Columns

2013.05.01 Beans are the key, Dwight

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I sat next to a classmate at a recent school board meeting and the conversation soon turned morbid. Dwight Mansfield and I graduated in the same Morenci class a few years ago, so many years that it now takes more than all of our fingers and toes combined to count the years. Before the meeting started, Dwight made a comment about how many of our classmates are no longer among the living.

He gave an estimated percentage—way too high—but we started naming names and the list seemed rather lengthy for people of our age. After all, my mother just told me last week that she considers me part of the younger set at age 62.

Dwight and I began exchanging names: Gary, Dan, Brad, Sherry, Ruth, Dow and Jo Ann, Shirley. I think Charlie was in our class. There may be others. I've lost track of the whereabouts of so many, and there are probably others who have died over the years. And what about those who left our school before graduation? L.D. Overton, Terry Lantz, Joe Smith and many more.

This brings to mind a column I wrote a few years ago about how those who live the longest ended up with the fewest remaining friends. Here's a quote from that one:

"Assume there are a hundred people close to your age that might be invited to your funeral. This is a crude way of looking at the situation, he says, but it gets across an important point.

On the average, half of those people will already be dead when it’s your turn to go. One of them will have died, on average, when your group reaches 16 years old. At 40, your life expectancy is half-way gone.

When you reach age 63, you should expect to lose one member of your group every year, then the pace accelerates."

Dwight is many, many months older than I, so at that worrisome age of 63, he's already looking over his shoulder. One per year? That seems a little extreme. Our class wasn't that big.

A couple of weeks after sitting with Dwight, I came upon the Longevity Game sponsored by Northwest Mutual Insurance. Give your age and answer some questions about your lifestyle and out will come an estimated year of departure. My year of death was somewhere in the low 90s.

I thought it would be interesting to have my parents take the test since they're already brushing up against the low 90s. My father came through at 103 years—the same age his mother died—and my mother was given a bonus year at 104. That's a long, long ways to go. I hope they're good years.

I don't believe for a minute in the accuracy of such a test, but I like it because it makes you think about how you're living. Are you eating your fruits and vegetables? Have you given up smoking? Are you getting enough exercise? Recreational drugs? Too much alcohol? Bad family genetics? I think there are a dozen questions in all—questions that would make some people think, "You're taking all the fun out of life."

More recently I looked at the Blue Zone people from a few areas around the Earth where people live long lives, usually dying from "old age" rather than from disease. What tied them together was beans. Black beans, fava beans, soybeans—there are other factors, but beans seem to be the cornerstone.

I started eating more beans after I wrote that column in November and I discovered how much I love black beans. I soak them, put them in the freezer overnight (for de-gassification purposes), then put them in the slow cooker for the day. 

What I discovered is that I really love black beans. Barely a day goes by without beans. I guess they were so obviously missing from my diet. Now I can't get enough. I knew the day would eventually arise when beans would take over my menu. It was just a week ago Monday when it happened. I had some black beans for every meal that day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I had some rice and beans Saturday for breakfast. My wife assumed it was oatmeal until she got a closer look and was thoroughly disgusted. Disgusting? Some people around the world eat grubs for breakfast and enjoy them, so why not a few beans?

Beans, Dwight. That's what will help you through this dangerous year of 63.

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