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Adding this one simple food to your diet may help you live to 100, according to the world’s longest-living people – CNBC

Posted: September 16, 2020 at 3:55 am

A few years ago, I traveled to Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, Loma Linda in California and Sardinia in Italy all "Blue Zones," or homes to thelongest-lived people to find out what centenarians ate to live to 100.

I also asked dozens of theworld's leading nutritionists and food scientists what we should eat to enjoy a long and healthy life, while also taking care of the environment.

One conclusion leaped out like a flashing neon sign (and might come as a shock to fans of the latest trendy diets): Of the top 10 recommended foods, half belonged to the bean family lentils, soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas and black beans.

On Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, for example, the day might begin with a warm corn tortilla stuffed with savory black beans. On the Italian island of Sardinia, lunch might be a steaming bowl of minestrone, packed with fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, dinner might include a tasty stir-fry with green beans, soybeans or mung bean sprouts.

Coincidental? I don't think so. A 2004 study of people 70 years or older in three different cultures around the world found that for every two tablespoons of beans a day individuals consumed, they reduced their risk of dying by 8%.

Other research has shown that beans not only provide the complex carbohydrates, proteins and trace minerals our bodies need, they also supply the fiber our microbiomes require, boosting our immune systems. That makes sense, because Blue Zone residents don't achieve their extraordinary longevity by relying on superior genes alone, but also by avoiding obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancers better than the rest of us.

By contrast, nearly two thirds of Americans now report themselves to be overweight or obese, according to Gallup. And according to arecent Harvard study,we have a shorter average life expectancy than residents of nearly any other high-income nation largely because of our diets and lifestyles.

In every Blue Zone I've ever visited, generations of cooks have made beans a key ingredient in their most popular recipes.

Here are a few to make in your own kitchen:


Tender Bean, Potato and Onion Stew

(National Geographic | David McLain)

Featured in almost every Nicoyan meal, black beans contain high levels of anthocyanins and have 10 times the antioxidants of an equivalent serving of oranges. Rich and hearty, this one-pot meal is a staple in Costa Rica. It's easy to make and costs less than $1 a serving.

Cook time: 1 hourServings: 6




Chickpea Soup With Lemon and Herbs

(National Geographic | David McLain)

Greeks and Ikarians especially have mastered the art of blending lemon, olive oil and herbs. This simple recipe is a warming alternative to chicken soup in the winter and provides yet another way to creatively incorporate beans into your daily diet.

Cook time: 2 hours, 20 minutes; 45 minutes if using canned chickpeasServings: 6




Black-Eye Pea Salad With Mint and Onions

(National Geographic | David McLain)

This recipe represents one of my fondest revelations from cooking in Ikaria. I would never have thought to pair beans with vinegar and mint, but the result was a symphony of new and magical flavors. The vinegar not only adds the healthful digestion and immunity-boosting effects of fermentation and probiotics, but also helps maintain the texture of the beans so they don't disintegrate as leftovers.

Cook time: 1 hour if using dried beans; 10 minutes with canned beansServings: 8




Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

(National Geographic | David McLain)

This burger is a longevity powerhouse. Loaded with beans, greens, sweet potatoes and pepitas, it's the perfect example of a Blue Zonesinspired twist on a classic American comfort food.

Cook time: 35 minutesServings: 4


The Patty and Buns:

The Sauce:

The Toppings:


On top of being good for you, beans are cheap to produce and grow practically everywhere, from equatorial zones to northern regions, so they don't need to be transported vast distances to reach markets. They also don't require refrigeration and can be stored for a long time.

Beans are even healthy for the land itself, because they restore crucial nitrogen to the soil. Accounting for the environmental impacts of what we eat has become more urgent as Earth's climate crisis has worsened. The global food system now contributes more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from livestock production.

Shifting our diets to favor plants over meat could be so important. If people followed standard dietary guidelines, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food production by as much as 70%, according to a team from the University of Oxford.

So, what's the bottom line? Can we be good to both ourselves and the planet? Our research suggests we can. And the first step on that quest to achieve a long healthy life should be to embrace the simple magic of beans.

Dan Buettner is a longevity researcher, National Geographic Fellowand award-winning journalist. He is the author of"The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest" and "The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People." His latest bestseller,"The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes for Living to 100," fuses scientific reporting, National Geographic photography and recipes that may help you live to100. Follow him on Instagram@danbuettner.

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Adding this one simple food to your diet may help you live to 100, according to the world's longest-living people - CNBC

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