Posted on April 17, 2014
The Okinawa Diet is modeled after the people of Okinawa, Japan in the Ryukyu Islands. Why model a diet after the Okinawans? Well, a remarkable number of their population lives to be over 100 years old! In fact, they have the most centenarians in the world. Many scientists attribute this in large part to their diet. Their dinner time mantra “hara hachi bu” means “eat until you are 8/10ths full”. So it will come as no surprise that this diet cuts calories. Okinawans eat 20% fewer calories than a typical Japanese diet.
The plan is based on eating whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, seaweed, and soy. Dairy, meat, nuts, and fats are minimal. The Okinawan Diet looks at the caloric density of foods to determine portions using their “Caloric Density Pyramid”. The pyramid is a guide that ranks foods into four Zen sounding categories: Featherweight (eat as much as you want), Lightweight (eat in moderation), Middleweight (eat in small portions), and Heavyweight (eat sparingly). By eating a lot of low caloric density food, you get more energy and feel satisfied on less calories.
The Okinawa Diet is effective in lowering risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and stroke. In addition to encouraging weight loss, it also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. And we all know that looking and feeling younger is the holy grail in the diet world. It’s hypothesized that many Okinawan centenarians LOOK and FEEL younger because the foods that they eat help them avoid the accumulation of molecular damage that contributes to aging.
On the downside, some say do not expect the same centenarian results while practicing the diet OUTSIDE of Okinawa. Researchers contend that enough studies haven’t been made on dieters in other parts of the world. While diet plays an important role in longevity, you also have to factor in environment and culture. Other experts say you should be careful with soy consumption, as too much could affect hormone levels. Fish, seafood and imported seaweeds can be a little expensive, so the Okinawa is expensive if you don’t live in Okinawa.
So, what do you eat on the Okinawa Diet? First, kick processed foods and sugar to the curb. Next, follow the pyramid guide. Featherweight foods include fruits, vegetables, soy milk, light tofu, broths, and more. The Lightweights include fish, beans, turkey, sweet potatoes, whole grains, low fat yoghurt, and shrimp. The Middleweights include red fatty fish, lean meat, soy cheese, breads, hummus, and soy ice cream. And the Heavyweights include oils, dark chocolate, nuts, cheese, and oatmeal cookies. Also important to note is the inclusion of black and green tea and at least 8 glasses of water a day. Hara hachi bu!