Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bread-free in Hawaii

Hawaii Fast Food
We always enjoy talking to people in Hawaii who look and feel better after living on the island just a few months.  The sun and activity makes  a difference, but they all tell us they eat differently than they do at home on the mainland.  Two popular books about severe health problems from eating wheat: Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers and Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health made us wonder if part of the benefit of living in Hawaii is the lack of bread.  

Hawaii residents eat the most rice in the U.S.; people in Hawaii eat an average of 100 pounds of rice a year as compared to Americans on the mainland who eat only 26 pounds a year.  Rice is a substantially cheaper than bread and widely available in Hawaii.   Rice is offered with eggs for breakfast and next to kimchee on plate-lunches.  Loco Moco (rice topped with a hamburger patty, egg, and gravy) was invented in Hilo and is available at drive-ins and fast-food joints throughout the state.  Hilo’s CafĂ© 100 sells over 9000 Loco Moco’s a month.   Hawaii’s Musubi (rice wrapped in seaweed (nori) often with spam) is a snack or entire meal on the run and is as convenient as a sandwich.  

Bread and flour are extremely expensive in Hawaii because they have to be shipped long distances; bread is old and often stale by the time it reaches island local grocery store shelves. The few bakeries in Hawaii are challenged by the cost of shipping flour from the mainland and the high cost of electricity for baking.  Though rice is a carbohydrate with a high glycemic index, the grain is less processed than wheat flour with no extra chemicals added.   Rice is easy to store for long periods of time, a perfect food to have around in case of an emergency, like a tsunami or earthquake.  In Hawaii, giving up bread is easy with the abundance of Asian rice dishes, local cuisine,  and the low-cost bulk supplies in island grocery stores.   

For nine months now, we have been on a wheat free diet.  We stopped eating bread after reading studies that showed health issues associated with wheat, in particular inflammation and restricted nutrition absorption.  We were very motivated to reduce inflammation to control gout.  The results have been fantastic with no gout episodes, even after adding foods that we thought were the problem (chicken and pork) back into our diet. 

If all the claims about the negative health effects of wheat are true, Hawaii’s highest life expectancy ranking in the US may be in part due to eating less bread.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hawaii and the Sunshine Nutrient

Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D, called the Sunshine Nutrient, is a key factor in protecting health and longevity.  On the mainland US and Europe, it is estimated that over 75% of the population is deficient in Vitamin D.  Even with plenty of sunshine in Hawaii over 50% of the residents have a Vitamin D deficiency.  

You can be deficient in Vitamin D if you do not get enough exposure to sunlight.  But sunlight alone is not enough, because processes in the liver and the kidneys are needed to convert the inert Vitamin D created by sunlight to the active form of the vitamin.  Then the digestive tract has to absorb the active Vitamin D.   

Wearing sunscreen, clothing, and having darker skin slows the process of absorbing Vitamin D from the sun.  As people age, their skin absorbs less vitamin D from sunlight and many older people stay indoors all day.  People who are overweight are often short of Vitamin D from sunlight because it is stored in their fat tissue and therefore not available in their blood to be used.   Vitamin D is also available in some foods such as fatty fish, fresh eggs, and foods like milk where Vitamin D is added. 

But even with enough sunlight, Vitamin D may not be converted to its active state if a person has liver or kidney problems.   Cholesterol is needed to create Vitamin D, so medicines that block the creation of cholesterol in the liver may interfere with Vitamin D production.  Some people can’t absorb the Vitamin D in their intestines because of the inability to absorb dietary fat, inflammation from gluten, or other digestive issues.

Research has shown people deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to die of cancer and heart disease and have other illnesses.  Other research has shown Vitamin D helps  prevent diabetes, hypertension, sugar intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.  Dr. Oscar H. Franco at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands recently published a study that calculated roughly 13% of all deaths in the United States and 9% in Europe could be attributed to low vitamin D levels.     

People who live in Hawaii have lower BMIs and longer life spans when compared to people living on the mainland.  Hawaiian fish such as ahi (tuna), aku (skipjack) ono (king mackerel), and opakapaka (pink snapper) are rich in Vitamin D.  One of the major differences may be the year-round sunlight and fresh fish in Hawaii that triggers vitamin D synthesis.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why it’s so hard to find an Ideal Hawaii Home

We were inspired to write our first book, Your Ideal Hawaii Home after meeting so many people who were unhappy with their new dream house in Hawaii.  We noticed that mainland-style homes in our Hilo neighborhood were constantly on and off the market.  The houses usually sold quickly, however the new buyers were soon unhappy with the afternoon heat and high electric bills.  The cold-climate, mainland-style houses in Hilo, so unsuited to the tropical climate in Hilo, yet so pleasing to eyes of buyers from the mainland, had a continuous turnover of new owners.  Although people who read our book learn about the downside of mainland hot-house designs in a tropical climate, bugs, rain, humidity, garden maintenance nightmares, and other Hawaii house issues, the book doesn’t actually help with finding an ideal house. 

Recently we visited a family on a beautiful property with a Hawaiian style house, perfectly groomed orchards, quiet neighborhood, and great views.  The property had been lovingly cared for and improved to be easy to maintain.  It was a delight to spend time there enjoying the cool breezes and scented air.  The elderly owners inherited the property from their parents, who had inherited it from their parents.  The owner described how his children and grandchildren loved the place, making it clear that the property would likely not be for sale for generations, if ever. Properties in Hawaii with the positive attributes and design elements that make living in the tropics wonderful are handed down through generations.  We have even met local residents who moved to the mainland for their career and kept their grandparent’s home for their retirement.  Ideal Hawaii properties are rarely for sale

Many of the homes that are for sale in Hawaii have major problems with design, lack of air flow, wood rot, bug infestations, or mold that the new owners could not solve.  In Hawaii really nice looking neighborhoods or condos can have unexpected problems with noise or crime that similar looking (or priced) neighborhoods on the mainland would not have. When looking for an ideal property in Hawaii, find out how many owners there have been over the years. If you see a lot of owners in the last 5 years, consider it as a red flag.  If the neighborhood is having high turnover, then that is also a red flag.  Many of the best properties being sold never make it to the market, they are sold to friends or families known to the neighborhood.  Even if a realtor is used, the best properties are not put on the MLS because the realtors know they will sell quickly.


Finding an ideal house or property in Hawaii takes time.  It requires research to identify the right neighborhood and then patience to wait for a property to become available.  The prize is a property that may become a family heirloom, a place where your great-grandchildren retire.