Time Out Bahrain catches up with the pioneers of pesticide-free food
Time Out Bahrain staff
For a country that grows practically no food of its own, it’s a wonder that Bahrain has as much cuisine as it does, let alone new fangled ideas like organics. But the fads that blow in lands afar also tend to blow a bit here, and Bahrain does have a microscopic, but growing, band of organic campaigners, who are keen to keep your palate pesticide free.
And it comes not a moment too soon. With food high on the health agenda of the country after researchers found that Bahrainis are among the world’s fattest people (a thundering 64.1 per cent of the population is overweight), the country is starting to get a taste for food untarnished by chemicals.
And the effect of chemicals on human health are not the only reason people are turning their backs on factory farmed food. Farming is massively damaging to the environment, and the more chemical fertilisers, pesticides and growth enhancers you plough into the land, the less sustainable it becomes, and the more the farm pollutes. Add to this the fact that organic farming is more humane when it comes to animals, and produces significantly more nutritious food when eaten which on the whole tastes infinitely better, opting for organic should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Bahrain doesn’t grow any organic food of its own, meaning a lot of the produce is imported from hundreds of miles away, which is not all that great when it comes to combating climate change.
While most of the supermarkets have a dedicated section in which you can find a range of packed organic produce, the country is still a long way behind most European cities when it comes to organic restaurants, organic greengrocers and a true understanding of the evil of chemicals in the diet. Trying to change all that are two pioneering doctors Dr Lamia Al-Shehabee and Dr Jamilla Alqaseer. Time Out Bahrain met up with them both to see what each was doing to make Bahrain a more appetising place.
Dr Jamilla Alqaseer founder of Health House
Health House is a holistic healing centre. When you change your lifestyle, the main part of what you change is food. We show people the correlation between their problems and food. We don’t push, we empower.
I started 12 years ago. I went to the University of Washington to study holistic healing. The greatest difficulty I found when I came back was that people don’t like to change. Expatriates are very good at this, but Bahrainis are not as good: they go to parties, and they want to enjoy life. They want to change their lifestyle, but not in relation to their food.
Organics are very important. Once you detoxify, you want to clean yourself. [Organic food] helps to rejuvenate the cells. The organic food sold in Bahrain comes from different places, but not from Bahrain. If you want to grow anything organic in Bahrain you need have certification that pesticides have not been used on that space for 10 years, that’s why. At Health House we concentrate on organic staples and snacks. We have two centres in Bahrain and are opening a centre in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in the very near future.
Dr Lamia Al-Shehabee founder of Nature Valley
Nature Valley was founded in the year 2000. I am a family doctor who treats patients in a natural and nutritional way, and I found it was very difficult to treat my patients without there being organic food and the right supplements here. I felt that I couldn’t really carry on with what I was doing without the supplements and the food that I needed to cure my patients.
It was not a business at first, but suddenly I found myself on the radio and in newspapers talking about organic food. I think because Bahrain is a small island, it was easy to create awareness. After 10 years most people realise that organic products are best. I concentrate on promoting the wholegrain products and oils, rather than bombarding the market with biscuits and crackers and chocolate and things like that, even if they are organic, because this is not really the concept behind healthy organics.
A lot of research has been done, and the amount of nutrients in organic food is much higher than in non-organic produce. You get more vitamins and minerals, more fibre, everything is preserved, and yet you don’t get the pesticides, hormones and antibiotics that is found in non-organic food. In 2010 we will have fresh organic produce available in Bahrain. If you make the effort, then your diet can be completely organic. For more information, contact Health House on 17 410 055, and Nature Valley on 17 825 554.
Dear Dr Sahabee,
A nice peace of information but the main thing is how can u help ppl to choose the organic foods from markets of Bahrain & where? can u name some in order to choose amongst healthy foods available how can we differentiate between organic and non organic foods.