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Staying Healthy is no simple matter

An article aimed at spreading the word about healthy foods and organic products. This was written by Atty Connie Veneracion...

It is summer; there are illnesses associated with the heat just as there are illnesses that are more common during the rainy season. My younger daughter has been sporting a cold for the past several days and she has her supply of milk and juices. No tablets, no pills.

Unlike most households, the only medicine you will find in my house is a couple of paracetamol tablets and antacids. We are not among those who believe that there is a tablet or a pill for every little illness that we contract. We don’t take vitamins either. Not as syrup nor in tablet form. We don’t call the doctor every time one of our daughters has a runny nose. Neither do we run to the drugstore. And we’re fine. In fact, we’re great. No serious illness in so many years.

What we do is try to maintain a healthy diet. While the definition of “healthy” may range from vegan to pure organic diets and everything else in between, in my family, it means “natural”—no instant noodles, minimal cured or processed meat, no canned corned beef and the like, no softdrinks and powdered juices in the house. No kidding. See, whatever vitamins and minerals our bodies need, we intend to get them from the natural food we eat. No supplements in bottles. So, we stick to fish, chicken, the occasional red meat, vegetables, fruits and dairy.

It isn’t a perfect diet and we don’t have the perfect healthy lifestyle. We do have our own share of unhealthy habits and we know we ought to exercise regularly. But remembering the lessons from grade school about go, grow and glow food helps. Drugs are drugs and the chemicals in them may stay in our system all through our lives. An aunt took aspirin for headaches all her adult life and she died from gaping holes in her stomach where the acid triggered by aspirin bore through.

But in this day and age of technology and food crisis (why does that sound so ironic?), some problems are starting to crop up. What is “natural” these days? There is a persistent rumor that poultry raisers feed chickens with progesterone so that they will be big enough for the slaughterhouse in less number of days. Will eating a lot of chicken make young boys develop breasts and curvy hips by they time they are adults?

And here’s something for those who believe that olive oil is the way to go. A couple of months ago, over the butter versus margarine discussion, photo journalist Ben Razon pointed me to the olive oil scandal. A snippet from “Slippery Business” by Tom Mueller, published in The New Yorker on Aug. 13, 2007:

“On August 10, 1991, a rusty tanker called the Mazal II docked at the industrial port of Ordu, in Turkey, and pumped twenty-two hundred tons of hazelnut oil into its hold. The ship then embarked on a meandering voyage through the Mediterranean and the North Sea. By September 21st, when the Mazal II reached Barletta, a port in Puglia, in southern Italy, its cargo had become, on the ship’s official documents, Greek olive oil. It slipped through customs, possibly with the connivance of an official, was piped into tanker trucks, and was delivered to the refinery of Riolio, an Italian olive-oil producer based in Barletta. There it was sold—in some instances blended with real olive oil—to Riolio customers.”

Just a few months ago, there was news about the successful cloning of swine, cattle and goats. The US Food and Drug Administration declared them safe for human consumption and when they are sold commercially in a few years’ time, they will not be labeled as meat from cloned animals. They will be sold along with regular meat and we won’t know which is which.

Just last week, Greenpeace said it conducted tests on the rice from the United States, part of the “assistance” announced by Ambassador Kristie Kenney during the Bataan Day commemoration, and found traces of GMO. Genetically modified organism. And they were not labeled as such. Like I said in my April 17 column, the pledge to supply us with rice comes with a price. And part of the price may be to serve as dumping ground for GMOs that cannot be sold in the United States.

Finally, there is the issue of how long we will be able to afford natural food. It’s been a long time since I consciously checked the price of food items at the supermarket. Usually, I chose what I liked, put them in the cart and paid. Not because I’m rich but because I care more about quality. But, yesterday, I was about to get a couple of 225-gram blocks of butter from the freezer when my eyes went past the price tag—72 pesos each. I put all the butter back and decided we wouldn’t die if I didn’t bake cakes and cookies for a while—for a long while, in fact. It wouldn’t hurt our diet either.

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