Sunday, March 27, 2005

Mens sana in corpore sano
If you are to read just one book about maintaining your health, I suggest you read The Okinawa Program by Bradley Wilcox, Craig Wilcox and Makoto Suzuki. The book is a documentation of healthy lifestyle practices in Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture. People in Okinawa live longer than anyone in the planet. There are 600 centenarians out of a population of 1.3 million in the prefecture, the highest proportion of centenarians in the world: 39.5 for every 100,000 people. The centenarians studied by the authors in a span of 25 years have verifable birth certificates, and they continue to live active lives.

The longevity of the Okinawans also cannot be attributed to simply superior genes. Okinawans who migrated to the United States and Canada (and changed their lifestyles) do not live quite as long as their friends who remained in the island.It would also be erroneous to say that the centenarians in Okinawa live especially charmed lives. Okinawa is the poorest region in Japan, and during World War II, it lost one citizen in every four.

So what are the people in Okinawa doing right? They eat well, they eat little (again the importance of caloric restriction), they're surrounded by lots of loving family members and they're spiritual.

The Okinawa Program is not just your usual diet book (although it has plenty of recipes at the end). Wilcox is a doctor trained at the Mayo Clinic and a geriatrics fellow at Harvard. The second Wilcox , his brother, is a medical anthropologist. Suzuki is a professor in Okinawa and the principal investigator of the Okinawa Centenarian Study. What I find especially comforting about the book is its copious endnotes. Unlike most health books in the market (most of them espousing pseudo science), THe Okinawa Program is heavily referenced. If you are, for example, in doubt of the specific findings being related to you by the authors, you can go check out the original medical journal articles if you so desire and judge for yourself.

If you're too busy to read the book, or too hard up to get one, here are some of the health tips I learned from the book:

1) Eat lots and lots of tofu. It is extremely nutritious and because of its ridiculously low level of calories, it won't make you fat. It is also low in the Glycemic Index, making it a healthy source of carbohydrates.

2) Buy jasmine tea rather than green tea. Jasmine tea has just about the same flavonoids as green tea, but with the added benfit of lignans. If you're hooked on coffee because of its caffeine, switching to tea is not exactly detrimental to your working energy because tea also has caffeine, albeit only half of that of coffee. But what's wrong with drinking two cups of tea instead of one? You get same amount of caffeine with plenty of antioxidants on the side. A very good bargain.

3)Use canola oil as your cooking oil. It is better than the pricey olive oil because it is lower in saturated fats but higher in monounsaturates, which help reduce your bad cholesterol while at the same time boosting your good cholesterol.

4)Join a club or organization. Interaction with different people will give you more friends and is also good for your personal longevity.

5)Eat legumes, ampalaya, camote.

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