Vegetables and Fruits Are NOT Only for the Elites

“In the United States only 60 percent of the population eats vegetables. In the Philippines, I don’t have data, but my guess is that the statistics would be lower because we have more poor people and vegetables are expensive.” — a medical doctor, speaker on health and wellness forum, Filipina based in Region 4 province.

I won’t be surprised because among the fruits and vegetables that she recommended that we take are cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate, lemons, apricots, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, boysenberries, and zucchini. Two things: either this doctor is new in this tropical country or what she was preaching was based on Western materials which she did not bother to adopt to the local context.

The advocacy on health and wellness would have been more useful and effective had the lecture presented locally available and affordable yet equally nutritious fruits and vegetables: ampalaya, saluyot, alugbati, and everything else in the song Bahay Kubo.


The other day, I asked my help to prepare vegetable sour soup and proudly she informed me that we didn’t have to buy okra and talbos ng kamote because she just had a “harvest” from our micro-mini piece of land. That easily saved us Php15.

This morning I had an inventory of what we have in our “farm”.


Okra is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients such as vitamin B6 and C, fiber, calcium and folic acid. It is effective in the prevention of neural tube defects in developing fetuses mainly due to the high content of vitamin B6, calcium, fiber, folic acid.  is a valuable plant nutrients, almost half of the soluble fiber in the form of gums and Pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber, which helps healthy intestinal tract, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, especially colon-rectal cancer. (source:

camote or sweet potato

According to a new research from the University of Arkansas, sweet potato leaves are chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants. In total, they contain 15 different compounds that could help prevent heart disease, diabetes, infection and some types of cancer. (source: butI have to find yet the UA study)

atis or sugar apple

Sugar apples are high in carbohydrates and rich in calcium, vitamin C and phosphorus, and with a sugar content of about 50-50 (glucose and sucrose). This fruit is also considered as a good tonic in Ayurveda. It enriches blood and is known to increase muscular strength. Other health benefits include the following:

  • The leaves served as a purgative.
  • Bark decoction is used to stop diarrhea.
  • Decoction of the leaves and/or root is taken in cases of dysentery.
  • Decoction of the leaves is good to cure diabetes.
  • The leaves are applied to abscesses and open wounds and used to cure skin itches.
  • The crushed leaves are sniffed to overcome fainting spells and hysteria,
  • The mashed, ripe fruit, mixed with salt, is applied on tumors.
  • Decoction of the leaves is used to aid digestive problem, and to treat colds.
  • Decoction of the leaves is employed in baths to alleviate rheumatic pain.
  • Decoction of the leaves is used to clarify urine.
  • The seeds immerse in coconut oil is a traditional treatment for head and body lice. The seed is also made into powder and can be applied on head to kill lice in hair.

(source: The site does not present supporting research although I have heard about the power of this tree from my late grandmother.  And the only thing I have done with this plant is eat its fruits; have not experimented with its roots and leaves. Caution though: the site says the roots of the sugar apple tree are powerful enough to induce abortions.

sabila or aloe vera

Finally, aloe vera. It just stands on the corner for ages and I haven’t done anything with it. For its benefits, visit

And all these are available for free in our micro-mini-land. All organic.


What to plant our micro-mini-land caused long discussion between my mom and our help. While the help insisted on doing a “landscape” by planting various flower plants, my mom wanted to grow fruits and vegetables. My mom makes more sense, doesn’t she?

And the poor? They may lack financial resources but certainly not survival skills, just like my mom. What was this doctor/speaker thinking that the poor eat if vegetables are expensive? Grains maybe (so technically not vegetables?). In the poor towns in Samar, they eat corn. In the Mountain Province, their staple is brown/red rice–yeah, that so expensive rice here in the city. In a town in the southern part of Palawan, mothers usually bartered their backyard produce with other essentials, like clothes and other food items (e.g. fish). Yes, barter system works up to this day.

But for those who need education, teaching them to eat vitamin-fortified processed food (noodles! Right Jon?) and take food supplements (which do not claim therapeutic benefits at the end of their expensive ads that say otherwise) will NOT solve our health and nutritional problems.

It just makes me angry to hear senseless, baseless assumptions about the poor. And it even makes me angrier to hear that vegetables (and fruits for that matter) are expensive, as if only the elites can afford them. Maybe “expensive” is relative–some would mind spending Php20 on four pieces of eggplant but not on Php185 kilo of pork. Or maybe they are looking at the wrong vegetables. Yeah, who can afford a Php900/kilo broccoli anyway? That’s already our household budget for food for 9 weeks. Only Php100 per week on food and that’s because we’re vegetarian, because we’re vegetarians who buy AND PLANT local produce.

Last night, before our help went home for the weekend, she showed me a bagful of okra and talbos “Ate, iuwi ko ha. Ulam namin. (Sister, I’ll take these home. For our food.)”


4 thoughts on “Vegetables and Fruits Are NOT Only for the Elites

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