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The Okinawan Diet

The Okinawan diet is named after a region in Japan which has the highest percentage of centenarions in the world.  The average life expectancy of Okinawans is higher than in most Western countries.  Many have attributed this to their diet and their attitude to food.   This diet has adopted many aspects of the Okinawan diet and adapted them to an easy-to-follow way of eating.


Weight-loss:   The average body mass index (BMI) of Okinawan people is 20 which is the lower end of the healthy spectrum.  The diet also includes a small number of calories but still enough to remain healthy.

Plenty of fruit and vegetables:  The Okinawan diet involves eating a lot of fruit and vegetables.  Ensure that you eat green, orange and yellow (GOY) fruit and vegetables as they all have different health benefits.  It also provides much more variety to your diet.

Not all rice:  Many believe that the Japanese diet includes a lot of rice.  While there is some rice in this diet it is recommended that you only have a little, and that is the same for all grains.  The Okinawans preferred carbohydrate is the purple sweet potato but all starchy carbs are good for our bodies.

Meat is included:  The Okinawan diet does include meat and seafood but only in small amounts.  It is recommended that some of your meals are completely vegetarian while others can include a small amount of meat or fish.  Also ensure that you are buying good quality meat.

Portion size is not the focus:  The Okinawan diet does not focus on the size of your portion but rather, mindful eating.  They believe you should consume food until you are 80% full. Therefore, if you are still hungry you should eat more.   As you lose weight your portion sizes will probably get smaller without you even realising.

You will be getting all you need:  The Okinawan diet does not completely cut out any of the food groups but just encourages you to have some in small amounts.  This means you will be getting all the nutrients and vitamins you need to stay healthy and you won’t have to take any supplements.


Cutting back on dairy:  The Okinawan diet does allow you to have limited dairy products but try to use almond or coconut milk as an alternative to cow’s milk.  However, perhaps that’s not so bad, as much of the cow’s milk available to us contains a lot of sugar or loses many of its nutrients through the pasteurization process.

Much of the meat in the Okinawan diet is pork:  Many people, for religious or health reasons, do not eat pork and this may lower your meat intake on this diet.  Okinawans also believe in eating the whole pig including its internal organs.

It will be hard to follow initially:   Many initially find it hard to have such small amounts of meat, dairy and grains.  The suggestion is to introduce one new vegetable a week.  Also, do not cut back on all other foods at once.  Begin by cutting back on meat and then move onto dairy and grains.

Conclusion: The Okinawan diet is primarily plant based but does allow small amounts of other foods too.  Evidence does suggest that following the Okinawan diet will prolong one’s life, especially when coupled with a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise.  The average life expectancy of those in the Okinawan region is more than those in the rest of Japan and considerably more than those in the Western world.  It may be a diet that will be hard to follow initially but there are many proven health benefits to be had when following the Okinawan diet.

    The Ornish Diet

    On the Ornish diet you eat mostly fruits, vegetables, and grains and very little fat.  However, the diet can vary as there are slight variations within this diet though it is mainly vegetarian.  It is thought that when done with exercise and stress relieving activities this diet will help you lose weight and make you healthier.  The Ornish diet excludes meat, oil, products containing oil, full-fat dairy and sugar.  This may seem like a lot of foods are excluded but there are many different and delicious Ornish diet recipes online.  The diet is not recommended for children, teenagers, pregnant women or mothers who are nursing.


    Proven weight-loss:  Many studies have been done on the Ornish diet and there is much evidence that it helps weight loss and also that many who follow the diet maintain a lower weight.

    Maintains heart health: The foods included in the diet are much better for your heart and when coupled with exercise the risk of heart disease is reduced.

    Less stress:  Part of following this diet is that it recommends doing something that reduces stress levels while eating healthier.  This may involve yoga or meditation but it can be something a lot simpler like spending time with your loved ones.

    You can still have alcohol:  The diet does not exclude alcohol as long as you only have it in moderation.

    There are different levels of the diet:  The diet groups foods into five groups with group one being the most healthy.  You can choose which group/s your food comes from and the groups makes it easy to find alternatives for unhealthy foods you usually eat.

    Less chance of feeling hungry:  The Ornish diet encourages you to eat as much as you want until you feel full.  Just ensure that you are eating the recommended healthy foods.


    Exercise is part of the diet:  To achieve the best results for weight loss as well as for your health it is recommended that you exercise while on this diet.  It is suggested that you exercise for 30 minutes five times a week or 60 minutes three times a week.

    Meals have to be planned:  If those following the Ornish diet don’t carefully plan their meals, there is a danger that they will not get all the recommended calories they need each day as well as certain nutrients and vitamins.

    Some find this diet hard to stick to:  If you are used to eating meat or foods that are high in fat you may find this diet very restrictive and hard to follow in the long term.

    Conclusion: The Ornish diet is vegetarian but this is not as restrictive as it initially seems.  Also the amount of food you eat on the Ornish diet is not restricted so you can eat until you feel full.  It is a great diet for weight-loss and promotes a healthy life-style.

      80/10/10 DIET

      The 80/10/10 diet is a low-fat, raw food, vegan diet which has the goal of getting 80% of your calories from carbs (primarily raw fruit), 10% from plant-based protein and 10% from fat.  While it  may seem like a restrictive diet you are still gaining carbohydrates, fat and protein and it definitely does help one lose weight.


      You can limit the amount of fat you eat: By sticking to the 80/10/10 ratios you can ensure that you are not taking in too many fats or eating too many fatty fruits and vegetables such as nuts and avocados.

      You can eat large quantities of food: Fruit and vegetables, which make up a large part of this diet, do not contain as many calories as other foods.  Therefore, to ensure you get a healthy amount of calories each day, eating large quantities of food on this diet is necessary.

      You eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables: It is well-known that fresh food and vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and this diet certainly ensures that you get your five a day.

      You do not eat processed foods:  Processed foods are very low in nutrients.  Many are also often referred to as junk food as they are not good for your health and promote weight gain.  The 80/10/10 diet completely excludes these foods.

      Lower health risks: Much research shows that eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables lowers the risk of many health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, dementia and certain types of cancer.


      The diet is very high in sugar: The diet will involve you eating a lot of fruits as they contain more calories than vegetables and you will need to meet your daily requirements.  Even though fruit contains natural sugar this can still be had in excess and can cause health problems.

      It is very low in fat:  While too much fat is not good for your health or weight loss, some fat is good for various things such as regulating your blood sugar, appetite and energy.  It also provides nutrients for your heart, brain and skin.  Many health professionals will recommend using this diet for a short period of time if you need to lose weight quickly but using this diet for a long period of time can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

      Large volumes of food:  While this may sound perfect when considering a diet, many struggle to eat the large amount required to remain healthy with the 80/10/10 diet.

      It is very low in protein: While research shows that too much fat in a diet is unhealthy, there is very little evidence to suggest that only 10% of your diet being protein is a healthy choice.

      Insufficient vitamin B12 and iodine levels: Both vitamin B12 and iodine are important to one’s metabolism and many of the foods that contain either B12 and iodine are excluded from the 80/10/10 diet.  Lack in B12 can lead to anemia, damage to the nervous system and infertility; while low iodine levels can lead to forgetfulness, low energy and depression.  Those following the 80/10/10 diet will need to take B12 and iodine supplements.

      Lack of evidence:  Those promoting the 80/10/10 diet will tell of the many health benefits of following this diet.  However, many of these health benefits are assumed or anecdotal and there is very little or no evidence to support these claims.

      It is difficult to sustain:  Following the 80/10/10 diet for long periods of time is challenging.  Continually eating large quantities of fruit will be difficult and as discussed there are potential health risks with following this diet for a long period of time. This diet is also very restrictive and could make occasions like eating at a restaurant problematic.

      Conclusion: While the 80/10/10 does help you lose weight and is good to follow for short periods of time many experts discourage anyone from following it in the long-term as there are many health risks.  There are many claims that there are significant benefits to this diet over and above losing weight but there is not much evidence to support those claims.



        Raw Food Diet

        The raw food diet is about eating mostly uncooked and unprocessed foods, this also includes anything that has been refined, canned, pasteurised, homogenised or produced with synthetic pesticides.  Also avoid foods with chemical additives.  The reason for this is to get all the nutrients and enzymes that are naturally in our food.  We need enzymes for all bodily functions and heating our food to any temperature more than 48°C (112°F) destroys the natural enzymes found in our food.  You may have heard this diet being called raw foodism and some call it raw veganism however it is not the same.  Raw foodism does allow animal products and includes raw egg and raw fish; raw veganism does not include any animal products.


        Weight-loss:  The raw food diet does result in weight-loss as there are less calories in raw food.  The raw food diet also excludes a lot of food connected with weight gain such as processed junk food and food with added sugar.

        You can begin slowly:  Not all your food has to be raw as long as most of what you eat is.  It has also been shown to be a much healthier option to switch to the raw food diet slowly as it gives your body time to adjust.  Therefore, you can start introducing more raw food slowly into your diet.

        It is easy to get your five a day: The raw food diet includes a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables so it will ensure that you are getting five a day

        Increased energy levels:  Those following the raw food diet have reported that they feel a lot more energetic and focused.  Others have reported that it has resulted in them having healthier skin and stronger hair and nails.

        Better digestion:  Research has shown that raw food is much easier for our bodies to digest than cooked food.  Difficult digestion can lead to a number of health problems.

        You can still have sweet food: The raw food diet can include some sweet foods and puddings.  There are many recipes available on the internet to satisfy your sweet tooth.


        Lack of research:  Though more research is being done, not all the reported health benefits can be backed by research.  Some are anecdotal or there is no evidence that a reported health benefit was directly linked to the raw food diet.

        Less calories:  Fewer calories does mean that the raw food diet does help with weight-loss but following it long-term can be dangerous.  It is extremely difficult to get all the calories one needs in a day from eating raw food.  This lack of calories leads to a huge loss in body fat which can lead to many serious health problems.  This diet must definitely be avoided by pregnant women and those with health problems should speak to their doctor first.

        You may have to take supplements: Though the raw food diet does not promote supplements your GP may recommend them as cutting out cooked food can result in some deficiencies.

        Conclusion: The raw food diet definitely has some benefits and is a great way to lose weight.  However, there are health risks connected to following this diet in the long-term.


          Vegan Diet

          The vegan diet excludes all foods that come from animals, this includes meat, dairy products and eggs or anything that contains these foods.  This may sound very restrictive and you may feel you would have to cut out too many foods however, there are many websites, books and blogs that contain delicious vegan recipes as well as suggestions about vegan alternatives to some of the non-vegan foods you enjoy.  As with all diets, the important thing to remember is that you must remain healthy.  Vegans are still required to eat at least five fruit and vegetables a day though this is easy to do with a vegan diet.  Make sure you eat dairy alternatives like soya milk and soya yoghurt.  Meals should still contain carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice.


          Weight-loss: There is extensive research to show that the vegan diet does result in weight loss and also reduces one’s BMI

          Lower blood sugar levels: Many studies show that those following the vegan diet have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets also lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.

          Many health benefits: Other research suggests that those following the vegan diet have less chance of developing high blood pressure or dying of heart disease.  Other observational studies suggest that the vegan diet lowers the risk of developing Alzeimer’s disease, poor kidney function and cancer.  The vegan diet can also lessen the symptoms of arthritis.  It is important to bear in mind that these are observational studies and more research will have to be done to determine if there is a direct link between the vegan diet and some of the health benefits mentioned here.

          You can begin slowly: If you would like to follow a vegan diet but feel that it would be difficult to cut out so many foods at once you could begin slowly.  For example, eat vegan for two days a week and then slowly increase this as and when you feel you can.  This will also help you to discover delicious vegan recipes at your own pace.


          A lot of initial research: To begin with, the vegan diet will require some research to determine what food you can eat and if not, whether there is an alternative.  You will find that your change in food choices will become habit and you will stop realising that you are cutting out many foods you used to buy.

          You may have to take supplements: A big concern that many have about the vegan diet is whether they will they get enough protein and iron without any meat or animal products.  All beans and pulses contain protein and iron.  Other vegan foods that contain iron are nuts, some breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread and dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli.  It is a good idea to talk to your GP as they may suggest that you take an iron supplement as well.  There is one vitamin that is only found in animal products and that is B12.  B12 keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, and deficiencies could result in a number of health problems.  Again, speak to your GP about a B12 supplement.

          Having to carefully plan your meals and snacks:  It is important to plan your vegan diet as an unplanned diet may result in one developing a certain deficiency, so do ensure that you are getting all you need.

          Conclusion: The vegan diet is becoming more popular, especially among some celebrities, and as such more and more research is being done.  It is showing signs of having a number of health benefits and it has been proven to be very effective with weight-loss.