Okinawa longevity Diet: What plant based antioxidant anti-inflammatory food to eat to live to be 100 years old

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The Okinawa residents typically live to be 100 years old.


The Okinawa residents typically live to be 100 years old.&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Modern technology and advances in medicine have raised life expectancy across the globe.

  • But the reason why residents of the Okinawa archipelago in Japan live to be 100 has nothing to do with advances in medical sciences.

  • Want to know what’s their secret? Read on and be stunned by the simplicity of it all.

Dr Michael Greger says that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines recommend that “most people need to choose meals or snacks that are high in nutrients but low to moderate in energy content” and that doing so “offers a reduction of risk for a number of chronic diseases that are major public health problems.” That translates into “eat more vegetables” because only vegetables have more nutrients and yet fewer calories.

This rings a bell. One set of islands in Japan — the Okinawa prefectures — have residents who follow this advice to the dot and guess what? They are also among those in the world that live the longest!

Much of the longevity advantage in Okinawa is thought to be related to a healthy lifestyle, particularly the traditional diet, which is low in calories yet nutritionally dense, especially with regard to phytonutrients in the form of antioxidants and flavonoids. 

If you ask a doctor or a nutrition expert to draw up a diet that can assure one of a reduced risk of chronic diseases — it would be similar to the traditional Okinawan diet, that is, vegetable and fruit-heavy (therefore phytonutrient and antioxidant-rich) but reduced in meat, refined grains, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and full-fat dairy products. 

So what does a typical Okinawa meal comprise?

The US National Archives have records from the year 1949 that are based on a survey of 2279 Okinawa residents shows this break-up of their diet — We call it the Rule of 10 points:

  1. Fish — only 1 per cent
  2. Meat — less than 1 per cent 
  3. Eggs — less than 1 per cent
  4. Dairy — less than 1 per cent
  5. 96 per cent of the platter of the Okinawans was plant-based. (food grains, legumes, sweet potatoes, other vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) – quite high on carbohydrates
  6. More than 90 per cent also Whole food plant-based. (Rice, wheat, barley, other grains)
  7. Very few processed foods, Low glycemic load
  8. Most of the diet was vegetables and the one vegetable they ate most? Sweet potatoes (orange-yellow root vegetables) that are antioxidant-rich yet calorie-poor 
  9. Highly anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant diet – that reduces the risk of age-associated disease.
  10. Okinawan diet is lowest in fat intake, particularly saturated fat intake


What were the health gains?

  1. 8-10 times fewer heart-disease deaths as compared to the US
  2. 2-3 times lower colon cancer deaths
  3. 11 times fewer Prostate cancer deaths
  4. 5 and a half times lower risk of dying from Breast Cancer

The Japanese philosophy of Hara Hachi-Bu:

The US data notes that the Okinawan population were eating almost 11 per cent lower calories than would usually be recommended for their body weight and activity levels. 

The answer to that is the Japanese concept of Hara Hachi-Bu or advice to eat only until you are 80 per cent full, not too full to move.

Many of the characteristics of the diet in Okinawa are shared with other healthy dietary patterns, such as:

  • The traditional Mediterranean diet or 
  • The modern DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet

These features contribute to a decreased risk for: 

  1. cardiovascular disease, 
  2. some cancers, and 
  3. other chronic diseases 

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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