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The World’s Oldest Woman Reveals Her Secrets To Long Life

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The World’s Oldest Woman Reveals Her Secrets To Long Life

Misao Okawa, until April 1, 2015, when she passed away peacefully in her sleep from heart failure at age 117, was the world’s oldest woman. She was born on March 5, 1898 and lived in Osaka Japan. When asked about her secret to long life, she replied that she ate delicious food.

Perhaps the most obvious factor contributing to a long life is good nutrition, but there must be a combination of things that will promote a long and healthy life. Perhaps Misao Okawa embodied the perfect combination of excellent genetics coupled with behavior and lifestyle, which contributed to her long life. In fact, it is widely known that the Japanese generally have long lives that are often relatively healthy. There are a number of factors which contribute to why the Japanese have such longevity, including healthy diets, an equal and cohesive society combining both traditional and ancient customs with ultra-modern lifestyle, values, and technology. They have universal health care and the people tend to look after one another, especially within families, where the younger generation will care for the aged.

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Here are some of the secrets that may have contributed to Misao Okawa’s very long life.

Diet

Misao Okawa was quoted as saying that her main secret to a long life was “eating delicious things,” including beef, noodles, and rice. It is widely recognized that the Japanese diet, consisting mostly of fish, rice, fruit, and vegetables is not only delicious, but incredibly healthy. Nutritionist blogger Catherine Saxelby says:

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“The traditional Japanese diet, with its emphasis on vegetables, seafood, soy, clear broth, rice, green tea and seaweed, is a semi-vegetarian diet with less fat, less sugar and more antioxidants…

In the midst of a global obesity epidemic, the Japanese have the lowest obesity rates in the developed world, as well as lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some (but not all) cancers.” Catherine Saxelby.

Rest

Misao Okawa once told interviewers that sleeping and relaxing were important to living a long life. Countless studies have shown that insomnia and sleep disturbance accelerates as we age. Learning to relax by having long, restful, and quality sleep allows the body and mind to function optimally. Sleep improves your heart health and reduces the risk of heart attack. It boosts your immune system, improves your memory, lowers your risk of stroke, makes you happier and reduces depression, as well as a number of other health benefits. Rest is a huge contributing factor to a long life.

Exercise

Japanese people stay active. Radio Calisthenics (Taiso) has been practiced in Japan for decades. Basic stretching and movement exercises are broadcast widely, accompanied by piano music, and as much as 20% of the population, regardless of age, participates first thing in the morning. It happens in workplaces, schools, and in the community, and is a great way for people to keep fit. Exercise is a very important factor in maintaining health of the body and mind and living a long life.

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Moderate alcohol consumption

Surprisingly, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages does have some health benefits. In Japan, people drink Sake, which is fermented rice wine. Perhaps balancing the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption is a factor in having a long life.

Universal health care

In Japan, whether you are employed, unemployed, or retired, you are covered by one of the tiers of health insurance. It ensures equality of access, which means nobody will ever be denied health care, regardless of their age, income, or location. Japan’s spending on health care is around half of that of US expenditures on public or private health care. It demonstrates that the universal health care system in the long run ensures people need it less.

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Social equality and cohesion

Japanese society is made up of both ancient and traditional customs, intersected with ultra-modern and technologically advanced culture. In an article about longevity in Japan, Jamie Anders discusses the research conducted by Shiro Horiuchi that outlines the way in which Japanese people value group cohesion and community spirit. He argues that they have high self esteem and therefore better health because they value a sense of belonging and a strong group orientation. In this vein, they work together to live longer lives.

Featured photo credit: immortal.org via immortal.org

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Diane Koopman

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Last Updated on January 27, 2022

5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

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5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

Food plays an integral role in our lives and rightfully so: the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. You can learn a lot about a particular culture by exploring their food. In fact, it may be difficult to fully define a culture without a nod to their cuisine.

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825).

Don’t believe me? Here’s why food is the best way to understand a culture:

Food is a universal necessity.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. And your societal culture most likely evolved from that very need, the need to eat. Once they ventured beyond hunting and gathering, many early civilizations organized themselves in ways that facilitated food distribution and production. That also meant that the animals, land and resources you were near dictated not only what you’d consume, but how you’d prepare and cook it. The establishment of the spice trade and the merchant silk road are two example of the great lengths many took to obtain desirable ingredients.

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Food preservation techniques are unique to climates and lifestyle.

Ever wonder why the process to preserve meat is so different around the world? It has to do with local resources, needs, and climates. In Morocco, Khlea is a dish composed of dried beef preserved in spices and then packed in animal fat. When preserved correctly, it’s still good for two years when stored at room temperature. That makes a lot of sense in Morocco, where the country historically has had a strong nomadic population, desert landscape, and extremely warm, dry temperatures.

Staples of a local cuisines illustrate historical eating patterns.

Some societies have cuisines that are entirely based on meat, and others are almost entirely plant-based. Some have seasonal variety and their cuisines change accordingly during different parts of the year. India’s cuisine is extremely varied from region to region, with meat and wheat heavy dishes in the far north, to spectacular fish delicacies in the east, to rice-based vegetarian diets in the south, and many more variations in between.

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The western part of India is home to a group of strict vegetarians: they not only avoid flesh and eggs, but even certain strong aromatics like garlic, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Dishes like Papri Chat, featuring vegetable based chutneys mixed with yoghurt, herbs and spices are popular.

Components of popular dishes can reveal cultural secrets.

This is probably the most intriguing part of studying a specific cuisine. Certain regions of the world have certain ingredients easily available to them. Most people know that common foods such as corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chocolate are native to the Americas, or “New World”. Many of today’s chefs consider themselves to be extremely modern when fusing cuisines, but cultural lines blended long ago when it comes to purity of ingredients.

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Black pepper originated in Asia but became, and still remains, a critical part of European cuisine. The Belgians are some of the finest chocolatiers, despite it not being native to the old world. And perhaps one of the most interesting result from the blending of two cuisines is Chicken Tikka Masala; it resembles an Indian Mughali dish, but was actually invented by the British!

Food tourism – it’s a whole new way to travel.

Some people have taken the intergation of food and culture to a new level. No trip they take is complete with out a well-researched meal plan, that dictates not only the time of year for their visit, but also how they will experience a new culture.

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So, a food tourist won’t just focus on having a pint at Oktoberfest, but will be interested in learning the German beer making process, and possibly how they can make their own fresh brew. Food tourists visit many of the popular mainstays for traditional tourism, like New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris, but many locations that they frequent, such as Armenia or Laos, may be off the beaten path for most travelers. And since their interest in food is more than meal deep, they have the chance to learn local preparation techniques that can shed insight into a whole other aspect of a particular region’s culture.

Featured photo credit: Young Shih via unsplash.com

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