The Okinawan Diet: For Long Lifespans

The Secret to Longevity

Okinawa in Japan is known for the longevity of its residents. This is attributed to a diet of ‘major on vegetables, minor on meat’. Okinawan cuisine is distinctly different from that of mainland Japan, with some notable Taiwanese influences. While Okinawans also love to eat pork, most Okinawan ingredients include vegetables rarely seen on the Japanese mainland such as bitter melon or goya, purple yam, and tropical fruits including mango, papaya, pineapple, dragonfruit and the sour lime-like calamansi.

Vegetables in Okinawa get three to four times more sunshine than those grown in other prefectures, apart from thriving in rich soil and absorbing the mineral-rich ocean air. Thus, these vegetables contain more antioxidant components. Okinawans also have special, healthy cooking methods that they have been practicing since long ago. For example, with pork, they blanched it first to remove excess fat before cooking. To cut down on salt intake, bonito broth is used instead of salt.

Healthy Foods of Okinawa

There’s the shikuwasa citrus juice, packed with vitamin C. A bowl of traditional squid-ink soup is a viscous black broth filled with nutrient. A block of Okinawan tofu has three times the protein found in mainland tofu. Okinawan delicious breads and pastries are made with whole wheat flour, and free from eggs, dairy and preservatives.

Eating for longevity is about how you eat, as well as what you eat. The traditional approach in Okinawa is to major on vegetables, minor on meat and dine in moderation: “Eat until you are 80% full,” is the mantra. Elderly Okinawans are markedly active, socially and physically, so hence, food isn’t everything.

To illustrate this penchant for vegetable diet, there’s the Okinawa Daiichi Hotel in Naha founded in 1955. The very small, 5-room hotel is very famous among visitors and locals. It offers an exceptional yakuzen breakfast, worth the trip to Okinawa. Breakfast features dishes made from 50 different Okinawan-grown vegetables and wild plants. It can be enjoyed by both hotel guests and visitors alike. Favorites include the yushi (Okinawa-style) tofu soup, island carrot salad, boiled otani-watari (fern) and papaya stir fry. Each home-style dish is filled with nutritional benefits and with no meat or oil used, the entire breakfast comes in at less than 585 calories. This is a taste of Okinawan cuisine, considered to be the secret to longevity.

Enjoying Vegetables in Issaquah

We love veggies as well at AJI Sushi & Grill, your Japanese restaurant in Issaquah. Have vegetables in our salads, tempura, rolls and appetizers. It’s also our secret to long life.