To explore the impact of diet on our lives. We would normally try to look at longevity and quality of life. One of the oldest and healthiest populations on earth are the Okinawans, who on average live up to 78-86 years of age. And they get older in a much better state. The statistics reveal a significantly lower risk of heart attack and stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimers. And improved quality of life, living with full functionality like a person 30 years younger, with lucid minds, physically strong bodies and active sex lives (without the use of Viagra). So what are the secrets of the Okinawans ? I would venture a guess its 50% based on the food they eat and exercise as well as 50% (maybe much more) on their outlook in life.
We have seen most faddish diets, that promote low carbohydrates, high protein and sometimes even ridiculous one like the grapefruit diet and many other fad diets that are difficult to stick to. The traditional Okinawan diet of consists of about large and frequent portions of vegetables, fruits, cereals and soy products. Okinawans take fish weekly and meat and dairy products very sparingly. Their diet is low in calories and contains a lot of vegetables with carbohydrates, protein, and fat providing 85%, 9% and 6% of total calories. This is in huge contrast to the average consumption of meat in the United States, which averaged 224 pounds in 2010 compared to the average Okinawan who consumes around 40 pounds of meat.
I am not eschewing a vegan lifestyle, but maybe our consumption of meat and calories are in excess comparably. And it isnt that the Okinawans are genetically long lived. In the 20th century, 100,000 Okinawans migrated to Brazil, where they adopted the Brazilian diet which rich in meat. This actually reduced their average lifespan by 17 years.
Also, fast foods started appearing with the set up of American Air bases in the 20th century, the obesity levels, cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths of the young reached higher levels in Okinawa.
Cardiovascular disease and hypertension, symptoms of a developed countries woes are highly prevalent. Whereas healthcare has moved in tandem, we seem to forget that the quality of life is what counts, not how long you live.
Exercise is of paramount importance, yet now in todays cubicled rat race, many people are hardly getting enough exercise with the rich diet, making it a recipe for disaster. Looking back at our intrepid Okinawans. They practice tai-chi, the art of respiration which is found to greatly reduce stress levels and promote well being and aids in stress reduction.They also walk several kilometers daily, travel on mountain bikes (Yes, even the 70 year olds), practice karate, kendo, dance, and work on their personal gardens.
All these provide a stark contast to the gym environment, where people achieve a merciless efficiency in training their bodies and constantly pushing way past their limits to get the perfect swimsuit look and what we think is beneficial to us might be done in such a stressful way that it might bring more harm than good.
Outlook in life
Finally and most importantly, I find that the main indicator of a healthy, long and fulfilled life like that the Okinawans achieve is through the simple things, their outlook. The people of Okinawa are linked in an intricate social network (not Facebook), that makes them feel connected to the environment and people they are with. They achieve a sense of importance and spirituality and awe of life that we often take for granted. When they take part in physical activity,it is not an isolated-something-you-have-to-prove-kind (like run a marathon under 4 hours thingy), but activity them makes them feel as part of active members of the community instead of old dull people.
They form supportive links and have a positive outlook towards life. Resulting in low levels of stress and low depression levels. Their lives revolve around connectivity (not of the virtual sort) with real connections with people who love and encourage them in life. This I find is the crucial thing that might be missing in our aim to strive always to be the best looking body.
It might not be the best body or best brains that we want to possess. But at the end of the day,its the meaning we attach in our lives reflected by the importance we have in other peoples lives that matter, that really makes us feel and look good.
I feel the purpose we diet is not only to look good, but more importantly, to make us feel good. With our activity levels, what we eat and our day-to-day happiness all playing an integral part. Our outlook in life greatly determines on whether we succeed or fail and its far greater to be quietly happy than successful and wanting.
- Is Debating Low-Carb, Low-Fat or High-Protein Still Relevant for Heart Health? (diabetesdaily.com)
- Okinawa Island is “The Healthiest Place on Earth” (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Under-eating in Okinawa: Average life-span 100yrs (primalspirits.wordpress.com)
- Uncovering The Hidden Okinawa (blahblahbragship.wordpress.com)
- Japan’s Okinawa Island – The Healthiest Place on Earth (odditycentral.com)
- 100 Years of Carrots? How Much Does Diet Really Affect Longevity? (organicauthority.com)
- Chew On This (crossfitforaqueen.wordpress.com)
- 10 Unusual Ways to Live Longer (listverse.com)
- The Key To Longevity: Eat Mediterranean-Style (boston.com)
- Is It More Important To Be Fit, Or Healthy Weight? (diabeticmediterraneandiet.com)
- The How and Why of 100 Years of Happiness (my.psychologytoday.com)