Okinawa belongs to one of five regions of the world known as blue zones. People who reside in blue zones live exceptionally long, healthy lives compared to the rest of the world’s population because of Okinawa Diet. Okinawa is a prefecture southwest of mainland Japan comprised of 160 islands, 48 of which are home to the highest rates of centenarians in the world, with as many as 40–50 people per every 100,000 living to be 100 years old or more.
“The Okinawa diet is comprised of mainly vegetables and soy, with small amounts of fish. While experts agree the emphasis on plant-based foods is smart, the lack of grains, meat, and dairy can make this diet difficult to follow and possibly lead to nutrient shortcomings.”
The macro-nutrient breakdown of the Okinawa diet is outlined in this table:
|Fat||6%, including 2% saturated fat||28%, including 7% saturated fat|
It turns out that it’s whole plant foods, not fish, that make up 90 percent of the traditional Okinawan diet: Less than 1 percent of the diet was fish; less than 1 percent was meat; and less than 1 percent was dairy and eggs. Most of the diet was based on vegetables and beans, with the most calories coming from purple and orange sweet potatoes. It’s not only a highly anti-inflammatory diet but also a highly antioxidant one. Okinawans who eat this way don’t only live the longest, they are also extremely healthy into old age, with:
- 6-12 times fewer heart disease deaths than the United States
- 2-3 times fewer colon cancer deaths than the United States
- 7 times fewer prostate cancer deaths than the United States
- 5.5 times lower risk of dying from breast cancer than the United States
Also Read: Okinawa Diet: Why It Is Useful?
What does the Okinawa diet consist of?
The majority of the Okinawa diet primarily consists of green and yellow vegetables, root vegetables, soy-based foods, and mushrooms. Okinawan’s eat fish, meat, dairy, and grains like rice in much smaller amounts.
- Vegetables: orange sweet potato, purple sweet potato, seaweed, kelp, bamboo shoots, radish, bitter melon, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, papaya, and mushrooms
- Soy-based foods: tofu, miso, natto, and edamame
- Grains: millet, wheat, rice, and noodles
- Meat and seafood: fish, seafood, and some pork
The diet typically does not include beef, processed meat, eggs, cheese, milk, and processed carbohydrates like sugary sweets and snacks. The diet does not contain added sugars or refined sweets, with the exception of uji, Okinawan sugarcane, which is boiled down to make brown sugar and is also used to encourage healthy digestion.