A SWEET potato-heavy diet could be the secret to a long life.
Traditionally imported to Ireland from the US, the red-skinned cousin of the old Irish staple has grown in popularity over the last few years.
And now a traditional Japanese diet dating back centuries could be about to see your sweet potato consumption go through the roof.
It’s called the Okinawan diet and, if reports are to be believed, it could be the secret to a long and healthy life.
A group of islands situated in the southernmost part of Japan, the Okinawan region boasts one of the highest rates of people living beyond 100 in the world.
Much of that is attributed to the diet enjoyed by those in the region which, unbelievably, relies heavily on carbohydrates.
Carbs have long been thought of as a major obstacle to health and fitness, but the Okinawan diet is carb-heavy to say the least with the daily intake set at a ratio of 10-1 in favour of carbs over protein.
Sweet potatoes are a staple of the Okinawan diet along with a range of deep green and other brightly coloured vegetables typically high in vitamins C, E and A.
Soy and soy foods like tofu also feature prominently along with seaweed, which is a major source of iodine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and astaxanthin.
Shitake, oyster and King Trumpet mushrooms are also part and parcel of the Okinawan regime while red meat should be avoided.
Instead, the diet recommends swapping in fish and consuming a minimum of three servings a week.
The benefits of the diet were previously showcased in the Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS).
The study attributed the effectiveness of the diet to the fact it is low in refined carbohydrates, high in fibre and boasts anti-inflammatory properties.
Its anti-inflammatory qualities stem from the fact it is low in fat but high in Omega 3 fatty acids, commonly found in oily fish and soy.
The lack of refined carbs also means a reduction in the likelihood of sugar spikes.
The Okinawa diet is also full of nutrient-dense andphytochemica and packed with antioxidants essential in protecting the body's defences against free radicals.
It has been proved to help prevent age-related illnesses like some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
The diet is not without its drawbacks, of course.
You’ll be expected to eat a lot of veg while going on for dinner could prove tricky with few restaurants offering the kind of fare required to keep the diet up.
But that’s the price you pay for enjoying a long and healthy life.
For more information on the Okinawan diet, click here.