Breaking Down Costa Rica’s Blue Zone – Live to be 100!

Breaking Down Costa Rica’s Blue Zone – Live to be 100

At the beginning of this century, an area in Costa Rica was found to have a high concentration of people living beyond 100 years old. This discovery prompted many researchers and scientists to study what makes these people different from those who live elsewhere. The findings were surprising: these people shared some everyday habits that allowed them to live longer lives with more vitality.

costa rica's blue zone

The name for these sorts of communities and regions around the world are called blue zones. The first author to use the term “Blue Zone” was Dan Buettner, who spent his time studying areas of the world that have higher than average lifespans.

Costa Rica’s blue zone became official in 2003 by National Geographic. Throughout this article, we will break down three key reasons why the Nicoyans have found longevity, happiness, and well-being.

What are Blue Zones, and how many of them exist?

A blue zone is an area where there is a high concentration of people living beyond 100 years old. The first blue zone was discovered in Okinawa, Japan. Since then, many more have been found across various countries around our globe.

There are currently five blue zone regions on Earth. Each of these locations has its own unique diets and ways of living; however, research has found that each of these locations shares certain similarities. Those five are locations are:

Okinawa, Japan

– Sardinia, Italy

– Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica

– Ikaria, Greece

-Loma Linda California

a map of the world's blue zones

What commonalities do we know about the blue zones?

 

The blue zones are places around the world where people live measurably longer lives than anywhere else.

 

They’re located in various locations like southern Italy, Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, all with a core set of commonalities that contribute to healthy living.

After analyzing the blue zones of the world, a common trend tends to emerge. Here are three common factors amongst the three blue zones that contribute to longevity and prosperity:

  1. Diet. They eat less meat (and more vegetables). There is a tendency to emphasize eating plant-based foods over animal food sources.  
  2. Strong social bonds. They have an active social life outside their family unit, which creates strong bonds between them and the community, primarily filled by elders. These elders are known to advise on how best to lead your day’s activities because it has been what worked for years before you came along!
  3. A sense of purpose. This often comes in the form of some religion or faith-based practice.

The Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula

Throughout this article, we will be looking specifically at Nicoya Costa Rica’s region and diving deep into their rich cultures, foods, and ways of life that have allowed them to find happiness and longevity of life.

what is a blue zone

Nicoya: The Costa Rican peninsula where centenarians thrive

Nicoya is one of the most biodiverse regions in Costa Rica. Its population consists mainly of indigenous people who have a deep connection to their land and its resources.

The people of Nicoya live mainly on farming, fishing, or raising livestock that is eaten locally for them not only to survive but thrive.

In Nicoya, the people are known for putting an immense focus on using all the parts of a plant, so nothing goes to waste.  

This can be achieved through cooking methods, such as roasting meat until dry before making stews out of them, or through other traditions such as serving pigs’ heads alongside some nice bean squash soup!

 

If we can understand what it is that allows people to live longer, maybe other countries around the world can instill the same principles into their cultures.

  1. What does a Nicoyan diet look like?

One of the most significant factors that all blue zones share is that they have cleaner and healthier diets than most of the world. The types of diets vary between the 5 Blue Zone regions, but they all have similarities that cannot be ignored.

Plant-based diet.

Plant-based diets are, as they sound, a diet based primarily on plant foods. These diets exclude all animal products and processed food by-products, such as sugar or oil from animals (i.e., milk). Plant-Based Diets are typically high in healthy fats like oleic acid, which can be found naturally within plants but not meat sources of omega oils. 

If you are at home and looking to increase your omega oil intake, we highly recommend checking out The Omega Revolution!

Some studies show the following benefits to a vegan lifestyle; lower heart disease rates, diabetes type II acne, dry skin weight gain, and more energy levels than their omnivorous counterparts. It was also shown vegetarians tend to have higher intakes of vitamin C, Vitamin D, and folate calcium.

A typical diet in Costa Rica’s Blue Zone

The leading food that the people in Nicoya, Costa Rica, eat is a plant-based diet.

They don’t consume a lot of meat. If they do, it is in small quantities because their protein intake comes from beans that are high-quality sources for vegetarians who want to get all the nutrients needed without having an excessive amount going into animal product consumption, especially those where ground beef or pork have been used as part meal prep ingredients.

Black beans and Corn tortillas are at the cornerstone of any Nicoyan meal and can be found at all times of the day. The Black Beans are usually paired with rice and are high in antioxidants.

Here is an example of a typical meal you may see eaten by someone in Nicoya :

Breakfast: Whole milk, corn tortillas with butter, and avocado.

Lunch: Rice pasta or beans served alongside a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, carrots, peppers, onions, mushrooms, celery, garlic, ginger, onion, basil, oregano, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, with water as a drink.

Dinner: Fish such as shrimp, tilapia, tuna, sardines, anchovies, octopus, calamari, squid, bivalves, clams – the list goes on!

If you are looking for some blue zone and diets that you can try at home, check out this great read based on the Mediterranean diet by Dr. James Kneller! (Another blue zone favorite)

1. What are the keys to Nicoya’s high levels of happiness?

According to the world happiness report, Costa Rica Ranks number 15 among the world’s happiest countries.

ranking the worlds happiest countries

Data is collected from more than 150 global populations. Scores are measured by weighting each variable that has been tracked over time and compared against other countries. Assessments currently include:

Nicoya Costa Rica is known for having some of the happiest people on Earth. But why is that? Anyone who has been to Nicoya knows that they are not driving down the streets in Range Rovers and Lamborghinis, so what is it that makes the people of this particular region so happy?

Research has shown that one of the main reasons for this is their strong social bonds.

2. Strong social bonds

Nicoyans values seem to extend far beyond material goods. They give the utmost importance to family, relationships with friends and neighbors.

The people of Nicoya are not only happy because they have a strong sense of what is essential in life but also due to their excellent mental health, which makes them resistant to stressors that might otherwise make others unhappy or burdened by depression.

The world’s most comprehensive study of adult life, a “Harvard Project,” has confirmed what we know from blue zones regions: relationships are the key to experiencing happier and healthier lives.

According to Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development (insert link) https://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/, people with the best health outcomes were people who “leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with the community.”

3. Plan De Vida

The people of Nicoya Costa Rica use the phrase plan de Vida. ‘Plan de Vida, or ‘life plan,’ is a Central American raison d’etre – a positive reason to live that keeps senior citizens active.

It is a phrase that encompasses the meaning of life plans. It’s used in Nicoya, Costa Rica, to refer to any man who has achieved his goal or does not have one yet (to plan his future). In this sense, it means “plan for my lifestyle.” It can be translated as such without changing its literal definition because they are very similar in their respective languages.

Research has shown that plan de Vida gives the cent in the Nicoya Peninsula a sense of purpose and meaning even into their senior years.

Making your way to Nicoya, Costa Rica

To conclude this article, we will start by recapping what makes the blue zone Nicoya peninsula so magical.

  1. The longevity of life is nearly ten years greater in Costa Rica than the average of most countries.
  2. Three main factors that contribute to the longevity of life that the Costa Ricans have demonstrated in Nicoya are:
    • The food they eat
    • Their strong social bonds
    • Their sense of purpose.

Due to these foundational principles, the region of Nicoya has become one of the top places in not only Central America but all of the world to travel to.

One of our favorite places to visit in Nicoya is the incredible Nosara, Costa Rica. 

If you seek a vacation that focuses on serenity, beauty, life, it is rich with culture, wildlife, and fine cuisine. Nicoya Costa Rica is the place for you.

From world-class yoga retreats to some of the most excellent beaches and surf breaks globally, Nicoya is a host to it all.

If you want to learn more about the communities of Nicoya and how you can book a trip of serenity, click the link here. 

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