Live to the age of 100 or more -Hara Hachi Bu.
If you want to be healthier and live longer, you should embrace the Okinawa diet. The Okinawa Islands are a group of about two dozen islands situated in the poorest region of Japan. Even if the inhabitants of these places are poor, most of them live to the age of 100 or more. And it is not just about living to 100, but it’s about how they get old: they age gracefully. Many of them look much younger than they should and they retain much of their physical and mental capacities. They are healthier and have leaner bodies.
To uncover the secrets of the Okinawa people of long life, several studies were conducted over the years. It seems that the lifestyle factors are responsible for this remarkable successful aging phenomenon and for the betterment of the health and lives of all people. People from Okinawa eat healthy and they do regular physical activities.
The traditional Okinawa diet can serve as a model for healthy eating and healthy aging. The book “The Okinawa diet plan- Get leaner, live longer and never feel hungry”, written by 6 researches after a 25 year long study, reveals some of the principles of the Okinawa diet program.
The main rules of the Okinawa diet are:
- Hara Hachi Bu which means “Eat until you are 80% full”. The main idea is that you should reduce the portion sizes, because most of the nowadays diseases are the direct results of overeating. On an average, the Okinawans eat 500 calories less than other social groups. Hence their excellent health. For a disease free life each person must stop eating as soon as they are 80% full.
- Adopt a mostly plant-based diet with plenty of fish and soy foods, a great variety of vegetables as well as moderate amounts of the monounsaturated fats and Omega 3’s. You can also eat high fiber whole grains and starches.
The foods are divided in four groups: featherweights, lightweights, middleweights, heavyweights. The first two categories are recommended for a healthy and long life.Featherweights are foods with a caloric density of less than 0.7. You can eat as much of these foods as you want to–guilt free. This group includes foods like water-based vegetable soup 0.3; apples, berries, peaches, and most other fruit (~ 0.6), broccoli, squash, green peas, and most other veggies (~0.5); fat free yogurt 0.6; and tofu 0.6. Lightweights weigh in with a caloric density of between 0.8 and 1.5. They can be eaten in moderation–that is, normal medium-sized portions a few times a day. These are foods like white flaky fish 1.0, cooked grains such as rice and pasta 1.4; sushi 1.4 and cooked beans 1.5. (The caloric density measures how many calories are contained in 1 gram of a food.)
- Regular, life-long physical activity. Tai Chi, walking and gardening are common forms of exercise practiced by Okinawas.
Benefits of the Okinawa diet:
- It helps you stay lean and fit. The combination of diet and activity keeps the body fat low (BMI 18-22).
- It reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In Okinawa, Heart Disease rates are 80% lower, and stroke rates lower than in the US.
- It helps to minimize free radical production. Free radicals are cell-damaging molecules that are generated mainly by our bodies’ metabolism when we create energy from food.
- Cholesterol levels are typically under 180.
- Rates of cancer are 50-80% lower – especially breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer.
- Hip fractures are 20% lower than mainland Japanese and 40% lower than in the US.
- Dementia is rare.
The main inconvenience when following this diet is that like any other Japanese diet, it includes some traditional foods, which are not accessible for everyone. There are some exotic items, such as nori, kombu, wakame, daikon radish, bamboo shoots, lotus roots and shiitake mushrooms which can be expensive for people not living in Japan. For these foods, people on the Okinawa diet have to find some similar substitutes.