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Unraveling the Magic of Beans: The Key to Longevity

In the quest for longevity and optimal health, one food group stands out for its exceptional benefits: legumes. These nutritional powerhouses, which include beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas, are a common thread in the diets of the world's longest-lived populations, known as the Blue Zones. This article delves into the science behind the health benefits of legumes and their role in promoting longevity.

Legumes and Longevity: The Blue Zones Connection

The Blue Zones are five regions identified by National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner where people live significantly longer, healthier lives. These regions are Ikaria (Greece), Loma Linda (California, USA), Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), and Nicoya (Costa Rica). A common dietary pattern among these diverse cultures is the regular consumption of legumes.

Ikaria, Greece

Ikaria is known for its high percentage of centenarians and low rates of chronic diseases. The traditional diet here is plant-based, with a focus on legumes, particularly lentils, garbanzos, and black-eyed peas.

Loma Linda, California, USA

Loma Linda is home to a large population of Seventh-day Adventists, many of whom follow a vegetarian diet. Legumes, including soybeans in the form of tofu and other soy products, are a staple in their diet.

Sardinia, Italy

In Sardinia, one of the secrets to longevity is the consumption of fava beans, chickpeas, and lentils, combined with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawans are known for their longevity and low rates of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Their diet includes a variety of legumes, with soybeans, often in the form of tofu, being a key component.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Nicoyans enjoy a diet rich in legumes, particularly black beans, along with corn and squash. This combination, known as "the three sisters," provides a balance of essential nutrients.

legumes and longevity

The Science Behind Legumes and Longevity

Several scientific studies have explored the link between legume consumption and longevity. A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that legume intake is the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Another study in the Journal of Gerontology reported that legume consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality.

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. They are also an excellent source of phytochemicals, compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Moreover, legumes have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower and lower rise in blood sugar levels compared to other carbohydrate-rich foods. This makes them particularly beneficial for managing diabetes, a disease that is less prevalent in the Blue Zones.

Legumes in the Diet: Practical TipsLegumes - beans

Incorporating more legumes into your diet can be simple and delicious. While beans are beneficial, they can sometimes lead to uncomfortable digestive issues. To avoid this, start with a few tablespoons a day and gradually increase the amount over two weeks. This method helps feed the good bacteria in your gut, preparing your microbiome for a higher intake of beans. Here are some tips:

Start slow: If you're not used to eating legumes, start with small amounts to allow your body to adjust.

Try different types: There are many types of legumes to choose from, including lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and many more. Try different ones to see which you like best.

Use them in a variety of dishes: Legumes can be used in soups, salads, stews, and stir-fries, or as a meat substitute in dishes like burgers and tacos.

Prepare them properly: Soaking and cooking legumes can reduce their content of phytates and tannins, substances that can inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients.

recipe sardinia minestrone smallRecipe: Sardinian Minestrone

Here is a classic, hearty dish that you can try at home. This recipe is adapted from "The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100" by Dan Buettner.

⅓ pound dried garbanzos (¾ cup)
⅓ pound dried white beans (¾ cup)
⅓ cup dried pinto or red beans
4 to 6 stalks celery
4 to 6 carrots, preferably organic
1 medium onion, white or yellow
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper
Low-sodium vegetable stock (optional)
1 14-ounce can chopped or stewed tomatoes
1 ½ cups potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
Freshly sliced avocado for serving
Freshly grated Vegan Parmesan or Nutrition Yeast flakes for serving


Drain the presoaked garbanzos and beans in a colander and microwave them in a separate bowl of water for 10 minutes.
Add olive oil to a large pot over low heat and sauté celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and pepper flakes until the onion pieces are translucent, about 3 minutes.
Rinse and drain the beans in a colander and add to the same pot containing the aromatics, along with 6 to 8 cups water. Use vegetable stock instead of water, if desired. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, oregano, and bay leaf and slow cook over low heat until beans are tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt.
When ready to serve, top with sliced avocado and/or Vegan Parmesan cheese or Nutritional Yeas Flakes.
This minestrone tastes best the next day, as all of the flavors combine. If you want to store it more than 2 days, it's better to freeze it.

Legumes and Sustainable Agriculture

In addition to their health benefits, legumes play a crucial role in sustainable agriculture. They have a unique ability to fix nitrogen, improving soil fertility and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. This makes them an essential crop in organic and low-input farming systems.


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The evidence is clear: pdf legumes are a key component of the diets of the world's longest-lived populations (599 KB) . They are nutrient-dense, versatile, and beneficial for both human health and the environment. By incorporating more legumes into our diets, we can take a step towards healthier, longer lives.

For readers interested in further exploring the benefits of legumes as part of a healthy diet, the International Vegetarian Union's IVU Vegan Guide is an essential resource. This comprehensive guide provides in-depth information on the nutritional value of legumes, practical advice on incorporating them into your diet, and a variety of delicious legume-based recipes. Download the IVU Vegan Guide now!

Related Articles:


1- Capurso, C. (2021). Whole-Grain Intake in the Mediterranean Diet and a Low Protein to Carbohydrates Ratio Can Help to Reduce Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease, Slow Down the Progression of Aging, and to Improve Lifespan: A Review. Link

2- Legumes: The most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. (n.d.). PubMed. 

3- Bazzano, L., Thompson, A., Tees, M., Nguyen, C., & Winham, D. (2011). Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 21(2), 94-103.

4 - Benisi-Kohansal, S., Saneei, P., Salehi-Marzijarani, M., Larijani, B., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2016). Whole-grain intake and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Advances in Nutrition, 7(6), 1052-1065.

5 - Walter, Peoples, M. B., Brockwell, J., Herridge, D. F., Rochester, I. J., Alves, B. J. R., Urquiaga, S., ... & Jørgensen, K. J. (2009). The contributions of nitrogen-fixing crop legumes to the productivity of agricultural systems. Symbiosis, 48(1-3), 1-17. Link ↩

6 -  pdf Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Aging and Longevity (599 KB)

7 -  pdf A perspective on vegetarian dietary patterns and risk of metabolic syndrome (158 KB)

8- Legume consumption and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in the PREDIMED study

9- Li, H., Li, J., Shen, Y., Wang, J., & Zhou, D. (2017). Legume consumption and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. BioMed Research International, 2017, 1-6.

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