San José, Costa Rica

The study in San José, Costa Rica is led by Dr. Rafael Monge-Rojas from the Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (INCIENSA).


Costa Rica at a Glance


Capital: San José

Area: 51,100 sq km
Population: 4,755,234
Median age: total 30 years
Urban population: 64% of total population
Life expectancy: male 75.59 yr; female 81.01 yr
Per Capita GDP: $12,900

Language: Spanish (official), English

Location:  Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama

Agriculture:  Tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs

Diet and culture:
Costa Rica food often revolves around rice and beans, such as Gallo Pinto, a dish that translates to “Spotted Rooster”. Gallo Pinto is a dish that includes rice at a three to one ratio to rice. Also added are onions, garlic, and salt. Beans and rice dishes are usually served alongside a carrot and cabbage or lettuce and tomato salad.

On special occasions “arroz con camarones” or “arroz con pollo”, (fried shrimp or chicken), are found on the table instead of beans and rice. Meats are eaten sparingly, while beans provide a high content of fiber. Costa Rica food choices also include dairy or cheese.

As Costa Rica has water on both sides with the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the east, fresh seafood is always available. Unfortunately, the seafood is also extremely expensive as the country exports the bulk of its seafood. Chicken, pork, and beef are the more popular meats. Costa Rica food supplies use organ meat as well; so expect to find dishes involving stomach, brains, and other organs on the menu. Other staples of Costa Rica food choices include fresh vegetables such as tomatoes and a variety of beans, fruits, including plantains, and rice. Plantains are similar to bananas in appearance, but they cannot be eaten raw. Plantains are pounded flat, battered, and fried tender.

Staple beverages such as sugarcane soaked in hot water are second only to the nation’s delicious Costa Rican coffee. Drinks mixing corn meal and milk are also common.