Poi and Rice - Are Very Nice

Pacific Islanders used to have a diet that was based on starches, fruits, and vegetables, with very little meat. Studies of the longest lived people on Earth, the Okinawans (the elders not today's younger ones), show that they get 78 percent of their calories from starches - mostly sweet potatoes and rice - and only 3% of calories from meat including fish. For Hawaiians, the staple was kalo (taro) both the corm from which they make poi, and the greens which cooked taste very similar to spinach, yams, and breadfruit. They ate lots of fruit too, and again, a small amount of meat, mostly in the form of fish. In Japan, Hawaii, and around the Pacific, the people were strong and healthy.

Hawaiian surfer, late 19th century.  Photo courtesy of the Bishop Museum
Today, things are very much different:
  • Just 15 years ago Hawaii had a combined obesity and overweight rate of 42.2 percent. In five years, it grew to 49.4 percent. Now, the combined rate is 57.5 percent.
  • Diabetes rates have doubled in ten states in the past 15 years. In 1995, Hawaii had a diabetes rate of 4.4 percent. Now the diabetes rate is 8.3 percent.
  • Fifteen years ago, Hawaii had a hypertension rate of 21.5 percent. Now, the rate is 27.8 percent.
  • For Native Hawaiians, the figures are even more alarming.   The combined obesity and overweight rate is over 75% in that group.
These problems are also reflected in every other island nation in the Pacific.    Why does this matter?  It matters because with overweight and obesity come deadly killers: diabetes, cardiovascular disease - stroke (such as I experienced!), heart attack, cancers, Alzheimer's disease, and more.  And aside from the deaths, living with these diseases every day is no picnic.  Being sick saps the joy from life - not just for the patient, but for their loved ones -  and it's expensive.

    What happened?  What can we do about it?   For some answers, I turned to a man who has been successfully helping people to reverse their health problems for many decades now, Dr. Terry Shintani.  Dr. Shintani has an interesting background being a lawyer, doctor, studying Macrobiotics and Oriental Medicine, and getting an MS in nutrition from Harvard.  Not your typical MD. 

    Here's Dr. Shintani speaking at the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii in Honolulu in January of this year. (If you are impatient and want to skip the intro and go right to the talk, it starts at about the 5:40 mark.)  

    "Health isn't everything, but everything else is nothing without health."

    Eat well. Be well! 


    Martin J Frid said...

    Great post, thanks a lot for the information and advice. We need more people like yourself who are ready to speak out against the meat based unhealthy diet.

    Pandabonium said...

    Thanks Martin. Given the hundreds of billions of dollars that animal based food industries make each year, it will be a daunting task to counteract their non-stop advertising.