The first blue zone on the list is Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, a small region located about a two-hour trip on bumpy roads from the national capital of San Jose. Nicoya is the biggest blue zone on earth-home to literally hundreds of centenarians.
To see what makes the residents of the Nicoya Peninsula so vital, Dr. Oz and Dan paid a visit. There, they met 102-year-old Panchita, who still chops wood every day for cooking; 86-year-old Filippa, who sells her homemade tamales; and 95-year-old Serillo, who was cruising by on his bike as he visited with neighbors.
But to meet one of the oldest Nicoyans, Dan took Dr. Oz on a hike deep into the rainforest.
After hours of soggy trekking, Dan and Dr. Oz met Patrone-who says he’s an astonishing 107 years old!
Dan says one of the secrets of Nicoyans’ lifespan can be found in the water that flows through the hills. Their water is among the hardest in Costa Rica-which means it’s chock-full of minerals. “Hard water means stronger bones. It also means your muscles are probably working better, especially when you get old,” Dan says.
Dr. Oz says hard water has proven benefits. “Calcium, magnesium and water-it relaxes your arteries, it builds bone strength and it has a huge benefit across the board in how your body functions,” he says.
Having strong bones is actually one of the most important ways to live a long life. “One of the biggest killers of older people in this country is simply falling down and breaking a bone,” Dan says. “If you take calcium and couple it with vitamin D, your bones don’t deteriorate as quickly.”
To re-create the benefits of the Nicoyans’ calcium-rich water, Dan suggests eating eggs and dairy. You can get calcium from other sources too, including leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli.
While visiting Patrone, Dan and Dr. Oz enjoyed a meal prepared by his 65-year-old daughter. Families stay together in Nicoya, which is another important key to living a long life.
For lunch, she made corn tortillas from scratch. First, she soaks the corn in ash and lime to break it down. Then, she smashes it in a metate-a Central American stone mortar. Then, she cooks the corn patties without oil. “It’s a lot of hard work, and there’s no electricity, so she can’t do it any other way,” Dr. Oz says. “And it’s a good workout.”
This daily process of cooking tortillas is like an automatic workout. “You know, most Americans don’t really exercise. A very small proportion,” Dan says. “But in Nicoya, they’ll be making lunch and it’s like doing 25 reps with the free weights.”
Dan and Dr. Oz’s next stop is the home of 99-year-old Jose, who tells them about his typical day. Jose says after breakfast he tends his garden and clears underbrush around his corn crops.
When he sees Jose squatting down and using a machete to cut weeds around his corn plants, Dr. Oz is dumbstruck. “He’s whacking through this stuff better than any lawn mower you can buy. It’s remarkable,” he says. “I’m looking at a 99-year-old man doing a better job than I could taking out the underbrush here.”
Dr. Oz asks to examine Jose further and finds that his daily chores have built up strong chest, stomach and leg muscles, which are crucial for aging well. Dr. Oz explains that the quadriceps-the large group of muscles on the front of the thigh-allow you to bend your hips and extend your knee and are crucial for walking. “If you can’t walk a quarter-mile in five minutes, the chance that you’ll be dead in three years is three times higher than if you can,” he says. “It’s a big deal.”
One exercise you can do to strengthen the quadriceps is a basic squat. Make the motion of sitting in a chair, but don’t sit all the way down. “Just go down close to it and get back up,” Dr. Oz says.
For those who are too weak for this exercise, Dr. Oz recommends repeatedly sitting and standing in a chair without using the armrests. “It’s simple things like that,” he says. “And [the Nicoyans] make it part of their life.”
Another crucial factor to Nicoyan longevity is diet. On his land, Jose has 14 different kinds of trees that produce ripe fruit all year long.
But the real secret may be in what Dan calls the “Mesoamerican trifecta” that is the predominant diet in much of Central America-and has been for 3,500 years! The diet consists of lightly salted corn tortillas, beans and squash. “It’s arguably the best longevity food ever invented,” Dan says.
Another important aspect of the Nicoyan diet is that they tend to eat their larger meals in the morning, with progressively smaller meals throughout the day. This not only leaves Nicoyans craving fewer calories during the day, it also lets them transition into sleep much more easily when darkness falls. “A hundred years ago, when the sun went down, the brain would start making more melatonin. And with more melatonin, you’d get tired, you’d get drowsy,” Dr. Oz says. “Today, the reason half of us don’t sleep normally is because the last thing we see is a computer screen or the tube. That actually does the opposite to your brain-it stimulates it. So of course you can’t fall asleep. You’ve got to glide to sleep.”
(posted from The Oprah Winfrey Show – Oprah.com)