THE figures are alarming: The rate of obesity among children in the Philippines has gone up from 3.2% in 2012 to 4.9% in 2013, and the prevalence rate of overweight children in the country for children aged 0 to 5 has increased from 0.4% to 1.4% and for children aged 6 to 10 from negligible to 1.3%. This is mainly due to the passive lifestyle that Filipino children now lead, indulging in computer games and lacking in physical activity and the intake of not just chips and highly processed food but also softdrinks and other sugary artificially flavored drinks. Not surprisingly, this kind of lifestyle has also led to earlier occurrences of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, in Filipinos.
But how can you, for instance, curb your children’s addiction to soda when it’s what’s conveniently available in their school canteens? Fortunately, there’s one 10-year-old Filipino kid named Daniel ‘Chip’ Gatmaytan, a Grade 5 student of the Multiple Intelligence School, who has actively taken up the cause of having softdrinks banned in kindergarten, elementary and high schools and requiring schools to provide healthier beverage options such as mineral water and fruit-based drinks for their students. Chip, whose dad is a lawyer and whose mom is an economist, has taken his Grade 1 school project a notch higher, campaigning vigorously to make kids aware of the softdrink malady and to make adults take action against it. Three years ago, specifically in 2011, Chip hogged headlines when he went to Congress with his proposed bill, and some legislators took heed and took up his cause, with House and Senate bills titled Healthy Beverage Options Act, filed in both houses. While both efforts failed to reach the Plenary before the 15th Congress adjourned, its proponents, including Congresswoman Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Gerona-Robredo, are trying their best to get legislation for it in the 16th Congress.
Congresswoman Leni Robredo and young Chip Gatmaytan were both special guests in a recent juice party put together by Fly Ace Corporation at Annabel’s Restaurant in Quezon City to support Healthy Beverage Options Act 4021. Fly Ace Corporation, exclusive Philippine distributor of such juice brands as Old Orchard, Welch’s, Mott’s, Happy Day and Jolly Fresh Juice, hosted the first beverage fete as part of its effort to educate Filipinos on the benefits of drinking 100% fruit juice.
The juice party advocated the consumption of 100% fruit juices, as they contain more vitamins and minerals than fruit drinks, sweetened teas and carbonated drinks. Congresswoman Leni Robredo, representative of the Third District of Camarines Sur and co-author of the Healthy Beverage Options Act 4021 of the Philippines along with Dinagat Islands Re. Arlene ‘Kaka’ Bag-ao, served as guest speaker, and in her speech, she acknowledged and introduced Chip, lauding his youthful efforts against the excessive consumption of sodas especially among school-age children.
Serving as resource person was Professor Luchie Callanta, RND, MSN.
THE BENEFITS OF DRINKING HEALTHY JUICES
Professor Luchie gave a short but very informative talk on the benefits of drinking healthy 100% juice. She is credited for having drawn the inverted Drink Pyramid, which identifies which drinks are essential and for daily consumption, those that must be consumed regularly and those that are to be consumed sparingly. On top of the inverted pyramid and identified as essential fluid intakes for daily consumption are water, mineral water and milk. In the middle are fruit juices and fruit nectars, which are to be consumed regularly; while those which must only be consumed sparingly are diet drinks, lemonades, energy drinks and carbonated drinks.
Teresa Conda, marketing manager of Fly Ace Corporation, stressed that there are three types of fruit juices: 100% Juice, Nectars and Fruit Drinks. 100% Juice refers to juices that have 100% real fruit content, are the direct juice from fruits, and therefore retain their original aroma, color, vitamins and minerals and have no sugar and additives. Nectars contain 25 to 50% fruit juice content, with additional water, sweeteners such as honey, corn syrup, sugar and citric acid, are made from very expensive fruits that are either too sour or too thick, such as cranberry, passion fruit, peach and mango. Fruit drinks contain a small proportion of fruit juice and are made up mostly of water, sugar additives such as citric acid, artificial flavors, colorants and stabilizers. Fly Ace Corporation’s ready to drink brands, such as Rauch, Happy Day, Old Orchard, Mott’s, Welch’s and Jolly Fresh, offer mostly 100% Juice and Nectar variants.
THE 5-A-DAY RULE
In her talk, Professor Luchie emphasized that the human body needs to get a regular dose of antioxidants every day to protect it from free radicals which damage body cells and tissues and cause lowered immunity that eventually leads to diseases.
“Free radicals are brought about by exposure to harmful air pollution, radiation, contaminants and stress, plus the highly processed food that we eat, so we need to protect ourselves from the harmful rays of the sun, get a regular dose of the positive stress that we all have to have every day, which is exercise, and consume 5 to 9 servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables every day,” says Professor Luchie.
For the latter, she recommended “painting” one’s daily diet as colorfully as possible. Important colors include Orange and Deep Yellow (which one can get from vegetables like squash), Deep Orange (oranges), Red (tomato, watermelon, apple, cranberry), Light Green (leeks, cabbage), Dark Green (spinach, Romaine lettuce, pechay, camote tops), and Purple and Dark Blue (eggplant, blueberry, grapes, red-skinned potatoes, plums).
If you cannot eat all of it, then you can drink some of it – especially since the recommended daily consumption of water is no longer just eight glasses of water but 2.8 liters of water and juices for women and 3 to 3.2 liters for men.
Good choices among readily available fruits and juices are Oranges, Apple, Grapes, Cranberry and Plums/Prunes.
• Oranges – lower blood pressure because of their flavonoid and hesperidin ,content; lower the incidence of peptic ulcers since oranges, despite being considered acidic, have an alkaline effect in the stomach; strengthen the immune system due to their Vitamin C content; fight cancer because of the phytochemical limonoid; stimulate digestive juices; and fight aging.
• Apple – helps to control asthma; protects bones due to flavonoids and the mineral boron; prevents cancer, strengthens mental health and prevents Alzheimer’s Disease; aids in digestion because it’s fiber-rich; and lowers cholesterol.
• Grapes – lower cholesterol and blood pressure; and are rich in antioxidants, particularly resveratrol.
• Cranberry – rids infection in the urinary tract; contains natural antioxidants, particularly Vitamin C; boosts High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol by an average of 7%; promotes mental health by getting rid of anxiety and stress and improving memory; relieves skin conditions; builds immune system and particularly strengthens the respiratory system; and contains beneficial flavonoids, anthocyanins and phenols.
• Plums/ Prunes – protect the gastrointestinal tract; regulate blood sugar levels; are high in fiber; and are beneficial to heart health.
Unfortunately, while fruits are in great abundance throughout the country, the Philippines is a nation of soda drinkers, as influenced by the fast-food lifestyle, and it would take legislation to force school canteens, for one, to stop serving convenient softdrinks and start offering healthier alternatives.
When the Healthy Beverage Options Act is passed, softdrinks would be banned from all kindergarten, elementary and high schools. Sports drinks, punches, iced tea and fruit drinks would also be banned. It should force schools to provide healthier beverage options for children, such as fruit based drinks that contain at least 50% juice and no additional sweeteners, water and seltzers, and low-fat or fat-free dairy or non-dairy calcium-fortified milk.
Congresswoman Leni is the first to admit that the bill is facing tough challenges, with lots of entities lobbying against it in the interest of business, but she and other proponents of the House and Senate versions of the bill are hell-bent on getting it passed to give Filipino school children a healthier and better future.