverse the contamination. What the international consumer activist and expert, Jeffrey Smith suggested is for GM technology proponents to go back to the lab and improved on the technology. If they can pinpoint to conclusive studies that will prove anti-GMO advocates wrong re the uncertainty of the technology, then perhaps we can discuss/debate on the issue again. As empowered advocates, let us not let these so-called, “high scientists” bully and discredit us simply because we lack the diploma/scientific license. Science is not the monopoly of scientists and biotech proponents alone. Simple common sense, close observation, research and reference to studies done by doctors, scientists and advocates like Jeffrey who have alternative perspectives will arm us in our fight and help us articulate our arguments.

On the other hand, consumers must also understand that due to the nature of organic produce, they are accessible only on weekend markets because this is when they are freshly picked in organic farms by our farmers. However, this will eventually be worked out as soon as more farmers make that shift and processes of marketing and trading of these organic produce are systematized.

As advocates, we should be able to contribute significantly in pushing these structural and policy changes for consumers to have constant access to these healthy, organic produce in the long run. Also, our role in consumer education must never seize and be done in parallel to our advocacy work.

organic veggies marketing

Organic or naturally-grown produce are mostly available on weekend markets.

Practical Tips for Consumers on Buying Organic, Avoiding GMOs and Eating Healthy

With all the factors beyond our control discussed briefly in the first part of this article, I now proceed to the things that we can control to ensure safe and healthy eating.

Buying Organic Food and Natural Products

1. When shopping for organic or natural produce, supermarket is not the best place to shop. Either you look for a health store (which is very limited in the Philippines except for high-end ones like Healthy Options, SugarLeaf and EchoStore). The next best option for you is to go on weekend markets. Reminder, though, not all stalls in the weekend markets sell organic and natural products. You have to read and make your own research and observation.

  • North Area (Quezon City), 6 AM to 2 PM – SIDCOR Sunday Market at the back of Eton Centris in Quezon Avenue. Organic/Natural produce can be found at the stalls of Uncle John, Green Daisy, etc.

 South Area

  • Makati: Salcedo Park (Saturday), Legazpi Park (Sunday). Organic/Natural produce can be found at the stall of Herbana Farms, the farm of Gil Carandang (one of the gurus in organic farming)
  • Alabang: Across or at the parking lot of De La Salle Santiago Zobel school inside Ayala Alabang on Saturdays

 You may also order from trusted organic food sources online:

 For more of these online sources, visit http://www.sustainablemanila.com/p/sustainable-shopping-guide.html.

When going to the weekend markets, it is best to go as early as 6 AM, when produce are still fresh. Handle your veggies with care by wrapping them in paper. Once you reached home, make sure to soak them in organic vinegar for 20 minutes to clean them.

Update: There are certain nutritious vegetables naturally-grown without the costly “organic” price tag such as Malunggay (Moringa), local Spinach, legumes, etc. The reason for this according to one woman farmer, Margie Lacanilao, is that these vegetables can grow everywhere without needing fertilizers. Legumes, for example, have their own natural fertilizers, thus, not needing synthetic fertilizers. The ones that need much farm inputs are the various lettuces and cabbage family. So this means that you can go to your local public “wet” markets nearby your place and choose the vegetables mentioned above. There’s really no reason for us not eat healthy veggies.

2. Second rule of thumb is never buy anything that is a brand name or produced by large publicly traded food manufacturers. Look for small independent companies from your local area that package food in small batches and make it with loving care. These are usual cases in organic or natural house and bath products. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing brands.

3. Know your farmer, producers (and maintain a “suki” in wet markets/palengke).

If you are a starting organic consumer myself, it is quite important to know your terrain. Concretely, establish your relationship with your farmers where you get your produce. Travel and meet them in their farms. If this is not feasible, build relationships with the producers/”suki” in the market near you. Ask them how they grow or where do they source their produce.

One tip from Pinoy Organics is to get your food from farms that are 100-150 kilometers away from where you live. Not only this lessens the carbon footprint from transporting them but you also have to think about the process of packing and handling the food especially with longer travel time. The farther the origin of the food, the level of toxicity is much higher.

In case the crop you are looking for is none near you then that’s the time to look a little farther away from home.

4. Going organic can’t be done overnight.

Pinoy Organics advised consumers not to belabor themselves of going 100% organic overnight. According to Joey Hernandez, head of Pinoy Organics, she’s not a 100% organic food and ingredient user. Consumers need to learn the art of layering and deciding on their non-negotiable when it comes to safe food.

Joey follows the Pinoy Organics’ Basic Five, the five must-haves in your kitchen:

  • Organic Rice. For a starter, go organic in your rice. At least, this is already 50% of your plate and the rest can follow gradually.
  • Natural Sea Salt. Imagine a cooked food without salt. Looking for natural salt can be quite difficult if you don’t know where to find one. Organic weekend markets usually have them.
  • Cooking Oil. Coconut oil (Brand: Minola or Baguio Oil) is best for your frying and cooking needs.
  • Sugar. Pinoy Organics prefer Coconut Sugar, which can be found in groceries. Mascovado Sugar comes second best.
  • Eggs. Free range eggs are available in almost all groceries and supermarkets.    

 5. Choose the best food and beverage your money can buy.

As a mother consumer, Joey’s main considerations are budget and the availability of the food she needs.

Joey said that when deciding what is best to buy with budget as top consideration, she would rather go for a naturally-grown crop than to buy an expensive, out-of-the-budget organic vegetable. In this case, a trusted farmer or producer is a necessity. You may also want to try growing your vegetable and herb garden in your own backyard to lessen your expenses.

Avoiding GMO containing food and food products

GMO?

What is GMO?

6. In going organic, of course, it follows that you have to avoid GM foods by familiarizing yourselves with foods/crops that have been genetically-modified in other countries such as:

  • Soy. Almost 93% of soy is already GM so beware of imported soy products. Our local soy is relatively ok especially if they come from the 7th Day Adventist producers.
  • Corn. An estimated 86% of corn is GM. In the Philippines, about 25-30% of our corn is GM (commercialized corn – meaning grown here). Corn concentrates such as high fructose corn syrup might have a GM strain so beware in taking the substance. It is mostly found in our chocolates and candies. It is best to eat our native “white” corns including popcorns and corn chips than the yellow “sweet” corns.
  • Rapeseed Canola. It is 100% GM.
  • Sugar beets. Unless you buy it at an organic farm (i.e. Herbana Farms), avoid eating them. An estimated 95% of Sugar beets is GM (99% in U.S.).
  • Cotton. An estimated 93% of which is GM. The seeds of these are pressed into cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
  • Dairy. Cows injected with GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
  • Sugar. Artificial sweetener, Aspertame, is a GMO. Beet sugar under the guise of just SUGAR in food labels might have a high possibility that it is GMO. Look for food products that say CANE SUGAR instead in the food label.
  • Papayas. An estimated 80% of which is GM. Approval and cultivation of GM papayas are expected in the near future in some Asian countries. They say that about 3,500 hectares of GM Papayas were grown in China in 2007.
  • Zucchini.
  • Baked goods. Often has one or more of the common GM ingredients in them. Go organic on your breads or learn how to cook and bake them on your own from scratch using organic ingredients. 
7. Read the ingredient labels first before buying.
A wise consumer gives ample time in reading nutrition facts and ingredient labels while doing shopping in the grocery store.

 

Kevin Trudeau, in his book, ”Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. Alliance Publishing Group. 2004.

When reading labels, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Any substance whose name you can’t pronounce.
  • The following ingredients maybe made from GMOs unless they are declared organic (invisible GM ingredients):
    • Aspertame (also called AminoSweet, NutraSweet, Equal Spoonful, Canderel, Benevia, E951)
    • Baking powder
    • Canola oil (rapeseed oil)
    • Caramel color
    • Cellulose
    • Citric Acid
    • Cobalamin (Vit B12)
    • Colorose
    • Condensed Milk
    • Confectioners Sugar
    • Corn Flour
    • Corn Masa
    • Corn Meal
    • Corn Oil
    • Corn Sugar
    • Corn Syrup
    • Cornstarch
    • Cottonseed Oil
    • Cyclodextrin
    • Cystein
    • Dextrin
    • Dextrose
    • Diacetyl
    • Diglyceride
    • Erythritol
    • Equal
    • Food Starch
    • Fructose (any form)
    • Glucose
    • Glutamate
    • Glutamic Acid
    • Glycerides
    • Glycerine
    • Glycerol
    • Glycerol Monooleate
    • Glycerine
    • Hemicellulose
    • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
    • Hydrogenated starch
    • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
    • Inositol
    • Inverse Syrup
    • Inversol
    • Invert Sugar
    • Isoflavones
    • Lactic Acid
    • Lecithin
    • Leucine
    • Lysine
    • Malitol
    • Malt
    • Malt Syrup
    • Malt Extract
    • Maltodextrin
    • Maltose
    • Mannitol
    • Methylcellulose
    • Milk Powder
    • Milo Starch
    • Modified Food Starch
    • Modified Starch
    • Mono and diglycerides
    • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
    • NutraSweet
    • Oleic Acid
    • Phenylalanine
    • Phytic Acid
    • Protein Isolate
    • Shoyu
    • Sorbitol
    • Soy Flour
    • Soy Isolates
    • Soy Lecithin
    • Soy Milk
    • Soy Oil
    • Soy Protein
    • Soy Protein Isolate
    • Soy Sauce
    • Starch
    • Stearic Acid
    • Sugar (unless canesugar)
    • Tamari
    • Tempeh
    • Teriyaki Marinades
    • Textured Vegetable Protein
    • Threonine
    • Tocopherols (Vit E)
    • Tofu (US-made/imported; local – maybe safe)
    • Trehalose
    • Triglyceride
    • Vegetable Fat
    • Vegetable Oil
    • Vitamin B12
    • Vitamin E
    • Whey
    • Whey Powder
    • Xanthan Gum
  • Hydrogenated Oil or Partially Hydrogenated Oil (Trans fat).
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors (which may include the invisible GM ingredients listed above)
  • Spices (which may include the invisible GM ingredients listed above)
  • Artificial Color (which may include the invisible GM ingredients listed above)
  • Palm Oil
  • Sucralose-Splenda (chemical sweetener)
  • Enriched bleached wheat flour, and enriched bleached white flour

Eating Healthy

Sumptuous healthy food!

Sumptuous healthy food!

Organic healthy food tasting yucky and bland is a myth. It only takes creativity to make them taste amazing and deliciously palatable. As a consumer, gradually making the shift but trying to make ends meet, I have taken the following steps to healthy eating:

8. Avoid Fast Food Restaurants. For a year now, I never went inside McDonald’s except to buy a brewed coffee once. If I can’t avoid eating in other fast food chains, I chose what to order very carefully always taking the lesser evil. I am almost 75% out of foods from these restaurants.

9. Avoid processed foods. For a year now, I tried avoiding these meats and chose viands made from real ingredients like vegetables and meat products. Or I choose those high-end brands of cold cuts because I am surer with them (like the case in the previous holiday season). I am almost 75% out of these processed meats.

10. If I need to dine out and have the money, I dine at high-end restaurants because most probably they choose their food ingredients wisely and cook dishes from scratch.

11. When dining out, I make it a point to ask questions to waiters or restaurants managers (e.g. what oil they use, where they source their food, etc.).

12. When cooking, I know longer use preserve, artificial, synthetic taste enhancers (P.A.S.T.E.) such as MSG, Maggie Magic Sarap, Knorr Cubes and Sinigang Mix and follow the Basic Five of Pinoy Organics.

13. I chose healthier options such as raw or boiled SABA or Latundan with black spots (richer nutritional value) in Bananas, native White Corn, boiled peanuts in shell, Banana Chips and Cassava Chips, rootcrops (i.e. Sweet Potatoes)

Organic or natural produce, food products, house/cleaning and bath products might cost more initially. However when you analyzed it, the little amount you add in your budget is way cheaper than the future hospital bills you might have brought about by consuming unsafe, unhealthy food and chemical products.

 

3 Responses to Introducing Organic and Healthy Eating into your Life

  1. Excellent post on organic food and how to shift eating habits towards it! If I may add, if there’s no organic produce in your area, why not produce some yourself!

  2. […] veggies such as labong, sprouts, etc. You may want to check out my earlier article in the site on Introducing Organic and Healthy Eating into your Life for more […]

  3. MARIA ROSALIA VILLANUEVA says:

    hello! i wanted to go organic too! I have a 7months old baby and i want her to take all organic products! But how? Im here in Palawan, there is no organic stores here,only option is to buy online…haist

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