Here’s my question. In a lifestyle where eating a home cooked meal using healthy ingredients is still the norm, and walking everywhere you want to go is just a part of life, why do most of the old people look so unhealthy?

Here’s my question. In a lifestyle where eating a home cooked meal using healthy ingredients is still the norm, and walking everywhere you want to go is just a part of life, why do most of the old people look so unhealthy?

One of our favorite things about the food in Costa Rica is the fact that the idea of a home-cooked meal being better than store-bought processed food is so prevalent. Yes, you can find a hot dog or a piece of pizza, but those places don’t draw nearly the crowd that the regular (comidas tipicas, or “typical foods”) food stands do. When you sit down at one of the traditional places, after you place your order you’ll see the woman (typically) start working on putting together your plate. She breaks the egg into the frying pan (our usual order), gets the banana cooking on a separate pan (almost everywhere we’ve been serves a fried banana as a garnish), and then starts chopping the lettuce and tomato for your salad. When that’s all ready, she dishes out a helping of her current batch of rice and beans which is still hot on the stove, then puts the rest of the food artistically around the rice and beans. We’re just past three weeks here now and we’ve eaten that same meal at least twice a day…and still loving it.

However, we learned on our first meal, when the eggs and bananas came out dripping in grease, to ask for our eggs scrambled, where they don’t use any oil at all, or fried with very little oil (poco azeite). Only once have we gotten a raised eyebrow. Every other time they quickly understand what we’re going for and cook it spot on.

Now that we’re in our own place we’re able to cook most of our food at home – and yes, it’s still rice and beans, eggs, salad, and a banana. (We live in a fishing village so there is plenty of fresh fish in our future.) And that’s where the beauty of our secret ingredient kicks in. Kelli was smart enough to bring with us two jars of coconut oil, which along with making great skin lotion, lip balm, and deodorant, is also fantastic for cooking. A future post will be all about the health benefits of coconut oil so we’ll just say for now that the list is long.

What an amazing difference the coconut oil makes. When an egg or banana fried in coconut rather than a cheap vegetable oil hits your stomach, it’s quickly apparent that the body agrees with it, as opposed to our first eggs here that were deep fat fried and hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. We don’t use any oil for cooking our rice, which most people here would find strange, so cooking up this “typical food” at home, using coconut oil and only for the eggs and bananas, makes this fantastic meal entirely healthy for us. Kelli has become a pro at the fried banana. I had no idea that they would be so sweet with no sugar added. And I tell you what, when you add in the slight hint of coconut flavor from the oil to the banana, lights out.

So back to my question. In a country that does so much home cooking and so much walking, the potential for a healthy population is enormous. Yet what we see is that most people over 40 here don’t look so good. Most are overweight – and not just a little bit – and look tired and worn down. I wondered about this when I lived in Brazil, too, where I put on 20 pounds after living there for two years even though I walked at least 10 miles a day. I know they don’t use healthcare the same way we do in the states, but from what we know about drugs versus healthy lifestyle habits that may not be such a bad thing. Is it the oil they use? The excessive amounts? Or, similar to the states, is it the cheap processed snacks that are available at every store and on nearly every street corner, snacks that’ll even come to you when you’re stopped at a red light? (The ingredient list on processed food looks even scarier in Spanish. : )

With such an advantage, where home cooked food using healthy ingredients still rules and walking long distances is a part of daily life, what would it require to take a third world country and turn it into an epitome of health? Change the oil, change the world?

What do you think? What’s the issue and what would it take to solve it?

6 thoughts on “Change the Oil Change the World?

  1. Found you via another blog! Thanks for this awesome post and I think the problem are the cheap processed snacks, I mean it’s feel like you are eating it and you don’t even realize that maybe you are not even hungry, but our society is like that.
    Hope to see you around!

    1. I think you’re right, Fernando. When you eat the cheap snacks, you can go through a whole bag and never feel satisfied. Your body feels some sort of a substance coming in, but it never finds what it’s looking for so it never tells your brain to stop eating.

      We discovered last night that it’s a combination of the processed foods and the oil. Everyone uses tons of oil in their cooking, and last night I went to buy a loaf of whole grain bread, what appeared to be a good loag, and guess what was in there…vegetable oil. And sodium benzoate. So here in Costa Rica they have all of the same nasty American processed foods, but none of the healthy options that one can find in the states if you really want it.

      Thanks for the comment. And your site looks helpful. I’ll be going there for some tips.

  2. Just wondering–what type of eggs do you eat? Organic? Cage-free? Hormone and pesticide free?

    I have RA and recently cut out eggs (along with many other things), but I was wondering if there are eggs that are safe to eat. Thanks!

    1. Hi Angie – that’s a great question. I eat the cleanest and most fresh eggs I can find, so yes, eggs from organically-fed free-range hens that aren’t given any kind of hormones or steroids.

      It’s good to hear from someone else managing their Rheumatoid Arthritis – though I’m sorry you’re in that boat. I went to your blog and read a bit. I haven’t ever had a problem with eggs nor found that they impact my RA. Have you found that you are sensitive to them? When you did your elimination diet, did you ever try adding them back once you felt better? I’d love to know about your experience.

      Thanks so much for sharing,


  3. Kelli-
    I started the elimination diet on my own without much info. I did add foods back in, but then I realized I wasn’t doing all I could. As I researched and read more, I found information that made sense to me in a couple of books and other resources (The Ph Miracle and Conquering Arthritis to name a couple).

    I altered my diet and was able to stop all medication at the beginning of November. I am now pregnant (one goal that motivated my changes), so I’ve put off any cleanse/juice fast/detox until later. Now I am just trying to keep the RA under control by eating healthy. I’m anxious to hear the details of your detox.

    Recently I was thinking the organic eggs would be ok to eat, so thanks for the info.

    1. Angie, I’m so glad you were able to get your RA under control and off the meds with your diet changes! Diet changes are not easy, but does it feel like the hard work paid off?

      Since your last comment I went back and read most of your blog – I really like it! Congratulations on the pregnancy – I am so happy to know you got there. I hope you are able to keep feeling well throughout and after the pregnancy.

      Thanks for following along. I appreciate your comments and look forward to hearing from you again.


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