Jason Coleman makes a killer smoothie. These days, he hears this sentiment often. Just a few years ago, it was this remark from family and friends that inspired the then 42-year-old to open Leahi Health. From bartender to plant-based food restaurant owner, his own journey has been one of discovery and a quest toward optimal health.
As a vegetarian since 18, opening Leahi Health sprang from Jason’s desire for more plant-based options in Hawaii. That dream came to fruition in 2012 when he opened the first Leahi Health in Kaimuki. He began small, renting a flower stand from the woman he bought his papayas from. With some fresh ingredients, his Vitamix, and a lot of work, he started. Business was slow at first but eventually progressed as word got out that there was a new plant-based eatery in town. In April 2015, the Kailua location opened and in December, it became Blue Zones Project Approved™.
There is a recognition ceremony to celebrate Leahi Health’s approval as a Blue Zones Project Restaurant next Saturday, February 13, at 1:00 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature live music and food samples. Plans are in the works for a new location in Aina Haina to open by February 21st.
The rainbow bowl from Leahi Health.
Jason admires food experts like Dan Buettner and Michael Pollan, who advocate that humans should be eating real, fresh food for optimal health. When Jason listened to Dan Buettner speak at the Blue Zones Project community kickoff event in Kaneohe last October, it hit him that his restaurant emulated the plant-based diet Buettner identified in the world’s longest-lived regions, or “Blue Zones.” This inspired him to become a Blue Zones Project Approved™ restaurant, which makes Leahi Health the second in Kailua (Big City Diner was the first).
To meet the requirement, he added a keiki menu and nutritious dessert option to his menu. “Really all our smoothies could be a dessert,” he said. It’s his hope that Leahi Health is helping contribute to changing the food environment on Oahu.
One of Pollan’s most famous adages is, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Jason displays this in the restaurant, along with Leahi’s own mantra: “Quick, fresh, and affordable.” Jason explained to me that making nutritious food accessible to people means making it affordable. He says that Costco makes that possible, and he believes in charging a fair price to eat well.
A quick scan of his kitchen’s shelves reveals fresh fruits, veggies, coconut oil, turmeric, chia and hemp seeds, and other fresh and clean ingredients. Creative names like “King Green,” “Jamaican Mojito” and “Poi Boy” are displayed on the huge menu in the store. Most smoothies contain superfood ingredients, like kombucha, goji berries, bananas, avocadoes, and mixed greens.
“There’s no artificial sugar in this store,” Jason said. Most of the options are also vegan, with the exception of the naan bread which has a little dairy and egg (with a corn tortilla vegan option).
During my visit, he retold a story that has stuck with him about how we humans should live like our closest relative, the chimpanzee. He tells me that during the first four to five hours of their day they climb trees and eat dark, leafy greens. This is their happiest time of day and 40-50 percent of their diets are these leafy greens. They aren’t getting obese or cancer like many Americans are. He says he wants Leahi Health to be the trees were people get their leafy greens so they can have happy and productive days, with energy and vitality.
“Health is an evolution, not a revolution because we’re evolving into this,” Jason said.
As I walked out of Leahi Health after that visit, the delicious aroma of fresh fruit and produce lingered and as I took the last few sips of my delicious smoothie, I felt great. It’s exciting to see more establishments open in my community that support my health and well-being. It hit me that I needed to get a recipe from Jason for an epic smoothie. The “Sweet Treat” is named after his mother’s, whose name is Tweet. He says it tasted like citrus soda and has so much Vitamin C you can’t get a cold.
So here you go Well-Being Hawaii readers. Cheers to good health and well-being!
5 oz. apple juice
Slice of lemon (1/16th)
Slice of lime
Slice of orange
Slice of pineapple
1 cup kale
1 cup spinach
1 tbsp. chia seeds
5 mint leaves
Combine all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Makes 1 serving.
Green smoothies are packed with antioxidants.