There’s a small Costa Rican peninsula off the Pacific Coast called Nicoya. Aside from its beautiful sandy beaches and plenty of sunlight, this peninsula holds the secrets to longevity that people travel far and wide to find. In fact, Nicoya is one of the world’s five Blue Zones, meaning it has some of the highest concentrations of centenarians and supercentenarians.
There are many things contributing to the health and longevity of the Nicoyans. For example, they live off of a strong sense of purpose and keep their family close. They spend daily time in the sun and flourish in community. Their water is also unique in that it has extremely high levels of calcium.
While these values and practices all play a valuable role in their health, their daily food choices make a significant impact and set them apart from much of the rest of the world.
Nicoyans eat plenty of black beans, yams, maize, rice, vegetables, and more fruit than most of the other Blue Zones around the globe. The tropical fruit that they snack on daily provides them with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to a longer, healthier life. And one of the best fruits they eat on a regular basis is papaya!
According to an issue in National Geographic Magazine, papaya trees are plentiful in Nicoya. This means that its residents snack on this fruit almost on a daily basis.
Its vitamin A, C, and E content help Nicoyans manage inflammation, as well as an enzyme it contains called papain. Papain has been known to help aid in digestion and has been used medicinally to help relieve constipation and bloating.
Papayas also contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant known to have many health benefits. One study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention even found that beta-carotene-rich diets may help men prevent prostate cancer.
As if that’s not enough to convince you, papayas are also rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K, and choline. These nutrients and vitamins give papaya its power in helping to lower inflammation, aid in managing diabetes, helping to reduce cancer risk and risk of heart disease, and helping to fight age-related macular degeneration.
As you can see, regular consumption of papaya helps the Nicoyans stay healthy and young, even as they enter their 100’s. However, papaya isn’t the only key to longevity. We can learn a lot about the power of balancing healthy eating, natural movement, and staying in community in order to live longer lives here in the U.S.
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