Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands located off the southern coast of Japan. Okinawans have more people over 100 years old per 100,000 population than anywhere else in the world, and one of the lowest death rates from cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
There have been many books written about the Okinawan’s lifestyle and diet, as people across the world seek to emulate their vitality and longevity.
Here are some of the key habits that they follow, recognised by author Dan Buettner of The Blue Zones Solution. There are many useful and simple tips that we can easily implement in our own lives, and perhaps we’ll live to 100 too!
Eat until you are 80% full
Eating anything in excess can be bad for you. A practise they follow is hara hachi bu – this Confucian teaching translates to “Stop eating when you are 80% full”. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full and living by this rule means that the Okinawans never overeat.
Eat a plant based diet with moderate meat
They eat a lot of vegetables, in particular sweet potato. When they do eat meat, it’s usually pork or fish, and small portions. They also drink a lot of antioxidant-rich jasmine and green tea.
They eat a lot of foods made from soy, many of which are fermented, like tofu and miso soup. Soy can lower LDL cholesterol and fermented soy products are great for maintaining a healthy gut.
Many Okinawan centenarians maintain vegetable gardens. This means they eat lots of farm-to-fork fresh vegetables which vary from season to season. They also plant and harvest medicinal herbs and spices that have heaps of health benefits, like ginger, turmeric and mugwort.
Spend time outdoors in the sun
When the skin is exposed to sunlight, the body produces vitamin D, which helps promote strong bones. Its recommended that 10-15 minutes direct sun exposure is sufficient, and after that sunscreen should be applied.
They walk a lot and also get low intensity physical activity from gardening. Something the Blue Zones researchers noticed was that their houses had very little furniture, and they usually eat and relax on mats on the floor. Getting up and down from the floor frequently helps the elderly maintain balance and lower body strength.
Have a purpose & social network
Their lives are driven by purpose and they have responisibilities even in old age. They also have a strong social support network called a moai and meet with friends daily.