We’ve all heard the maxim “the first person to live forever has already been born.” We immediately think there must a scientific breakthrough on the near horizon that is going to show us exactly how we can live forever. But perhaps it is more simple than that. What about our diets? Can what you eat determine how long you live?
In a word, yes. What we eat has a direct correlation to our longevity. And the key to living a long life is obviously a healthy diet. But what exactly is a healthy diet in terms of longevity? We can learn a lot from looking at the Okinawans, a group of people who live on a group of islands known as Okinawa in Japan. The Okinawans have the longest life span of any population on earth but also still maintain a high quality of life. They have extremely low rates of chronic diseases like cancer, strokes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
So what is about the Okinawan lifestyle that makes them so healthy and provides them with such a long life?
First, Okinawans have a average body mass indexes (BMIs), which range between 18-22. Of course we have all heard the importance of maintaining a healthy BMI, but the Okinawans provide a great example of how a healthy BMI can help you not only have a good life but a long life as well. The Okinawans maintain a healthy weight by eating until they are only 80% full, instead of stuffing themselves, and staying active every day.
Second, Okinawans practice moderation including a diet that is 80% plant-based and high in unrefined grains, soy, vegetables and fruits. Their fat intake is mostly from healthy fat sources like fish, nuts and oils. In general Okinawans eat about 500 calories less per day than most Americans. They also drink plenty of water and tea with alcohol only in moderation and consume very few sweets.
Okinawans are living into their 80s, 90s and 100s regularly so it appears that we have a lot we can learn from this population and they answer in the affirmative the question of can what you eat determine how long you live. Let’s all take a page from their book and eat less overall while making healthier choices in what we eat. No science experiments needed.
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