Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. The people that live there are known to live the longest and healthiest lives of any culture. Their eating and living practices are easy to follow and can help us create the same longevity in our own lives.
What Okinawans Eat
The Okinawa diet gets back to basics. It emphasizes a diet rich in yellow, orange and green vegetables. While rice is ubiquitous with mealtime in Japan, they skimp on the grains and focus instead on the slow releasing carbs like sweet potatoes. Meat, dairy and seafood are eaten in small amounts, and legumes are used as a primary protein source.
The entire diet is quite low in sugar and grains – Okinawans consume about 30 percent less sugar and 15 percent fewer grains than folks in the rest of Japan.
Hara Hachi Bu — the Key to
You can’t talk about the Okinawan diet without mentioning hara hachi bu. Hara hachi bu is based on a Confucian teaching that reminds them to stop eating when they are 80 percent full. In English, the phrase translates to “eat until you are eight parts out of ten full.”
Eating mindfully and slowly in this way means that Okinawans take the time to think about what and how they’re consuming their food. They give their bellies time to signal the brain and let them know they’re full.
How to Eat the Okinawan Way
1. Pile on colorful foods
Eating a variety of fruits and veggies is good for us no matter what they are. Choose brightly colored vegetables that are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients.
In particular, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are bursting with carotenoids. These nutrients lower inflammation, boost growth and development, and can improve immune system function, all critical parts of staying healthy as we age.
2. Stick to a limited amount of high-quality meats and seafood
Though the Okinawa diet does allow for meat and seafood, it does so in small, limited quantities.
You can replicate this at home by eating high-quality meats and seafood, like grass-fed beef, bison meat and wild-caught seafood like salmon. Additionally, reducing your family’s meat and seafood intake lessens the load on your wallet, making products that might normally be a stretch more budget-friendly.
3. Limit grains and dairy
We can’t ignore the fact that the Okinawa diet has nearly no dairy or grains in it. Gluten, which is found in grains, is a danger food that’s found in wheat-based products. The wheat we buy today contains nearly double the amount of gluten as grains of the past.
Too much gluten can cause digestive problems, inflammation, leaky gut and allergic reactions. Even people who think they can tolerate gluten often find that when they reduce or eliminate the protein from their diets, their health and seemingly unrelated problems, like acne or bloating, are reduced.
4. Hara Hachi Bu- Don’t Overeat
Not overeating might be the most important thing we learn for the Okinawans. We need far less calories than we think, and our rushed culture leads to massive overeating. Slow down when you eat, listen to your body, and plan meals ahead of time so you can have high quality nutrients that keep you fuller, longer.
Dr. Pearce, D.C. specializes in natural health and offers free nutrition classes at Reve Body Sculpting. For more information on how to start improving your health, call 859-219-0626.