O K I N A W A
From the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to a midway point in Kanagawa, we're now going all the way to the southernmost islands of Okinawa Prefecture. These islands are the perfect tropical getaway, complete with sandy white beaches, turquoise waters, and warm sunny days year round. Home to the Kuroshio Sea, one of the world's most amazing aquarium tanks, (yes, that one! The Youtube famous tank teeming with manta rays and whale sharks!) and the exquisite, ruby red Shuri Castle, Okinawa is packed with tons of activities to do and sights to see. However, you might want to pick up some tips during your stay from the locals on their secrets to a healthy long life. Okinawans have the longest life expectancy in the world, easily surpassing the U.S. average life span of 78-79 years old, reaching average ages of 94 for women and 84 for men, and living in optimal health while at it! The secret is in the lifestyle that the island affords them, quite literally from the natural ingredients and beautiful sunshine.
Okinawans attribute their high level intakes of hyaluronic acid as the key to their diets. Hyaluronic acid, according to Livestrong, "acts as a cushion for joints and nerves to prevent degeneration", "hydrates skin and hair and moisturizes the eyes" and retains the elasticity of all the cells in our body. Mainly sticking to a plant-based diet, the people of Okinawa consume starchy vegetables like local potatoes and satsuma sweet potatoes as their primary source for hyaluronic acid, as well as dark green vegetables, tofu, and lots of tea! The centenarians of Okinawa also praise Goya as their go-to ingredient for anti-aging. Goya is a type of bitter melon that's rich in various vitamins and minerals, effective in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels and increasing metabolism. It's an amazing detoxifying vegetable that helps cleanse blood from toxins for better circulation, and purifies the cells found especially in your liver, intestines, and gallbladder for better digestion and bodily flow. A classic and Okinawan favorite is a dish called goya champuru, a stir-fry that typically contains goya, egg, tofu, pork, and other vegetables of choice. For an awesome recipe, click here!
Keeping a youthful mind even with age is what sets everything else in motion for your physical body. Lots of Okinawans keep their lives as productive and purposeful as possible, treating tasks, big or small, and the completion of them with importance and vigor. Optimism and social networking, also called Moai, which means "meeting for a common purpose" in Japanese, and simply not letting age be a cause for isolation at home, leads to happier psyches but greater drives to keep on keeping on! These Moai or social support groups bring together the community to provide support financially, socially, and spiritually. It's a major stress-reducing tactic, especially for the elderly, that's been implemented in Okinawan culture for centuries.
3) Staying Active:
This should come as no surprise, as food and fitness go hand in hand in leading healthy lives. Large parts of Okinawa is covered in farmland and beautiful landscapes soaked in sunny weather that's perfect for leisurely walks. Older Okinawans garden and farm well into their 80s and 90s, reaping the benefits of the physical effort that maintaining a garden requires and then enjoying the fruits of their labor such as ginger, tumeric, mugwort, and carrots, afterwards. In addition to this, Okinawan households are typically very minimal, preferring to eat and relax on tatami mats instead. The everyday routine of getting up and down from the floor is enough to enhance balance and strength in elderly bodies!
Take notes everyone, this one's literally life-changing!