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You can choose to be healthy

Chiu-Nan Lai, PH.D

Health is a choice we make. Indeed, factors that affect our personal health also influence the health of the earth. Yet, why do so many people select lifestyles that result in cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis; the death of 20 million people from starvation annually; the destruction of one acre of natural forest every second; and the extraction of 1000 plants species every year. We have forgotten that we co-exist with 30 million species of plants and animals, nor can we distinguish between fact and advertisements.

To select health, we must make adjustments in our lives, and be willing to choose from only four species of food: vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. This is also the recommendation made in 1991 by doctors from the Ethical Medicine Group. We need to use fewer plastic bags, bring our own carriers or cloth bags for grocery shopping, and frequently be close to nature. For every new vegetarian, one acre of forest will be protected.

When I was speaking in Singapore and Sarawak in October 1994, I found out that the incidence of cancer was ten times higher in Singapore than Sarawak and the incidence of heart attacks was about six times more. Why? Singapore is a city and depends on food imports that are largely processed. Singaporeans tend to eat more meat including seafood. Chicken rice is also one of Singaporeans’ favorite local food. Yet cancer patients should avoid eating chicken as it will cause cancer cells to grow rapidly. In addition, imported vegetables tend to have agricultural chemicals.

In contrast, Malaysia has a higher proportion of people living a rural lifestyle, who grow their own fruits and vegetables in their backyards. They also eat less meat.

The questions fielded by 20,000 Singaporeans who attended my talks revolved around illnesses, particularly those which doctors claim to be incurable. Malaysians had fewer such questions.

Water quality in the two countries also differs. In East Malaysia, the water is clear as its natural state is unspoilt. The local consumes wild vegetables and fruits found in the forest. Very clearly, this shows the importance of nature to our health. The price of city living is too high. The people in Sarawak have a more peaceful disposition. They are contented and therefore more healthy. On the contrary, Singaporeans emphasize a high efficiency levels, which create stress in their well-being.

We must reconsider our priorities and choose wisely.