For another year, Japanese women have the longest life-span of any people in the world. Interestingly, among the top of longest-living groups of women in the world, some were Asian, some European. America obviously was somewhat lower.
Given that my wife is a Japanese woman, and I am an overweight1 American male, we often joke that I will go first. It’s a joke of course, but the way things are looking, she will very likely outlast me. I remember once in a World Populations class in college, studying about how women tend to live about 5 years longer than men on average, for reasons unknown, and the figures here seem to reflect that.
I asked my wife why she thinks Japanese women live so long. She attributed it to eating more vegetables and less butter/fat than a Western diet. I like her cooking a lot, and I definitely eat more veggies than I ever did before we married, so she may be on to something. Her parents are not vegetarian, but do eat very little meat in general and lots of veggies, especially tsukemono (漬物, pickled vegetables). That’s a good diet to emulate I think.2
On the other hand, since many of the top groups in the article are also European groups, European diets seem to work well too.
The lesson here I think is eating a balanced (read: lots of veggies) diet and reasonable portions. Also, not eating too much red meat, or cutting it out altogether seems like a good approach. Better yet, reduce meat consumption overall.
Anyways, I have my wife to thank for improvements in diet. If I keep eating like her and her family, perhaps I’ll still beat the odds and the two of us can have a nice long, life together. :)
P.S. Among Japanese, Okinawans supposedly have the longest lifespan of all. People attribute this to thinks like kurosu (黒酢) or “black vinegar” or their consumption of pork rather than beef. Also, the famous gōyā (ゴーヤー bitter gourd) is another one people attribute to Okinawan health. I tried black vinegar one time in Seattle with a good work buddy and it was pretty good but a little thick and strong. Possibly the good weather, lovely views and close-knit culture might help too to reduce stress. Who knows?
1 I used to be obese, as based on the BMI index, but a daily 45-minute walking commute (one-way) to work, plus lots of hackey-sack on lunch breaks, plus better food quality in the EU has helped me lose about 15 pounds, and my fat % dropped by 7%.
2 I tried being vegetarian for a bit while living here in the EU, but it was even harder than in Seattle. When I made a business trip to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, options were limited. A good friend in the UK told me he had similar difficulties in France. Fantastic food, just not a lot of vegetarian options in mainland Europe.