The Health Benefits of Living in Hawaii Part 1: Natural Abundance

America’s Health Rankings, an annual report that tracks the health of our nation through various health measures, found that Hawaii is the healthiest state of 2013. Hawaii boasts a higher healthy life expectancy than any other state in the country. A 65-year-old living in Hawaii can expect another 21.3 years of happy island living, on average.

But what makes Hawaiian living so much healthier for its citizens? Let’s take a look at why Hawaii is such a healthy state and how you might benefit from moving there.

Sunlight

If there’s one thing Hawaii is known for, it’s the amazing sunlight and temperate weather. The Hawaiian Islands experience just two seasons: summer (lasting from May to October) and winter (November to April). The average daily temperature in the summer is 85° Fahrenheit, but even in the winter, you can expect an average temperature of about 78° Fahrenheit.

Hawaiian SunlightRainfall is rare and often localized, which means escaping a storm is as easy as heading just around the coast.

This all contributes to plenty of sunlight, but sunlight offers more than just the perfectly tanned beach body. The amount of sun you get has a significant effect on all aspects of your health.

  • Sleep – Although it seems counter intuitive, sunlight can actually improve your sleep, and it has to do with your biological clock, or circadian rhythms. Your biological clock keeps time much like a wristwatch. However, unlike a proper wristwatch, your internal clock has a habit of drifting ahead, which can cause you to sleep and wake up later. Sunlight counters this by resetting your clock and making sure it sticks the normal 24-hour sun cycle.
  • Mood – Sunlight promotes a sunny disposition by increasing your body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and it’s as easy as opening your eyes. Your retina reacts to bright light, stimulating your optic nerve. Your optic nerve then signals the part of the brain responsible for regulating the production of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being, while melatonin—best known for regulating sleep cycles—acts as a powerful antioxidant and can imbue you with feelings of comfort. In fact, bright sunlight is more effective and faster acting than depression medications.
  • Vitamin D – Sunlight plays an integral role in the processing and production of vitamin D. Sunlight’s ultraviolet B rays hit your skin, triggering vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is most prominently used to promote the absorption of calcium, but the sunshine vitamin also protects against a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and several forms of cancer. Vitamin D also acts as an immune system regulator and can help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Hawaii’s excess sunlight also fosters an excellent environment for outdoor exercise all year round. It’s much easier to be physically active when you don’t need to worry about rain or several inches of snow. Just make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen.

Food

Obesity has become the modern epidemic. Nearly one-third of all U.S. adults are overweight or obese. While Hawaii hasn’t escaped the modern convenience of fast

The typical Hawaiian diet offers many fundamental vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in a variety of foods, including: food and processed meals, it ranks as the third least obese state in the Nation. An estimated 23.6% of the population is obese, and part of that comes from the foods available.

  • Seafood – From salmon to ahi tuna, Hawaii offers an amazing assortment of fresh and saltwater fish. Aside from the amazing taste, fish and seafood is packed with lean protein, rich with polyunsaturated fats, and low in calories. Fish is a particularly good source of omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential to keeping down blood pressure and promoting a healthy heart.
  • Fruits – Fresh tropical fruits are readily available. Some island staples include:
    • Papaya – Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
    • Pineapple – Offers plenty of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
    • Watermelon – Packed with vitamins A, B6, and C, arginine, citruline, glutathione, potassium, magnesium, and lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation. As per the name, watermelon comprises about 92% water, making it a great hydrator.
  • Vegetables – Thanks to the temperate weather, Hawaii offers an excellent environment for growing green leafy veggies all year-round. These veggies, which include lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard, are the best sources for folate and are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin A.Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts
  • Legumes – While Hawaii offers a variety of legumes, the most popular is the macadamia nut, which is a good source of protein, fiber, selenium, and vitamin E. Although they are high in fats, macadamia nuts offer monounsaturated fats, good for the heart and for maintaining your cholesterol.

But Hawaii is more than plentiful sun and delicious foods. Read the second half of our series to see how the Hawaiian Islands cultivate a lifestyle of longevity or if you have any other questions relating to moving to Hawaii feel free to let us know.

Images:

  • “House of the Sun” by daveynin is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • “Macadamia Nuts” by Wichid is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Resources:

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/04/hawaii-life-expectancy_n_3682588.html
  • http://www.gohawaii.com/statewide/travel-tips/weather
  • http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/articles/2008/06/24/host-of-health-benefits-attributed-to-sunlight
  • http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/sleep/basics/how-to-fall-asleep2.htm
  • http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/boost-mood
  • http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-topic-overview
  • http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/heart/articles/2008/06/23/time-in-the-sun-how-much-is-needed-for-vitamin-d
  • http://www.americashealthrankings.org/HI
  • http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/Eat-Like-a-Hawaiian-203484501.html
  • http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet
  • http://observer.gm/africa/gambia/article/importance-of-seafood-to-the-body
  • http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-nutrition-of-macadamia-nuts.html#b