Life is a finite and precious gift, With the right habits, you too can lead a long and healthy life like the centenarians in Okinawa, Japan!
People living in ‘Blue Zone’ communities of the world achieve unusually long lives without much effort, and in Okinawa, there are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon.
These include having a sense of purpose, a varied diet of mostly fruit and vegetables and close social circles.
The Okinawans follow a wonderful principle called 'hara hachi bu' which translates to ‘eight out of ten’, or in other words, stopping eating when their stomachs are 80% full. They also limit themselves to around 1,800-1,900 calories a day.[i]
And mostly what they eat is the purple sweet potato, or ‘beni imo’ which makes up to 70% of their daily intake. Packed with 150% more active antioxidants than blueberries, the beni imo helps to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cancer and diabetes.[ii]
The Okinawans also eat ‘mozuku’ seaweed which helps regulate the gut microbiome and can curtail certain types of cancer, obesity and diabetes, and tofu made from soybeans, which lowers incidences of cancer and overall mortality, according to a 2022 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
Committed social groups called ‘Moais,’ work together to pool their money and resources to help each other during emergencies or hardship, providing not only financial but emotional support.
Interestingly, a study in China in 2023 with over 28,000 participants, averaging 89 years old, and published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, discovered a direct link between socialisation and longevity.
Having a sense of purpose is essential for a fulfilling life. The Japanese concept of 'ikigai' is an excellent example of this. Okinawans engage in meaningful work, regardless of age or occupation.
It is truly inspiring to see how even selling vegetables at the market can bring a sense of purpose and joy to their lives. So why not try to discover your own 'ikigai' and experience the benefits it can offer to your life.
[i] Sugata M, Lin CY, Shih YC. Anti-Inflammatory and Anticancer Activities of Taiwanese Purple-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas L. Lam) Extracts. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:768093. doi: 10.1155/2015/768093. Epub 2015 Oct 5. PMID: 26509161; PMCID: PMC4609785.
[ii] Schroeder, T. (2021) Okinawa Sweet Potato: Japan's Amazing Purple Superfood! https://sakura.co/blog/okinawa-sweet-potato-japans-amazing-purple-superfood/
Beuttner, D. (2023) Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Lived the Longest