Did you know that one of the healthiest diets may be that of the Okinawans? Yes, the Japanese Ministry of Health has been studying older Okinawans since 1976 hoping to understand what’s behind their near-perfect good health and I want to share a bit of that with you here. First, Okinawans have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world and the highest percentage of centenarians anywhere and they get 80% fewer heart attacks than Americans. If they do get an attack, Okinawans are more likely to survive than almost any other people. Plus, breast and prostate cancer are so rare as to be unheard of among the older population, as is obesity.
So what’s their secret? For starters, the average Okinawan consumes at least 7 servings of vegetables daily, and an equal number of grains as noodles, bread, and rice and many are whole grains. Add to this 2-4 servings of fruit, plus various forms of soy, green tea, sea veggies and fish rich in omega-3s. Sweet potatoes, bean sprouts, onions, and green peppers are also big in the diet; vegetables, grains, and fruits make up 72% of the diet by weight, soy and seaweed provide another 14% and meat, poultry, and eggs account for just 3% of the diet, fish about 11%. The emphasis in this diet is on dark green vegetables rich in calcium since like other Japanese, they don't eat much dairy. Amazingly, Okinawans do drink alcohol, but women usually stick to one drink a day, while men average twice that. In short, the average Okinawan's diet is far richer in complex carbohydrates and plant-based foods, and lower in fat, than the average American's, which is completely different from low-carbohydrate plans that we talk about all the time. And let’s not forget that these people practice martial arts and traditional Okinawan dance too, and they garden and walk, even at age 100!