Okiwana proverbs say that Okinawan cuisine «begins with pig and ends with pigs» and «every part of a pig  can be eaten except its hooves and its oink».

Okinawa is the name for the island of Okinawa (Okinawa Shima) and the name of the 47th prefecture of Japan (Okinawa Ken) which includes not only the main island of Okinawa but also the southern islands of the Ryukyu archipelago. The prefecture comprises nearly one hundred small subtropical islands: 44 are populated and about 117 are inhabited coral reefs.

It became famous worldwide because elderly Okinawans enjoyed the longest life expectancy in the world and the world´s longest health expectancy. Since the completion of the Human Genome Project and the HapMap Project (a project to identify common variations in human genes), a promising novel strategy by some human longevity  reserchers to create new therapies and prevent or treat age-associated diseases and perhaps even slow aging itself. Moreover, some  other studies focused on elderly Okinawans demonstrate that genetic factors appear important to their longevity as well as environmental and lifestyle advantages such as diet, focused exercise and relax.

Okinawa diet is a low-caloric, low-salt and nutrient-rich diet whose main supply comes from pork. According to Naommichi Ishige (Kikkoman Corporation), «the people of okinawa traditionally practiced a shamanistic form of religion and remained largely outside  the influence of Buddhism, which was prevalent elsewhere throughout Japan. Whereas those on the main islands avoided meat until about the middle of the nineteenth century, pork and goat were long a customary part of the Okinawan diet, unencumbered by Buddhist injunctions against meat. Japan currently boasts the longest average lifespan in the world, and until recently, the longest-living individuals were residents of Okinawa. One key to okinawan longevity lies in the consumption of pork, which permits the absorption of balanced amounts of animal protein and fat. The sweet potato or benilmo, the staple food, is rich in dietary fiber and vitamins, while the many types of seaweed harvested from the sea around Okinawa provide a plentiful supply of minerals».

The other ingredients in this diet are fruit and vegetables: goya/bitter melon, hechima/luffa, shekwasha, bean products such as tofuyo and white and brown rice.

Joan Clarke wrote an article called «Unique Tastes of Okinawa» in The Honolulu Advertiser (1999) about Okinawan food and Chef Masarn «Steve»  Yamada.

According to Clarke, «pork is important to the Okinawan diet,  a food tradition borrowed from the Chinese and preferred, as it is in many island nations, because the land lacks an abundance of grazing land.  All part of the pig were used, often preserved in salt so that the meat could provide nourishment for many months.  “There’s an Okinawan joke that the only thing you cannot use of the pig is the pig’s cry when it’s about to be slaughtered,” said Yamada.

Rafute (recipe) is a classic pork dish, in which the meat is simmered for several hours in stock and soy, resulting in a tender soy-glazed pork punctuated with accents of ginger.  Numerous pork and vegetable combinations are served with a bowl of rice – for example, pork, goya or bitter melon and eggplant chanpuru, seasoned with miso.  Other notable dishes from the pig include pigs feet soup, spare ribs and nakami, or intestine soup.

Pork also flavors soups for soba dishes, another common dish of Okinawan cuisine, but made with wheat flour rather than buckwheat noodles.

Okinawa centenarians enjoy the world´s longest life expectancy and escape or delay the chronic diseases of ageing. So they  enjoy a «youthful»  ageing because they have  low blood levels of free radicals, low cardiovascular risk, low risk for hormone-dependent cancers, low dementia rate, low osteoporosis risk, more natural menopause, more youthful hormones.

Therefore, who can deny  eating pork is healthy?….

Bibliography: Okinawa Centenarian Study,;  Clarke, Joan, «Cuisine derived partly from Japan», The Honolulu Advertiser, section D «Island Life»,(July 28, 1999) ; Ishige, Naomichi. «Okinawa: Land of Longevity».The Japanesse Table, Food Forum. Kikkoman Cor

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