Nicoyan’s descend mostly from the Chorotega Indians. Diet plays a large role in their longevity. They ate a low-calorie, low-fat plant-based diet rich in legumes like the residents of most of the other Blue Zones. Traditionally they lived off beans, corn tortillas, and large quantities of tropical fruits. The secret of the Nicoyan diet was the “three sisters” of the Mesoamerican agriculture-beans, corn, and squash. White rice has now replaced squash as the daily staple and black beans remain a constant in the Nicoya diet and is a powerhouse of longevity.
Top longevity foods from Nicoya:
- Maze nixtamal-homemade tortillas eaten at daily meals
- Squash-hard shelled squash related to pumpkins and other winter varieties
- Papayas-eaten both green and ripe and filled with vitamins
- Yams-unrelated to our sweet potatoes, their flesh is firm and white
- Black beans-beans and rice are eaten often at every meal
- Bananas-many of the varieties are a staple food in Nicoya
- Pejivalles (peach palms)-small orange oval fruit
Taken from National Geographic’s “The Blue Zones-The Science of Living Longer”
I hope to one day make it to Costa Rica. A recent meal I cooked at home included some foods above listed foods- squash stuffed with apples, raisins, and a few nuts, left over polenta casserole, and a green salad with carrots and black beans. Try a few of the many varieties of winter squash.
This week I have been sharing the best of the Blue Zone foods and encouraging you to begin adding some of these foods to your regular daily/weekly diet. Ellsworth Warham was an early pioneer in open-heart surgery. He made the observation that his patients who were vegetarian had better arteries while non vegetarians tended to have plaques in their arteries. In middle age, he became a vegan with the exception of an occasional meal of fish. He reported to Dan Buettner that all human tastes are acquired, “You start by eating a little bit of plant-based food and grow with it. You keep eating it, and pretty soon you start to enjoy it.”
My mom suggested I try certain foods I did not like as a child. I remember her words “just take a taste”. As an adult, I now love the asparagus she would encourage me to taste. Those are powerful suggestions!
I am not sure I would ever decide to become a vegan, although the health statistics supporting a plant-based diet are compelling. I continue to add more vegetables, fruits and legumes to my diet every day. We can each find healthier foods to begin including in our diet based on personal tastes along with other factors that influence our lifestyle.