Searching for the secret to a long life? One word: Okinawa. The island has the highest concentration of centenarians in the world, so what could be better for your mind, body and soul than a week or two basking in these blissful cerulean waters, exploring this underrated archipelago, and giving your bod the health boost it needs in the process? Here are the superfoods to look out for…
Walk into any Japanese supermarket and you can’t help but notice this rather strange looking, lumpy green cucumber stacked on the shelves in abundance. Despite its unusual appearance, bitter melon, or goya, is a superfood-and-a-half. It’s packed with vitamins and nutrients, including one phytonutrient which can lower blood sugar levels.
Supercharged sweet potatoes
This could be the number one weapon in a typical Okinawan armoury. The bright purple imo might taste sweet, but unlike a regular white potato, it doesn’t cause a great spike in blood sugar. You can use the leaves as greens in miso soup, and it has 150% more antioxidants than blueberries—including one called sporamin which will keep you forever young (almost).
Head to Okinawa and you’re sure to be welcomed with a cup of steaming hot turmeric tea. Not your typical beach thirst quencher, but give this spice a chance: it’s been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties, as well as being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Our favourite quality? Its ability to mimic caloric restriction. Hello bikini body.
Surf the seaweed wave
Seaweed packs a serious health punch. A naturally low-calorie and nutrient-rich addition to your diet, it’s not hard to see why Okinawans are so fond of it. Kombu and wakame are the most popular kinds, and you’ll see them cropping up in all sorts of soups and stews. As well as their fair share of vitamins and minerals, they’re full of special compounds found only in sea plants that work as effective antioxidants at the cellular level. Excellent.
Shiitake mushrooms are a rare source of vitamin D, and they are also high in B vitamins. Some shiitake health benefits include its ability to support cardiovascular health, aid weight loss, fight cancer cells, improve energy levels and brain function, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system. That’s all we need, right? Island natives love this fungi and it’s a key staple in miso soup and stir-fries.
Like their mainland counterparts, Okinawans are big on tofu. They eat it with everything. Fortunately, tofu, being made of soy, is known for its heart-protection properties. Replacing soy with milk lowers your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing your risk of heart disease. It also tastes pretty damn good.