Okinawa diet may hold the key to longevity - what is it and why is it regarded ...

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Residents of Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, are famed for their long life expectancy, high numbers of centenarians, and accompanying low risk of age-associated diseases. Much of the longevity advantage in Okinawa is thought to derive from the region's traditional diet. According to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Okinawa diet is "low in calories yet nutritionally dense, especially with regard to phytonutrients in the form of antioxidants and flavonoids."

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Phytonutrients are plant chemicals and flavonoids are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.

Antioxidants are substances that may reduce the risk of many diseases (including heart disease and certain cancers).

Fruit and veg are loaded with antioxidants and the Okinawa diet emphasises these dietary components.

In fact, research suggests that diets associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases are similar to the traditional Okinawan diet, that is, vegetable and fruit heavy (therefore phytonutrient and antioxidant rich) but reduced in meat, refined grains, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and full-fat dairy products.

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READ MORE: How to live longer: The four habits you need to change to help boost your longevity

Okinawa diet, which is low in calories yet nutritionally dense, may hold the keyLongevity: Okinawa diet, which is low in calories yet nutritionally dense, may hold the key (Image: Getty Images)

Many of the characteristics of the diet in Okinawa are shared with other healthy dietary patterns, such as the traditional Mediterranean diet or the modern DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

"Features such as the low levels of saturated fat, high antioxidant intake, and low glycemic load in these diets are likely contributing to a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and other chronic diseases through multiple mechanisms, including reduced oxidative stress," states the journal article.

Research conducted into the specific features of the Okinawa diet suggests the low calorie aspect of the diet may play a key role in

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