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Nutritional Recipes to Combat Childhood Malnutrition

Page history last edited by ecop 10 years, 1 month ago


Child Malnutrition in the Philippines

By: Cana Gingerich  





Description and Rationale


In the first two years of a child’s life, protein and good nutrition are vital for proper brain growth and development. In a poverty stricken city like Manila this lack of nutrition in young children is a serious problem. Poor mothers send their children to nearby stores, like the one pictured at the bottom, with a couple of pesos to buy a cheap bag of chips or a cold soda. These families are poor and cannot afford a better source of nutrition. In places where there is not a cheap healthy option, unhealthy and cheap snacks become the only thing a child consumes. Most parents also don’t know the importance of good nutrition in their children. Malnutrition has ruled the streets of Manila and affected the Philippine children far too long.

                Are a child’s chances of a successful life determined by their nutrition at a young age? How common is the occurrence of brain retardation from lack of good nutrition? What types of malnutrition are present in the Philippines? What kinds of proteins and vitamins are common? Is this option a medicinal drug or could it be a recipe? How effective will this food be? Is there a need to educate these poor people as well as feed them? How will this issue of malnutrition reach the ears of people who have never heard of what a good diet is? Will this new way of eating be accepted and used? How will this food affect the attitude of the children?

                “Damages to children include lower intelligence, reduced physical activity, and passing on malnutrition to the next generation. These result to reduction in productivity and sluggish economic growth, which perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Most importantly every child has a right to be free of malnutrition,” states Doctor Alipui of UNICEF Philippines. This supports the importance of raising awareness of poor nutrition to everyone who could be in danger of these threatening consequences. Doctor Alipui is predicting that the cycle will only continue if not stopped soon.

                The purpose of this project will be to find a dish that is cheap and easy to make that has the necessary vitamins and proteins for a child’s proper brain growth. During the initial research of the project, interviews will be taken with a local pediatrician and possibly an American doctor to get a better feel for the malnutrition and the solution for it. If a solution is discovered, it will be presented to a group of Filipinos in the form of a tutorial and meal. While the food is being enjoyed there will be a presentation and malnutrition, the dangers, the causes and the ways to fight it. This presentation is important to the Filipino parents so that they are able to spread the knowledge and as a result, end the battle of malnutrition for a few families and maybe the whole Philippines.

                It is intended that the awareness of malnutrition in children will be raised, and there will be inexpensive solutions to this problem, such as a quick nutritious meal. Hopefully, this project will make it possible for families to have another option other than a cheap bag of chips. Ideally children all over the Philippines will have a better future and quality of life because of this project. It is hoped that once this information is heard it will spread, and the concern for the Philippine child’s nutrition will grow.



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Common Names and Synonyms

There are many different types of seaweed but the most common edible kind is called Nori. The name Nori comes from Japan since it is used there primarily to make sushi. However it is used in many other oriental cuisines as well. In Korea it is called kim or gim and in China pinyin. The Tagalog translation is damong-dagat, which literally means the plant in the sea. The seaweed Nori is under the genus Porphyra with many different types of species branching off from it.



Domain: Eukaryota (complex cells)

Phylum: Rhodophyta (red algae)

Class: Rhodophyceae (red algae)

Order: Bangiales (paraphyletic- near, tribe)

Family: Bangiaceae (paraphyletic- near, tribe)

Genus: Porphyra (tyrian purple)

                Seaweeds are huge red, brown or green algae’s that grow in the ocean. There are many different types of seaweed, different classes, orders and species, but this paper will be focused mainly on the genus Porphyra or its common name laver. This genus includes around 70 different types of species. Nori isn’t it’s own specific species but it does include the species, P. yezoensis and P. tenera.

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Morphology and Physical Description

     Seaweed varies in size but it can grow up to 30 meters long. They can be many different shades of green and brown or a green-brown-yellow mix. Seaweeds have something like a root that holds them to the ocean floor called a holdfast. They also have a stem like structure known as a stipe. This stipe supports the seaweed and can be quite long or quite short. The leaves of seaweed are called blades. They are wide and large so that a lot of sunlight can be taken in for photosynthesis. Many types of seaweed also have a hollow chamber called a float that is filled with gas. This helps them float closer to the surface to absorb more sun. Porphyries however attach themselves to rock by rhizoidal attachments. These are usually in the shape of a disc.  

                Seaweeds, although having many characteristics of plants, are algae not plants. Because seaweed lives in the ocean it doesn’t need an internal vascular system that separates it from plants. It can absorb the water it needs from the ocean it is floating in. Seaweeds photosynthesize just like plants to grow and get nutrients they need for food and energy. They have chloroplasts inside their cells that absorbs green light but some also have other light absorbing pigments like phycobilins (a bluish pigment).

                The cell wall of Porphyra has an outermost cuticle that is slimy and is made of mucilage. Inside the cell there are organelles called microfibrils, which are tiny hairlike structures. Mannan, a polysaccharide that is a mannose polymer, has been found in some seaweed’s though not all. Remarkably seaweed can be out of water for days and still be alive! This is because of the cell wall and its ability to withstand desiccation, the state of being extremely dry.



Getting Food

     Seaweed gets its energy through photosynthesis just like a plant. It can get sunlight easily and can also get water whenever necessary. Seaweeds are producers and provide nourishment to many organisms in the ocean. Sugars and starches are made in the seaweed through photosynthesis all over the seaweed since there is no vascular system to transport it throughout the stipe.

                Some seaweed is best grown in water from temperatures ranging from 25-30 degrees C, but this varies from specie to specie. Most seaweed is a staple food to many fish and sea urchins so the presence of seaweed creates a diverse ecosystem needed in the ocean.

People cultivate seaweed on seaweed farms all over the Philippines. These farms look like a section of shallow ocean divided into squares with bamboo dividers, this differs from place to place. Seaweed is cultivated and farmed mostly only in saltwater oceans as the freshwater variety are mainly poisonous. People obtain cutting of seaweed and sell it to get a sizable income.


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     Some seaweeds are perennial, meaning they live for many years, while some are annual and live for only one year. The life cycle and reproductive cycles can be confusing at times because they have to endure a harsh winter or fall in some areas and are stripped of their blades and stipes.

                Seaweeds can reproduce sexually and asexually. When reproducing sexually, the sperm from male diploid cells and egg from female diploid cells fuse together and the egg is fertilized. There are many different ways seaweed reproduce sexually and this example is just one of them, but the basic main way. This example is called alternation of generations, there is also isomorphic and heteromorphic alternation of generations.

Seaweed reproduces asexually when part of the stipe or blade breaks off and is able to grow a holdfast to the ocean floor. This new child seaweed is an exact genetic clone of the parent seaweed.


Environmental Factors

                Seaweed can basically grow anywhere but two main things are necessary: Salt water, or at least mildly salty, and sunlight. Another common necessity is a firm place to hold, like a rocky ocean floor rather than a sandy floor.

                Seaweed can be a pest in clear beaches where to appeal is it’s beauty. Seeing an algae floating in the water is often a strong turnoff for business. Also there is research being done about seaweed being a fighter for malaria. There have been many cases where the increase in seaweed resulted in a decrease in malaria victims.


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Origin and Distribution

     Seaweed can grow anywhere from Ireland and Norway to Japan and Indonesia. It is an agriculture that has begun to grow and can now support many families. It is unclear as to where it originated in the Philippines since it seems to always have just been there. Originally it was assumed to be a plant and a pest that wasn’t particularly good for anything. Now it is used for food, medicine, and many different types of products that take advantage of its rich nutrients.

Importance to People

     There are many vitamins and minerals in seaweed, and most importantly, it has a high amount of iodine, almost too high to be consumed all the time. However in a country that has iodine deficiency as a leading type of malnutrition, this seaweed consumption may be necessary.

                Seaweed has also been useful as a hair product and skin cream in many Asian cultures. It has also shown signs of preventing diseases like tuberculosis, influenza and in some rare extreme cases even cancer! (www.goodnutritioncenter.com/kelp.html)

                If only land plants are eaten in a typical diet the human body could be missing out on some major micronutrients and electrolytes. The similarity of human plasma and seawater is very close so many nutrients that the human body requires can be absorbed by eating seaweed.


Survivability and Endangered Status

                Since seaweed can grow anywhere there has been no shortage of it yet. If global warming did get worse some seaweed forests could diminish, but right now there are no signs of rapid depletion for seaweed. It is basically a sea algae that is renewable and plentiful to the planet.

                Interestingly there have been some instances in the Philippines of former rebels going into the lucrative seaweed trade and becoming quite successful. There are many seaweed cultivation companies in the Philippines including Shemberg Corp, which was and is the leading provider of seaweed in the Philippines.



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Potential Solutions


Possibility 1

 Vitamin Supplement Pills

                While talking to a Filipino Pediatrician I heard the distribution of vitamin pills mentioned. The Philippine government supplies vitamin A in capsules to the public because it’s a fairly cheap and easy drug to distribute. Vitamin A is also one of the main vitamins lacked in the Philippine diet so this is a good thing for the government to be handing out. I could also raise awareness of good pills for Filipinos to take and I could help distribute these pills.


1. This option would be fairly simple to execute and carry out. All it would require of me is to find a pill that is really full of a good vitamin that Filipinos don’t get in their normal diet.


2. It would be an easier change to get in the habit of doing. Changing a whole entire way of eating could be overwhelming but just a simple pill once a day could be manageable and really make a difference because of its simplicity.


1. There is nothing unique to this being my action step, nothing for me to explore, or be interested in. This is an idea that has already been discovered and dealt with. Filipinos already know what a good vitamin pill is. I want to bring something new to the table since the pills are already known.


2. Taking and buying supplements is often more costly then feeding a family a healthy, nutritious meal.


3. There is always the risk factor of overdosing. Taking a pill without real knowledge of what or how much you are taking can be risky especially with small children. Most pills can be absorbed through healthy food but when you take pills as well as the food they are often just flushed out of your system wasting money and time on something you could just as easily eat. Overdosing can have many painful and unwanted results such as: ringing in the ears, blurred vision, hair loss, skin rashes, weakness and hypertension just naming a few.


4. There is nothing unique to this being my action step, nothing for me to explore, or be interested in. this is an idea that has already been discovered and dealt with. Filipinos already know what a good vitamin pill is. I want to bring something new to the table since the pills are already known. I wanted to also focus on getting the kids good protein not just the right vitamins. Mostly all the Philippine children get three times a day are carbohydrates and I wanted to introduce not just a vitamin supplement but a new way of eating good protein necessary for a child’s brain development.  


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Possibility 2

Change Philippine Government

                I see greed in the Philippine government as being a huge issue as to why kids are deprived of good nutrition. They have the money to make the Philippines an economically strong country but they choose to spend the money in places where it shouldn’t be going. The people in the government in charge of taxes use the money foolishly and without purpose.


1. This would get right down to the core issue of the people lacking money. It gets right down to the heart of the issue. It would solve things from the top of the chain all the way down to what the Philippine children eat every day or what their parents can afford to get them. If I could somehow get to the government and show them how much they are devastating the Philippine people maybe things would change. The main problem is their own selfish greed and if I could change that it would do wonders for the Philippine economy.


1. As much as I love this idea it is a little unrealistic. I have no influence and no connections to the Philippine government and I feel like it’s not really my place to tell them right from wrong. Also this would take a long time to set in motion. I wanted to get hands on with the Philippine poor people not the rich ones involved in making things the way they are.


2. Right now I cannot really see myself as being someone who important people would really listen to. At the moment there is no concrete evidence of severe malnutrition because of the lack of research. So all I would be able to do would be paint a picture to them of how bad things are. Maybe one day when I can be a voice of reason that they respect I can tell and show them my research and show them pictures.


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Possibility 3

Create a Recipe With Seaweed    (action step) 

                I would love to see a good diet become a reality in the Philippines. Mostly kids are getting purely Carbohydrates from their parents in the form of rice and noodles for meals and chips and bread for snacks.  This is an issue because kids need tons of protein in their diet for proper growth. They also need heaps of vitamins to help them in more specific areas of the body. With this solution I would create an original recipe that has protein and vitamins. It will be something that the Filipinos are already familiar with just a little tweaked to be healthier and more nutritional. Best of all this option allows me to share some vital information and give the locals an option that isn’t the bag of chips at the nearest Sari-Sari store.


1. This is fairly easy and new and hasn’t been done yet in the way I want to do it. I have easy access to some Filipino mothers with young children who would love to hear about this new way to prepare a well known dish, “goto”.


2. It is a natural and realistic way to fix the problem. This option of a recipe will hopefully grow and grow once the 10 mothers take it home. This recipe could be used in dozens of homes and as it is used more it could be adopted into new homes till it becomes a popular dish to feed small children here.


3. The ingredients used would be totally accessible to families in the Philippines. I would put in things like malungay, chicken, seaweed, mongo beans and carrots. Some of these are new ingredients but all can be purchased at a fairly reasonable price in the market.


4. Chicken would be an easy protein that cannot be consumed in a pill. Protein, being one of the most important things lacking in the Philippine diet, would be added in this dish and for a child that doesn’t get this protein as much as it needs it, it will be the best thing for him.


1. The price to getting meat may not be exactly ideal. I found out that an average Filipino may earn 50 pesos a day! Now that’s not any money at all to feed a family especially when you have more than 1 kid. Chicken, seaweed and mongo beans may be a little on the expensive side and that’s the main reason they aren’t being eaten now. One of the worst things about this option is the price factor.


2. I learned that iodine is not as important as it used to be here. People can get iodine through iodized salt and it is not that big of an issue so the seaweed angle is not as important.


3. My sister absolutely loves cilantro and I absolutely hate it. My point is that even though some may think my food is delicious some may not like it. It will be a little new and might take some time getting used to for some families.




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Works Cited

Swarnapushpam. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Vitamin Supplements”. HubPages. 8 May, 2011 http://hubpages.com/hub/Advantages-and-Disadvantages-of-Vitamin-Supplements

Druehl, L. 2000. Pacific Seaweeds. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, B.C., Canada.

Harbo, R.M. 1999. Whelks to Whales. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, B.C., Canada.

Waaland, J.R. 1977. Commom Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast. J.J. Douglas Ltd., Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

“How Does Seaweed use Photosynthesis” eHow. 8 May, 2011 http://www.ehow.com/facts_5786854_seaweed-use-photosynthesis_.html

“Where Can I Place My Seaweed Farm” fao.org. 10 May, 2011 http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/003/ac287e/AC287E02.htm

“Does Kelp Really Help?” Good Nutrition Center. May 11, 2011 http://www.goodnutritioncenter.com/kelp.html

Dr. Nicholas K. Alipui. UNICEF National Conference of Nutrition Stakeholders in the Philippines. Manila, 6 April 2006. http://www.unicef.org/philippines/news/060403.html

Adranio, Joel D.  “Funding Failure gifts seaweed harvest to Philippine rebels” 15 April, 2011. The Global Realm. 15 May, 2011 http://theglobalrealm.com/2011/04/15/funding-failure-gifts-seaweed-harvest-to-philippine-rebels/

Gingerich, Cana. Personal Interview. 4 May 2011.

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