If we want to find out how to improve our longevity, it's a pretty good idea to start by modeling off of those who already live a long time. Longevity science has found certain “blue zones” in which people tend to live longer on average than in other places. Today, we’ll be focusing on Japan -- more specifically, the island of Okinawa.
But first, a little bit more on blue zones. Blue zones are such named based on the fact that most of these extended lifespan locales tend to be located closer to bodies of water. Coincidence? Not exactly -- seafood is known to help improve lifespan, and many of the best vegetables and fruits for diets grow much better in seaside climates.
Since it appears that dieting seems to be a key factor, naturally we’ll want to focus on the Okinawan diet. Blue Zones Project research has shown that the diet primarily consists of three different foods: sweet potatoes, stir-fried vegetables, and tofu. If we look back to our experience with longevity diets, none of these foods are very surprising. Vegetables are always essential, and stir-frying in healthy oils (or water) helps improve taste without reducing the nutrient count. Tofu is well known as a great alternative protein source for those who are vegetarian or are otherwise trying to stay away from dangerous processed or red meats. Perhaps the only peculiar food in this list is sweet potatoes, which while being an excellent healthspan food are rarely mentioned in longevity-based diets. This mystery fades away, however, when we learn that sweet potatoes are the most abundant food in all of Okinawa.
But what about other factors of longevity? Well, we do know that Asian countries tend to follow filial structures, meaning that there are close ties to family throughout their life. However, Okinawans in particular have an additional advantage: moai is the name for a special social circle of friends among Okinawans which help further the social ties advantage. In addition, Japanese culture more generally follows the idea of ikigai, which helps build a roadmap for purpose in life. While purpose in life is not directly related to longevity, it does help build happiness and reduce stress, which both are major mental longevity factors.