It’s no secret that the typical ”Western Diet,” is not exactly making Americans any healthier. What IS surprising; that there are people living longer, healthier lives in other countries and yet very few Americans are looking to those countries for guidance about what we could potentially be doing wrong.
Those who live on the island of Okinawa are one of the best examples of a group of people Americans should be looking to imitate. With the highest life expectancy and the lowest death rates from cancer, heart disease, and stroke (the top 3 killers in the U.S.) in the world, I think we could stand to learn a thing or two.
What is the secret on “the land of immortals,” as ancient Japanese legend refers? Decades of research link the Okinawan longevity directly to diet, lifestyle, and attitude, each of which can be easily adapted in other countries.
The Okinawans live by a few simple rules:
- “Hara Hachi Bu:” Eat until you are 80% full. The Okinawans believe that eating until you are only 80% full is eating until you are satisfied and eating until you are 100% full is eating until you are stuffed.
- Eat healthy foods, mostly plants. Long before Michael Pollen, the Okinawans subsisted on a diet based around plants, consuming very little sugars, meat, dairy, and eggs. The average Okinawan consumes 7 servings of vegetables, 7 servings of whole grains, and 2-4 servings of fruits daily. Soy, green tea, and seaweed make up about 14% of their diet, fish is eaten at least 3 times weekly, and meat, poultry, and eggs make up less than 3% of their diet. Okinawans rarely consume dairy, eating lots of dark, leafy greens to get their calcium. They also have one of lowest rates of osteoporosis. Hmm: Should We Be Eating Dairy?
- Keep a positive outlook. The personalities of the Okinawa people have been tested and it was found that most maintain a positive outlook on life and are generally unstressed. Their deep sense of spirituality, strong coping skills, and feeling of meaning and purpose might explain their low depression rates, despite any poverty or hardships.
- MOVE! The Okinawans remain active at any age; biking, walking, working in their gardens, dancing, practicing karate/tae chi, and kendo, are all ways in which these people keep their heart healthy.
- Socialize. The Okinawans have lots of hobbies that keep them busy and surrounded by a large social circle. They are deeply rooted in their spirituality; stay connected to the environment, and surround themselves with family and friends. They care mutually for one another and form more supportive links to others than people in the Western world.
Seems pretty simple no? Don’t over stuff yourself, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, stay active, surround yourself with friends and family, have a deep faith, and be happy!
The Western diet is killing us. The emphasis on convenience, animal products, and lack of produce is NOT giving our bodies the nutrients it needs to survive without illness and disease. The stress we suffer daily come from being too involved with our jobs and not involved enough with God, family, and friends. I encourage you to take a closer look at your own diet and lifestyle.
- How many of my meals revolve around meat or highlight meat?
- How many foods do I eat daily that come from a package or out of the freezer?
- Do I leave work AT work or do I bring stressors home?
- Do I stay connected to God, family, and friends?
- Am I active throughout the day? How can I be MORE active?
- How many days a week do I take time just for me?
- How many meat-free meals do I eat daily?
- Do I eat at LEAST 7 servings of vegetables a day? What about 2-4 servings of fruit?
- How often do I eat fish?
- Am I happy? What can I do to be happier?
- How often do I laugh?
Ask yourself these questions and then look to ways you can improve upon them. Whether you need less stress in your life or more fruits and vegetables, make a change. Just one change and perhaps that will build toward another. Start today and live the Okinawan way!
Question: Any similarities in your diet to the Okinawans? Any changes you COULD make?Print