Ali Al-Khalifa of Bahrain's Organic Café on the importance of a good diet
Time Out Bahrain staff
How did you get involved with the issues of organic foods and healthy eating? I was first exposed to organic food when I was studying in the US. It did not have a huge impact on me then other than that I would use organic ingredients when I wanted to cook something special. However, while I was still in the US, two of my grandparents passed away months apart - both due to cancer. That led me to reading and learning about what is it exactly that I am eating and food’s link to cancer. I really could not believe what junk I used to eat!
What benefits can this have for health? When you eat food that is free from chemicals and genetic modification, you are saving your body from having to fight your food. When your body does not know what to do with a chemical that you have ingested, it usually attacks it with white blood cells to get rid of it. That leaves your body vulnerable to infections!
Have you noticed this from personal experience? I have been sick only once in the last four years and that was when I was on vacation in a country that did not have organic food! Eating organic has strengthened my immune system and has left me feeling more energetic.
Do people need to completely change their ways of eating or can they make small adjustments for big gains? It really depends on what results one wants. A good rule of thumb is 80-20. If you eat right 80 per cent of the time, your body can deal with 20 per cent. My recommendation is, as always, to stay away from products you know are normally genetically modified and buy them in organic instead. The most common products are: chicken, salmon, soya and corn (including those products that use corn oil or syrup such as crisps, soft drinks, etc). For the little ones, stay away from products that make heavy use of hormones (especially milk). Ideally, you want to eat everything in organic, as our bodies are not designed to deal with pesticides and petroleum-based fertilisers.
How long has Organic Foods & Café being going in Bahrain? The Organic Foods and Cafe opened on January 14, 2011.
What has the reaction been? People were sceptical when we first opened. Not many people knew what organic meant. People kept expecting tasteless and expensive food. We have shown them that organic is actually full of flavour and is actually very affordable. Today, we have a very loyal customer base who have discovered what a difference eating properly can have on your lifestyle!
What are the most popular products? Our most popular products are our baby and kids’ foods (we want those young ones to be healthy, am I right?!) as well as our coconut products (the coconut has a lot of health benefits).
We also carry raw and Manuka honies which are very popular.
Are you rolling out supply of organic products to other venues and the food delivery business? We’ve found that even more than the products, what draws people to organic food is the community. If you came to the shop, found a complete stranger and asked him or her a food question, you would most probably get a good answer. I am quite proud of the fact that we count among our customers a large number of health gurus, doctors, farmers, chefs and people who are just interested in food.
It is hard to get this kind of community outside the shop. We plan on opening one or two small express branches for those that are too far to come to our shop for every little thing.
Also, in the coming months, we plan on having a food delivery business where people can either place a single order or a recurring order that would be delivered to their doorstep. Fancy organic probiotic yoghurt from the Austrian Alps and organic Alpine rye bread every morning? No problem we will deliver it to you in time for breakfast daily.
The whole point of opening the shop is to make good, honest food available in Bahrain. We want to make a difference. We are a small, family-owned business where you can come in and talk directly to the owner, no matter what time. Take advantage of that. Let us know what you would like to see in the shop and we we’ll work to make it happen!