The Okinawan Way to Health and Longevity

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Anyone who would like to increase their life span and improve their quality of life should watch the Netflix Series “Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones”. Author and travel expert Dan Buettner travels around the world to five communities where concentrations of centenarians are extraordinarily high. His quest is to discover what could be causing the residents of these Blue Zones to live so long compared to other areas.

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The journey begins in Okinawa Japan and outlines 6 characteristics specific to this population where people are vibrant and age gracefully.

It’s interesting that the first 3 involve nutrition.

Food is Medicine

Okinawans understand the importance of the quality of their food and how it impacts their overall health. They eat a variety of food including sweet potatoes, seaweed and tofu, and consume very little processed foods and sugar. 

Low Caloric Density

The traditional Okinawan diet is farm-to-table and 90% locally grown, nutrient dense, whole-plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Most of the foods they eat are not heavy on calories so they can consume a greater volume of food. The average Okinawan consumes approximately 2000 calories per day whereas the average American consumes closer to 3600 calories per day. That is a shocking difference and one of the main reasons why Americans suffer from such higher rates of obesity amongst our adults and children. 

Portion Control

Okinawans have a habit of only eating until they are 80% full. They don’t regularly stuff themselves, a habit that is all too common in America. 


Okinawans are an active population. Gardening is a common past time improving their muscle endurance, mobility and balance. Their houses often don’t have a lot of furniture, so they will read, eat, talk, and relax on the floor versus sitting in a chair. This requires them to bend down, squat and get back up again multiple times per day helping to maintain their lower body strength, joint health, and mobility. Whether it’s walking, tai chi, dance or gardening, Okinawans understand the importance of moving their bodies. 


Okinawans understand the importance of close connections with family and friends. They develop strong social support groups that last from childhood until their older years. The importance of getting together with others is often lost in America with many older adults feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Sense of Purpose

The Okinawans don’t even have a word for retirement. Instead they practice “Ikigai” which literally means ‘the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” They understand that even in your later years, everyone needs a sense of purpose to inspire them to literally get out of bed each morning. 

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan


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