The Okinawan Diet: Is It Healthy?
Okinawans know how to eat for health and energy.
Have you heard of the people of Okinawa in Japan—the longest living people on the planet? The Okinawans are one prime example of super-healthy eating!
Most of the Okinawan diet consists of carbohydrates from purple sweet potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. Each day they also eat legumes including tofu/natto and some rice (soaked to start sprouting before cooking). They eat small amounts of fish anywhere from a couple times a week to almost daily and maybe a few eggs per week. They include seaweed and spices such as turmeric regularly. They make teas from herbs and spices regularly. They eat very little dairy and nuts, and virtually no processed food. Only occasionally do they eat meat—traditionally it would be pork for a festival or special occasion.
Even the oldest of Okinawans are active and they grow plentiful vegetables and herbs in gardens! They use their fresh ingredients in delicious, simple ways like making a quick soup lunch by heating in a saucepan: water, miso, carrots, radishes, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. Or a yummy sautéed dish of goya (bitter melon), carrot, onion, green peppers, mushrooms, eggs, ham or tofu, garlic, seaweed, and soy sauce. Sounds delicious, right? This is the goal for you too: having a way of life where you make absolutely delicious meals of fresh ingredients that are mostly plant foods.
The Okinawans are known for their use of purple potatoes and I like using potatoes as a staple too. They are delicious, filling, and can be very simple to prepare. My favorite potatoes to use are purple potatoes and regular potatoes because both can be washed/scrubbed, cut into large chunks (skin left on because it’s edible), thrown on a baking sheet with no oil, then baked for about 30 minutes. Such an easy, simple base for a meal! When they’re done cooking, put them on a plate and just add any other veggies, toppings, and natural sauces.
Purple sweet potatoes are so tasty, you’ve got to try them. Look for them at your natural foods store or local farmer’s markets. The best ones I’ve found are sold at a local farm’s road stand.
Try purple sweet potatoes baked, roasted, boiled, steamed, sautéed, scalloped with almond milk, or mashed with coconut water and sea salt. Or mash them with a little applesauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, and grated orange zest. You can even use them as a substitute in a sweet potato pie, or other recipes calling for yams or sweet potatoes!
You don’t need to eat exactly the way the Okinawans do. The point is to show that they eat mostly fresh plant foods, little animal products, and almost no processed food. The Okinawans are an example of one representation of the best way to eat—they are a great case study.