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Eat to Live Longer: Nutrition Secrets of Okinawa

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Enjoy Eating

Make Meals More Social

Unlike Okinawans, Americans tend to focus more on getting through a meal than on enjoying it, according to Bradley Willcox, MD, one of the authors of The Okinawa Diet Plan (Clarkson Potter, 2004) and coprincipal investigator of the Okinawan Centenarian Study. "Americans look for convenience in the foods they eat, while Okinawans look for meaning," explains Dr. Willcox.

Sitting down to enjoy a meal with friends and family can help you take the focus off food as a source of emotional gratification. "If you can train yourself to enjoy mealtimes as a social activity that involves interaction with people you care about, you will eat more slowly and will likely make more thoughtful food selections," agrees Young. But it's not just the sitting down to eat that's important, it's also the preparation of the food. "Taking the time to prepare a meal can give it meaning," explains Young.

Eat Seasonally

Thanks to the globalization of food resources, it's quite possible to buy tomatoes in December and winter squash in July. In water-locked Okinawa, however, people traditionally eat more locally grown foods, and that means constantly changing their dietary intake. As a result, their food choices are fresher, riper, and more flavorful. "That constant change-up of nutrients may explain their resistance to chronic illness," says Dr. Willcox.

In America, the best way to eat more seasonally is to shop at your local farmer's market or join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. CSAs are local groups that allow you to buy a "share" in a local farm. In return, you'll get a weekly shipment of the farm's freshest offerings.

Next:  Don't Overindulge


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