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Healthy eating: Susan Jane White with this high-fibre red kidney bean dip

Regions of the world with the highest concentration of people over 100 years old are dubbed "blue zones". These zones, and their sprightly centenarians, have aroused great excitement among medical and academic circles. And, of course, Bill Cullen.

Dan Buettner focuses on five hot spots of longevity -- Sardinia, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Icaria in Greece and Loma Linda in California. Buettner's research unpacks how these centenarians manage to live longer and better, and still look buff at 99. This, he observes, is achieved through the food they eat, the company they keep, and the lifestyles they adopt. And not through pills, surgery or fancy creams.

Buettner's blue-zone diet is a compilation of foods we should be paying close attention to, should we be planning to see the 22nd Century. Beans, whoppingly high in fibre, are one of the most common foods found in a centenarian's diet. EU-funded studies into cancer found that high-fibre diets lowered the risk of developing colon and gastric cancers by 40 per cent. Considering colon cancer is the second biggest killer in Ireland, maybe it's time to start making friends with beans. Or nature's cornucopia cookbook.

Gastroenterologists -- the specialists who look after your pipes -- recommend 30-35g of daily dietary fibre. One cup of cooked red kidney beans provides 11g, while adzuki beans ring in at 17g per serving. Want to know the average daily intake of fibre is in Ireland? A measly 10g. So forget that hideous childhood rhyme, and start loving beans. They love you.

Red Kidney Bean Dip

Red kidney beans are particularly rich in B vitamins for energy ignition, making them an excellent choice for your lunchbox. Ever heard the expression "full of beans"? Of course, this is blatantly demonstrated by the success of Kenyan athletes who subsist on beans and complex carbohydrates for their limitless energy. Almost 50 per cent of professional athletes recorded to have finished 10km in less than 27 minutes hail from Kenya. A study on elite Kenyan distance runners, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that 86 per cent of their daily calories came from plant sources, with just 14 per cent from animal foods. Not too dissimilar from the diet of the blue zones' centenarians. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? So, maybe ditch that lunchtime sambo, and get making this beany dip to high-jump afternoon slumps in the office.

Besides, DIY lunches are, as our mothers would say, all the rage.

You will need:

1 x 400g (14oz) tin cooked red kidney beans, drained

Good pinch of sweet, hot or smoked paprika powder

Splash of soy sauce or tamari

3 tablespoons almond butter or tahini

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Whizz everything together in a blender for four seconds, or a little longer if you like a smooth hummus-y texture. Feel free to use a tin of mixed beans -- there are loads of choices on our supermarket shelves to save you from cooking beans all evening. However, remember tinned beans can be pretty muted in comparison to the freshly cooked variety, so don't be shy to use more soy sauce and paprika to wake them up.

Lure the dip into a clean jam jar, grab a few carrot or bread sticks, and pop it into your bag for later. This is what I call real fast food.


Susan Jane will give a cookery demonstration at the Rude Health show, RDS, September 10 at 2.30pm, see www.susanjanewhite.com