With the keto diet gaining in popularity and fitness junkies pushing protein powders left and right, it seems plain and simple: Try to eat less carbs and more protein, right?
While refined carbs might not be the most nutritious option, there is reason to question whether we should really be irking carbs in general.
In fact, recent research suggests that rather than the protein-rich diets that have become commonplace lately might not actually be the most healthy.
Rather, in terms of life longevity, it seems that a high protein, low carb diet might actually be the optimal macronutrient breakdown.
In the Okinawa Islands of Japan, inhabitants enjoy the longest average lifespan of any culture on the planet. And while there might be a number of contributing factors to explain exactly why that is, the carb-heavy diet likely plays a part.
According to the BBC, the Okinawan ratio of 10:1 carbs to protein “sets off various physiological responses that protect us from various age-related illnesses – including cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Thus, Okinawan people are not only living longer, but they’re also remaining healthy and enjoying old age more than their counterparts around the world.
If you’ve been a protein-pusher recently, perhaps it’s time to give that a second thought and emulate the Okinawan diet for awhile as a test-run.
While all of this might sound like a free pass to stop for a croissant on the way to work, the Okinawan people actually get their carbs primarily from plant-based foods — further contributing to their overall health.
Rather than relying on rice as their main carbohydrate source, the people of Okinawa prefer sweet potatoes, combined with mostly yellow and green vegetables along with a fair share of seaweed.
Occasional animal products might be consumed, but when they are, they typically make up less than one percent of what is consumed, UC Davis reports.
So how can you adopt a few principles from the Okinawa diet in order to get the nutritional benefits that lead to a longer life?
The good news is, it’s relatively simple. Choose plants over processed foods, and aim to keep your diet full of whole foods.
Rather than worrying about calories, consider the nutritional density of the food you are consuming, and you’ll be surprised at just how good you can feel while consuming a mostly plant-based diet.
If you still need a little inspiration, follow this simple meal plan.
When you’re comfortable eating this way, you’ll naturally start to reach for fruits over processed carbs and knowing what will satiate your hunger will come more easily.
While this is a good place to start, feel free to make it your own, based on your lifestyle and what works best for you.
Sample Okinawan Meal Plan:
Breakfast: Baked Sweet Potato, topped with peanut butter and a glass of soy milk to drink
Lunch: Tofu stir fry with capsicum, squash and leafy greens
Snack: Miso Soup topped with Shitake mushrooms and dried seaweed
Dinner: Sweet Potato stuffed with lentils, mushrooms, a small serving of rice, tumeric and a fried egg on top
While it might seem a lot more limited in terms of what Okinawans eat, the principle is a good one to keep in mind.
Regardless of your decision to try it out or not, however, the Okinawan diet is a good reminder to make sure we’re getting in a fair share of fruits and vegetables.
Variety is the spice of life, and just like it might get tiring to eat a very protein-rich diet everyday, the same can be said for a carb-heavy diet.
The next time you’re in need of a reset though (cough: after the holidays), this might be a good page to turn back to.