Volume 1: Issue #15
Is This Obscure Vegetable the Real Secret
of the Longest-Living People on Earth?
The Japanese islanders of Okinawa enjoy one of the world’s longest life expectancies and have the highest concentration of people over the age of 100 to be found anywhere.
Far from being decrepit, the Okinawans are fit and active well into old age. Daily activities include lots of walking, traditional dancing, strenuous gardening, and karate classes.
Compared to those of us living in the West, they enjoy up to 80% less coronary artery disease, 80% less breast and prostate cancer, 50% less ovarian and colon cancer, healthier bone density and much lower rates of stroke and dementia.
What’s their secret? Keep reading. . .
Most likely no single factor explains their longevity, but there’s one staple of their diet that stands out. The Okinawans eat over one pound of a tasty vegetable every day.
It’s the purple sweet potato.
“Powerhouses of nutrition”
Craig Wilcox, Professor of International Public Health and Gerontology at Okinawa International University has studied the islanders for two decades.
“Sweet potatoes,” he reports, “have been a go-to food for the Okinawans for a long time…they are powerhouses of nutrition.”
“It’s not an ice cream truck that visits your street, it’s the sweet potato truck…and Okinawans love purple sweet potato ice cream.”
A one-hundred-year-old islander who enjoys riding around the streets on his motor scooter praised the vegetable saying, “It makes me feel…really refreshed.”
But what is so special about the purple sweet potato?
Potent protection from a host of diseases
The reason it’s a miracle food, according to Professor Wilcox, is because the vegetable is very high in a particular group of plant nutrients called anthocyanins.
Anthocyanin pigments give this variety of sweet potato its intense color. These phytonutrients have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They neutralize free radicals that damage cell membranes and DNA. Free radicals play a major role in causing degenerative disease, as you probably know.
Anthocyanins also work with vitamin C and other antioxidant nutrients to stimulate the production of collagen, the structural component of connective tissue. This strengthens blood vessels.
There’s more: They also promote vasodilation and inhibit platelet aggregation. These effects open the blood vessels to increase blood flow, help maintain healthy blood pressure, and thin the blood to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.
As well as beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, lab research shows anthocyanins and foods high in them offer protection against amyloid brain plaques – the hallmark of Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline, diabetes, cancer, liver dysfunction, eyesight disorders, and pathogenic infections.
Other foods high in anthocyanins
The Okinawa variety of purple sweet potato is not available in the US, but another type, called Stokes and grown in California, is available from late August through April and can be purchased in groceries nationwide. You can buy a variety grown in Hawaii online.
For those who are not keen on making the purple sweet potato a staple of their diet, dark-pigmented red, blue and purple fruits are rich in these compounds, particularly berries.
At the top of the list are chokeberries, usually called aronia these days. As shown by tests of hundreds of foods, aronia berries are the highest known food in anthocyanins.
Other good sources include red grapes, blueberries, bilberries, elderberries, red currants, cherries, black currants, black raspberries and blackberries. Red cabbage and eggplant are good vegetable sources.
While I can’t guarantee you’ll tear up the highway riding your Harley Davidson in your hundredth year, with a regular intake of anthocyanin-rich foods you’ll certainly reduce the risk of degenerative disease and promote good physical and mental health at the same time.