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by Pat Blackett
The majority of the island`s inhabitants stay lean throughout their lives because they eat fewer calories than they burn off throughout the day. Maintaining a stable weight is important to longevity. In Okinawa serving sizes are half to two-thirds what they are in the West.
The traditional Okinawa diet has very little salt and pork, and loads of green leafy vegetables. The major source of protein is not meat but soy foods such as tofu and miso.
Okinawans consume large quantities of sweet potato. Studies suggest that the flavonoids in sweet potato, coupled with traditional soy foods such as tempeh, help the body stay in preservation mode rather than reproductive mode.
Beyond the nutrients
Okinawans look for meaning in the way they eat. Sitting down to enjoy a meal with friends and family helps take the focus off food as a source of emotional gratification.
The Okinawa people are usually farmers and fisher folk, and they never retire. Even though their range of movement decreases, they`re still engaged in society. They tend to have strong personalties, don`t hold grudges, and have optimistic attitudes.
Okinawa culture is like the four legs of a chair - diet, exercise, mood, and participation in society. Older people are not less valuable but more valuable, and the social support within the villages uplifts the spirits of their inhabitants.
Bringing Okinawa to you
Kuten gwa - "Small portions"
Hara hachi bu - "Eat until 80 percent full only"
Nuchi gusui - "Eat as though food has healing power"
Mealtimes - Train yourself to enjoy mealtimes as a social activity that involves interaction with people you care about, this makes you eat more slowly and you will make more thoughtful food selections. Taking time to prepare a meal gives it meaning.
Eat seasonally - In water-locked Okinawa people eat what they grow and that means constantly changing their dietary intake. Their food choices are therefore fresher, riper and have more flavour. Theyâ€™re less likely to get bored with broccoli because it is available only for a short period of time. The constant change of nutrients may help explain their remarkable resistance to chronic illness. If you canâ€™t grow your own food then you can shop at your local farmerâ€™s market.
Drink plenty of green tea - Okinawans drink copious amounts of this health giving tea.
Spice things up - The Okinawa diet uses a lot of spices, like turmeric, mugwort and peppers. This tradition for spicy dishes probably dates back to the 1400s when the island was part of the spice trade.
Soup and more soup - If there`s one Okinawan dish that characterizes calorie density, it`s broth-based soup. Miso, soba (buckwheat noodle), nankwa nbushi (pumpkin), tsumire (fish croquette), pumpkin (nankwa nbushi, almost a stew), kelp or seafood broth are standards in Okinawa. Served as a first course, they are filling and nutritious and naturally curb hunger for higher-calorie entrees.
Eat up your veg - Meals should be packed with nutrient-dense, calorie-starved foods such as soy, fruits, vegetables, sprouts, broth-based soups, seaweed, sweet potatoes, lean poultry and fish, beans, grains and yoghurt. You need to measure and eat sparingly when it comes to breads, cheese, oil, nuts, meats and sweets.
Feel like you are a part of things - Make sure you feel part of your community. Join local activities and keep in touch with people in your neighbourhood from all the different age groups, not just your own.
More water, less salt - Check labels to make sure sodium levels are low and try to stop adding salt to food whilst cooking and at the table. Okinawa residents consume only 3 teaspoons of salt per day. On the other hand, drink at least 6 glasses of water per day. Drinking water before meals will help fill you up and keep portions down.
Take time out - Lower your stress levels by chilling out each day for 30 minutes. Listen to soothing music, have a relaxing bath, or use essential oils.
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