For decades, Costa Rica has been the destination of choice for vacationers, and it’s not difficult to understand why with its pristine beaches, jungles, and never-ending list of adventure activities. In the last years, however, people are not just coming to Costa Rica for a two-week trip, they are accepting remote jobs and moving to Costa Rica full time. Those who enjoy warm weather, the beach life, and extreme sports easily find their niche in this tropical Central American country. While Costa Rica attracts people of all priorities and walks of life, one particular interest group is growing quickly: the foodies. Foodies from every corner of the world are leaving their developed countries and access to international products and instead choosing to live full-time in a small country with less trade and supermarket options. These foodies know that what Costa Rica may lack in a variety of supermarket goods, it makes up for with natural, local agriculture. Costa Rica hosts about 4% of the entire world’s biodiversity. And while many take to the rainforest to study this phenomenon, a quick trip to the local market will suffice. Costa Rica has an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds that will astound anyone, and those looking to care for their health and eat a local diet find this in itself enough reason to relocate. Costa Rica is teeming with what modern nutritionists call “superfoods,” whole foods which are specifically nutrient dense and offer immense health benefits. These foods can be found freshly harvested, organic, and for just pennies on the dollar of what they would cost in the United States.
In the entire world, only 5 cities are considered “blue zones,” or areas where the locals commonly live to over 100 years old. Nobody is totally sure as to why these 5 cities experience such a heightened quality of health, but nutrition is considered to be a large factor. One of these 5 blue zones is the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. We can’t guarantee that following a Nicoya Peninsula diet will help you live to 100 years old, but we can absolutely promise that taking advantage of the local superfoods will enhance your health and satisfy your taste buds.
Locally called guanabana, this tree produces a large, green, and spiny fruit. Its spongey texture and creamy, citrusy taste is a big crowd pleaser in Central American countries. Soursop fruit is often described as tasting like a mixture of strawberries and pineapples, with a creamy texture reminiscent of a coconut. Not only is it easy to eat and use in smoothies, this fruit has strong antibacterial compounds, promotes deep sleep, and is currently being used as a natural cancer remedy. Although the science hasn’t yet been conclusive, this alternative cancer treatment seems to fight cancerous cells 10,000 times faster than strong medication, and comes with a delicious taste in lieu of nasty side effects.
Costa Rica is a natural environment for cacao, a large fruit which has seeds that are roasted to make chocolate. Chocolate of low sugar and high cacao content is incredibly healthy and considered a superfood. Chocolate lovers will find Costa Rica to be a paradise, as the country produces dark chocolate of up to 95% cacao which is sold only in the country, with little to no exportation. This treat isn’t only to satisfy your sweet tooth, it comes will various health benefits. High cacao chocolate bars contain up to 40 times the antioxidants of a single serving of blueberries, and are also an important source of magnesium as well as a natural antidepressant. Of all the superfoods in the world, this may be the most enjoyable.
Avocados are native to Central America and can be purchased on almost any corner of a Costa Rican city for less than a dollar while in season. No need to explain how to eat or use an avocado, these superfoods have a reputation that precedes them. Everyone knows how to make an amazing avocado toast, but what they don’t know is that avocados contain over 20 vitamins and minerals, are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and can help with weight loss. They are also loaded with potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and can lower cholesterol.
A pound of chia seeds in the United States could cost you up to 20 dollars. In Costa Rica, however, you might easily pay less than 5 dollars for the same amount. These seeds are small, crunchy, and virtually tasteless, but add an incredible texture to smoothies, baked goods, yogurt, or any salad. Chia seeds are also an incredible source of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and calcium. They absorb around 10 times their size in water, so you’ll also feel full quicker and satisfy your munchies with this low sodium, low calorie ingredient.
The benefits of bananas are well known, and taking advantage of this inexpensive and easily found fruit in its natural habitat is never a problem. An excellent source of potassium, bananas also reduce high blood pressure and can prevent certain stomach cancers. This superfood can be purchased for just a couple of cents and is the perfect take-along snack.
Pineapples will not only satisfy your sweet tooth without the processed, added sugar, but they are also perfect for smoothies, cocktails, and a mid-day snack. In Costa Rica, pineapples are commonly eaten after large meals for their anti-bloating properties. For a natural cure for an upset stomach and gas, grab a couple of pineapple rings and enjoy.
Locally called linaza, flax seed can be found in any local market in its whole seed state or ground into a powder. This nutrient is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, can improve digestive help, and is commonly used to lower the risk of cancers. Add a spoonful to your hot cereal, smoothie, or baked goods and enjoy the benefits.
Thought of as a Hawaiian or Polynesian fruit, noni also grows naturally in Costa Rica. Noni has a famously bad smell and bitter taste, yet some people still choose to add this ingredient to their smoothies or morning cereal for the many health benefits. Noni is praised in many indigenous cultures as a natural anti-aging drug. It is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and is said to significantly expand the life span of its admirers. However peaked your interest in superfoods may be, this fruit is definitely not for everyone.
Where to find them
The best part of Costa Rica is the outdoor markets. You’ll be able to support local economy, enjoy your shopping experience, and find nutrient-rich superfoods. Avoid buying items like chia seeds or flax seed at the supermarket as it will be less fresh and up to 5 times the price. All these superfoods mentioned above can be found at the central outdoor market of any Costa Rican city.