Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Okinawan Diet

People in Okinawa live longer on average than the people of mainland Japan. That’s saying something because it is well known that the Japanese are quite long living and healthy. Apparently this could be changing as the Okinawans adopt a more Western ‘industrialized’ diet.

It would be worthwhile, therefore, to study the traditional diet and lifestyle of Okinawa for clues that can help guide the Active Survivalist on his quest for a long and healthy life.

A quick search on the Internet reveals the following gem from

"They have more nutrients, greater bulk, and fewer calories per gram." Vegetables are the least calorically dense foods you can eat. Fruits are runners-up, then whole grains. After that come lean proteins like skinless white-meat chicken, pork tenderloin, extra-lean beef, and seafood, then fatty proteins like dark-meat chicken with the skin on and fattier cuts of beef and pork. The most calorically dense foods include fats, oils, and sugars. If this sounds like a new food pyramid, it is. To lower the caloric density of your diet to more closely match the Okinawan diet, you need to eat fewer fats, oils, sugars, and fatty protein sources while you increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grain and lean proteins, says Dr. Willcox. Vegetables and fish make up the bulk of the Okinawan diet.

This is bullshit! As if the Okinawans just love to eat skinless white-meat chicken, the least appetizing part of a chicken. It’s amazing what lengths people will go to demonize animal fat – it’s criminal. Look at the picture above, that’s what Okinawans love – hmmm mouth watering.

Here is a more scientific appraisal from PubMed:

The present paper examines the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly based on 3 epidemiological studies. 1. Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. 2. High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years. 3. Nutrient intakes were compared, based on 24-hour dietary records, between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and 65 were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. Intakes of Ca, Fe, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter. Intakes of carbohydrates and NaCl were lower.

…the reality of the Okinawan diet from Okinawan Cuisine:

Pork appears so frequently in the Okinawan diet that to say "meat" is really to say "pork." Everything from head to tail is used. As the saying has it, only the "oink" and the toenails go begging. It is no exaggeration to say that the present-day Okinawan diet begins and ends with pork.Especially in the case of hogs, what the meat lacks in (vitamin A, D and others), the entrails more than make up for it. The stomach and innards are cooked together in a clear "Nakami" soup. The liver and heart, together with vegetables, make "Motsu" (giblet) dishes.

These dishes contain high-quality protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals.We have the belief in Okinawa, based on the philosophy of food as medicine, that when one or more of your internal organs is out of kilter, it is good to eat the same innards of animals. The idea is to eat a food that supplies whatever is lacking.Pig feet and pork with the skin on are washed under boiling water and then simmered and eaten. The skin contains a high-quality protein called collagen.

The Okinawans traditionally cooked their vegetables in pork lard too. Notice too the emphasis on eating as much of the animal as possible. I suggested that this is a healthy thing to do a few posts down. It's madness to throw away the fat and skin of an animal and just eat the lean meat.

Let's all become Okinawan!

Update: You know, I'm well aware that we all find what we are looking for and maybe I'm just finding stuff that suits my own inclinations.

Other people have studied Okinawa and concluded that low fat is the way to go. Check out the Wikipedia article on Okinawan cuisine and the conclusion that:

"Okinawans eat low-fat, low-salt foods, such as fish, tofu, and seaweed." even though in the same article it says clearly, "Okinawan sayings include the phrase that Okinawan cuisine "begins with pig and ends with pig" and "every part of a pig can be eaten except its hooves and its oink"

- pork is fatty is it not? .....Idiots.


Conor Hughes said...

Great great article, healthy fats are the key to longevity, not non-food low fat products! Thank you very much for this!

Conor Hughes said...

Great great article, healthy fats are the key to longevity, not non-food low fat products! Thank you very much for this!