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Okinawa is one of the largest islands in Japan. (Fun fact: its nickname is Churashima, which means beautiful islands.) It is also known as one of the Blue Zones – a name for areas in the world where people are considered to be the healthiest due to low heart disease rates, cancer, and diabetes Obesity and the highest life expectancy.
In fact, Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world: 90 for women and 84 for men. (According to the Okinawa Research Center for Longevity Science (), Okinawa currently has the highest number of centenarians per 1
What is the Okinawa diet?
The most important thing to know is that like the Mediterranean Diet The Okinawa Diet is more of a food style than a diet plan.
The diet of the native Okinawan is rich in nutrients but low in calories. While Okinawanians do not eat targeted foods, they generally do not eat much meat, dairy or grains. Otherwise, there are two key features of this diet. First, it is mainly vegetable. (See: What is the difference between plant and vegan plants?) Okinawans consider meat more as a seasoning than as a main course, explains Tomeka Flowers, wellness coordinator at Houston Methodist. With this diet, you can eat meat and seafood, but in very limited quantities.
The daily diet is full of vegetables – roots like sweet potatoes and yellow and green vegetables like pumpkin, paprika, bitter melon and algae. "The dominance of yellow vegetables makes this diet a high percentage of carotenoids that can reduce inflammation and improve immune function," says Melissa Rifkin. R.D., a bariatric nutritionist at Montefiore Medical Center. Rounding out the meal plan with tofu and mushrooms. They eat rice, but in smaller quantities than a traditional Japanese diet – prefers yellow or purple sweet potatoes as a source of carbohydrates.
The second major factor of the diet is the 80/20 rule. (And no, not the cheat-80/20 rule you think about.) In Okinawa, people tend to eat until they're full, but they're not completely filled (hence the 80%). Imagine having dinner and saving space for a dessert, but then you are not eating dessert, says Flowers.
Benefits of the Okinawa Diet
The Okinawa diet is generally considered healthy and can be adopted by anyone. It involves the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods and has a high water content thanks to the fresh products. It is also high in fiber and carbohydrates, and low in calories and fat – properties that can contribute to weight loss and weight maintenance despite the increasing popularity of high fat diets such as keto. Okinawanians generally eat about 1,200 calories per day, while Americans consume less than 2,000 calories. This nutritional plan is known for reducing inflammation and preventing chronic diseases, although it has not yet been scientifically proven (the ORCLS was established to investigate the effects of diet on the Okinawa centenarians).
Because the Okinawa diet is mainly herbal. Based on it, it has a high content of fruits and vegetables. (In the meantime, the CDC has reported that only 1 in 10 Americans consume enough product portions daily.) The diet is also rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which have been shown to reduce inflammation, says Rifkin.
The main approach of this eating style, however, is the perspective on food: Okinawanians neither measure food nor have restrictive rules. They tend not to eat too much or have weight issues if they follow the plant 80/20 plan, says Flowers.
Disadvantages of the Okinawa Diet
A plant-based diet like the Okinawa offers many benefits Diets, it is important to understand the disadvantages before diving. Because meals contain too little meat, dairy and whole grains, certain nutrients such as vitamins B and D, calcium and iron may be missing, says Rifkin. This diet is also rich in soy, which may not be ideal for certain populations. (For information: There is conflicting information about the safe levels of soy and its effects on the endocrine system.) Some women at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer may need to avoid phytoestrogens found in soy and flax. Learn More: 5 Reasons Your Food May Cumulate With Your Hormones)
Before you praise this diet as a kind of spa cure, it's important to look at the lifestyle of the people in Okinawa, says Flowers. There is no single reason for the health and long life of the Okinawan people – their eating habits, training routines, relationships and the environment are all factors. The average person in Blue Zones has an average of 14,000 to 18,000 steps per day, while Americans need about 5,000 steps on average. If you eat as you do and expect the same results, you have to move to get the full benefits, says Flowers.
Rifkin warns to obey exactly this A diet – especially reducing calories to 1,200 – would be difficult and perhaps even dangerous for someone to stay long term. "However, with the current epidemic of obesity, most people could benefit from losing some calories from their daily meals, and a 1500 calorie diet could be a more reasonable start," she says. (Here's how many calories you should eat to lose weight.) She points out that the American diet is also more processed and chemically loaded than anywhere else in the world. "We should all nod to the Okinawan people and start eating more foods coming from Earth," says Rifkin.
Sample Okinawa Diet Meal Plan  Breakfast: Tofu with yellow pepper and 1/2 sweet potato (think: a tofu smell)
Snack: Apple with peanut butter  Lunch: Rice with lentils or soybeans and broccoli
Snack: Seaweed salad or miso soup with carrots, shiitake mushrooms, tofu and radish
Dinner: brown rice lentils, spinach and pumpkin  Snack: Soy Milk