The secret of longevity in Okinawa

Okinawa is the Ryukyu island between Kyushu and Taiwan and it is well known as one of the highest longevity prefecture in Japan.

Their eating habit and lifestyle are very unique compared to other region in Japan. There are many over-100-year-old Uchinaanchu there (people who live in Okinawa in Okinawan language). Old people stay positive and enjoy their lives well into old age. Surprisingly, they do not prioritize medicine and generally do not suffer from Alzheimer dementia, diabetes, cancer and so on until their 90s. Some people reach to 100 years old and still be in a good health.

Let me share some secrets of their lifestyle.

Well balanced Okinawan food

As I said before, their eating habit is very unique. They eat 80% of local grown vegetables, 20% of fish and a little bit of pork per meal.

They have many nutritious rich vegetables come from local farmer and it’s all hormone free. Okinawa is subtropical climate, high-temperature and high-humidity throughout a year. In this sense, it’s very similar to Singapore!! Local vegetables grown under this climate are antioxidant-rich and contain tons of minerals. A balanced diet leads you to a healthy body and eating healthy prevents and cures disease. That idea is called Ishoku dougen (医食同源) and people in Okinawa firmly believe that idea.

Bitter ground

Bitter ground 800x800Bitter ground is a widely recognized vegetable in Okinawa. It has lots of nutritious such as vitamin C,calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc. It is also said that bitter ground can prevent from diabetes and improve liver function. Bitter ground is super food.

As far as Okinawan cuisine is concerned, it is believed that a popular traditional dish called Goya Chanpuru is responsible for the incredible longevity of Okinawans. Goya Chanpuru is a mixed, stir-fry dish typical of the Okinawan diet. ‘Chanpuru’ means ‘something mixed’ in Okinawan, while ‘Goya’ refers to a bitter ground. Goya Chanpuru itself is a variation of the dish, with Goya being an ingredient used prevalent in Okinawan cuisine. People in Okinawa enjoy this type of dish almost daily since it contributes greatly to their health and longevity. Goya Chanpuru is not only highly representative of the traditional Okinawan diet way of eating, but is also a major part of the Okinawan centenarians’ diet.

Eat until you are 80% full

Not only people in Okinawa but also Japanese people eat moderately to stay healthy. We say it ”Hara hachi bu” in Japanese. If you eat nutritious food you do not have to eat too much. Eating too full can be a burden to digestive organs in your body. Eating moderately is not only good for diet but also for your skin, hair, anti-aging.

Hara hachi bu, which means eat only until you are 80% full, plays a role as well as their habit of eating an antioxidant rich plant-based diet. Stopping at 80% capacity is actually a very good strategy to avoid obesity without going hungry because the stomach’s stretch receptors take about 20 minutes to tell the body how full it really is.

Exercise well

Taichi 800x533People in Okinawa do exercise for keeping calm and it leads you to stay healthy and happy eventually. They enjoy regular, life-long physical activity. Tai Chi, walking and gardening are common forms of exercise.

Exercise improves your muscle mass, tires you out which allow you to relax and sleep well, stimulates the secretion of growth hormones, reduces the amount of glucose in the blood, slows down the aging process and is great for stress relief.

Being positive

Their way of thinking is very positive. ”Nankuru naisa” is dialect in Okinawa and means ”Everything is going to be alright”. They are good at releasing their stress.

Stress, worry and anxiety ruin your health. Okinawan owe their lust for life and happiness to trusty stress relieving technique such as deep breathing and meditation. Deep breathing and meditation can help you to burn calories, improve your energy output as well as relieving your stress.

That must be not all of their secrets, but it is fun to learn lessons to stay healthy and happy from people in Okinawa even for me.




About Maiko Abe

Maikois a mom, wife and Singapore based Japanese freelance lifestyle writer and curator. After giving birth to her dearest daughter, she was collapsed mentally as well as physically because of too much work to do. Giving birth and raising child was nothing like what she had expected, even though she was very happy to hold her little treasure in her arms. Doing yoga and eating healthy balanced Japanese food help her get away from all the darkness and stay healthy and happy. She is a food enthusiast and loves baking healthy sweets and cooking not only Japanese food but also fusion cuisine. She is looking forwards to cook and bake with her daughter.

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