Eating like the oldest living population for 24 hours…

If you didn’t already know, the island of Okinawa in Japan is the place in the world with the highest percentage of centenarians (people living over age 100). Although there are other factors that contribute to their astounding longevity, such as their lifestyle, environment and genetics, their predominantly plant-based diet has been studied extensively for its anti-aging benefits.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

One aspect of their diet that is particularly interesting is how many carbohydrates they eat! Unlike popular diets such as keto, paleo, and the Atkins diet, Okinawans eat predominantly carbohydrates and keep protein low at about 9% of their daily caloric intake. It must be noted, however, that the bulk of their carbohydrates come from vegetables. Sweet potatoes, in particular, are a staple in the Okinawan diet and account for approximately 67% of their daily caloric intake!

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

They also eat next to NO processed foods, and do not consume coffee, sugar or alcohol! They eat fish a couple of times a week and occasionally a bit of pork. However, the bulk of their calories come from plants, soy, and grains making it a predominantly a vegan diet, which has been widely researched to have a positive impact on health and longevity (when limiting processed foods and sugar).

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Now, on to my experience eating the Okinawan diet for 24 hours…

I decided to eat the Okinawan diet for 24 hours to challenge myself to try something new! Read on for the full day on my plate, and my thoughts on this diet!

BREAKFAST — MISO SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO

For breakfast, I opted for a bowl of homemade miso soup with a side of roasted sweet potato. I also drank a Genmaicha tea which is a Japanese green tea combined with roasted brown rice. This breakfast did fill me up, and tasted delicious, however as I am used to having sweet breakfasts and coffee every morning it left me feeling a little unsatisfied… A couple of hours later I snacked on a banana and had another tea.

homemade miso soup with a side of roasted sweet potato

LUNCH — STIR FRY + RICE, MISO SOUP SWEET POTATO, EDAMAME BEANS AND PICKLED VEG

For lunch, I had an array of things, including a vegetable and tofu stir fry made with okra, mushroom, carrots, ginger and spring onion. This stir fry was super satisfying and delicious! The rice and sweet potato made the meal more filling and the small bowl of miso soup went well with the meal. In the afternoon I snacked on some leftover sweet potato!

homemade miso soup, stir fry veg and tofu, steamed rice, sweet potato, edamame beans and pickled vegetables

DINNER — SOBA NOODLES, RICE, MISO TOFU, EGGPLANT AND CABBAGE

This dinner was very tasty! I love miso-glazed tofu and the soba noodles were very simple and refreshing.

soba noodles with homemade dipping sauce, miso-glazed tofu, rice, edamame beans and cabbage

OVERALL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE DIET

PROS

  1. Great for the digestive system! I was not bloated at all for the whole day, and everything was digested super well! Maybe this was due to the fermented miso paste, or maybe the high amount of complex carbohydrates.
  2. No processed foods! For the whole 24hrs, I did not eat one thing that was highly processed, and nothing that contained sugar! That is pretty rare for me because I love my oat milk coffee and protein powder…
  3. Tasty! The food tasted really good! No complaints about that!

CONS

  1. High in sodium. I did feel like I was eating a lot of salt, and my body was craving something sweet throughout the whole day! Multiple people claim that the only negative of this diet is its high sodium intake and I do agree that there are quite high amounts of sodium coming from the miso and soy sauce which appear in almost every dish!
  2. Restrictive. For me personally, this diet did feel quite restricting as I couldn’t eat my all-time favourite (porridge) for breakfast. Obviously the people of Okinawa wouldn’t feel like the diet is restrictive at all because they are used to eating these foods, but because of my prior eating habits, it felt restrictive to me. I also couldn’t have any coffee, so I was craving that all day!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this experiment as it put me outside of my comfort zone and I was challenged to try new things like eating soup for breakfast! I don't think I will be having miso soup for breakfast again any time soon but I will definitely have it for other meals and try to incorporate more sweet potato into my diet!

Have you tried the Okinawan diet before? If you want more information regarding the Okinawan diet and the blue zones see below for the list of resources I used when filming this video!

Sources:

  1. https://www.bluezones.com/exploration/okinawa-japan/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/do-vegans-live-longer#effects-on-lifespan
  3. https://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=55662#:~:text=The%20Okinawan%20diet%20is%20rich,many%20of%20them%20whole%20grains).
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/okinawa-diet#the-diet
  5. https://www.livestrong.com/article/310719-sample-meal-plans-for-the-okinawa-diet/

Saska is a YouTuber and wellbeing specialist. She is passionate about all things health and has qualifications in Plant-based Nutrition, Fitness and Marketing.

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