NIH Recommended Diet Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

by Tracy Rohland

The latest news on healthy eating is related to the government-recommended DASH diet. DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed by the U.S. National Institute of Health to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity. The diet promotes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein over meat. Recent studies have shown that people following this diet greatly reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits of this type of diet however, do not stop at simply reducing the risk of life-threatening conditions. A wholesome, plant-based diet is the ideal regimen for all who are interested in maintaining the health of their body.

Following are some tips for adopting a plant-based diet:

  • Enjoy whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat berries, oats, buckwheat, rye and so on. Stone ground bread, sprouted bread, white rice, and pasta are fine in moderation, but the less refined the grain is, the better.
  • Luxuriate in a variety of vegetables. Fresh vegetables are ideal, but frozen and canned varieties work well when there just isn’t time to prepare fresh produce.
  • Include a variety of protein-rich legumes such as beans, lentils and tofu.
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are excellent snacks or additions to a meal. Soak nuts in water overnight to further increase their healthful properties.
  • Fresh fruit is loaded with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. But should be eaten in moderation as fruits are high in sugar and can negatively affect blood sugar.

Our Down to Earth Community Outreach Team is here to assist people in making the move towards a plant-based diet. We offer vegetarian nutrition classes, cooking classes, store tours, and can provide answers to any questions you may have along the way. The key is to go at your own pace. Even if a quarter of your diet is improved, it’s still a big step and will help as you move forward.

Make Every day Earth Day by Dreaming of a 'Green' Christmas

by Michele McKay

The holiday season is a time of giving and receiving, but not many people think about what they can give back to Mother Earth. This year you can make your holiday celebrations eco-friendly – and in return, you will receive the knowledge that you have helped make your home and the planet a ‘greener’ place.

The holidays can be extra tough on the environment: extra waste is generated from packaging and wrappers, more gas is burned on shopping trips, and many megawatts of energy go into light displays. Celebrate the planet this year with these eco-friendly holiday tips:

  • Enjoy delicious, healthy holiday feasts vegetarian-style… no other single action causes more environmental destruction than raising animals for slaughter. Need recipes? Find them at
  • Just say “no” to wrapping paper. Decorate and reuse shopping bags, magazine pages, newspaper, tissue paper, boxes, tins, cloth… you name it.
  • Give ‘wrapperless’ and non-consuming gifts. How about a donation to a favorite charity or an ‘adoption’ program that helps endangered species or ecosystems? Or give the gift of an experience – a special meal or a ticket to an attraction/performance/event.
  • Make your own greeting cards from used materials, or go paperless altogether by phoning loved ones or sending electronic greetings.
  • Use canvas or ‘reused’ bags from home when shopping.
  • Save gas by combining shopping trips or by doing your shopping online.
  • Cut energy consumption by reducing the display time of your holiday lights.
  • Buy recycled. Purchase gifts or cards that are made of recycled materials. Look for the green ‘chasing arrows’ on packages, and support the companies that are making waste into new goods.
  • Recharge. If you are giving something that requires batteries, include rechargeable batteries and a charger with the gift.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle in holiday entertaining. Go with reusable dinnerware and cloth napkins, and recycle your beverage and other containers.
  • Have your Christmas tree chipped and composted. On O’ahu call 692-5410 or visit for more information. On Maui call 270-7874.
  • Or… here in the Islands it is easy to find an alternative to a cut tree. Live trees will bring years of enjoyment when planted outside after the holidays. Or get creative and decorate a beautiful tropical plant that can live indoors or outdoors.

Alcohol, Cancer Risk, and the Benefits of Being a Vegetarian

by Tandis Bishop

The consumption of alcohol is often argued to be safe and even beneficial for the body.. However, a new CNN report claims that “along with smoking and chronic infections, alcohol consumption is an important cause of several types of cancer.” Recent studies have shown that “excessive drinking raises the risk for cancer of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, colon, liver, and breast. It may also be linked with cancer of the pancreas and lung.”

"Alcohol is underestimated as a cause of cancer in many parts of the world. A sizeable portion of cancer today is due to alcohol intake and this is increasing in many regions," according to Dr. Paolo Boffetta of the International Agency for Cancer Research in France.

Besides alcohol's links to cancer, alcohol consumption has other harmful effects that should be considered. For example, it can cause damage to the digestive system (including the digestive organs), which may result in impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients.

For those of you who are vegetarian, or considering becoming vegetartian, there is good news. When you start eating a vegetarian diet, your body will naturally begin to cleanse itself of many toxins and unwanted compounds stored in the body. For non-vegetarians, this cleansing is usually hindered because the body is already working overtime to break down and eliminate the toxic chemicals, hormones, and toxic byproducts accumulated from meat-consumption.

So naturally, when eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet, a person begins to feel better both mentally and physically. The person will become more sensitive to the toxins that they ingest, and will make the conscious choice not to pollute their body. They will naturally not want to over-consume alcohol (or consume any at all) because of how they will feel the next day. In this way, it becomes easier to give up alcohol, or limit its consumption, and thus reduce risk for various types of cancers.

Down to Earth makes it easy by carrying a vast range of non-alcoholic beverages as great substitutes to alcohol. Check out our Health Tips section for ways to cut down your alcohol consumption and for recommended non-alcoholic beverages.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

by Tandis Bishop

At the turn of each New Year, many Americans jump on the “self-improvement” wagon. This often entails the hope of getting fit and losing weight because with spring around the corner, the motivation to improve our appearance is very high. But what is often left behind is the hope for something like a healthy heart.

Cardiovascular disease is still the No. 1 killer in America. The majority of these deaths are from coronary heart disease. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is the number one recommendation by physicians to maintain a healthy heart, but many people still do not know what an ideal diet consists of.

According to the American Heart Association, “Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack).” Since most vegetarian diets are low in animal products, they are also usually lower than meat-eating diets in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Vegetarians suffer markedly lower mortality from coronary heart disease compared to non-vegetarians (Key et al (1999). High blood cholesterol is a primary risk factor in heart disease. In addition, studies have shown that vegetarians have significantly lower levels of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol particularly associated with heart disease.

A vegetarian diet is also naturally high in fiber. Fiber has been proven to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood due to its fat-binding abilities. Fatty acids and cholesterol can bind to fiber and are blocked from cell entrance. Thus, fiber-bound fats are typically not absorbed in the small intestine and instead pass into the large intestine (colon) where they will be excreted in the feces or degraded by intestinal bacteria. In addition, like fiber-bound fatty acids, bile acids bound to fiber cannot be reabsorbed and re-circulated. They are also sent to the colon for fecal excretion or degradation, resulting in the use of cholesterol in the body for synthesis of new bile acids. As more cholesterol is used up to make new bile acids, less remains in the blood.

In his best-selling book, “Eat More, Weigh Less”, Dr. Dean Ornish describes how he was able to actually reverse heart disease through a vegetarian diet, exercise, and meditation. Dr. Ornish’s findings were particularly amazing because even the most aggressive medical treatment is generally only able to help stop heart disease from getting worse, not actually reverse damage as Ornish’s treatment did.


Down to Earth is here to help you on your track to a healthy heart. We have many heart-friendly vegetarian products in our stores and recipes on our website to assist you in your transition toward a plant-based diet. Check out the Health Tips section on our website for the American Heart Association’s guidelines to a healthy heart.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Dangers and Natural Alternatives

by Eva Martin

The newspaper headlines were alarming: "Hormone therapy too risky, study says. Increased chance of cancer among long-term effects."

These headlines were no surprise to me, a post-menopausal woman who is part of the nationwide, federally funded study, "Women's Health Initiative." This study started in 1991 and includes 265 women in Hawaii.

Though I am merely a "control", meaning I did not agree to take the hormone pill or a placebo (dummy pill), I was notified by letter in June of this year - 2002 - that preliminary results of the study showed a puzzling and disturbing increase in serious health problems among the women taking HRT in the form of estrogen plus progestin. These problems included blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and breast cancer. The study was scheduled to last until 2005, but as increasing numbers of negative effects came in, the researchers decided to pull the plug three years early; they simply could not justify continuing.

In July, the official announcement was made and in doctors' offices across the country the phone began ringing off the hook. Patients and doctors were upset and confused and a class action lawsuit has been filed against the maker of this drug demanding that it be taken off the market immediately.

I had been well aware of the risks for years. Working at Down to Earth Natural Foods, I was familiar with the book "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause" by Dr. John R. Lee. He is an M.D. who spoke out against HRT many years ago. I gave several workshops on the topic, informing women about such alternatives as plant-based natural hormones, the benefits of a plant-based diet, taking nutritional supplements and herbs, and getting regular exercise.

What doctors have told menopausal women - and probably believed themselves - was that taking a daily pill made from extracts of urine from pregnant horses (Premarin) and a synthetic form of progesterone called "progestin" would prevent hot flashes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and that it would greatly extend women's youthful years. The study shows a very different picture. About all the pill does is prevent hot flashes!

It is crucial that we understand the difference between natural hormones derived from plants and those made from horse urine and synthetic progestin. It was the latter prescription drug that was used in the study, and the results confirmed what had been in the small-print literature accompanying the product for many years. In other words, the serious drawbacks and dangers had been known for a long time. But aggressive marketing had convinced many women and their doctors that HRT would keep them healthy and youthful. The only benefits the study revealed were a small percentage of fewer colorectal cancers and fewer bone fractures.

If a study of this magnitude had been conducted on the combination of a healthy lifestyle, natural supplements, and the natural hormone progesterone made from Mexican wild yam, we probably would have seen impressive benefits. According to Dr. Lee, progesterone protects the body in so many ways that they are too numerous to list here. And plant estrogens go to the same receptors as the dangerous estrogens and replace them. In addition, many wonderful supplements such as flax oil, multi-vitamin-mineral combinations, and special menopausal herbal formulas are now available. They may not relieve all hot flashes, but I'd rather have some of those than worry I might suddenly have a stroke or discover a lump in my breast!

Most doctors are as distressed and confused as their women patients. They have been exposed to the same sales pressures from drug companies as well as TV ads with Patty LaBelle and Lauren Hutton. What every woman and every doctor needs is a copy of Dr. Lee's book (inexpensive at $13.99 and available at Down to Earth and most bookstores). All of his claims are backed by scientific studies and professional literature as well as his own experience as a family physician.

I think the Women's Health Initiative study came just in time for millions of baby boomer women entering menopause. Many of these women will now seek out naturopathic physicians who are familiar with the dangers of HRT. They have saliva tests available to assess a woman's hormonal status (a procedure which regular MDs don't even know about) and can design a personal program based on those tests. We are not able to recommend any particular naturopath, but several are listed in the Oahu Yellow Pages.

The Meat-Cancer Connection

by Tracy Rohland

Science continues to support the conclusion that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables is ideal for overall health and well-being. In contrast, new evidence is supporting the idea that high-meat diets can lead to cancer.

A recent study from the University of Hawaii revealed a probable link between processed meat consumption and pancreatic cancer. The multi-ethnic cohort study followed nearly 200,000 people for a seven-year period. It is the largest and most statistically significant study of its kind. In all, 482 cases of pancreatic cancer were reported. The results showed that those people who consumed large amounts of processed meat had a 67 percent higher risk of contracting pancreatic cancer. Additionally, those who consumed large amounts of pork and red meat were shown to have a 50 percent greater risk of this cancer.

Researchers suggest that the carcinogens produced during the processing of meat are responsible for this cancer link. Processed meat includes hot dogs, sausage, pepperoni, lunch meats, chicken nuggets, and of course, the king of processed meats, SPAM. Hormel, the manufacturer of this product, owes much of their success to the Hawaiian market. According to their statistics, "More than 122 million cans of SPAM are sold worldwide each year. In the United States , a can of SPAM is purchased every 3 seconds." On a per capita basis, Hawaii, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas and Alabama are the heaviest consumers of SPAM in the United States, and of these five states, Hawaii is the leader.

There are plenty of alternatives to hot dogs and pepperoni pizza that are free of carcinogens and will actually give you energy, rather than weighing you down or causing bloating. If you can not bear the idea of giving up hot dogs and burgers, try vegetarian hot dogs and burgers from Down to Earth. If you are into trying new ideas, we can suggest some great recipes. You can find these on the recipe section of our Web site. And check out this month's Health Tip for great meat alternatives.

Warnings About Pain Remedies

In the not-so-distant past, Aspirin was virtually the only non-prescription pain reliever on the market. It was the solution for anything from headaches and fever to cramping and arthritis. Then acetaminophen and ibuprofen came along to challenge the pain reliever monopoly, giving the world new options for their pains and fevers. These days, there is a new category of pain relievers known as COX-2 inhibitors. These drugs were designed to avoid the gastric bleeding that is a concern with drugs like aspirin. But these new drugs come with their own set of side effects and complications, which is why they are now under close scrutiny.

A few well-known examples of these drugs are Celebrex, Vioxx, and Bextra. Millions of Americans take these drugs for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis as well as common headaches and muscle tension. Most people who watch television have seen the ads for these drugs and heard the long list of side effects at the end. But many people have eagerly sought out and taking these prescriptions despite the potential harm. However, the FDA is alerting consumers to be aware of these side effects and to take the warnings seriously.

Vioxx was recently taken off the market when a study showed that it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. Celebrex, a very similar drug, is currently under careful evaluation. A December 2004 study of Celebrex by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported a 2.5 fold increase in the risk of major fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular problems for participants taking Celebrex compared to those on a placebo. Even over the counter naproxen pain relievers like Aleve and Bayer have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

The warnings of the potential dangers of Celebrex listed on the FDA’s Web site include: stomach ulcers that bleed, stomach bleeding in general, liver damage, kidney problems, fluid retention, swelling, headache, indigestion, upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, sinus inflammation, stomach pain, and nausea.

The FDA has recently told doctors to limit prescriptions for Celebrex and Bextra, while encouraging alternative therapy. If a patient is continuing to take either of these drugs, the FDA advises that the lowest effective dose be used.

It is easy to overlook the side effects of a drug when it helps you feel better, but exchanging a headache for a heart attack may not be worth it. Luckily, there are natural alternatives for pain relief. Down to Earth can help you find alternatives to be pain relief, so be sure to drop by for a visit and inquire about the natural choices available.

Farming Animals and the Bird Flu Connection

by Becky Johnson

With a flu pandemic imminent in the eyes of many experts, people around the world are left to question when it might happen and how bad it might become. But it is also important to know how this virus erupted, putting us on the brink of worldwide devastation.

While disease is inevitable, we all know that personal lifestyle choices and habits can make a big difference in whether or not we get sick. In the same way, how our society conducts itself and manages the earth’s resources can impact how prevalent a disease becomes for the society as a whole.

One of the world’s prime health issues is in the practice of raising animals for slaughter, which is often so unsanitary that it creates a 'hot zone' for disease. These animals, which include cows, pigs and chickens, live in quarters that are packed together in crammed and filthy conditions. And the waste that they create not only pollutes the environment they are in, but also the local water supplies.

To try and combat this disease potential, farmers fill their animals’ food and water with antibiotics and other drugs. But when it comes to a viral illness like the flu, it cannot be controlled with antibiotics because antibiotics only bolster the body against bacterial infections, not viruses. So, the only way to prevent this dangerous cycle from continuing is to reduce the amount of animal farming that is practiced in the world today.

And the best way you can help protect Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants is by choosing a healthy way of life – vegetarian style. At Down to Earth we have plenty of delicious foods, recipes, cookbooks and friendly personnel to make it fun, tasty and easy to eat a plant-based diet. So be sure to stop by our store this month and check out all the good things we have for you to eat.

Important News for Diabetics: Stevia the Natural Sweetener

Stevia is an herbal sweetener that will not raise blood sugar and has been used throughout history for its medicinal properties. There are indications that stevia was used in native beverages since pre Columbian times. However, the first written record was found in the late 1800's in South America. Scientist Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni wrote, "In placing the smallest particle of a leaf or twig in the mouth, one is surprised at the strange sweetness contained therein. A fragment of the leaf only a few square millimeters in size suffices to keep the mouth sweet for an hour. A few small leaves are sufficient to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea." A Paraguan chemist named Rebaudi was the first to extract the plants sweet content. Stevia has been known to regulate the body's blood sugar and be a therapeutic and safe alternative to sugars. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar without the harmful side effects that sugar causes for diabetics. In Brazil, China and other countries, Stevia is recommended for people living with diabetes or hypoglycemia as a replacement for sugar. Stevia promotes balance in the pancreas, an organ essential for healthy digestion.

Stevia has...

  • No fat
  • No Calories
  • No Carbohydrate
  • And does not break down in the body as a sugar

In Down to Earth, Stevia is sold in as a dietary supplement in the form of powder, an extract clear liquid, and concentrate. One way to utilize the healing properties of Stevia is to make it into a "working solution" from the powder form. This is done by using 1 tsp of Stevia powder to 3 tablespoons of water. Place the solution in a glass bottle with a dropper top and refrigerate. This Stevia mixture can be added to tea, coffee, or any beverage that you would normally add sugar to. It may take time to acquire a taste for Stevia; however the health benefits are well worth the transition. Down to Earth also carries several cooking and baking books that are based on the use of Stevia as a substitute for sugar. Since Stevia has no calories, it is an ideal supplement for people watching their weight and counting calories, as compared to sugar, which is high calories often times stored as fat. For more information about Stevia and its forms and uses, please come to Down to Earth where you will find brochures and books on this wonderful alternative to sugar.

Diabetes and Diet: A Crucial Combination for Health

by Angie Smith

With the rise in Type II diabetes over the last couple of decades, many people have taken notice of the dangers that are associated with its development as well as some of the potential causes. But many people have yet to understand what leads a body to have difficulties absorbing sugar and what options they have for regaining their health.

The growing concern is in the connection between the rising obesity epidemic and its link to Type II diabetes. About 80 percent of Type II diabetics are obese. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has said that the new approach to treating diabetes focuses on fat consumption instead of the old method, which made the elimination of refined sugars and starchy foods the main goal. They explain this by saying that the more fat there is in a diet the harder time insulin has getting sugar into the cells. As of yet, there is no known cause for this, but it has been proven that by reducing fat intake as well as excess body fat, a person can help their body’s insulin maintain a proper sugar balance.

Modern diabetic treatment programs, according to the Committee, drastically reduce meats, high-fat dairy products, and oils, while at the same time increase grains, legumes, and vegetables. One study they illustrated found that 21 of 23 patients who were taking oral medication for diabetes, and 13 of 17 patients on insulin were able to get off their medications after 26 days on a near-vegetarian diet and exercise program.

The benefit to a vegetarian diet for those who have or are at risk of diabetes, is that most vegetarian diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat is most commonly found in meat, eggs and dairy products and it has been linked to high cholesterol levels as well as weight gain. Unsaturated fat, which is found in olive and canola oil as well as nuts and seeds, is much healthier for the body and can help to keep weight and cholesterol levels down.

It is estimated that 17 million people have diabetes and around 95 percent of those cases are Type II, which most commonly affects adults over the age of 40. According to Jay B. Lavine, M.D., a Diplomat of both the American Board of Ophthalmology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, Type II diabetes is associated with obesity, inactivity, family history of diabetes and ethnicity.

Lavine said that the difference between Type I and Type II diabetes, is that Type I generally requires insulin treatment and it was formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Type I appears to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. In Type II diabetes, however, the body still produces insulin, but the body is resistant to its effects and so the sugar is unable to easily absorb into the cells where it is needed, and backs up in the bloodstream. Lavine said that both types of diabetes though, develop the same complications.

The good news for Type II diabetics, Lavine said, is if they change their lifestyle by adopting healthier eating habits, described as a high fiber, plant-based diet, and lose their excess weight, the diabetes can often be reversed and the need for medication eliminated.



  1. Lavine, Jay B. “Diabetes and Diet.” October 2003.
  2. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. ”Diet and Diabetes.” October 2003.