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Longevity and the Diet of Okinawa Japan

Updated on July 18, 2011

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.

Okinawa suba by kazuh Itoman, Okinawa photo
Okinawa suba by kazuh Itoman, Okinawa photo

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.

photo courtesy:
photo courtesy:
goya (bitter melon)
goya (bitter melon)
Imo (sweet potato)
Imo (sweet potato)

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 melonChances 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.

Green Leafy Vegetables & strips of pork rinds
Green Leafy Vegetables & strips of pork rinds

more Health Benefits

Green Leafy VegetablesLike 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.

A small green bitter melon (front) and a scoop of Okinawan gy chanpur stirfry (back) photo courtesy:
A small green bitter melon (front) and a scoop of Okinawan gy chanpur stirfry (back) photo courtesy:

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.

AlternativesGoya Chanpuru can be fixed numerous ways.  If you do not eat pork; you might like to try Chef Steve Yamada’s recipe as well instead of using pork it uses tuna and bonita flakes.

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

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.

I would appreciate if you leave a comment, rate it, share it, and/or Digg it. Thanks You!

Longevity in Okinawa


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    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i want to try the bittergourd recipe. looks easy

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      @kerlynb -Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • kerlynb profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      It amazes me how many Japanese people live such long lives and amazes me even more how Okinawans outlive most Japanese people. Many of them become centenarians, wow! This hub is very detailed. I also read somewhere that fish is central to the diet of the Okinawans. Many of them eat fish raw, without unhealthy cooking oils or anything. Thus, they get mega-doses in nutrients from fish meat.

    • profile image

      Pria makanda 

      7 years ago

      I enjoyed reading the article and the video was good.turmeric tea is really new for me and I would start with it now . Sweet potatoe is also good idea.

    • The Blagsmith profile image

      The Blagsmith 

      7 years ago from Britain

      Hi Money Glitch,

      I have linked this hub to my article on Blogger and will also add it to my website:


    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    • loves2cook profile image


      8 years ago from Portland, OR

      Fascinating hub! Just goes to show that eating a fresher, healthier, less processed diet can only help one's health. I love sweet potatoes but I haven't tried any of the other vegetables posted here -- I may just have to. Thanks for posting the recipes along with their history and benefits, too.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow from the beautiful pictures of Kita-dake one can easily visualize the breathing experience one would have when trekking this beautiful mountains....

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for your comments, Becky, I'm glad you have found the hub useful and informative. :)

    • Becky Puetz profile image


      8 years ago from Oklahoma

      This is such a useful, well written and documented Hub, a wealth of information that many can use. I'm adding this one to my bookmarks to read again later. There's much advice here that I would like to put into practice in my own life. Loved the videos too. Thanks for an awesome Hub.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Looks nice foods. I like them.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Hi Katie, I like your spirit, I plan to be here healthy, wealthy, and wise as well to well in the 100s. :) Thanks for the book mark.

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      8 years ago from Westerville

      This is very impressive, packed with fantastic information I just have to read again. Will book mark and revisit as I plan to live up to 115 and still be ready to go...

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Awesome that you and your daughters are choosing to eat healthier and are doing it together. Glad that you've decided to try some the ideas centered around the Okinawan diet.

      Personally, I have not tried tumeric tea, I love green and black teas; however, I would imagine that you can find it at a wholefood store, an Asian marketplace, or order online. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thougnts. :)

    • happymomof3 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great information! My daughters and I are trying to eat healthy so we will follow the tips you give here about the Okinawan diet. I wonder if tumeric tea is hard to find?

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @pylos26 - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

      @rembrandz - Hey rembrandz, thanks for sharing your experience with eating seaweed, it is very good for many things. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :)

    • rembrandz profile image

      Remy Francis 

      8 years ago from Creative Zone Dubai

      Hey there Money Glitch

      Thank you for this superb hub. I was looking for such a perfect compilation ever since I saw the documentary on the Okinawan people several years ago.

      I swear on one of their regular ingredient "the seaweed" and found magical relief for myself since the time I made it my daily eating-habit since 3 years.

      Am going to keep this hub as my regular reference.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      enjoyed reading your stuff...interesting.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Great to meet you, BenjaminB, I'm so glad that you liked the hub. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Hub Money glitch! Enjoyed it immensely as I am always interested in healthy eating.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Hi Granny, This hub was created during the food challenge contest and I'm not sure if there will be more for Okinawa or not. Maybe if time permits I will. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Great hub. thank you for the recipes. I have started making japanese food. I love Miso soup. Will you be doing a hub with more recipes. I would love to have more

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I agree Cheeky Girl, I want to be just like 90 year old lady as far as being healthy with the ability to climb a tree, but I don't want to be working at 90. LOL! Traveling around the world would be better. Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      I want to stay healthy and look great when I am 90. Who doesn't. This is outstanding, MG! Another super hub from you! Okinawans are an inspiration to us all. Cheers!

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      LOL, Hi Sally, I had to watch the video a couple of times as well. I find it hilariously funny, and btw there is a series of this dog providing cooking instructions on YouTube.

      Good luck in trying the bitter melon, most of my Asian friends say they don't like it; however, their mothers prepare it all the time. Needless to say, it is so good for you that it is my intention to try to find a recipe that works well. The goya chanpur recipe sounds the best so far. Good luck on your quest and thanks for the read. :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This Hub is packed full of extremely useful information. Thanks so much for putting it all together and sharing. I've been meaning to try bitter melon for a while (I can get it at my local Asian market), and now, from the video, I won't hesitate. About the goya chanpur video, I had to watch it a second time so I didn't miss any of the dog's expressions!

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Hi Shalini - Thanks for the kind compliments. Interesting about the CRON diet and the similarities to Okinawa' as well as India's.

      The more I read and learn about other cultures' diets it beginning to seem that America has really ventured into fast foods a lot faster and more intent than other countries. Maybe this is the reason for so many individuals having an unhealthy lifestyle. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      8 years ago from India

      What an amazing hub - loved the video and the pictures - and of course, all that information! I'd read somewhere that the CRON diet or the calorie restriction diet was actually inspired by Okinawa. We have a lot of those foods in India too and they form a part of our daily diet - bitter gourd, sweet potatoes, lots of green leafy vegetables and turmeric (in just about everything!)

      Thanks for a great hub!

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I agree Flightkeeper it is a proven fact especially when you see these 80 and 90 year olds that are physically active and in better health than some people that are half their age.

      I think we have been spoiled by convenience and unless we can push back against this inactivity and eating overly processed foods, we are going to cut our lives short. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    • Flightkeeper profile image


      8 years ago from The East Coast

      It's so interesting how healthy you can be by being physically active and eating healthily. It's really not a magic diet but so many people don't want to stay away from the fried, overly sweet, overly carb type of foods. Including me! Thanks for the hub.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @Putz Ballard - Hey Putz - Thank you, great to see ya! Thanks for stopping by. :)

      @ralwus - LOL! I agree Charlie, definitely gotta have some wine. I'm going to have to do a little more research on that one. I've never had rice wine; heard it could be some potent stuff though. Thanks for stopping by . :)

      @ethel smith - Hi, Ethel! I love sweet potatoes as well, so much so that I have to pace myself about eating them. I agree that the video is very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @Princessa - I agree Princessa, a lot of fresh products is definitely the way to go. I've really improved on doing that this year. Hhhhmmm, sorry you can't find the ingredients there. :( Of course, when I try the Goya, you know I'll probably write a hub. Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I have never tried Goy. Need to look out for that one. I do love sweet potatoes. The video is interesting

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What?! No rice wine?

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      8 years ago

      Wonderful hub

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      Rated up! I cannot find most of the ingredients you mentioned where I live, but I guess that following the general idea of eating healthy, low fat, low sugar and plenty of fresh products as oppossed to ready prepared meals has a positive effect.

      I am curious now about the taste of Goya and turmeric tea, I need to try that as soon as I have the opportunity.

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @PDH - Maita it is always a joy to have you comment on one of my hubs. You always say something to make me smile. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. :)

      @nifty@50 - LOL, that is right nifty! I like the idea of living to be a 100 myself, I guess because a couple of family members have lived that long and it is soooo interesting when they share their stories. Thanks for your support. :)

      @Pamela99 - Hi Pamela, thanks for the compliment and for taking time for a read and rating. I appreciate it. :)

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @peacefulparadox - Yes, I agree that the last video is powerful when it says that parents will out live their kids if American's of this generation do not start eating better diets. It is my intention to try the bitter melon. :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Money Glitch, You have dona an amazing job with this hub. It has a lot of great information although Everything did look healthy and delicious. Rated up!

    • nifty@50 profile image


      8 years ago

      At 100 years of age, that makes me still middle aged! What a country! Voted it up & useful very interesting and informative!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      Japans cuisine is one of my fav, Okinawas cusine is healthy. Like what I have said it is so nice that you always put another aspect of "cuisine" or food choices like longevity, Nicely done as usual, (Beautiful and sexy, Like us) Maita

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Diet and exercise is key. And I think they get a lot of healthy Omega-3 fatty acid from fishes too. It is interesting to hear in the last video that for the first time in America, life expectancy will drop (probably due to obseity and fast food).

      Oh, by the way. Do try bitter melon. I don't eat it regularly. But I do like their taste (despite its name).

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @anglnwu - I'm going to get brave enough to try the bitter melon now that I've seen exactly how to prepare it on the video. And yes, the soy beans, and eggs does sound interesting. However, you are right based on your hubs I've read; you definitely have a great healthy diet plan that many people could benefit from. Thanks for the read. :)

    • Money Glitch profile imageAUTHOR

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @drbj - LOL, I like the quote from the 96 year old as well and I believe he maybe right, unless your partner chooses to remain young at heart as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

      @Om - Hi Om, Hhhmmmm, as the ole saying goes, "grandmothers and mothers know best." I remember that my grandmother believed in taking castor oil and I hated the stuff, but it turns out that it is actually good for you. Yuk!

      So, it sounds like your great-grandma probably knew what was keeping her young as well (bitter melon). Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    • anglnwu profile image


      8 years ago

      My mother loves bitter melons and will stir-fry that with eggs and preserved soy beans. Sounds weird but it's delicious. Great information with lots of great details. Now, I'm finding even more reasons to stick to this kind of diet. Rated useful.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      8 years ago

      Great hub, MG! We eat bitter melons in Thailand as well. I kind of hate them lol But my great-grandma loved them. And guess what? She had lived to be over 90 yrs old!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      MG - you've outdone yourself. Fantastic hub and videos. Enjoyed every moment.

      Especially the quote in the first video from the 96-year- young gentleman who said, "Young people - don't get married; you'll be sick of your spouse when you're 90." Guess he's talking from experience.


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