Sweet Potato, Sweet Story
Sweet potato and healthy aging in Okinawa
World’s best diets are linked to longer lives. The Okinawan diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. People in Okinawa live longer compared to other places. The root vegetable sweet potato (kamote) is the main food item eaten in Okinawa, Japan. Their typical diet consists of 69% sweet potato and the rest include mainly green and yellow vegetables, soybean-based foods, and medicinal plants.
The traditional Okinawan diet, believed to be the reason for their long lives has this pattern: 85% carbohydrates (mainly sweet potato), 9% protein, 6% fat, and 2% saturated fat, moderate to high sodium and high potassium. The staple food is sweet potato and not rice or other grains. They eat lots of vegetables, soya products and fish and eat less dairy products.
The sweet-tasting kamote comes in different colors. Kamote belongs to the morning-glory family of plants. More than half of the caloric intake of people in Okinawa is supplied by this tuberous root. Kamote accompanies almost every meal of the Okinawans. The plant is easily grown, hardy and can thrive even in severe climates. No wonder sweet potato has become their main calorie source.
Sweet potato is high in dietary fiber. The recommended daily fiber intake is 25 grams. Each 100 grams of sweet potato contains as much as 13.5 grams. In addition to carbohydrates, it has proteins, rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B and vitamin C. Kamote can lower the level of bad cholesterol in the blood and increase good cholesterol, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
For better health, let’s listen to the sweet story of the glorious sweet potato. To celebrate long life, eat the orange, white, purple or yellow kamote just like what the Okinawans do.
Willcox DC, Scapagnini G, Willcox B. Healthy aging diets other than the Mediterranean: A focus on the
Okinawan diet. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 136-137 (2014) 148–162.
FNRI. Daily consumption of camote can lower bad cholesterol, says expert 14 May 2013. http://www.pchrd.dost.gov.ph