Healthy Eating for Long Life Learn to eat like Nicoyans

In Sustainability and Community

Wondering about the secrets to living a long and healthy life?  Here on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, we’re considered one of the world’s few Blue Zones, areas where people are known to live measurably longer lives. And we have a few secrets to share.


Over the last decade, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer and explorer, has studied the world’s Blue Zones including the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; the Greek island of Ikaria; the highlands of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, CA.  He found similarities in diet and lifestyle habits that have kept us all happy and healthy throughout long lives.  He recently published an article in Health Magazine about the 15 Eating Habits That Make You Live Longer, tips borrowed from a global average of what centenarians really eat.

Among his findings are these:

  • Get 95% of your food from plants – Produce, whole grains and beans dominate meals all year long in each of the Blue Zones.
  • Consume meat no more than twice a week – Families in most of the Blue Zones enjoy meat sparingly, as a side or a way to flavor other dishes.
  • Eat up to 3 ounces of fish daily – In the Blue Zones overseas, fish is a common part of everyday meals.
  • Cut back on dairy – People in the Blue Zones get their calcium from plants.
  • Enjoy up to three eggs per week – In the Blue Zones, people tend to eat just one egg at a time. Nicoyans fry an egg to fold into a corn tortilla.
  • Add a half cup of cooked beans every day – Beans are the cornerstone of Blue Zones diets. On average, beans are made up of 21 percent protein, 77 percent complex carbohydrates and only a little fat.
  • Switch to sourdough or whole-wheat – In three of the five Blue Zones, bread is a staple. But it’s an altogether different food from the loaves most of us buy.
  • Slash your sugar consumption – Blue Zones dwellers consume about a fifth as much added sugar as we do.
  • Snack on two handfuls of nuts per day – A recent 30-year Harvard study found that nut eaters have a 20% lower mortality rate than those who don’t eat nuts.
  • Stick with foods that are recognizable for what they are – Throughout the world’s Blue Zones, people get everything they need from whole foods that are often grown locally.
  • Up your water intake – If you’re drinking water, you’re not drinking a sugar-laden or artificially sweetened beverage.
  • When you drink alcohol, make it red wine – Wine has been found to help the system absorb plant-based antioxidants.
  • Drink green tea – Green tea has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and several cancers.
  • Get your caffeine fix from coffee – Research findings associate coffee drinking with lower rates of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Perfect protein pairings –  The trick is to partner legumes, grains, nuts and veggies that supply all nine of the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own.

Read the full article here.

And learn more about our experience living in Blue Zone.