Miso soup with spinach or eggs with rice is the typical breakfast for many who live on the island of Okinawa. This southern group of islands located between Japan’s main islands and Taiwan is home to the largest population of centenarians in the world.
The Japanese have long been admired for their good health and greatest longevity, but the Okinawans have even the healthiest Japanese beat. Exercise and self-sufficiency are the norm for these 100 year old and over 100 year old Okinawans and they show no signs of slowing down.
So what’s their secret? I wish I could tell you that they drink a magic potion every night before bed or they dance around in the fountain of youth twice daily – but I can’t. Americans want specifics like, how many weeks do I have to be on this diet? Or how many reps do I have to do? Or how many ounces can I eat? This has been our problem all along. We stick to a strict “plan,” we change for few weeks and then when it’s all over, we’re back to our old ways.
The Okinawa way isn’t a magic diet or exercise plan – it’s a lifestyle. There’s nothing complicated about it. Okinawa’s enjoy simple lives and they eat from the earth. That’s it. No plan, no time limit, no weighing, no beginning and no end.
Okinawa’s have remarkably clean arteries and low cholesterol. Heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer are rare. This can be attributed to the Okinawans mostly plant based diet that includes fish and soy foods with a variety of vegetables and a moderate amounts of good fats. They consume locally grown vegetables and large quantities of tofu (high protein, low-fat, calcium, vitiman E) and seaweed (higher in vitamin and minerals than land vegetables). In addition, they also enjoy regular physical activity, a low-stress lifestyle, as well as strong community and social support.
They also take pride in their health and maintaining their independence. Studies show that younger Okinawans are eating more “American-like” and are beginning to experience the same health problems as Americans. This is further proof that diet is everything and the Okinawans just might hold the key to longevity.
In a recent article, the authors of The Okinawa Program claimed, “if Americans copied the islands diet, doctors say we might be able to shut down 80 percent of our coronary units.” Can you imagine that??
The bottom line is this: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and maybe a little tofu, among other healthy foods, and a diet low in processed foods and fat can not only lead to a long life, but a long healthy life.