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Explorers describe Okinawa as an exotic group of islands with a warm, temperate climate, palm trees and sugar sand beaches hemming a turquoise sea. This Pacific archipelago sits 360 miles off the coast of Japan, about 1,000 miles away from Tokyo.
Okinawa was first referred to as the land of immortals. Even after repeated invasions by both the Chinese and the Japanese, Okinawa still claims some of the world’s longest-lived people. People in this region have less cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans. Since the invasion of fast food, the life expectancy of natives plummeted, with some parents now outliving their children.
Hara Hachi Bu
Okinawans purposefully restrict the number of calories they eat. Before every meal, they say, hari hachi bu, which means ‘eat until you are 80% full.’ It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain its full, so by practicing this old adage, Okinawans avoid overeating.
The health of the people in this region revolves around their gardens! Locals spend a lot of time tending (and eating) their herbs and vegetables, havens rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Turmeric’s benefits include high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, while mugwort helps prevent malaria. Being out in their garden also gives Okinawans a lot of exposure to the sun, giving them ample opportunity to absorb their daily dose of Vitamin D, good for bone health.
Beauty Comes From Within
The Okinawans try to maintain a positive outlook on life, much like the Sardinians. They live for their ikigai, reason for waking up in the morning. Another key to longevity here are their moais, groups of lifelong friends who act as social, emotional and financial support networks.
Lessons from Okinawa
- Develop a strong sense of purpose, called ikigai, or that which makes life work living, by keeping family ties strong and maintaining close groups of friends. The Okinawans call these moais.
- Stay active, and maintain a vegetable garden. Not only do gardens provide natural sources of healthy foods, but also an outlet for daily physical activity. Because of the temperate climate, Okinawans can garden all year round and get plenty of bone-health promoting Vitamin D!
- Maintain an herb garden. People living in homes or apartments can grow and maintain herb gardens. Include ginger and turmeric to get the same health benefits as the Okinawans.
- Eat a plant-based diet. Use vegetables from your garden, a farmer’s market or even a grocery store. Okinawan centenarians consume soy products, such as antioxidant rich tofu for additional health benefits.
- Hari hachi bu. This old agage, translates as “eat until you’re 80% full.” The Okinawans say this before every meal to remind them to eat moderate amounts of food.
- Smile! Okinawan centenarians embrace a positive outlook on life, in spite of or because of the hardships they endured throughout their lives.