Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hawaii’s wonderful tropical tree nut

When we first visited Hawaii, we were surprised to find macadamia nuts on everything: fish, pancakes, pastries, and sugar coated like a candy. The rich buttery flavor was delicious and we could not get enough of them until all the fiber and oil in the nuts had an effect on our lower intestines.

On subsequent visits we made sure to eat them in moderation. Now living on Hawaii Island, macadamia nuts are an enjoyable part of our diet.  Though macadamia nuts are relatively high in calories (200 calories per ounce ) we find just a handful is satisfying, perhaps because of the fiber content (2 grams per ounce).

Since we are  focused on our diet, we were delighted to find that macadamia nuts are very nutritious. The nuts contain Vitamin B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. They also have moderate amounts of zinc, copper, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and magnesium as well as small amounts of fat-soluble vitamin-A, and vitamin E. Macadamia nuts even have antioxidants like polyphenols, Amino acids, flavones and selenium.

Another great thing about the tropical macadamia nut is that it has one of the best Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acid ratio of any tree nut.  Most tree nuts and vegetable oils have primarily Omega 6 fatty acids, which causes inflammation if eaten in too great a quantity.

The macadamia nut is also a great source of healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids, notably oleic and palmitoleic fatty acids. These oils are great for your skin and your lungs.

On Hawaii Island, macadamia nut plantations are plentiful and the nuts are sold all over the island.  We get them from local farms without salt or sugar.  The oil is a tasty replacement for olive oil on salads and macadamia nut butter is a great alternative to almond butter.  We grind the nuts into a flour to use in crusts and biscuits.

The tropical macadamia nut is another amazing food grown in Hawaii with high nutritional value and great taste that helps keep us healthy and happy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sun Halo in Hawaii

Overcast Kohala Coast
We have been having usual weather on the southern Kohala coast of Hawaii Island.  The normal desert climate has been overcast with high humidity.  Usually the rain clouds are blocked by the massive Mauna Kea Volcano and the trade winds keep the humidity low and the evening temperatures cool. Remnants of tropical storm Fausto, that made it to Hawaii from Baja California, are being blamed for the hot, humid, rainy weather in Hawaii early this week. 

This past Sunday we were surprised to see a rainbow halo around the sun.  A circular rainbow, or halo, is an optical phenomenon that forms around the sun when the sunlight is refracted in ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.

Sun Halo on Kohala Coast
The light cast off by the rainbow halo made the landscape seem surreal and dreamlike.  Since we consider rainbows a sign of good things to come, we consider this giant circular rainbow an especially good sign.

Sun halos have historically predicted rainy weather and the island has been getting a lot, particularly on the east side. On Monday (July 14), while we were dazzled by the sun halo, Hilo had a record rainfall of 4.34 inches which broke their old record set in 1991 of 1.89 inches that day.

A new low pressure system southeast of the island is moving towards Hilo and bringing more showers.  We will be on the lookout for more rainbows.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Delightful Hawaii Mornings

Every day on Hawaii Island we cherish how great we feel when wake up in the morning.  It is a special type of joy to awaken to the sounds of tropical birds, the smell of flowers, and the sight of a brilliant sunrise.

We were recently reading a book called Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality that details research that explains why we sleep so well and feel so great when we wake up on Hawaii Island.  We specify Hawaii Island because many of the attributes are unique to Hawaii Island.

We go to sleep with a very dark sky.
Hawaii Island is careful to control light pollution in support of the optical telescopes on Mauna Kea.  There are lighting ordinances that require shielded light and limited street lights.  On cloudless nights, the bright stars are visible above when we fall asleep at night.  According to Dr. Selhub, research shows that artificially brightened night skies interfere with the sleep cycle by affecting melatonin production and that even low levels of light during the night can interfere with normal adult brain cell structures. Our very dark night sky helps us get into a deeper sleep.

At night we hear calming sounds of nature.
We keep our windows open and can hear the wind blow through the palm trees as we fall asleep. A Japanese research team at Chiba University showed that sounds of nature, like the sound of a creek, changes the brain blood flow to a state of relaxation. A study from Stockholm University showed that nature sounds calmed people down whereas road traffic noise increased stress based on measurable physiological markers.  We don’t have noise from traffic or machinery where we live.  We didn't realize how quiet it was until we spent some time in Honolulu last year and were unsettled by the constant background drone of traffic, AC, and machinery spiked with loud sirens all night long. 

We wake up to a symphony of tropical birds songs 
Every morning the birds start to sing as the sun is rising.  Research published in Psychological Medicine in 2006 showed that hearing birds songs in the morning lifts the mood and decreases fatigue.

Blue light shines through our windows at sunrise  
Early morning light has more blue spectrumThe eye is very sensitive to the blue color (460nm) and causes the brain to wake up, increase alertness, and boost concentration. Researchers at the University of Greenwich showed that blue light made people happier, more alert, and more productive. The blue spectrum declines the most in the winter compared to other spectrums, but in Hawaii we do not lose our blue spectrum light in the winter.

We breathe fresh air and negative air ions.
Breathing in negatively charged air ions, most prevalent in the morning, has been shown to improve health. Dr Selhub cites research that shows negative air ions reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and improve cognitive performance.  Negatively charged ions are depleted by pollution, electronic devices, and in enclosed places. Being near the ocean with warm tropical rain, gives us plentiful negative air ions in Hawaii.

We have aromas from flowers all year long.
We love having beautiful, tropical flowers around us all the time.  Research at Wheeling Jesuit University found that the aromatic chemicals in flowers can increase alertness, even in extremely small concentrations.

We start every day by waking up to bird chatter, soaking in the early morning sunlight, breathing in negative air ions, and smelling the flowers.  Now we know it is not just our imagination that this place is good for our health.