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Dan Buettner Wants You To Eat A Cup Of Beans Every Day For Longevity

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
chinese eight treasure congee — kidney beans, adzuki beans, green beans, peanuts on ceramic plate

When it comes to expert advice on healthy aging, there's no one more perfect to consult than Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner.

The National Geographic fellow has discovered the five places around the globe—which he famously dubbed the "Blue Zones"—where people live the longest and are the healthiest. He studied these Blue Zones extensively (sitting on a stool in old ladies' kitchens in Sardinian peasant villages, he fondly remembers) and noticed more than a few common patterns between these well-aged populations.

The results of his anthropological quest? While he reveals most of his longevity tips on Episode 157 of the mindbodygreen podcast, there's one aspect of the conversation we couldn't help but to highlight to you all—according to Buettner, there's one thing he suggests we add to our diets in order to live our healthiest. 

"If you were to ask me if there's a supplement you should take to live longer, I'd say yes," he says. But get this: "It's 120 beans every day." 

Why beans? 

While Buettner doesn't specify the particular type of legume (pinto, black, or kidney are all fine in his eyes), he explains that the individuals living in Blue Zones all eat at least one cup of beans every single day. 

It's not a perfect science, of course, but Buettner believes that if you're eating beans every day, chances are you're likely following a diet of other whole, simple foods. 

"Most of the foods that are longevity foods are simple, peasant foods," he states. 

What he means is that these Blue Zone populations aren't stopping by the supermarket and loading up on junk food and pastries during their weekly grocery shopping. Instead, they're cooking recipes made only from the simple, whole ingredients they can find in their villages. Here in America, you might deem these ingredients "superfoods," but Buettner believes that there's actually nothing "super" about them—in fact, it's their simplicity that makes them so healthy and nutritious.   

"There's all this hyperbole around superfoods," he states. "But that's the disruptive thinking here."


Now, back to the beans.  

Buettner believes if we simplify our diets by adding more beans to the mix, we'll live a lot longer. (Four years longer, to be exact—he states that eating a cup of beans a day adds about four years to your life expectancy as opposed to eating no beans at all). However, there's no need to stress about getting these legumes in every single meal. As with most aspects of health, it's all about maintaining a steady balance. 

He sets up a formula: "We eat about 1,000 meals a year," Buettner explains. "If you can make nine out of 10 of those meals be more simple foods—beans, greens, grains, nuts—you're going to live a lot longer." 

So as long as the majority of your meals are those simple foods, you're golden, says Buettner. For that other one meal, feel free to make it celebratory—a cheeky indulgence, if you will. Buettner wants you to have your cake for a long, long time and eat it, too—he just wants you to do it mindfully.

Whether you're partial to pinto, Garbanzo, or black beans, you might want to think about adding more of these legumes to your plate. As the weather feels especially wintry after the glow of holiday festivities is behind us, you might want to cook up a bowl of vegan, two-bean chili. Comforting, flavorful, and it might help you live longer. What more could you possibly want in a functional meal? 

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