Six areas across the globe are known as the blue zones, where a combination of culture, mindset, diet, and environment help their residents live longer and healthier lives than most.
While there isn’t a straightforward rulebook for longevity, there are key lessons from the people who live in blue zones that can help you create and stick with new habits to age healthfully. One of those lessons resides in the food culture of an 80-mile-long peninsula in Central America, named a blue zone in the early 2000s.
The residents of Nicoya, Costa Rica—known for its coastal views south of the Nicaraguan border—have routinely enjoyed three foods together for at least 6,000 years old, Dan Buettner, the Blue Zones LLC founder shares in his recent docuseries Live to 100 on Netflix.
“Without a doubt one of the reasons people in Nicoya are living a long time is because they are eating this diet of beans, squash, and corn,” Buettner says in the film. “They call it the three sisters.”
These plant-based foods are economical and practical sources of protein that have served Nicoya’s residents into old age. Contrary to the Western diet where meat is the primary source of protein, beans, corn, and squash provide protein at a low cost and without the cholesterol and saturated fat of red meat.
“They are spending a fraction of what we do on meat and dairy, and they are getting all the protein they need,” Buettner says in the film. “It just goes to show you do not need to be wealthy to eat healthy.”
Here are the health benefits of the “three sisters.”
In Nicoya, families have traditionally made tortillas by soaking corn kernels in wood ash.
“The traditional processing of corn boosts the nutritional value,” Buettner says in the film.
The tortillas are high in complex carbohydrates, integral for maintaining energy. Corn by itself is also rich in fiber, so it will digest slowly and keep you satiated.
The good news is even if you don’t make homemade tortillas, you can enjoy corn in other ways or add it to salsas, salads or vegetable chilis.
Black beans contain antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system, Buettner says in the film. They also provide a substantial source of protein for muscle growth and fiber for managing blood sugar.
Buettner champions a daily dose of beans in his book, The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, and…