Did you know that the Nicoya Peninsula is one of five Blue Zones on the planet? According to National Geographic Fellow and New York Time bestselling author Dan Buetter, who conducted an extensive study on longevity, Blue Zones are places where large numbers of individuals are living healthy and happy lives past the age of one hundred.
The five Blue Zones are Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. What Dan Buetter found by studying these five zones, which he coined Blue Zones, was a wealth of valuable and applicable secrets to living a long, healthy, happy, and fulfilled life from the people who were doing just that.
Want to know why there is such a dense population of centenarians living on the Nicoya Peninsula? What’s the Costa Rican secret to living a long and healthy life?
A recent study found that three-quarters of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is necessary in order for your body to absorb calcium. Your body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to the sunlight. The majority of the people living on the Nicoya Peninsula are not lacking vitamin D. This is because most receive sufficient sun exposure on a daily basis.
The tap water available on the Nicoya Peninsula has high levels of calcium in it. There is more calcium in the water table on the Nicoya Peninsula than in any other part of Costa Rica. Calcium is crucial to maintaining strong and healthy bones. Because most of the elders on the Nicoya Peninsula are not lacking in calcium, there are far fewer incidences of broken or fractured bones due to falls.
The traditional diet on the Nicoya Peninsula includes staples like plantains, papaya, squash, yams, pejibayes, bananas, black beans, and homemade corn tortillas. These staples are largely responsible for the superior health of those living on the Nicoya Peninsula.
These particular natural and locally-grown foods are high in antioxidants, potassium, soluble fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, among many other vitamins and minerals that help reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system.
(Stay tuned to learn about how traditionally made corn tortillas hold one of the secrets to longevity and health, and how to make them yourself.)
Physical activity, stress management, societal and familial connections, and sense of purpose significantly play into health and happiness. Family, community, and traditions rank very high in Costa Rican culture. Manual labor is also a significant part of many Costa Rican’s working and home life.
This type of work keeps many Costa Ricans very active throughout the majority of their lives. It is this constant activity and movement that keeps many Costa Ricans on the Nicoya Peninsula “young” into their very old years.
What everyone can take away from this is that we all need to spend a little more time outdoors and in the sunshine. We need to keep our bodies moving. We need to eat real (not processed) nutrient-dense food. And, we need to make time for the activities and people whom we love.
As a visitor or a new resident of Costa Rica, a lot can be learned from the way the local people of the Nicoya Peninsula live. There is truly something to be said about living a simple life in the sunshine.