DUBAI // Four women in Dubai took up a week-long organic food challenge requiring that 80 to 85 per cent of their daily diet contain organic produce to determine if turning organic could indeed have health benefits.
The results were surprising to some.
Adriana Mebarr, a mind coach and yoga teacher, was sceptical before the challenge, as she already has a very “clean” diet. But she is now convinced, even though the challenge only lasted a short period of time.
“I actually feel I have much more energy and don’t have the afternoon slumps. I have a much clearer mind already, too, as well as more stamina,” she said, which she noticed when doing her triathlon training.
“We always look too much at losing weight. For me, I have never had a problem with my weight but today there is so much focus on weight rather than health, having a better way of eating.”
Ola Fadda is a pharmacist by trade and said the experiment was interesting.
“Being organic doesn’t automatically mean being healthy so I’ve had to do a lot of research. It’s also about making the right choices,” she said.
However, she has noticed a difference in the short timeframe.
“I’ve already noticed I have higher energy levels, my digestion is working better, I have a better mood and I’m sleeping better.”
In addition, she said the organic food tastes better and more like the food she is used to back home in Jordan where everything comes from small, local farms.
“Because of my scientific background I’m really won over and it’s a big step to change my life,” she added.
Kelly Montoya, 28, a health coach, already eats around 75 per cent organic so has had a different experience to the other women.
“I haven’t experienced any of the things the others have been going through like the headaches from the caffeine or sugar withdrawal,” she said.
“Sometimes I can’t relate to very common problems that people have. I’m never tired and don’t have the things most people do and I can only attribute that to having a healthy diet.
“It doesn’t matter how much broccoli you eat if it’s not good. It’s going to have a repercussion whether in the body or mind.”
Her philosophy is to think of food as nutrition, not in terms of a diet.
“You don’t hear people saying they’ve been on a diet for 30 years. A diet is the food you eat every day. People just don’t really understand what they’re putting in their body and connect that to how they feel; for example, a stomachache that’s caused by all the sugar they maybe consumed.”
While back in New Zealand, Aimee-Rose Kennaugh would also eat locally grown produce and it was normal for families to keep animals.
She has found going organic has been more costly in Dubai. However, since doing the “Organic On Your Plate” challenge, where participants were provided with fruit and vegetables, flour, oats and quinoa, she can see the value in it.
“There’s certainly a benefit with dairy for it to be purer and I can see it as being an investment to buy organic. It’s actually not as big a price difference as I’d thought either,” Ms Kennaugh said.
Ms Montoya sees a healthy diet as being a better prevention than curing disease: “What you don’t pay at the front, you pay at the back. It’s better to live healthily now than pay for being sick later.”
Organised by Down to Earth Dubai, an independent, organic family-run grocery store, it was the brainchild of one of its employees, Heena Aswani. She herself went organic for a month, from the food she ate to the products she used on her hair and skin. And she agrees with Ms Montoya.
“Pay the farmer now and not the doctor later,” she said.
Each day participants were sent support e-mails with facts about the foods included in their bundles, such as coconut oil, and given recipe ideas. They were offered healthier alternatives, such as switching from regular flour to multi-grain flour or from sugar to agave nectar.
Tips such as healthy snack choices and vitamin and mineral contents of food are also given to help educate the pioneer participants.
“In just one month of doing everything organic back in March, I noticed such a difference and I wanted to take this to more people,” Ms Aswani said. “I had so much more energy than I’ve ever had before. It’s really about making better choices and this is what we are trying to show people through the challenge.”