INSIDER – Dan Buettner grew up in Minnesota during the 1960s, where the Midwesterner was fed a high-carb diet of bright yellow macaroni and cheese and sweaty red hot dogs wrapped inside flaky croissants.
“We didn’t know better,” he said.
But when the cyclist and storyteller started traveling around the globe, and into the homes of people in locations where elders routinely live to see their 100th birthday in good health — the world’s Blue Zones, as he calls them — he noticed something distinct about the ways that they were eating.
The fare was nothing like his childhood diet of processed foods, but Buettner noticed that each Blue Zone kitchen did have a few staple ingredients in common. Like his own meal plans, they were all fairly high in carbohydrates, but these Blue Zone diets centered on carbs of a different kind.
“The four pillars of every longevity diet in the world are whole grains, greens, nuts, and beans,” Buettner told Insider. “When you crunch the numbers, it’s very clear that it’s a 90% to 100% plant-based, very-high-carbohydrate diet. About 65% carbs, but not simple carbs like muffins and cakes — complex carbs.”
Buettner’s chronicled some of his favorite recipes from each of those regions in a new book, “The Blue Zones Secrets for living longer,” featuring dishes and ingredients from Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
People who live to 100 tend to eat lots of beans
Whether Blue Zone cuisine is from the sandy western shores of Costa Rica or industrial church kitchens in California, it is loaded with beans.
Beans are a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber food that some dieters criticize, as they’re nearly impossible to eat on high-fat, low-carb eating plans like the keto diet.
“You can get very successful with a diet if you tell people they can eat what they like to eat — meat or cheese or eggs and all that,” Buettner said. “I draw from people who’ve achieved the health outcomes we want. And I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re eating about a cup of beans a day.”
His favorite bean dish is a Greek “longevity stew,” loaded with fennel, black-eyed peas, olive oil, tomato, and garlic …
Longevity Stew With Black Eyed Peas
MAIN DISH / VEGETARIAN / FEATURED
Great recipe from the blue zones region of Ikaria for a rainy day (or any day). It’s also perfect for anyone following the Mediterranean diet.
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 cup (8 ounces) black eyed peas (with dried peas, bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Drain, rinse, and use.)
- 1 large, firm ripe tomato, finely chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste, diluted in ¼ cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- 1 bunch dill, finely chopped
Heat half the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and fennel bulb stirring occasionally, until soft (about 12 minutes). Add the black-eyed peas and toss to coat in the oil.
Add the tomato, tomato paste and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the black-eyed peas are about half way cooked. (Check after 40 minutes, but it may take over an hour.)
Add the chopped dill and season with salt.
Continue cooking until the black-eyed peas are tender. Remove, pour in remaining raw olive oil and serve.
Watch our video on how to make it: Recipe Video