Eat beans every day – that’s the message from Dan Buettner, whose third book on Blue Zones came out earlier this year. It’s a message I like – beans are cheap, convenient and delicious. So to discover they’re now, officially, the world’s number one food for longevity was music to my ears.
Thanks to Jamie Oliver, most of us are now familiar with the world’s Blue Zones (the five areas of the world with the highest ratio of centenarians – read our post on Blue Zones and the MIND diet here). But before Jamie, there was Dan who spent over a decade studying the lifestyle and diets of Blue Zone communities. Watch his Ted talk at https://www.bluezones.com/speaking/dan-buettner/
His top tips for eating are: breakfast like a king; cook from scratch at home; stop eating before you feel full; go without food occasionally; eat with friends and family; eat mostly plants; consume less meat (most Blue Zoners eat meat less than once a week); reduce dairy; slash sugar; snack on nuts; eat more beans.
While we’re on the subject of Dan’s top tips, I may as well list his top Blue Zone superfoods: vegetables (fennel, seaweed, potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, squash, sweet potatoes, wild greens and yams); fruit (avocados, bananas, lemons, papayas, plantains, tomatoes); beans (lentils, chick peas, black beans, soy etc); whole grains; nuts and seeds; salmon and tofu; olive oil; coffee, tea, red wine and water; dairy (feta and pecorino); herbs, turmeric and garlic.
I recently bought Jamie’s new cook book in which he writes about his ‘Blue Zone’ experience. As expected, his superfood list is remarkably similar. His 14 so-called ‘hero foods’ are: eggs; goat’s milk; fish; tofu; walnuts; sweet potato; wild greens and herbs; black beans; fruit; seaweed; wild rice; garlic; prawns; chilies.
These foods are much loved at Kale & Cocoa and star in many of our recipes. But the most heroic food of all? Beans! Buettner describes them as ‘the world’s greatest longevity food.’ Apparently the average Blue Zoner eats a cup of beans a day – and any variety will do. We’re big fans of lentils and chick peas for flavour and soy for extreme nutritional power. So why are beans such heroes? Not only are they high in fibre, vitamins and minerals (while also containing protein), but, according to Buettner, shifting from meat to beans for one’s daily protein intake changes the bacteria in your gut – replacing inflammation-causing bacteria with more benign bacteria (yup, the ones we’re always banging on about here). As our regular readers will know, inflammation lies at the root of all ageing diseases, from cancer and Alzheimer’s to arthritis. So what about wind, I hear you murmur. Well, according to Buettner after eating beans every day for a fortnight your gut will have adapted sufficiently to operate wind-free. Try it and let us know!
One of my (and Jaimie’s) favourite pulses are black beans and with the days getting shorter and cooler I’m reverting to my favourite meal of hot soup. Topped with an avocado salsa, this is one of my favourite soups – not only is it delicious but it includes several hero foods in one fell swoop (or should that be swoup?). If you’re not a big soup fan, try Susan’s black bean tacos – a firm favorite in my family.
BLACK BEAN SOUP WITH AVOCADO SALSA (serves 8)
- Approx. 600g cooked black beans (about 300g uncooked dry beans)
- 1 onion or leek, diced
- 1 large sweet potato, cubed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp Cajun spice mix (I like Barts Cajun Blend)
- 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Marigold)
- 1 lime
For the salsa:
- Allow half an avocado and quarter of a red onion per person.
- Extra lime juice (allow 1 tsp per person)
- Fresh coriander, chopped
Sweat the diced onion or chopped leek with the sweet potato, cumin and Cajun spice mix in 1 tbsp olive oil. When the onion is soft, add the beans and the stock and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is soft. Blend ‘til smooth. Season to taste (I use 2 tsps sea salt and a few twists of the pepper grinder) and add the juice of a lime.
To make the salsa, cut the avocado into chunks and dice the red onion. Mix in the chopped coriander and the lime juice and put a good tablespoon on top of each bowl of soup.
Serve with extra lime wedges and olive oil for drizzling.
Oh – and eat daily!