Okinawa has the largest group of centenarians on the planet, which is partly attributed to the longevity foods consumed by the Okinawans. People from Okinawa live very long and healthy lives. They have fewer incidents of diseases like cancer, and they are active and healthy practically their whole lives. To capture the health of the Okinawans, you may want to try including some of their longevity foods into your diet.
1. Okinawan Sweet Potato
Surprisingly, it is sweet potatoes not rice that are the staple food of Okinawans. The majority of their calories come from sweet potatoes, specifically the Okinawan sweet potato. Okinawan sweet potatoes are purple sweet potatoes that taste delicious. If you can’t find them, you can also get regular sweet potatoes. All sweet potatoes a rich in vitamins A, C, E, and B, and they have calcium and potassium as well. They are also high in antioxidants and won’t spike your blood sugar. Given that they have so many nutrients, it is easy to see why sweet potatoes are one of the longevity foods of Okinawa.
2. Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is another food that is commonly consumed in Okinawa. As its name suggests, bitter melon is quite bitter. Okinawans eat it raw, cooked, and even juiced. It is a low calorie food that is high in vitamin C. Bitter melons have been shown to decrease blood glucose and fat levels. If you are interested in trying them, you can usually find them in Asian markets.
3. Shiitake Mushrooms
In Okinawa, shiitake mushrooms are often dried and used to make soups. Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to decrease cholesterol and blood pressure. They even have antiviral, antifungal, and antitumor properties, which makes them a great longevity food! To incorporate shiitake mushrooms into your diet you can simply use them in place of button mushrooms.
Burdock is a root vegetable with brown skin and a white flesh. It has a high mineral content, and is especially rich in iron. In traditional medicine, burdock has been used as a blood purifier, a liver tonic, and a pain reliever. Currently, it is being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes. If you are interested in trying burdock, you can cook it like you would carrots or parsnips.
5. Daikon Radish
Daikon radishes are large, long radishes that have white flesh. They are milder than red radishes, but still have a bit of a bite to them. These radishes are often used as a digestive aid because they have the enzyme diastase, which helps you digest food better. You can eat these radishes raw, but Okinawans often add them to soups.
6. Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables are a staple in the Okinawan diet. Okinawans consume many different types of sea vegetables, including Kombu, wakame, and nori. All sea vegetables are mineral rich and a great source of iodine, a nutrient needed for thyroid function. One of the easiest ways to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet is to eat sushi.
Okinawans consume a lot of soy, which is high in protein. In addition to being high in protein, soy is also a good source of calcium. It can lower cholesterol, and it can increase bone mass. Since it is a low calorie food, soy can also help control weight.
Since Okinawans have such long and healthy life spans, it is worth taking note of their diet. They eat a plant based diet that is full of nutrient dense foods, like these longevity foods. Since many of these foods are also delicious, you may want to try adding them to your meals. Which of these longevity foods would you like to try?
Wilcox, Bradley J. and Craig D and Suzuki, Makoto. The Okinawan Diet Plan: Get Leaner, Live Longer, and Never Feel Hungry. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2004. Print.