In my quest to discover how to live longer a few days back, I began thinking about who the world’s oldest people are.
This has led me into a very interesting study on the Okinawan people of Japan, and I thought I’d share their secrets of longevity with you.
Apparently the island of Okinawa is the best place on earth for healthy aging!
Statistics tell us that in Okinawa there are more people over the age of 100, per head of population, than anywhere else in the world.
And, not only do they live longer, but they spend a surprisingly large amount of that time healthy, mobile and happy.
There’s no lingering about in nursing homes with this group of people, they’re still working in their gardens, cycling their bike, or fishing at age 90!
In terms of disease, they’re much less likely to be afflicted, unlike us Westerners:
- 80% less likely to get heart disease
- 1/4 less likely to get breast or prostate cancer
- 1/2 the risk of getting colon cancer
- Less likely to get dementia
- Around 97% of their lives are spent free of any disability
- Obesity is rare
I’m sure you’re wondering by now what exactly the Okinawans are doing right. In fact, this is a question researchers have been mulling over since 1976.
It seems that genetics do play a part, however when an Okinawan moves to a new environment, which leads to a lifestyle change, they lose their longevity – this indicates other factors are indeed at play too.
Let’s take a closer look at the Okinawan diet and lifestyle habits
If you’re a strong believer in the theories that we’re ‘hunter gathers’ and poorly suited to eating a high carb diet, you can forget it!
The Okinawan diet is said to include:
- 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day – emphasis on dark green veg
- 7 servings of whole grains a day – noodles, bread, and rice (mostly wholegrain)
- 2 servings of soy products a day – tofu, soy beans, soy flour
- Fish 3 times a week – especially omega-3 rich fish
- Low intake of dairy and meat
- Plenty of water
- Green tea
- No alcohol
- Eat slowly and stop before feeling full
In terms of the dietary proportions: vegetables, grains, and fruits make up around 72% of the diet. Soy and seaweed provide another 14%. Fish about 11%. Meat, poultry, and eggs account for just 3% of the diet.
Okinawan Food Pyramid
To help us get a better idea of what the Okinawan diet should look like doctors who studied the Okinawan lifestyle produced this pyramid:
(Click pyramid to enlarge)
Source: Okinawa Food Pyramid
The Okinawan lifestyle is also very different to the way most of us do things:
- High levels of physical activity
- Positive attitude to reduce stress
- Deep sense of spirituality
- Close ties with family
By far one of my favourite things I’ve learned about the Okinawan people is that age is celebrated!
It’s never hidden or lied about. Apparently you’re considered to be a child until you turn 55! When when you reach 97 years, the local town will hold a special ritual called ‘kajimaya,’ symbolising your return to youth.
Isn’t that awesome? What a wonderful place to live, and such a far cry from the lives most of us live!
What are your thoughts on this way of life? Do you think it is achievable in the Western world?