By Lena Toon
Tell someone that you are going organic and most probably you will be greeted with a look that says “You must be rich”. Buying organic food and products inevitably cost more than the non-organic ones, however one must know that when they splurge on organic food they are saving themselves money from fewer trips to clinics and hospitals. Or so the devotees of the organic lifestyle claim. And judging from the plethora of organic and health food shops that have sprouted up in Ipoh in the past 15 years, the trend is growing in popularity.
“We’re already exposed to so many chemicals in our daily lives, so the food we eat plays a very important role” – Angie Wong
What does Organic Mean?
There is often confusion in consumers’ minds about the labelling of ‘organic’. According to Angie Wong, one of the pioneers who opened one of the first organic shops, Healthy Concept, in Ipoh, the most obvious difference between organic and non-organic food is that organic ones do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Only natural fertilizers are used in the process of growing organic vegetables and fruits, where plants are left to grow on its own without injecting hormones to speed up their growth. This is important health-wise as plants grown this way will develop its full nutritious value.
According to Angie, most commercially-grown plants contain growth hormones which are mixed into the water used in watering while livestock like chickens are fed with artificial feeds in their food to shorten the amount of time for them to grow to full size. These foods when eaten over time, may cause health problems such as early puberty in particular for girls and higher risks for cancer.
GMO and Non-GMO Products
Angie also went on to explain about Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO, plants or animals which have had their DNA specifically modified or genetically engineered by scientists. While the scientific jury is still out on the long-term effects of consumption of GMO products, more and more people are seeking non-GMO.
Because organic farmers are not allowed to genetically modify their plants, it makes the consumption of their products a lot safer.
Residents of Ipoh are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying organic products here. Located in Ipoh Garden East, Healthy Concept opened in Ipoh 14 years ago and has withstood the test of time. “When we first opened, we didn’t have many suppliers and people were also not that health conscious,” Angie said, “After five years, business started picking up when people became more concerned about their health.”
Having studied nutrition in the United States, Angie had developed a passion for organic food and runs her shop with a highly personal touch. “I do not think of my shop as a place where people just come in and buy the products without understanding its uses, like a 7Eleven”, she added, “I prefer to give personal service and educate my customers on organic food’s benefits.”
When asked where she gets her supplies from, Angie said she imported her organic fruits from Australia and also some reliable sources in Malaysia, such as Cameron Highlands and Bukit Tinggi. Depending on customers’ demands, she may import her supplies as frequently as needed.
How do we know whether the products we buy are organic then? “A certain level of trust between customers and shop owners is needed”, Angie said. “While we can’t tell the difference just from sight, our taste buds will tell us once we’ve tried both, which is why customers will go back to them once they have tasted organic vegetables and fruits.”
She does caution however, not to change one’s diet too drastically after falling sick. A person used to eating lots of meat can’t go full vegan the next day as the body will not be able to cope. The same is also true in laying off a certain type of food completely, as different foods offer different nutrients that the body requires.
Angie also sells her own freshly-baked bread at her shop. Now adopting a new type of dough called sourdough, she said it is made without yeast and will be easier for the body to break down, lessening the chance of a bloated stomach.
“We’re already exposed to so many chemicals in our daily lives, so the food we eat plays a very important role,” Angie commented.
Grace Valley Organic
Another shop that Ipohites can go to is Grace Valley Organic which is located in Pasir Puteh. In business for more than ten years, shop owner Penny Siew studied holistic nutrition in KL before taking over the shop set up by her mother years ago.
Also one of the pioneers of the business in Ipoh, Grace Valley offers a variety of organic products from vegetables, fruits, baby products to everyday items like shampoos and detergents. “We also mix our own 7-grain, 9-grain and 10-grain rice, depending on the preferences of our customers,” Penny said. She also supplies them to shops in Ayer Tawar and KL.
“The mindset of people is very important when it comes to going organic, which is why such knowledge is best instilled from young. As our environment becomes more polluted, parents must encourage their children to exercise more, drink plenty of water and eat more greens,” she added.
Grace Valley also offers an enzymology test every few months that tests whether one’s blood is acidic. Acidic blood may result in a higher chance of getting hypertension, high cholesterol and even cancer. This is due to a diet that is full of meat and very little physical exercise that leads to the lack of oxygen in the blood.
One of the most popular products of the shop is Juvo, a natural raw meal drink filled with more than 60 healthy ingredients (including wholegrain, sea vegetables, fruits and mushrooms) to give customers the vitamins and minerals they need in their daily activities. Grace Valley also sells wholegrain and flour-free bread every Tuesday. Some of their organic products are also imported from US and Italy.
Penny also stresses the importance of eating natural food to prevent sickness and diseases, be it physically or spiritually. “At the end of the day, our immune system is our best doctor.”
Snergy Refreshment Centre
Located in Taman Mas, Falim, Snergy Refreshment Centre is not your typical organic shop. It is also an organic restaurant offering a wide variety of food on its menu that is made entirely of organic ingredients. The food offered includes different set meals daily, the famous Hakka dish ‘Lui Cha’, herbal soup, wholemeal noodles, vegetable salad, fruit juices and so on.
“I developed a passion to open this shop after eating this organic food steamboat in Cameron Highlands,” said shop owner Loh Lup Ming, “I tasted the difference when compared to non-organic veggie and I haven’t looked back since.”
Loh’s shop/café has a large customer base ranging from housewives to bankers and teachers. His shop can be seen overflowing with customers during lunch hour.
Supplies come from as far as New Zealand, Finland and Taiwan and the shop will often try to accommodate customers’ requests for certain products which they will source and import.
“We have a doctor specializing in cancer that comes from KL monthly to offer free consultation to customers and many of my customers have benefitted a lot from it,” Loh said.
Loh knows first-hand the benefits of eating organic food as he himself is a cancer survivor. “I used to be very chubby and fall sick easily due to my lifestyle of unhealthy eating.” Loh mentioned that he turned down chemotherapy as a form of treatment after reading a book named “Meaning of True Health” by a Taiwanese professor Chang Jia Rui.
“Not everyone is suited to undergo chemotherapy,” he said. “I suffered from some severe side effects from the medicine which got me looking for alternatives. It was then that I changed my diet to eating organic food but I did it gradually. Nursing back one’s health after sickness is a gradual process and mustn’t be rushed.” he added.
Switching to eating organic was definitely his turning point and he started to gain his precious health back after adopting a different diet. Now happily married, Loh runs Snergy with his family and claims he hasn’t paid a visit to a doctor for a long time.
71, Jalan Medan Ipoh 6, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh,
31400 Ipoh, Perak. Tel: 05-547 6902
Grace Valley Organic
5 Hala Pinji 2, Pasir Puteh, 31650 Ipoh, Perak.
Tel: 05-254 6412
Snergy Refreshment Centre
15 Jalan Mas 1, Taman Mas, Falim, 30100 Ipoh, Perak.
Tel: 05-282 2088