When it comes to the term “healthy diet”, I feel like every single person is having their own opinion about that. That’s why it is difficult to generalise this term and say that a specific diet, such as for example the vegan diet, is the healthiest.
If you have been vegan for a while now, like me, you also know that you can eat only junk food and still be vegan. So, is a vegan diet still the healthiest? I don’t think so.
I personally believe that it is up to everyone to understand what is healthiest for them and make sure that we have an understanding about how our body works.
I personally find it super interesting to have a look at how our diet has evolved. When we do so, we can see that our diet has changed a lot. If we go a little further, we can also see that diets differs from region to region.
There is one specific region that has caught not only my attention, but also the attention of many others. Why? Because these people are known to have lived a long life, some of them becoming 100 years or older.
What place am I speaking about?
It is Okinawa.
Okinawa is located in the south of Japan.
The most interesting part is that we might be able to see a link between nutrition and why these people have lived there for so long. There are 50 people to 100,000 people in Okinawa that are 100 years or older. When compared to Germany it is only 17 to 100,000 people. In year 2000 women could live up to 86 years and men to 78 years.
When we look at the typical western diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer or coronary heart diseases, the numbers are very low. These people are also known to work out a lot and be very active. Of course, one argument could be that these people are just very lucky to have good genes. But another thing we could do is to have a look at their diet.
So how does the diet of the people in Okinawa look like?
- It is mostly plant-based. A big part of their diet is made out of sweet potatoes.
- They eat only until they are 80% full, which means that they don’t overeat.
- They see food as a medicine. They are conscious about what type of food they put into their bodies.
- Their sugar and fat intake is very low.
- Their protein intake is very low. Most of the protein comes from soy products, such as tofu or miso soups.
- They eat a lot of vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and vitamin B6.
- They get vitamin D through sunlight exposure.
- Their drinking water is very rich in calcium.
- They consume a lot of potassium, while their sodium intake is low.
- Their consumption of saturated fat is very low.
- They consume a lot of complex carbohydrates (low glycemic index).
- They consume a lot of herbs & spices.
- Meat is consumed only once a month.
- Alcohol consumption is very limited.
- Fish consumption is eaten but not regularly.
So generally we can say that the food that the people of Okinawa eat is very low in energy but very high in their nutritional value. Vegetables have very low calories, of which you can eat a lot of while getting in a lot of amazing nutrients. And because of their calorie restriction they live by, the older generation is not overweight and lives longer.
Unfortunately these are all facts that have been measured before the 1960s. Now, a lot of things have changed not only in Japan but in the world in general. People are now starting to gain weight in Okinawa and people do not live as long anymore. They do not move that much and they now consume a lot of meat, fish, white rice and bread.
As mentioned before, their longevity might have been due to their genes. But when we take a closer look on how the diet has shifted and what is currently happening over there, we might be able to see a correlation between diet and longevity.
Now it is up to you to decide what you want to believe.