Eat To Live Longer
The islands of Okinawa southwest of Japan, are home to the largest and healthiest population of centenarians on earth. We all know through several decades' worth of studies that the original citizens of this lush archipelago suffer significantly fewer heart attacks, lower rates of diabetes and fewer incidences of cancer (breast, colon, ovarian and prostate) than the rest of the world. Their secret? A nutrient-dense diet and stress-proof lifestyle.
Before you pack your bags and say sayonara to your on-the-go 21st century fast-lane life, consider this: "it's the little tweaks to your everyday routine that can make the biggest difference in your lifelong wellness.". Think of today as the first day of the rest of your long, healthy life. Get started with these 12 simple steps.
Maintain Your Weight
Retaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) is just one piece of the longevity puzzle; maintaining a stable weight is very bit as important. Research has linked yo-yo dieting to elevated risks of hypertension, endometrial cancer and a preponderance of body fat in the upper body, a risk factor for heart disease. If you're a yo-yo dieter, take a long, hard look at your approach to weight loss. If your BMI is over 25, by all means take steps to reduce it by exercising more and eating less, but choose activities and foods you can live with for the long haul. The most effective way to restrict your calorie intake is to gradually reduce the portion sizes of foods you already eat.
Make Meals More Social
Wrapped as we are in our day-to-day chores and demanding jobs many of us tend to focus more on getting through a meal than on enjoying it. Today's generation look for convenience in the foods they eat, while Okinawans look for meaning.
Sitting down to enjoy a meal with friends and family can help you take the focus off food as a source of emotional gratification. If you can train yourself to enjoy mealtimes as a social activity that involves interaction with people you care about, you will eat more slowly and will likely make more thoughtful food selections. But it's not just the sitting down to eat that's important, it's also the preparation of the food. Taking the time to prepare a meal can give it meaning.
Thanks to the globalization of food resources, it's quite possible to buy mangoes in December and grapes in July. In water-locked Okinawa, however, people traditionally eat more locally grown foods, and that means constantly changing their dietary intake. As a result, their food choices are fresher, riper and more flavourful. That constant change-up of nutrients may explain their resistance to chronic illness.
Follow The 80 Per Cent Rule
How many times have you put your spoon down and thought, "Whew, I'm stuffed!" Well, you'd never hear that in Okinawa. But you would hear the saying hara hachi bu, which translates literally into "80 per cent full." Hara hachi bu is sort of an insurance plan against feeling deprived. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to signal the brain that there's no need for more food. Hara hachi bu gives the brain a chance to catch up.
At various times during a meal, rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 is famished and 5 is stuffed). Just stopping eating to think about how you feel decreases the odds that you'll charge past the comfort zone of 3.
Think Calorie Density
Okinawans may eat fewer calories, but they also eat more food. Confused? The foods that are paramount in the Okinawan diet are less calorically dense. They have more nutrients, greater bulk and fewer calories per gram. Vegetables are the least calorically dense foods you can eat. Fruits are runners-up, then whole grains. After that come lean proteins like skinless white-meat chicken, extra-lean red meat and seafood, then fatty proteins like dark-meat chicken with the skin on and fattier cuts of beef. The most calorically dense foods include fats, oils and sugars. If this sounds like a new food pyramid, it is. To lower the caloric density of your diet to more closely match the Okinawan diet, you need to eat fewer fats, oils, sugars and fatty protein sources while you increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grain and lean protein. Vegetables and fish make up the bulk of the Okinwan diet.
A large part of the Okinawan diet is made up of antioxidant-rich proteins like beans (most soy). Another major protein is seafood, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are superstars when it comes to protecting against heart disease, depression and Alzheimer's, because they reduce arterial inflammation. Each type of protein consumed by the Okinawans offers an additional benefit. All beans, including soy, rajma (kidney beans), lobia/chowli (cow pea) and chole provide phytochemicals; legumes, which include soybeans and lentils, provide fibre and antioxidants; seafood supplies healthy fats. These beneficial by-products help Okinawans live longer and with fewer diseases.
The Fountain Of Youth: Daily Exercise
Okinwan elders are surprisingly fit. Many of the physical activities they engage in – gardening, practicing traditional dance and tai chi or simply walking to a friend's house – give them more energy and contribute to their sense of community. The regime sticks because it's woven into their lives. Okinawans also tend to get their daily exercise in the evenings, which can help relieve the day's tension and prime the body for rest.
5 More Okinawan Secrets To A Longer Life
1. Get to sleep earlier
2. Cultivate a sense of control
3. Nurture a sense of community
4. Learn to worry less
5. Embrace spiritually