How to live longer
The Island of Okinawa is located 685km Southwest of Japan and is the largest in a chain of hundreds of islands that form the Ryukyu Islands. The Okinawan people have been found to have the longest life expectancy in the world and the lowest mortality rate from many chronic diseases of ageing. For example, rates of cancer are 50%-80% lower in Okinawa than in America especially breast, colon and prostate cancers. Reaching the age of 110 in good health and beautiful skin is not out of the ordinary for the Okinawan people.
So what is their secret?
Scientists believe it is a combination of local diet, genetic factors, lifestyle and environmental factors. Some believe the secret lay in their local diet. A recent study of 100,000 Okinawans who moved to Brazil found that their life expectancy decreased by 17 years and was attributed to Western eating styles with high intake of processed foods.
To increase your chance of living past 110, the following are a few tips on the Okinawan lifestyle:
- Control eating by only eating until you are 80% full. This is the practice of Hara Hachi Bu. The reason is that human stomach stretch receptors take about 20 minutes to react so it is only after 20 minutes from when we stop eating do we realise how full we really are.
- Have a low calorie, predominately plant based diet and eat lots of fish, soy products, fruit, high fibre whole grains, vegetables and a moderate amount of monounsaturated fat and Omega 3.
- Include Tofu in your diet as it is high in protein, calcium, vitamin E and low in fat
- Eat seaweed as it contains higher levels of minerals and vitamins than land vegetables
- Other foods the Okinawans eat include goya (bitter melon), green tea, imo (a type of sweet potato), bean sprouts, onions and green peppers.
- Okinawans consume pork and poultry however almost no other meat, egg, or dairy products
- Okinawan women do drink alcohol however in moderation and would usually stick to 1 drink per day while men can drink double this amount and both men and women do not smoke
- Eating unrefined rice is used as a ‘stomach filler’ and helps keep the Okinawan in healthy weight ranges
- Avoid consuming processed foods
- In summary for foods – 7 servings of vegetables daily, 7 servings of grain (bread, noodle, rice etc) daily, 2-4 servings of fruit daily, fish 3 times a week and the other mentioned foods as desired.
- Have a low-stress lifestyle and maximise community and social interaction
- Exercise regularly throughout your life. Common Okinawan activity includes Tai Chi, dancing, karate, walking and gardening.
- Maintain a good BMI between 18-22 to stay lean and fit.