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Hara hachi bu, the secret to Okinawa’s longevity

In Okinawa, Japan seeing a 90 year old man climbing a tree to pick fruit is a common scenery. The Okinawan elders are among the leanest and longest lived people on earth. They are slim,agile and there minds are clear and lucid. The number of elders with diabetes, heart disease and obesity are few. There anti oxidant diet protects them from hormone dependent cancer,breast,prostate ,ovarian and colon cancer. Woman do not use estrogen replacement therapy during menopause since there are no menopousal complications, probably because they consume substantial amounts of soy which supplies them with genestein, that acts like estrogen. The elders have more DHEA than americans of the same age. There high level of testosterone help maintain muscle mass and estrogen protects against osteoporosis. This means few fractures and hip replacements. Elders age gracefully and usually stay lean as opposed to there western counterpart, where weight gain accompany aging. It is not uncommon to see elders farming,playing sport ,riding bicycle and going to the market to shop and or waking up at the crack of dawn to go to the fish market in the pier to buy fish and or hear the latest news in town.

Whats there secret? Hara hachi bu means eat until you are 80% full. Along with physical activity that is built into there lifestyle and eating a diet that is comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables( mostly home grown) . The Okinawans eat at least 7 servings of vegetables per day, which includes goya or bittermelon cooked with rice ,(the dish is called champuru) sweet potato, sweet potato tops , bittermelon leaves,pepper leaves, black strap molasses,loofah,cabbage,squash,bell pepper etc.They grow any vegetables that can sustain limited rainfall. Okinawan cuisine is a fusion of Chinese,Japanese and Southeast Asian Cuisine. Soy in fermented form is used in preparing miso ( a soup with seaweed) which is consumed daily. Dairy is consumed in limited amounts. Pork, goat and fish is there protein source, unlike mainland Japan, Okinawa was not influence by Buddisim. Okinawan’s famous saying is ” cooking begins with pig and ends with pig”.Every part of the pig is utilized in there cuisine including blood,inards,feet ,snuff,ears etc. all except the hair. Rice is there staple and is usually imported because the climate in Okinawa does not sustain growing of rice. Brown and white rice is used interchangeably. The rest of the food they consumed is grown in the island . The seaweed they consume is from the seas that sorrounds the island.

Whats the drill? The Okinawan’s eat 500 calories less than there western counterpart.
Bittermelon or goya is one of there staple food and is said to simulate digestion and prevent dyspnea and constipation.
It is also rich in Vitamin A and C . It contains lectin which is found to increase insulin sensitivity
Like Japan, fermented soy in the form of miso is consumed daily.

This is the Okinawa’s guide to eating:
1. 75% of there daily diet consist of miso soup,soy,tofu ,turmeric tea, water, brown rice ,whole grain breads, and lean protein from fish.
2. The remaining 25 % consist of lean red meats and fattier fish , eggs,butter,oil, pork, goat, poultry ,foods with high sugar
such as desserts ,fruit juice ,carbonated beverage,wine and hard liqour.
3. Hara hachi bu- eat until you are 80% full.

This eating and lifestyle model clearly illustrate that we need to review our food choices and lifestyle,and select foods that will influence our health. We need to eat fresh and unprocessed foods, keep active,stay lean by eating less but including all the foods needed to meet our body’s nutritional needs.

If you need help in developing a meal plan that will meet your nutritional needs, please let me know and I will gladly help.

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