In recent years we have seen an increase in the presence of restaurants with Asian cuisine worldwide. But Asian cuisine isn’t just sushi, stir fry, and rice. Research has show that Asian cuisine is associated with Okinawa Diet longevity.
But which one?
More specifically, the inhabitants of Rio Kyu, a cluster of islands southeast of Japan where Okinawa Island is located, have a particularly high life expectancy. It belongs to the 5 regions (Blue Zones) of the world where the inhabitants live many years due to diet and lifestyle. The other 4 regions are Ikaria here in Greece, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda in California, and Nicoya in Costa Rica.
Their diet is known as the Okinawan Diet. It is associate with longevity, lower levels of obesity, protection against cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Their nutritional secret? Not what we think.
One is most likely to think that they eat a lot of fish, but in reality, this standard of nutrition includes small amounts of fish and large quantities of vegetables.
The Okinawa diet
This diet is characterized by:
1. High vegetable consumption. The vegetables used are goya which translates to ‘sweet melon‘, shitake mushrooms, seaweed, and sweet potato which essentially replaces rice since the inhabitants of these islands do not consume much rice.
2. High consumption of beans mainly soy in the form of tofu or hatred (a type of fermented soybean paste), and is an important source of protein.
3. Moderate consumption of fish, mainly in coastal areas.
4. Low meat consumption.
5. Low dairy consumption.
An ordinary meal in Okinawa is as follows:
Soup that includes water, hate paste, seaweed, tofu, sweet potato, and green leafy vegetables.
Starch that accompanies the meal is sweet potato. The main course is a stir fry that often includes bitter melon and is accompanied by seaweed that has been boiled in broth with a small amount of oil and small amounts of fish or boiled pork. These foods may be foreign to us, but in reality, the Okinawa Diet has many similarities to the Mediterranean-Greek diet in terms of nutritional composition.
Researchers have found that both dietary patterns are rich in plant foods with vegetables. And other plants (herbs, greens), rich in antioxidants with moderate to small amounts of meat and fish.
They are both diets rich in what we call “functional foods”. By this term, we do not mean enrich foods made in a laboratory, but foods that are present in nature. And have properties beyon nutritional, also provide some health benefit.
Thus in the case of the Greek diet, functional foods can be considere olive oil rich in polyphenols. Greens rich in antioxidants but also barley rich in beta-glucan that lowers cholesterol.
In the Okinawa diet, goya can have anti-diabetic properties, soy rich in flavonoids. And shitake mushrooms that seem to strengthen the immune system. (Check this review on Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic to learn why this product is miraculous)
Today, as in Greece, Okinawa is beginning to change. Fast food and other modern facilities have made their appearance, causing life expectancy to start to fall, with many parents living longer than their children.