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Okinawan Diet

A diet for health and longevity

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Residents on the small Japanese island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu archipelago south of mainland Japan live longer on average than many other cultural groups and some say they are the longest lived people with lifespans of 100 - 115 years of age common and many well documented studies have been made to support this claim.

In addition to a longer life, there are fewer incidences of the diseases that plague the Western world such as heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Scientists are so impressed that they generally agree that by adopting an Okinawan style diet, it is possible to retard or and even reverse the symptoms of aging for Westerners and those living in other places.

Differences
The Okinawans are ethnically Japanese although the Ryukyu kingdom was once a tributary state of China and Chinese cuisine and culinary methods are still utilized in Okinawa. The reasons for their exceptional health and longevity are attributed more to the local diet as well as other variables including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors, but typically the traditional Okinawan diet:

  • Has 20% less calories than the Japanese average diet.
  • Is very plentiful with many different colored vegetables.
  • Is rich in sweet potatoes - the sweet potato came to Okinawa in 1605 from Fujian (Fukien) province in China and it soon became the most important crop and the staple of the popular diet until the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • Is low in fat and sugar with only 25% of the sugar eaten in the 'normal' Japanese diet
  • Has 75% the amount of grains of the average Japanese dietary intake. This is perhaps because rice does not grow in the Ryukyu islands.
  • Has a relatively small amount of fish (less than half a serving per day)
  • Has many types of seaweed harvested from the sea around Okinawa which provide a plentiful supply of minerals and the people of Okinawa are in fact the largest consumers of kombu (kelp).
  • Has more in the way of soy and other legumes (6% of total caloric intake).
  • With exception of pork, almost no meat is consumed but; it is said that Okinawan cooking "begins with pig and ends with pig" and that "every part of a pig is eaten except for its hooves and its oink."
  • Virtually no eggs or dairy products are consumed.

In Okinawa gardening and yoga are two popular activities, and life is governed by the principle of ikigai, which means having a purpose. So diet alone may not be enough to slow your clock, you may also need something of value in your life, or a reason for being beyond just raising a family or doing a job.

Today the Ryukyuan identity and languages are in grave danger of dying as are the coral reefs and the once pristine environment due to pollution and neglect. Economically Okinawa has little industry and the standard of living is about 70% of mainland Japan, they subsisted up until 1945 and the island revenues come from the US Air force base and tourism. Under these modern influences, the island youth are adopting American fast food diets resulting in an increase in diabetes, heart disease and parents are having the experience of seeing their children and even grand children depart to the next life.

The similarities between Okinawa and other Pacific Islanders are the sweet potato and pork diet, but the differences the colorful vegetables used in almost every meal, sea weeds and soy products.

The Okinawa Diet
The proponents of this diet divide food into 4 categories based on caloric density.

  • The "featherweight" foods, less than or equal to 0.8 calories per gram which one can eat freely without major concern,
  • The "lightweight" foods with a caloric density from 0.8 to 1.5 calories per gram which one should eat in moderation,
  • the "middleweight" foods with a caloric density from 1.5 to 3.0 calories per gram which one should eat only while carefully monitoring portion size and
  • the "heavyweight" foods from 3 to 9 calories per gram which one should eat only sparingly

The Okinawa Diet teaches you the right carbs, the right fats and the right proteins, promises healthy loss of body fat rather than just body weight, allows you to eat as much or more than you do now, with no hunger and fewer calories and lets you enjoy a delicious blend of East and West, enjoyed traditionally by the disappearing Okinawans who were among the leanest, healthiest and longest lived people on earth.

References
Okinawa Program By Bradley Willcox
The Okinawa Way: How to Improve Your Health and Longevity Dramatically The Okinawa way is a four-week plan for diet, fitness and well-being. By Bradley J. Willcox, Makoto Suzuki and Craig D. Willcox.
The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer, Better By Dan Buettner
Pursuits of Happiness: Well-being in Anthropological Perspective By Gordon Mathews and Carolina Izquierdo
wikipedia
Kikkoman foodforum
Okinawa post 1945

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2 comments to Okinawan Diet

  • Alex

    Howdy, must be hell for the old people of Okinawa to see their kids and grand kids dying before them due to switching to a western diet

  • Thomas Bodrick

    The Okinawan diet has only 30% of the sugar and 15% of the grains of the average Japanese dietary intake. The traditional diet also includes a tiny amount of fish (less than half a serving per day) and more in the way of soy and other legumes (6% of total caloric intake).

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