Okinawa lies in Japan. It is known for its perfectly blue ocean water and lush islands. Besides, people also associate the island group with the Okinawa diet and its secret to longevity. It seems that this small place on earth has figured out the way to live a long, healthy and happy life.
Especially people in the West are increasingly looking at those few societies on earth like Okinawa for answers to key questions in life. Not surprisingly, looking at the statistics. As one of the five Blue Zones on earth, Okinawan has one of the lowest rates of chronic disease and highest rates longevity. Nowhere on earth will you find more people that live beyond 100 years of age. So what is their secret?
The secret of the life expectancy of Okinawans is largely attributed to their lifestyle choices. More specifically, the Okinawa diet has the key.
What is the Okinawa diet?
Traditionally, the Okinawa diet is high in carbohydrates, contrary to what many Westerners now eat. Besides, the other characteristics include a relatively low calorie diet with mostly plant-based foods and very small portions of fish and meat.
Sweet potatoes appear to play a major role in the diets of Okinawans, as many varieties of sweet potatoes grow on the Okinawan islands.
The traditional Okinawa diet:
- Vegetables, especially sweet potatoes
- Soy (miso, tofu, edamame)
- Fruits (passion, pineapple, dragon)
- Whole wheat, barley and millet
- Herbs, spices
As you can see, this is a very simple, but nutrient-rich diet.
Centenarians in Okinawa
It is important to note that besides a healthy diet, Okinawans also tend to have a healthy general lifestyle, with many people having physically active lives by doing sports and working outdoors on the land. People also live a relatively low-paced life, spend time with family and friends, and have a general sense of joyfulness in life.
Health is not a one-deal package. Some people zoom in on only food or only exercise, but in Okinawa people focus on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. This may well be the key to their unique health statistics.
Various studies have looked at the rare but profound statistic showing that people living in Okinawa reach 100 years of age more than most places on earth. There are lifestyle lessons to be learned from Okinawans.
Side note in conclusion
As in most parts of the world, the dietary and lifestyle behaviours have changed radically through the generations. New evidence appears to show that the Okinawa diet is slowly fading away. The older generation very much still lives by its original way of life, but the younger generations appear to go a different route, opting to eat more fish and meat as opposed to sweet potatoes and tofu.
In the years to come more studies may show the impact of these dietary changes. It would certainly make for an interesting comparison.