More Plants, Less Meat = Better Health, Greener Planet

As we become more educated about healthy eating and reducing our carbon footprint, more and more of us are starting to eat a plant-based diet. Retail food outlets and restaurants are well aware of this trend, resulting in more plant-based options than ever before.

According to information compiled by GlobalData, a data and insights firm, more than 70 percent of global consumers are moderating their meat intake or avoiding it altogether. People around the world are leaning towards vegetarianism or at least a desire to reduce meat consumption, if not to eliminate it entirely. In the past, especially in third world nations, meat was not affordable. Now, in first world nations, eating less meat is no longer simply a matter of cost but of health.

The benefits of eating a plant-based diet extend past just health and sustainability. In fact, plant-based proteins can be as nutritious as meat but contain far less fat. Plant protein requires much less water and energy to produce than livestock or poultry. As a consequence, companies are producing innovative plant-based “complete” proteins and supplements. These innovative plant proteins are an ideal part of an Active Wellness lifestyle. Examples are pea protein powder, bean based burgers, and nut-based cheese.

Whatever the reason for decreasing or cutting out animal products, increasing plant-based, nutrient-rich whole foods into our diets often results in eating less processed foods, which are generally full of preservatives and unhealthy ingredients commonly found in bacon, cold cuts, dried meats, canned meats, etc. The good news is that plant-based proteins are easily accessible. Legumes are widely known to provide high amounts of protein, e.g., organic tofu, lentils, black beans, lima beans, organic peas, chickpeas and so on. Nuts and seeds— such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds—are also known sources of protein.

Some surprising sources of plant-based proteins are potatoes, spinach, organic corn, avocado, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Even less known but considered superfoods by nutritionists for their nutrient density and high protein content are organic barley grass and organic algae such as spirulina and chlorella.

Nikken continues to be a pioneer in organic nutrition. One of our first organic nutritional supplements contains multiple benefits other than providing plant-based protein: Kenzen Jade Greenzymes® is made with a proprietary blend of organic young barley grass, organic acacia and organic pearl barley.

For weight maintenance, convenience and a plant-protein boost, there’s nothing better than Kenzen Vital Balance® Meal Replacement Mix! Our exclusive formula contains plant proteins from organic peas, organic moringa powder, organic spirulina, organic chlorella, organic broccoli, organic spinach and organic rice. Why not drink a toast to our collective health and planet every morning?

The Secret to Health and Longevity: “hara hachi bu”

According to recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 80,000 centenarians in the United States, which equates to about 25 persons who are 100 years or older per 100,000 population. On the small island of Okinawa, centenarian ratios are considered to be most likely the world’s highest with 50 plus per 100,000. So what’s their secret?

Longevity is complex, but in a nutshell, good genes and healthy living are the prerequisites. Researchers who participated in the Okinawa Centenarian Study were able to identify so called “human longevity genes” but also isolated non-genetic advantages for the ideal combination. Non-genetic advantages include the traditional Okinawan dietary habits, physical activity, psychological and social aspects. Their study was not widely translated but in recent years, an increasing number of western scientists have taken an interest in the phenomenal longevity of the islanders, most specifically Dr. Bradley Willcox and Dr. Craig Willcox, co-principal investigators. Led by Dr. Makoto Suzuki, principal investigator, the Okinawa Centenarian Study is now in its 28th year, one of the longest running centenarian studies in the world.

We can’t change our genes but we can certainly emulate the Okinawan diet and lifestyle. The traditional Okinawan diet emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes (soy) and fish, with limited amounts of lean meats and monounsaturated fats and omega 3s. There is a notable lack of processed or fast food and desserts.

Okinawans take this healthy eating a step further with the cultural habit of “hara hachi bu.” This means “eat until you are 80 percent full.” When you think about it, it is another way of implementing portion control. Since it takes about 20-30 minutes for the stomach to register that it’s full, if we eat to 100 percent fullness, we’ve actually overdone it. Many of us are too familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of being stuffed. This is the result of eating until the stomach is stretched to capacity. If we practice “hara hachi bu,” we would be giving our stomachs time to feel full.

Most of us want to live long lives, but how many of us are willing to exercise not only our bodies but our will power as well? It seems such a small price to pay for a long and healthy life of Active Wellness.

Is Sugar as Deadly as Cigarettes?

We don’t have to go looking for added sugar. It’s practically everywhere and comes in many forms, such as sucrose, maple syrup, fructose, molasses, brown sugar, cane sugar, honey and high fructose corn syrup.  You can and will find added sugar in desserts, candy, sodas, and covertly in processed foods such as ketchup, canned sauces, cereals, energy bars, energy drinks, bread and so much more. If you read Gary Taube’s latest book, “The Case Against Sugar,” you’ll see why a sugar habit can easily be compared to a nicotine habit.

Gary Taube is the co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative. In his 2010 best seller, “Why We Get Fat,” he argued that carbohydrates like grains and starchy vegetables were the true culprits behind the obesity epidemic. His new book, “The Case Against Sugar” takes this argument a step further by zeroing in on the harmful effects of sugar.

In a recent article he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Taube posited, “How often can we smoke cigarettes without doing at least some harm to our health? Doctors these days answer ‘never,’ thus redefining the concept of moderation. We don’t say smoking too much causes lung cancer, although that’s surely true. We say smoking does. The same hard line may also make sense for sugar. If it takes 20 years of either smoking cigarettes or consuming sugar for the consequences to appear, how can we know whether we’ve smoked or consumed too much before it’s too late? Isn’t it more reasonable to decide early in Iife (or early in parenting) that not too much is as little as possible?”

Research continues to grow with regard to the evils of sugar. Evidence is being amassed that may soon prove that sugar is the cause of metabolic syndrome, a disorder that afflicts 75 million Americans, as cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Metabolic syndrome is the group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Risk factors include traits, conditions and habits that increase the chances of developing a disease. One major habit contributing to metabolic syndrome is the consumption of sugar that results in insulin resistance. This occurs when the pancreas responds to high volumes of sugar by producing more insulin and the cells that normally use glucose for power, fail to respond. The vicious cycle often ends up in type 2 diabetes.

If we understand why not smoking is important to good health, we can see why not consuming added sugar may similarly decrease our risk factors. At Nikken, we push for the Active Wellness lifestyle and pledge to improve our NikkenWellness products as evolving science informs us. That’s why Kenzen Ten4® Energy Drink Mix has no added sugar. Consumers can add their own sweetener, if they please, but our commitment is to promote Active Wellness through healthy eating, drinking and sleeping.