Okinawa, a tiny island on the southernmost tip of Japan, is one of the five blue zones around the world that has earned a reputation as “land of immortals” where people consistently live over 100 years old. Okinawans seem to know the secret for living a long, healthy life. The term Blue Zones refers to places where people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than other places in the world. Here are the highlights of studies conducted on centenarians to decode the Japanese secret to live healthy for a 100 years.
While 10% of our lifespan and susceptibility to diseases is dictated by our genes, the major 90% which makes a greater impact is dictated by our lifestyle. Here are 4 areas of their life we will explore to decode the Japanese secret to live healthy for a 100 years.
They enjoy clean air, not much pollution as there are not many factories. Subtropical region is blessed with plenty of Vitamin D all through the year which supports their immunity levels.
You would have guessed by now, the diet would consist of a lot of fish and tofu – soy based products. Surprisingly, their traditional diet is rich in carbs with 70% sweet potatoes followed by 12% rice and the remainder with vegetables, fruits and 1% egg or meat.
Above is a scientific study on the Diet of the world’s longest lived people. And you can clearly see 70% of their diet is carbs – Sweet potatoes. You may wonder if the diet is too high on carbs but Purple Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants, fiber and have a low glycemic index (GI) meaning that it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
Popular vegetables specifically to mention Bitter melon, winter melon and herbs like ginger, turmeric. They consume ”Sanpin cha”, a popular tea which is a fermented tea flavored with Jasmine. It is high in antioxidants, promotes digestion and fatigue recovery.
The traditional Okinawa diet is primarily plant-based foods that provide high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, rich in fibre and flavonoids, nutrients and low calories that promote longer lifespan. They eat moderately and stop when their stomach is 4/5th or 80% full. Eating smaller healthy portions is a smart way to live healthy.
Okinawans follow their “IKIGAI”. Ikigai is a Japanese concept of having a direction or purpose in life which gives them enthusiasm to begin each day. They are active in a state of flow all day. Enjoy what they do in a relaxed manner and never in a rush. They remain active well into old age and never retire. Most of them spend time gardening as their favorite physical activity. Following their ikigai is truly the strongest reason they are happier and live longer. Happiness is not about having all riches but being happy from within what matters. Looks like the Okinawans have embraced this truth in their lives.
They enjoy greater levels of social contact with friends and neighbors. Loneliness can decrease your life expectancy drastically. Okinawans create communities called “Moai” between the elderly. These support groups pool money and resources to lend financial support in times of need. This is a life lesson for all of us to cultivate such strong ties in our communities and never let anyone go hungry or feel lonely. Nurturing brotherhood gives them a sense of security to the elderly that they are not alone.
In conclusion, besides a healthy plant based diet, an active lifestyle and higher emotional well-being seems to contribute to the secret behind Okinawans longevity.
Hope you are inspired to live to a 100 or beyond. #StayHealthy #FollowYourIKIGAI #LiveLonger
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