A few years ago, we had the good fortune to travel to Costa Rica on a family trip and that’s when I first began to learn about Blue Zones – a few places around the globe where people live a really long time. In Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is such a place – where folks are twice as likely as elsewhere to live into their 90s and frequently over 100.
We spent only a few days in Guanacaste, part of the Nicoya Peninsula. We had a single great morning of scuba diving (where I saw my first white tip mama and baby shark) and mostly just looked around and took it easy. My single biggest take away from the trip: beans, beans and more beans. Mostly black beans. Every day.
The National Geographic featured writer (Dan Buettner) noted this unsuprising observation: “The big secret of the Nicoyan diet was the ‘three sisters’ of Meso-American agriculture: beans, corn and squash.” Here’s his most recent book on Blue Zones. Good stuff. And we all know this already. The trick is how to do it in our current settings.
What else? They live around family or a solid social structure that you see others regularly and share meals with them, keep moving and being physically active no matter how old and have some purpose in life – even if that’s tending to a garden or watching the grandkids for a bit. The diet is mostly plant-based but not entirely. Eat big in the morning and taper off during the day.
So a few times a week, we are trying to hit the black beans with rice and tomato or slight variations on that theme. Tonight’s dinner (photo above) was cuban spiced black beans in one skillet, and in the other skillet: rice, tomato, garlic, cilantro and a small amount of gluten free soy sauce and olive oil, in the other. Fed two adults with leftovers for tomorrow.
To be clear. I grew up hating beans. But the only beans I saw cooked were big pots of brown beans (with ham/bacon in the pot and corn bread on the side), grean beans (still nasty) and navy white beans (rarely, nasty too).
The more I have been mostly plant-based and played with different spices, the more bean palat has expanded. Now, I really like black beans. Garbonzo firmly in second place (admittedly, I need some training). And then, all other legumes.
Edited to share my cousin Dan’s recipe for Gallo Pinto (a typical bean dish in Costa Rica) as part of his health story.