Longevity diet Part 2, drinks and foods in Okinawa
Jasmine green tea, sweet potato and soy, the foods of the people in Okinawa, let’s find out their longevity secrets.
Okinawa, an archipelago in the East China sea, is considered the country of centenarians. A special mix of healthy diet, antioxidant drinks and exercises able to keep the body flexible and active makes the lifespan of the inhabitants of Okinawa very long. In the previous post we have seen the first part of the Okinawa’s guide lines. Today we’ll the second part, according to the study of the scientists Bradley Willcox and Craig Willcox, who spent much time in Okinawa in order to understand the lifestyle and its impact on health (Willcox B, Willcox D, Suzuki M, The Okinawa Way: How to Improve Your Health And Longevity Dramatically).
Green tea is an essential drink in Okinawa, it brings flavonoids, that are important antioxidants, and lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Green tea is also helpful to metabolize the fats and improves digestion (Suzuki et al, Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci, Mar 2012). A good green tea should be prepared by leaving to brew the leaves at a water temperature around 70-75°C, not higher, and for 10 minutes. Finally, it is important also to drink green tea in the first hour from preparation, otherwise the antioxidants are lost. In Okinawa very appreciated is also the jasmine green tea, called sanpin, that you can find in herbalist’s or specialized shops. This drink mixes the antioxidant properties of green tea and the relaxing action of jasmine. Moreover, according to scientific studies, it seems that jasmine green tea contains more lignans, that are antioxidant substances with an anticancer effect, than common green tea and that jasmine tea should be able to reduce the cholesterol levels (Willcox B, Willcox D, Suzuki M, The Okinawa Way: How to Improve Your Health And Longevity Dramatically).
Fruits, vegetables and tubers
According to the guide lines of Okinawa’s longevity diet, it is important to change, during the day, the type of fruits and vegetables by introducing daily 7 portions of vegetables and 2-3 portions of fruits. Largely used is the sweet potato, source of carbs but characterized by a low glycemic index despite its sweet taste. Moreover, sweet potato brings also anti inflammatory and antioxidant substances, vitamins such as vitamin A, group B and E. These characteristics make the sweet potato a food able to counteract chronic inflammations often linked to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis (Willcox et al, Mech Ageing Dev, Mar 2014). Then, don’t forget also onions, zucchini, carrots, cabbages and sprouts. Finally, seaweeds play, in Okinawa, a pivotal role. They are a powerful source of proteins, carotenoids, that are useful antioxidants, and mineral salts such as magnesium calcium and iodine. Seaweeds like kombu and wakame contain also lignans, anti cancer compounds.
Soy and fish
As a source of proteins the people of Okinawa prefer soy and fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, substances useful for the health of the heart and to counteract chronic inflammations. The meat intake is instead very limited. Soy brings a substance called genistein, a powerful antioxidant connected to the activation of the longevity genes (Gun-Ae Yoon et al, Nutr Res Pract, Dec 2014). In Okinawa soy is eaten in the form of milk, miso or tofu. If you would like to serve these foods, you can find interesting recipes in the section Healthy food.
Calcium and flavonoids
Every day from 2 to 4 portions of calcium rich foods should be eaten. Calcium is indeed useful for the bone density, is able to prevent osteoporosis, high blood pressure and heavy periods. The calcium intake for the people in Okinawa is guaranteed by leafy greens, soy, nori and wakame seaweeds. The flavonoids are powerful antioxidant compounds that should be introduced daily. In particular, according to Okinawa’s guide lines, you should take from 2 to 4 portions of foods that are a source of these substances. For example, possible sources are soy and flaxseeds. Finally, don’t forget the kudzu, a starch called also arrowroot, scientific name pueraria lobata, that presents also a high content of flavonoids. You can easily find kudzu in organic and specialized shops and you can use it whenever you need to thick a preparation.