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Longevity and the Diet of Okinawa Japan
Okinawa, Japan has been deemed one of the Blue Zones’ locations that promote longevity. Longevity and the Diet of Okinawa, Japan will disclose some of the basic foods of Okinawa, share some recipes, and reveal the lifestyle of its people. Based on your health status today, do you feel that if you lived to be 90 to 100 years old that you would be able to continue to run races or work eight hours a day climbing trees and picking fruit? If the answer is no!
Then, let me introduce you to another region where there are many centenarians that are very active. Located in about 20 km north of Naha, the capital city of Japan; you will find the island of Okinawa, Japan’s second largest city. While Okinawa is quiet modernized even with numerous fast food eateries; those choosing the traditional way of living are the ones that still have the secrets to longevity.
One might find this country of interest because cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease are NOT heard of within this group of seniors. Okinawa has the highest number of centenarians of the entire world. In my hub titled Longevity and Healthy Diet of Costa Rica, I introduced you to Panchita a 100 year old that still chops wood and farms. Well, here I would like for you to meet Tusne a 90 year old that climbs fruit trees and works eight hours every day. From there you will learn of numerous other 100 year olds that still enjoy dancing and running races.
Meet Tusne a 90 year old that work eight hours a day climbing trees and hauling bags of fruit.
Longevity and the Diet of Okinawa, Japan
The Okinawan Diet
A traditional Okinawan breakfast may consist of miso soup with spinach or eggs with rice; while a typical lunch would be papaya, tofu, and dark green leafy vegetables, and sweet green tea, with a bitter citrus fruit for a snack in the afternoons.
Prior to the World War II and the presence of Americans the Okinawan diet was very low in fat, salt, and sugar. The fruit staples are pineapples, papayas, mangoes, passionfruit, guavas, and citrus fruit. Vegetables normally eaten are Goya (bitter melon), hechima (squash), shikuwasa, sweet potato, seaweed, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and plenty of green leafy salad leaves. Tofu, white and brown rice are also eaten. There is very little meat eaten with meals, however the meat staples are pork or soki (usually boneless stewed pork spare ribs), beef, and fish.
Health Benefits of Okinawan Diet
Okinawan people live about 7 years longer than American’s and have 80 percent fewer cases of cancer and heart attacks. They also believe in eating from small plates and stop eating when they are about 80 percent full. In Okinawa, Japan author of the Blue Zones, Dan Buettner and Dr. Oz believe that the diet of goya, IMO (sweet potato), green leafy vegetables and turmeric tea are some of the contributing to natives’ longevity in living past their 90’s.The health benefits are as follows:
Goya or bitter melon – Chances are that if you don’t like broccoli or mustard greens, you may not like goya either. Goya is called bitter melon because it is known for its extreme bitter taste and the fact that it looks like a prickly cucumber. Goya is high in vitamin C, has high fiber content, flavonoids such as a-carotene and lutein, and is believed to aid in digestion. This bitter melon contains plant insulin (polypeptide-P) that is known for lowering blood sugar levels which can assist in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
IMO or sweet potatoes – Make up a core part of the Okinawan diet. Sweet potatoes are high in dietary fiber, beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin B6, and complex carbohydrates. Imo packs150 percent more antioxidants than what is found in blueberries. The purple color of the imo make a very stunning dish presentation; however, it is believed that sweet potatoes are beneficial for diabetics. Studies have shown that eating sweet potatoes can assist in stabilizing blood sugar levels and helps to lower insulin resistance.
more Health Benefits
Green Leafy Vegetables – Like greens, kale, and spinach, are known to be ideal for weight management because they are low in calories. These vegetables are high in dietary fiber, rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium, and phytochemicals like lutein and beta-carotene. Green leafy vegetables are believed to assist in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and very beneficial to individuals with type 2 diabetes. Greens are high in vitamin K and important in producing osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health.
Turmeric Tea - The Okinawans are said to drink tea several times a day. I have read about green sweet tea and even a goya tea. However, the turmeric tea was name by the Dan Buettner on the Dr. Oz show; and it has been found to be a cancer fighting herb that is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and fights depression. The Okinawan women also know another secret about drinking turmeric tea. These women declare that if one drinks the tea prior to a night of drinking and partying that you will not have a hangover the next morning. Since turmeric is a natural liver detoxifier there may be some actuality to the ladies beliefs.
- Blue Zones: Live Longer, Better
Learn Lessons for living Longer, Younger from the people who've lived the longest in Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner.
- The Okinawa Diet: The Key to Longevity?
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.
- Okinawa Diet Food Pyramid
Okinawa-Diet food pyramid and Caloric Density Pyramid that provides additional information on their lifestyle.
How to Make Goya Chanpuru ( Okinawan Stir Fry with Bitter Melon)
Goya Chanpuru Recipe
- 1 goya (bitter gourd)
- 1 block cotton tofu, drained
- 1/4 lb thinly sliced pork, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tsps soy sauce
- 2 tsps sake rice wine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying
Instructions - Prepare the goya just as it is done in the video by splitting in half lengthwise removing seeds with a spoon. Slice the goya thinly and place goya slices in a bowl and sprinkle salt over the slices. Let goya slices sit for 10 minutes and wash goya slices and drain. Squeeze out excess water and heat in vegetable oil in a skillet. Season salt and pepper and stir-fry pork. Add goya slices and cook until soft. Crumble tofu into pieces and add in the skillet. Season to taste; and pour in beaten eggs over the other ingredients, and stir quickly. Season with soy sauce and remove from heat.
more Japanese Recipes
Okinawa Sweet Potatoes
- 2 pounds Okinawa (purple) sweet potatoes or white sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 lime
- 1/8 cup butter
- Kosher salt or sea salt
Instructions – Prick sweet potatoes with a fork, place in a large pot of boiling water, and boil until tender when pierced, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain. Grate zest from lime and set aside; then squeeze juice from lime and set aside. Wait until potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/2-in.-thick slices. Arrange on serving platter, cover with foil, and put in a 200° oven to keep warm. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Stir in zest and cook for a minute. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice, and drizzle ingredients over potatoes and sprinkle with salt.
Alternatives - Okinawa sweet potatoes, also called purple sweet potatoes, are available at some Asian-food markets, farmers' markets, or you can purchase them online. When cooked they turn a deep purple and have a dense, starchy texture. You can cook these potatoes just as you would any other potatoes. Why not try cooking them in the crock pot slow cooker. You can find instructions on the hub titled, Crockpot Cooking: Baking Tips and Techniques.
In closing I hope you will take a couple of minutes to watch the below video and hear what is happening to the Okinawans that are choosing the American way of eating fast foods instead of sticking to their traditions. Dan Buettner mentions that this will be the first generation where American parents are expected to out-live their kids. Personally, I think that will be a misfortune for the parents as well as the kids.
However, people like Dr. Oz, Dan Buettner, and numerous others continue to provide information on how to stop the damage that is being done to one’s body while promoting longevity. So if you get to vacation in one of Okinawa’s hotels, be sure to check out the traditional culture verse the influences that the US has given them, for example the canned meat - Spam. This concludes Longevity and the Diet of Okinawa Japan. I hope you’ve found this hub informative and useful in providing some new healthy recipes that you and your family will enjoy.
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