I spent 20 years studying foods 100-year-old people eat—and this is the world’s No. 1 healthiest breakfast
I spent 20 years studying foods 100-year-old people eat—and this is the world’s No. 1 healthiest breakfast

As a longevity researcher, I’ve spent the previous 20 years studying the habits of people who live to 100 years old or longer, significantly the foods they eat.

And in a tucked-away nook of Nicoya, Costa Rica, I might have discovered the world’s healthiest breakfast.

Under a red-tiled roof, a dozen or so people of the Cooperativa Nicoya wake every morning at 4:00 a.m. They stoke wooden fires in clay ovens, put cauldrons of spicy beans to boil, and blend corn dough with wooden ash.

A girl pinches off a golf ball-sized piece of dough on a bit of waxed paper and rotates it with mechanical precision into a wonderfully spherical patty. She slaps it onto a scorching clay plate, the place it expands to a puffy disc earlier than collapsing into an ideal tortilla.

At the different finish of the range, three others combine beans with onions, purple peppers and native herbs. The beans prepare dinner slowly for about an hour to tender perfection and are then combined with rice.

What makes this hearty longevity dish so wholesome?

The corn tortillas, chewy with a nutty taste, are a wonderful supply of whole-grain, low-glycemic advanced carbohydrates.

The wooden ash breaks down the corn’s cell partitions, making niacin (a B vitamin that performs a task in cell signaling and DNA restore) out there, and releasing amino acids so the physique can take in them.


A Nicoyan centenarian spending time together with his prolonged household.

Photo: David McLain

The black beans comprise the identical pigment-based anthocyanins (antioxidants) present in blueberries. They’re wealthy, colon cleaning, blood stress decreasing, and insulin regulating, and they’re full of folates like potassium and B nutritional vitamins as well.

The bean-and-rice mixture creates an entire protein, which is to say all the amino acids obligatory for human sustenance.

The espresso right here, made out of an area pressure of “pea berry” beans, supplies a lift of antioxidants plus metabolism-boosting caffeine.

The chilero, made with vinegar, carrots and searingly scorching peppers, presents a probiotic enhance to the breakfast together with curcumin, a compound proven to (*1*).

Total value of the breakfast: $4.23. A particularly reasonable value to find Nicoya’s secrets and techniques to longevity. You can do as the Nicoyans do — make a big batch of bean soup after which get pleasure from all of it week

Nixtamal Tortillas

Nixtamal is corn dough combined with wooden ash to boost the taste and create the B vitamin niacin.

Photo: David McLain

Nixtamal refers to corn that has been soaked and partially cooked with wooden ash or lime. This releases the amino acid niacin in corn, which helps to scale back dangerous ldl cholesterol and improve good ldl cholesterol and in addition aids in digestion.

Corn itself is excessive in fiber, folate, and nutritional vitamins B and C. You should buy your nixtamal corn flour from the ethnic meals aisle, from Mexican or Latin grocery shops, or on-line.

Total prepare dinner time: quarter-hour

Makes: 5 servings


  • 2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups heat faucet water, plus extra as wanted
  • Plastic wrap
  • Waxed paper, as wanted


  1. In a big bowl, whisk the masa harina and baking soda collectively.
  2. Add water and stir till a tender dough kinds (if the combination will not type a tender ball of dough, add heat water in a single tablespoon increments till it’ll).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and put aside for 5 minutes.
  4. On a clear, dry work floor, knead dough gently for one minute. Divide it into 16 equal balls, every about the dimension of a small plum.
  5. Roll out dough between items of waxed paper into 6-inch rounds.
  6. Set a griddle or forged iron skillet over excessive warmth till smoking.
  7. Set dough on the griddle and prepare dinner for 30 seconds. Flip with kitchen tongs and prepare dinner till evenly toasted, with tiny bubbles in the tortilla, about 30 extra seconds. Work in batches.
  8. Transfer to a clear kitchen towel and wrap gently. Serve heat.

Technique tip: Cool any unused tortillas to room temperature and retailer in the fridge, tightly wrapped in a kitchen towel, for as much as in the future. Reheat on a baking sheet 4 to 6 inches from a heated broiler for 10 seconds.

Jose Guevara’s Gallo Pinto

This time-honored rice and beans recipe might be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Photo: David McLain

I final visited Jose Guevara in Costa Rica in 2015, when he was 105 years outdated. This recipe he gave me is his model of Costa Rican rice and beans, or gallo pinto.

The genius of the Costa Rican kitchen is its skill to make a humble bean dish so scrumptious that you might eat it day by day. Many Costa Ricans eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s usually topped with eggs and Salsa Lizano (a bottled condiment, barely candy and acidic, that you could find on each restaurant desk).

Total prepare dinner time: 20 minutes

Makes: 3 servings


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or one 8-ounce can black beans, drained)
  • 3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
  • Salt and pepper (optionally available)
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced, for topping (optionally available)
  • Chilero scorching sauce (optionally available garnish)
  • Chopped cilantro (optionally available garnish)


  1. In a big skillet, warmth oil over medium warmth. Add onion and sauté till it begins to melt, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and prepare dinner for one more 5 to seven minutes, or till greens are browned.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce and beans; flip warmth to low and stir. Cook for 2 to a few minutes extra.
  4. Add rice and stir to mix. Cook and stir till rice and beans are evenly distributed and heated by way of. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Top with sliced avocado, scorching sauce and chopped cilantro, if desired.

Tender Bean, Potato and Onion Stew

Black beans are a Costa Rican staple which are excessive in antioxidants which are good for regulating insulin and decreasing blood stress.

Photo: David McLain

Total prepare dinner time: 1 hour

Makes: 6 servings

Featured in virtually each Nicoyan meal, black beans comprise excessive ranges of anthocyanins, the necessary flavonoids in purple onions and blueberries, and have 10 occasions the antioxidants of an equal serving of oranges.

These one-pot meals are staples in Costa Rican kitchens. They are straightforward to make, excessive in nutritious greens and spices, and value lower than $1 a serving. Rich and hearty, they are going to function a foremost meal paired with corn tortillas or rice.



  1. If utilizing dried beans, drain the beans; discard the soaking water.
  2. Place beans in a big pot and add vegetable broth. Add water, as obligatory, to cowl beans. Bring broth to a boil; then instantly flip all the way down to simmer. Cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Stir in the remainder of elements; prepare dinner for about 25 extra minutes, or till beans are tender, stirring often to maintain from burning.
  4. Add salt and pepper to style earlier than serving. Enjoy alone or with tortillas or rice.

Dan Buettner is an explorer, longevity researcherNational Geographic Fellow, and award-winning journalist and producer. He is additionally the writer of the best-selling books “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.” Follow Dan on Instagram @danbuettner.

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