Before we delve into the magical powers of the Okinawa diet, it’s important to talk about hara hachi bu. This concept is based on a Confucian teaching that reminds people to stop eating when they are 80 percent full. You could interpret it as eating eight out of the ten parts you’d need in order to feel full. Calorie restriction has been a regular feature of the Okinawans’ diet for decades now, but it isn’t the only thing keeping them healthy and young.
What Is The Okinawa Diet?
Okinawa is a group of islands located on the southern tip of Japan. Its native inhabitants follow a very special diet. They reportedly have the longest life expectancy, owing to this very diet.
Here’s some data to give you perspective: studies suggest that on an average, a typical Okinawan may live for 110 years, enjoying a healthy, productive life. Yes, it is also partly because of their genetic buildup, but the Okinawans propose that the most significant factor contributing to their longevity is their diet, which is passed on to them by their ancestors through centuries.
The Okinawan Meal Plan
Besides following the concept of hara hachi bu, Okinawans believe in having a simple but healthy relationship with food. A typical Okinawan meal is:
Calorie-Restricted: Research states that the diet of the Okinawan people is 20% lower in calories compared to the rest of Japan.
Rich In Anti-Oxidants: The Okinawa diet mainly comprises green/orange/yellow (GOY) vegetables, fruits, roots and tubers. These foods are rich sources of anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and zinc.
Low In Fat & Sugar: As their dishes have lower levels of fat and sugar, it definitely helps prevent coronary heart diseases and lowers the risk of stroke.
Loaded With Vegetables & Some Seafood: The islanders’ traditional diet includes nutrient-rich vegetables like bitter cucumbers (goya) and purple sweet potatoes, as well as legumes, soy products, seaweed, and some amount of seafood. Meat, eggs and dairy products rarely make it to their plates.
Can Indians Follow The Okinawa Diet?
We spoke to Mumbai-based nutritionist, Payal Sethi, and asked her if it’s possible to incorporate parts of the Okinawa diet in the Indian menu. “Yes, absolutely. The Okinawa diet focuses on being low-dairy and vegetarian,” said Sethi, “and even though most Indian dishes are cooked in ghee, it’s possible to customize them by making them more vegetable-rich.”
So if you are keen on getting healthier and staying younger the Okinawan way, Sethi has these tips for your diet:
Cook With Olive Oil: Even though ghee is good for you, limit it for special occasions only. Also, olive oil is good for the heart.
Fill Up On Colourful (Natural) Foods: Eating a variety of fruits and veggies is great for your health. Instead of consuming the same ones every day, mix things up by trying different seasonal vegetables, especially the brightly coloured ones.
Go Veg: Barring festivals or special occasions, stick to a mostly plant-based diet; it shouldn’t be too hard, since we have so many wonderful vegetarian dishes in India. If you wish to eat meat, opt for organic options and if you’re doing seafood, stick to healthy Indian fish like rawas (Indian salmon), bangda (mackerel) and hilsa (herring).
Avoid Grains & Dairy: Avoid butter as well as thick rotis and puris, as they are very difficult to digest. Instead, opt for brown rice (or any rice) in limited portions. You can substitute rotis with appams, which are made from rice flour.
When it comes to eating right, it is recommended that you try, learn, and then customise. To see results, take the best parts of any diet and adapt it to suit your current diet and lifestyle.