There is no ultimate secret to eternal youth. But there are certain practices that can help us age gracefully and preserve the youthful glowing complexion that we all desire. Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of the oldest anti-ageing secrets practised by the locals of the Okinawan Islands in Japan.
“Eat until you are 80 percent full.”
What is Hara Hachi Bu?
Also known as “hara hachi bun me”, hara hachi bu in direct translation to English means “belly 80 percent full”, and is a Confucian way of life that involves eating only until you are 80 percent full each day. It has been practised by Okinawans in Japan since the early 21st century, and they are reported to be the only human population in the world to have a self-inculcated habit of restricting their daily calorie intake. Their daily consumption is 1,800 to 1,900 calories, and their elders have maintained a healthy BMI between the range of 18 and 22. Okinawa also has the highest number of centenarians in the world.
According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the average Malaysian adult consumes between 2,500 to 2,900 calories daily, as compared to 1,500 and 2,000 recommended for women and men respectively. That means we are essentially consuming 500 to 900 extra calories than is required in a day, and if left unchecked in the long run without regular exercise would lead to chronic diseases like heart problems and diabetes. Our Minister of Health Subramaniam Sathasivam stated that “it is easier to reduce the intake of food, rather than burning the calories after eating.” That being said, we need to start making dietary changes now if we are to eradicate obesity-related diseases in the future.
An Antioxidant-Rich Diet
The traditional diet of Okinawans consists of 30 percent yellow and green vegetables, and involves consuming smaller quantities of rice than the traditional Japanese diet. Their staple carb is the purple-fleshed Okinawan sweet potato, which is chock full of polyphenols and antioxidants that stave off degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disorders. The diet also takes up only 30 percent of sugar and 15 percent of grains of the average Japanese diet. Additionally, protein typically consists of less than half a serving of fish per day, as well as in the form of soy and legumes (which are low in fat, and high in fibre and protein). Pork was also consumed, including the collagen-rich areas like the skin and intestine.
It takes our stomach stretch receptors 20 minutes to tell our brain how full it actually is. But how do you tell when you’re 80 percent full? According to dietician Susan Dopart, it can take 15 to 20 meals for the average person to reset the stomach’s muscle memory and adapt to smaller quantities of food. She suggests eating half of what you normally eat, and stop to check how you feel. Once you start to feel any form of stomach pressure, you have reached the 80 percent full stage. Her advice is to “eat until you’re no longer hungry, instead of eating until you’re full.” This method of calorie restriction is a great way to prevent obesity without going hungry.
Besides having an extended lifespan, how does all this translate to a glowing complexion for Okinawans?
Based on a study by US and Okinawan physicians, it was found that the people of Okinawa had no reported case of acne or any form of skin disease whatsoever. The rich concentration of Vitamins A, B, E, K, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, antioxidants, phytoestrogens and carotenoids in their diet has helped their bodies to cope with oxidative stress. An important finding to note is that acne patients tend to have low levels of antioxidants and phytoestrogens (in the form of birth control pills) are used to manage acne. In addition to flawless glowing skin, Okinawans have good teeth, a slim build, strong healthy hair, and even maintain lucidity well into old age.
Something to think about over our next meal perhaps!
Original article “Fountains of Youth” featured in the May issue of Marie Claire Malaysia.