7 Must-try foods revealed in Netflix’s ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’

Discover the fascinating world of Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands located off the coast of Japan.

This island belongs to an exclusive group known as the Blue Zones, where people enjoy remarkable longevity and vibrant health. Initiated as a National Geographic expedition led by Dan Buettner, the quest to unveil the mysteries of longevity transformed into a revelation encompassing five global regions where individuals routinely surpass the remarkable milestone of living over a century.

These zones, including Okinawa, stand out due to their extraordinary longevity, attributed to genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors [1].

Diet emerges as a powerful influencer among these, as Japanese cooking teacher Yukie Miyaguni highlighted in Netflix docuseries “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.”

Diving into the heart of the Okinawa diet, we find a unique approach to food that harks back to centuries when nourishment was considered medicinal. Rather than relying on a magic ingredient, the Okinawan culinary tradition centers around essential diet staples that cultivate health and longevity in this subtropical haven.

One of the notable aspects of the Okinawan diet is its rich repertoire of whole, nutrient-dense foods teeming with antioxidants that protect the body against cellular damage. Unlike other regions in Japan, Okinawans limit their rice intake and instead focus on diverse nourishment sources.

A major player is the sweet potato, their primary calorie source, complemented by whole grains, legumes and fiber-rich vegetables. The Okinawan secret also lies in specific foods contributing to their exceptional health.

Insider mentions the following staples [2] :

  • Sweet potatoes: These purple sweet potatoes, called beni imo, comprised a substantial portion of Okinawans’ daily calories during the 1950s. Rich in fiber and antioxidants, they acted as a vital sustenance during food scarcity.
  • Asa seaweed: This variety of seaweed, abundant in nutrients like iodine and antioxidants, aids cell health. It’s a popular choice during hot days to cool down.
  • Green mulberry leaves: Beyond their use in soothing sore throats, these nutrient-rich leaves possess anti-inflammatory properties and can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Mugwort: With its bitter flavor that complements pork, mugwort aids digestion and is a part of the Okinawan diet’s dynamic.
  • Squid-ink soup: A savory broth packed with immune-boosting enzymes, amino acids, and hormones, believed to support immunity and blood pressure regulation.

The Okinawa diet, with its antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense composition, brings forth various health benefits. Central to these is the remarkable longevity observed among Okinawans, who harbor more centenarians than any other region globally. Although genetics and environment play their part, lifestyle choices also significantly contribute to longevity [3].

The diet’s emphasis on antioxidant-rich foods effectively combats aging by safeguarding cells against free radical damage and reducing inflammation. The diet’s plant-based focus with its low-calorie, low-protein, and high-carb elements also aligns with studies indicating potential longevity benefits.

Reducing the risk of chronic diseases is another hallmark of the Okinawa diet. People on the island are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

This protective effect can be attributed to the diet’s abundant nutrients, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, carotenoids found in colorful vegetables consumed on Okinawa contribute to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, mitigating heart disease and type 2 diabetes risk [4].

The Okinawa diet also leverages the advantages of soy-based foods, correlating with a diminished risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and certain cancers. Embracing these dietary principles might unveil a pathway to prolonged health and wellbeing, illuminating the wisdom of Okinawa’s culinary traditions.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125071/
[2] https://www.insider.com/okinawa-japan-blue-zone-diet-longevity-foods-live-to-100-2023-8
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4745363/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3893834/

Photograph: tyasindayanti/Envato
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