So, what’s their secret? It might be their carb-heavy diet. Scientists have realized that Okinawans have a “peculiarly high ratio of carbohydrates to protein” in their diet, with a lot of their calories coming from—wait for it—sweet potatoes. Of course, sweet potatoes are a healthy, complex carb, but still, it’s a staple of the Southern diet and we’ll take it. Okinawans also eat an abundance of greens and yellow vegetables, which could easily be collards and green beans and squash. While they do eat pork, fish, and other meats, it’s typically a small component of their overall consumption.
Scientists are realizing that the Okinawans heavy intake of carbs may help their bodies fend off some of the effects of aging. It’s all about finding the right balance between carbs and proteins and what scientists are now calling the “Okinawan Ratio” is a diet based around a ratio of eating 10 carbs for every one protein. Sticking to that dietary ratio may help protect people from various age-related illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Has there ever been sweeter words to a Southerner’s ears?
This article originally appeared on Southernliving.com