The diet of indigenous Okinawans is rich in nutrients but low in calories. While they don’t purposefully restrict any foods, Okinawans generally don’t eat much meat, dairy, or grains. Otherwise, there are two key properties of this diet. The vast majority of the Okinawa diet primarily consists of green and yellow vegetables, root vegetables, soy-based foods, and mushrooms. Okinawans eat fish, meat, dairy, and grains like rice in much smaller amounts.

What to Eat

  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Sweet potatoes (orange, yellow, and purple)
  • Seaweed
  • Fish (in small amounts)
  • Pork belly (in small amounts)
  • Bitter melon (goya)
  • Legumes, especially soybeans
  • Burdock root
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Herbs and spices
  • Dashi (soup stock)

What Not to Eat

  • Meat (except occasionally)
  • Dairy products (except occasionally)
  • Grains (white rice and noodles on occasion)
  • Sugar

Also Read: Okinawan Pancakes

Health Benefits

The health benefits associated with the traditional Okinawan diet have given rise to a mainstream version intended to promote weight loss. While it encourages intake of nutrient-dense foods, this offshoot is heavily influenced by the Western diet.

  • The traditional Okinawa diet includes soy in the form of miso paste and tofu. Soy is an excellent source of plant based protein, and it provides the bulk of the protein in the diet. Soy also contains phytochemicals called flavonoids and phytoestrogens, which may have health-promoting qualities.
  • Okinawa diet composes mainly green/orange/yellow (GOY) vegetables, fruits, roots, and tubers. These foods are rich sources of antioxidant vitamins like vitamin-C, vitamin-A, and flavonoid polyphenolic compounds like ß-carotenes, lutein, xanthins, and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.
  • Antioxident rich foods may help slow the aging process by protecting your cells from free radical damage and reducing inflammation. The traditional Okinawa diet is comprised primarily of plant-based foods that offer potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities, which possibly promote a longer lifespan.
  • Many of the foods that make up the traditional Okinawa diet may support a longer lifespan and a reduced risk of chronic illnesses.
  • The diet contains very little fruits, nuts, seeds, and dairy. Collectively, these foods provide an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can boost your health.

The Okinawa diet is based on the foods and lifestyle of Okinawa islanders in Japan. It emphasizes nutrient-dense, vegetables and lean protein sources while discouraging saturated fat, sugar, and processed foods. Although its benefits may include a longer lifespan, it can be restrictive and high in sodium. Still, a modern form of the diet lifts some of these restrictions and is geared toward weight loss. Keep in mind that this modern version has not undergone rigorous scientific study.


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