It's sometimes hard to believe that Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world, as they are generally heavy smokers and work very long hours. The people from Okinawa, which is the southern most part of Japan, have the greatest number of people over 100 years of age (centurians) in the world.

Every since it was discovered the almost miraculous longevity of Okinawans, doctors and researchers have been visiting the Okinawa Islands to discover what their "secrets" of a long life really are.

Okinawans age slower and suffer less from chronic illness than any other country. Their bodies are lean and have a youthful appearance.

Certainly diet plays a central role in keeping free of disease and living a long life. Okinawans eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, tofu and just a little meat. They don't overindulge and stick to a rule of only eating until they are eighty per cent full.

During and after world war two, Okinawans lived in poverty. It is this hardship which helped them to develop a simple and healthy diet, based mainly on natural ingredients. Okinawa being made up of islands, means that fish makes up a large part of their diet also. Fish contains high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

One food which is fairly unique to Okinawa is "goya" or bitter melon. Goya is rich in viatimin C and can help against high blod pressure, diabetes and cancer.

Most emphasis seems to be placed on the diet of the Okinawans, but there are certainly other factors which have an influence on their longetivity. Okinawans live mostly in villages and live a fairly stress free and relaxed rural way of life. Okinawa is blessed with beautiful waters and country side.

The rural way of life means that Okinawans have a strong sense of community. Sharing the joys and hardships of life together in their community. Older people are respected in their communities and they play an important part in their village life.

While Okinawans' diets, have a strong influence on their longetivity, other factors such as a strong community, relatively stress free lifestyle and the respect that elderly people receive in Okinawa also plays an important role. Even if was can't quit our jobs, move to an island and work as fisherman to live a longer life, at least we can adapt some aspects of the Okinawan life to our own.