Okinawa Diet: Secret of the World's Longest Living Women

Okinawa is a Japanese island belonging to the Ryukyu island Island in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan's mainland. Its here where the traditional Okinawa diet originated. Okinawa has habitants who have a life expectancy longer than anywhere else in the world. Surprisingly, those who live longer are women. Interestingly, Okinawans live longer than those living in Japan. In the village of Ogimi, located in the rural north of Okinawa's main island, 15 out of 3000 villagers are centenarians, person who have reached the age of 100 years. 

Okinawa diet is make up of 90% of whole plants food, less than 1% of the diet are fish, meat, eggs and dairy. Most of the diet are based on vegetables and beans, with the most calories coming from purple and orange sweet potatoes. Okinawans who eat in this way have less cancer, heart disease and dementia than the United States. The term Okinawan use "nuchi gusui", which means food as medicine. The sweet potatoes, bitter melon, carotenoid rich marine foods like seaweed, fruits and vegetables in the diet are anti-aging as they reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. 

What do Okinawan eat?

Sweet Potatoes

Unlike inhabitants in Japan who consume white rice , the Okinawans eat sweet potatoes. The yellow sweet potato in Okinawa is called Satsuma Imo while purple sweet potato is called Beni Imo. Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, C and E. Okinawa sweet potatoes are rich in anthocyanin, a phytochemical which gives it a beautiful and deep purple colour. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant and Beni Imo contains 150% more antioxidant than blueberry, which makes them a powerful cancer fighting superfood. Besides, sweet potatoes also rich in iron, dietary fiber, manganese, copper and potassium. Okinawa sweet potatoes definitely deserved to be included in your diet.


One of the most famous Okinawa vegetable is Goya, also known as bitter melon or bitter gourd. Goya contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It contains twice the potassium of a banana, twice the calcium of spinach and twice the beta-carotene of broccoli. This bitter melon contains a phytonutrient, polypeptide-P which has the ability to lower blood sugar levels in the body. In addition, there is a unique compound in Goya, called charantin, which increases the metabolism of glucose in the body. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine have long used bitter gourd for its blood purifying and detoxifying benefits. Besides, bitter gourd can improves heart health. The potassium in bitter gourd helps to improve high blood pressure while the iron and folic acid help to lower the risk of stroke and heart disease. Moreover, Goya improves digestion and improve bowel movement A study showed that bitter gourd can reduce the risk of certain cancers.  


Kombu and Wakame are the most common seaweed consumed in Okinawa diet. Seaweeds provide a filing, low-calorie and nutrients boost to our diet. They are rich in carotenoids, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium and iodine. Kombu and Wakame contain high levels of fucoxanthin, a type of carotenoids only found in brown seaweeds. Fucoxanthin is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties  Kombu has been used in soup similar to Wakame being used in miso soup. 


Shikwasa is a citrus fruit native to Okinawa. It contains higher citric acid than a lemon, which helps to body to increase energy and recover faster. Shikwasa also contains an important compound, Nobiletin, a flavonoid may help to prevent diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, according to studies conducted at Tohoku University. Nobiletin has been reported to exert multiple biological effects, including anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and neuroprotective benefits. The sweet and sour tartness of the fruit makes it especially great for quenching your thirst. Mixing honey with shikwasa juice makes a delicious and healthy drink for summer. 

Whole Soy Food 

The Okinawan diet is rich in soy products like soy and miso soup. Soy is low in calories and fat, but high in complex carbohydrates and phytochemicals like flavonoids and phytoestrogen. Flavonoids in tofu may help to the heart and guard against breast cancer. Fermented soy foods also contribute to a healthy intestinal ecology and offer better nutritional benefits. Soy is an excellent source of plant-based protein. It provides an important source of protein in our diet, especially for vegetarians or vegans. 

Green Tea

Green tea in the traditional Okinawan lifestyle, not only provides essential antioxidants but also a healthy catalyst for socializing with family and friends. Green tea is rich in phytochemicals like catechin and and flavonoids. Green tea contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This antioxidant may protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals. Research suggests that EGCG may reduce inflammation and prevent some chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. Higher consumption of green tea is associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality in Japanese, especially fore heart and cerebrovascular disease. Moderate consumption decreased the risk of total cancer and respiratory disease mortality in women. 


Turmeric is a staple in the Okinawan diet. Instead of adding turmeric to dishes like most cultures, Okinawans are known to drink copious amount of turmeric tea daily. All through ancient times, it has served as traditional medicine due to its powerful therapeutic properties. Turmeric, also known as curcuma longa, contains powerful phytonutrients called curcuminoids. This ingredient contributes to its yellow colour, but also contributes to its powerful medicinal benefits. Curcuminoid is an antioxidant. Studies showed that curcuminoids aid in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and hyperlipidemia. It also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and performance in active people. 


Moringa is a horseradish plant native to Northern India that is cultivated in Okinawa. It is called a "miracle tree" as its seeds, stems, branches, leaves and roots are said to contain 90 nutrients that affect 300 functions and parts of human body. Moringa contains plenty of vitamins, zinc, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, dietary fiber and essential amino acids. Besides, moringa is rich in antioxidants like Vitamin C, beta-carotene and polyphenols such as quercetin, rutin and chlorogenic acid. These phytochemicals help to protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. 

Acerola Cherry 

Acerola is a tropical fruit grown in Okinawa, the only place in Japan that this cherry-like fruit can be grown. In one acerola cherry, there is about the same amount of Vitamin C from five lemons. The acerola fruits grown in Okinawa have a higher level of sweetness in comparison to those grown in Brazil. Acerola has high Vitamin C content as well as polyphenols that has great antioxidant effects. Due to its high antioxidant activity, it can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals and boosting our immune system. 

Mental Wellness 

Okinawan secrets of longevity also extend to spiritual well-being and interdependence within the community family and friends are very important parts of the longevity equation. Mental health is an essential part of wellness and life on the island of Okinawa seems less stressful than other places. Friends and family enjoy each other's company and the safety net developed by the social support network. Okinawans know that there is always someone to help in times of financial and emotional need. This sense of security is the backbone of well-being. Often used in TV shows and others, the Okinawan idiom "nankurunaisa", means everything is going to be alright, a useful concept for reducing stress in difficult situations. 


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