Ancestral Diets: The Okinawan Grandparents' Lecture

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"Give wax, polish wax" Who does not remember this phrase from the movie "Karate Kid"? Master Miyagi, tried to teach his pupils the secrets of karate, and in the process fix the fence of his little vest. According to the film, Master Miyagi was from Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War (a quarter of its civilian population died in that battle), the cradle of Karate and also one of the world's places with a greater number of centenarians, does diet have something to do with it? Let's see.

Diet composition in Okinawa


We all know that the Japanese are one of the oldest populations in the world. Their diet is based on rice, fish, fermented soybeans, vegetables… Well, although it may seem incredible, the longevity of the Okinawans surpasses the Japanese. Up to five times more centenarians live in Okinawa in proportion than in Japan, what makes them different?

One factor is diet. For example, their consumption of rice is lower than in Japan (20% less) that they substitute a kind of potato, as well as their consumption of sugar (only 25% compared to Japan) and 75% less of products derived from grains. and cereals. On the contrary, his vegetable consumption is 300% higher, and his choice of vegetables has the colors of the rainbow. Their protein intake is mainly of marine origin, fish and shellfish, although they also consume pork (including organ meats). Curiously, for cooking they usually use lard. However, the consumption of pork is usually reserved for special occasions. They also incorporate proteins from fermented soybeans like tofu.

What conclusions can we draw? For starters, your diet is high in nutrients and low in calories. In my opinion it is a natural adjustment of the body. Once you have increased the nutrients in your diet, your feeling of hunger, your desire to eat more is mitigated and this means that you need fewer calories. The Okinawan diet is very rich in nutrients and micronutrients, especially for its variety of vegetables, and because the proteins they eat, being of marine origin, have trace elements that are not easy to find in our western diets.

The garden, friends and stress

Many of the Okinawans grow or fish their own food. The maintenance of their own garden makes them have food free of pesticides, fertilizers and makes them consume seasonal products in a natural way. But in addition, the garden is an excellent way to keep its citizens active. Many of the century-old inhabitants continue to tend their gardens on a daily basis.

In addition, the gardens allow to cultivate the yuimaru, or "circle of relationships." If there is something that distinguishes its inhabitants, it is that they all have an excellent social life. Beyond diet, many of them retain their "lifelong" friendships, until the day they die. Diet and society come together.

And you are going to love this. In Okinawa, naps of 2 or 3 hours are common. If we did not allow ourselves to be carried away by the stressful rhythm of life that we have imposed on ourselves, the natural desire that we have as a species would be to rest more. And it is precisely that rest that allows us to better assimilate what we eat. When we are stressed, our cortisol levels skyrocket, and that has consequences on our metabolism. Specifically, high cortisol levels trigger our evolutionary fight or flight response. At that time, glucose is released into the blood, to provide the energy necessary for these actions.

What happens today? That we have a constant level of stress and that we fight or flee little (in a good way).

Interestingly, high levels of cortisol limit the production of androgens and testosterone (anabolic or building hormones), do you know what its precursor is? The DHEA. This precursor has a maximum at age 20, but as we age we have less. Okinawan elders, unlike others, have high levels of DHEA. By the way, if you've ever wondered why stress affects your sex, here's an answer. Too much cortisol means less testosterone and therefore less gain.

What does all this say? To begin with, their stress and cortisol levels are low, which causes them to have a high level of DHAE. This makes them have optimal levels of key hormones in vitality. They also have a very dense nutrition that makes them eat fewer calories. Result, low obesity rates and high longevity.

They are not "genetically" special

In the 1930s some Okinawans were transferred to work on the rubber plantations in Brazil. As you can imagine, the diet in these conditions had little to do with their ancestral diet. The result is that in a single generation their life expectancy dropped by no less than 17 years!

Therefore, it is not just a question of genetics. It's not that Okinawans are older, but that we all could be. In fact, Okinawa has been home to an American military base, for many years, and little by little, the culture of fast food has been permeating its younger population. Curiously, they now find themselves in a situation, in which they have a relatively healthy elderly population, while the younger population has problems of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc ...

It is not just about reaching 100 years of age, but about arriving lucid and empowered at advanced ages. Of course, the magisterial lesson of the Okinawan grandparents points us to a possible path.

Lastly, it is my real pleasure to introduce you to the genuine Mr. Miyagi.

Image via | By N.kimy, By Ricymar Fine Art Photography, By ysn0706
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