Japan's Okinawa Diet, Decoded

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Everyone wants the secret to living longer. In Japan, they’ve come close to discovering it.

At 84.7 years, the life expectancy in Japan is the second-highest in the world. (Monaco is first.) Okinawa, the largest of Japan’s southernmost Ryukyu Islands, has something even more impressive: one of the globe’s highest concentrations of centenarians, with 6.5 people in every 10,000 living to 100. (The U.S. has just 1.73.) Longevity expert Dan Buettner, who studied Okinawans for his 2015 book, The Blue Zones Solution, says some of their resilience can be attributed to the local diet, which is rich in tofu (a protein with minimal saturated fats), sweet potatoes (a low-glycemic carbohydrate), turmeric (reduces inflammation), and melon (good for digestion and blood sugar). But food isn’t a cure-all. It’s common to see 90-year-olds traveling by foot, socializing (loneliness shaves years off your life), and helping in the community. “They tend to be venerated,” Buettner says. “That’s not so common in other places.”