Peace Corps Goes To Paradisebio1
June 23rd, 2010
This month, the UW Alumni membership pamphlet is offering the opportunity of a lifetime to Take That Trip You’ve Always Wanted! I glanced at one of the choices—Fly by Nomads private jet and spend a week of luxury cruising through the Society Island (you know, Tahiti and Bora Bora). Sounded good—beautiful lagoons, rain forests, snorkeling on the coral reefs. And yet, no mention of the cuisine and so I wondered, would it the authentic old time Polynesian foods or the modern version?
Last year we went with our good friends and their parents to Oahu, Hawaii. Dohrea and I have lived in Hawaii couple of times over the past 30 years. My first time there was in 1966, as part of my Peace Corps training. I lived for three months on the beach of the tropical side of Molokai and loved every moment of life on the island. It was all for the purpose of getting us in shape for our forthcoming life in Micronesia, where we were to spend the next two years of our lives. I love Hawaii and wanted to show our friends and their parents the real Polynesia and in particular their wonderful foods, so we made arrangements and look them to the Polynesian Cultural Center. What a shock! I will never forget the smells and sight of the food served for dinner—a disaster!
I signed us up for the dinner buffet—the route that tens of thousands of tourists take each month and their authentic dining experience. Dohrea had the buffet twenty years ago and told everyone how authentic the food was—we all looked forward to the experience. But, what we encountered was a highly processed refined food buffet, filled with extra sugar, soda pops, white rice, etc. There was little we could eat. How sad that this is presented as the diet of the Polynesians’ culture! But it is true—that is precisely what it has become, and why they are suffering with the rest of the world with the typical chronic diseases.
I contrast this with my experience in Micronesia—two years living on the island of Yap. We talk about the Paleo Diet, the Yapese had one and so did I for the two years living among them. This was 1966 – 1968; the Peace Corps initial entry into Micronesia under the mandate to bring the Yapese into the modern world. My job was to conduct an epidemiological study of the disease patterns amongst the Yapese as it relates to their life style. I interviewed and studied the lives of over a thousand Yapese people while living with them for two year. What was their health like? What was their diet like?
My research found that there was no heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. There was one case of cancer, and one person who was morbidly obese. I found no allergies amongst the children or ADHD type syndromes. They had some gastrointestinal issues related to roundworm infections that were mostly with children and quite easily dealt with. They were an active, happy, very fit, strong people.
The diet in Yap was the epitome of organic, sustainable, local, fresh and alive—it was Paleo. Everything came from the land and the sea. About the only thing they cultivated was taro, everything else grew natural and wild and they knew how to consume and use it all. Cocoanut husks were used to make a fire. They would take freshly caught fish, throw it on the hot embers and cook the whole fish. We would peel off the charred scales and eat the wonderful cooked meat and entrails (except the gall bladder) inside. Usually cocoanut meat was eaten with meals along with many types of taro, or breadfruit from the trees, or various kinds of root vegetables. Many times they would bake fish and bananas wrapped in banana leaves. The variety from the ocean and the land was amazing. I wished I had been a better student of all the different kinds to describe them to you. Back then; the diet was an incidental consideration as related to their health. Now of course we know that it was instrumental. What was sad was that one of the industrious Yapese had created a small store in our area and had secured cigarettes, spam, condensed milk, sugar and alcohol to sell to his fellow citizens. The camel had his nose in the tent.
Here is a photo of these beautiful people. I would like to go back, after 40 years, and do a follow-up study on where the Yapeses people are health wise today.
So, let’s think about their diet back in the mid 60s when I lived there as compared to the modern “Polynesian diet” at the cultural center, which is, unfortunately, the diet of the rest of the world today.
The Yapese had no refined grains, but only fresh fruits and vegetables, much of it eaten raw (but cooked too). No refined carbs—their glycemic load was low. They had omega three from the sea—their brains were sharp and healthy. They lived with nature; their vegetables and fruits were packed with antioxidants and micronutrients. The diet naturally shifted their body tissues toward an alkaline pH. Even with worms their gastrointestinal health seemed strong. There were no complaints of constipation. They had tons of natural fibers in their diet.
So what does this all mean for us? It means we must make a strong move in the direction of local and sustainable. When we buy organic from our local farmers we are supporting their efforts to put out quality food. This way we keep our money circulating within our local economies rather than give away our resources to some corporate food giant 2000 miles away. We are bringing into our home produce that tastes better, getting our bodies conditioned back into what real food can be. We are saving our environment by reducing transportation cost—the agriculture industry is one of the highest consumers of fossil fuels. Finally, we are setting an example to others that is can be done.
How is you garden growing? How is your CSA doing?
In a study entitled Metabolic and Physiologic Improvements From Consuming A Paleolithic Hunter-gatherer Type Diet, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Feb 11, 2009, Frassetts et al. described the following:
In the Therapeutic Food Line we are not advocating going back to a totally Paleolithic diet as the only way to regain ones health. We acknowledge the evolution of society as well as the human body and the food changes that have paralleled each other. Therefore, we recommend raw or fermented dairy for those who can handle them. Whole grains and legumes as well are important sources of nutrients that have evolved with agriculture.
Our mantra is to eat whole food, not processed food, eat fresh, eat local, eat organic. The nutrient density of this kind of food is vastly superior to conventional supermarket food. At this point who can say they consistently accomplish this? Few of us I’m afraid.
The Therapeutic Foods product line and platform augments the food density load that one needs to achieve through correct eating enabling the body to function at it full capacity.