How to Live to 100

Japan has the longest life expectancy and the longest health expectancy in the world. There are reasons for this beyond genetics that have to do with simple lifestyle choices (Watch for our feature on Okinawa and healthy longevity in the upcoming DINE 2013). Two such factors are what we’re told by Dr. Mom everyday: eat a proper balanced breakfast–the most important meal of the day–and exercise.

bee Breakfast in Japan (Okinawa)
A traditional Japanese breakfast emphasizes variety in taste, texture, temperature, colour and food groups. It is visually stimulating; respects the available local and seasonal ingredients; encourages a slower pace of eating and an appreciation for the ingredients and their preparation. It’s not about satisfying hunger–it’s about providing nutrition and energy. Compare that to a quick stop at IHOP, and you’ll see why, right from the get-go, the energy and enthusiasm of the Japanese people is significantly higher. At breakfast in Okinawa, I enjoyed steamed juice vegetables, tofu, rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, steamed fish, poached egg, seaweed, fruit juice and tea. This is not necessarily typical of Japanese today–nor is it easy to prepare– on a daily basis. However it is their traditional concept, and one that does not include oil, salt, butter, bread, sugar, cream, or even caffeine. None of the ingredients weigh a person down, but rather combine for a clean-energy, turbo kick-start to the day.

waka 2.43.14 AM One Step at a Time (Wakayama)
Maybe it’s because 70% of Japan is mountainous, and so many of the spiritual sites like temples and shrines are perched on high in natural settings that require countless steps, constructed before escalators and elevators were invented; but the Japanese people are walkers. When we walk to work, we burn calories; but when we walk in the park, surrounded by nature, we also reduce stress. Stress is the number one factor in so many of our modern ailments. It’s easy to go for a walk in the park, and it has so many beneficial physiological effects. Walking: for the sake of “being”, as opposed to “going” or “getting” somewhere. There is one place in Japan where people go simply to walk. It’s unlike any other walk in the world.

Registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo in Wakayama is a mountain range of “divine trees” in which a “walk” is considered “forest bathing”. There are quantifiable human effects on immersing ourselves in this region of highly concentrated phytoncides. After one day walking here, I felt the energy waka that I had as a kid. It was astonishing! Breathing in this air relaxes the heart rate, decreases levels of the stress-produced hormone, cortisol, and increases “immunoglobulin-A” antibodies that enhance human immune functions.

When we visit Japan we indulge in breakfast and the opportunity to walk through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. When we come home, we remember to appreciate eating a balanced breakfast and a good long walk in the park.

For more information go to: ilovejapan.ca

2 thoughts on “How to Live to 100”

    1. Thank you for your comment Bernie.

      The Okinawa diet is only one part of a whole lifestyle. We, in the west, are too concerned with singular ingredients rather than looking at a holistic approach to living. Many of the greens that Okinawans eat are high enough in fibre that they do not need to seek it out to add more to their diet. No one ingredient, no matter how healthy, is going to make a huge difference, because our “diet” only makes up one aspect of our lives. We need to focus more on how we metabolize life; and how we eat, not just what we eat.

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