Dec 31, 2014

PALEO DIET... "Hawaiian Style"

What some people might call the "Diet De Jour", the Paleo Diet, emphasizes returning to a more ancestral approach to eating. It consists largely of grass-fed meat, wild fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, seeds and nuts. However processed foods, sugar, grains and dairy are avoided. So in essence, the Paleo Diet is, simply, eating proteins and plants, and staying away from chemically enhanced foods and dairy. That sounds a lot like the "Hawaii Diet", a book published in 1999 by Dr. Terry Shintani, a physician interested in nutrition and traditional diets (you can read about it here), or buy it, new or used, on

The Ancient Hawaiians were fit. Their diet may have been one of the best in the world. It was a simple, high starch, high fiber, low saturated fat, low sodium and low cholesterol diet. 
Wetland Taro
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They were farmers, fishermen, hunters, and gatherers who enjoyed a diversity of foods. For example, they planted and irrigated taro patches, and ate their staple starch food, poi, made from pounded wetland taro root (one of the most nutritious carbohydrates known); cultivated crops such as yams, arrowroot, or breadfruit; hunted birds and pigs; gathered vines, ferns, herbs and medicinal plants from the forest; practiced both net and deep sea fishing; harvested shrimp, picked seaweed, and collected shellfish. Their main sources of protein were fish, squid, limpet, crab and other seafood including the green turtle "hono". They also ate chicken, and birds. The main leafy vegetables were taro tops (lū‘au), and edible plants such as tree fern and fan palm. Seasonings came from kukui nut, seaweed, ho'io fern and salt. They preserved food with sea salt and most foods were eaten fresh. For beverages, Hawaiians drank fresh water, coconut water, and 'awa - known as kava elsewhere in Polynesia - a slightly narcotic drink made from the 'awa root.

Hawaiian pink snapper "Opakapaka"
with Tahitian lime
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In other words, ancient Hawaiians ate whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods. They got plenty of exercise, and were family oriented. They ate well and lived well on what I call the Paleo Diet..."Hawaiian-style". The Hawaiian word for health is "ola". It also means life. Thus the word health and life was one and the same. Hawaiians obviously believed you could not have health without life, nor life without health.

If you abuse your body, you abuse your spirit and mind. Being healthy means being physically, mentally and spiritually in lōkahi or harmony. 

Naturally I like to eat well being a cook, and I enjoy experimenting with foods that are new to me. I like my red meat, but I eat it in moderation. I concentrate on eating a balanced diet, similar to the food choices of the ancestral approach to eating. In other words not mindlessly mimicking the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors, rather being mindful of ancient dietary ways, then I make food choices that are based on health risks and consequences of the foods of our modern world.

"Local Food" – Chicken Katsu with Sauce,
Mac Salad and Two Scoops of Rice, 
over 900 calories 
in one meal, not counting a beverage.
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Unfortunately Most modern Hawaiians do not follow a traditional lifestyle and, as a consequence, do not live a long time. The types of food consumed in current Hawaiian culture are a mix of many different cultures of the people who call Hawaii home, food referred to as "local food". Local food consists of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad served with everything from loco moco, kalua pork, Korean barbecue, chicken katsu, beef teriyaki, Maui hot dogs, Spam musubi, manapua, Portuguese sweet bread, mochi, malasadas and many other island favorites. These foods are fattening foods, not at all like the foods that ancient Hawaiians ate.

Today 34.7 percent of native Hawaiians are obese. Among Hawaii’s racial groups, Hawaiians have the highest rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, accidents and suicides. Life expectancy for Native Hawaiians is 6.2 years lower than the state average of 79.7 years old.  
Most Obese States
Chart courtesy of the
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This year however, Hawaii was rated the second least obese state next to Colorado who were rated the least obese state for the fifth consecutive year. The most obese state for the ninth consecutive year is Mississippi (see chart for other states). All this says to me is that this whole country is really out of shape, including me, but then who would trust a skinny chef.

It should be noted that the average lifespan in the Paleolithic era was about 35 years, but life in the wild can be challenging, especially without modern day indoor plumbing. Aloha, eat healthy, live longer!

Note: If you are interested in more in-depth, and practical information on the Paleo Diet, check out this great website called, written by Michelle Tam, a San Francisco foodie. This website, started in 2010, and now gets 100,000 hits a day according to CBS news this morning.

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