6 Hallmarks of The Italian Diet that Make it So Healthy

Blog Lifestyle 6 Hallmarks of The Italian Diet that Make it So Healthy

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9.25.2020 0 comments

Italy is a country famous for its cuisine! In fact, Italian cooking is so revered around the world that it can be found in just about every city or town, no matter how small.

Pizza, pasta, and lasagna are the best-known Italian dishes, but you’ll find there’s so much more to Italian food—so much that makes it as healthy as it is delicious. Following an Italian diet, like any other Mediterranean diet, may be a great way to improve your health while still enjoying your favorite meals.

Here are a few hallmarks of the Italian diet that make it so healthy:

High Vegetable Intake

The average Italian eats vegetables at every meal, and a lot of them!

Many Italian pasta sauces contain added veggies, which help to increase fiber intake and add flavor and texture to the meals.

Eggplants, artichokes, capers, onions, and peppers are found in a lot of Italian dishes, which means you are getting a lot better balance of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. And Italians love their salads—made with delicious fresh lettuce and other veggies—served with olive oil and vinegar rather than creamy dressings. The high vegetable intake is a huge part of what makes the Italian diet so healthy.

Consumption of Healthy Fats

If there is one thing Italians eat a lot of, it’s olive oil! Drizzled over pasta, used for salad dressings, served as a dip for bread, or in dozens more varieties, olive oil is one of the healthiest ingredients Italians use in their dishes.

Olive oil has some amazing health benefits [1], including:

  • Reduced inflammation thanks to the oleocanthol, which has been proven to work similar to Ibuprofen [2]

  • High in antioxidants that fight inflammation and chronic disease

  • Rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin K

  • Can reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease [3]

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Reduces LDL cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol

  • Can improve weight management

  • May help to combat plaque buildup in the brain and protect from Alzheimer’s

  • May help to fight diabetes

Suffice it to say, olive oil is amazing for your health, and it deserves a place in your diet!

Low Red Meat Intake

While recent studies have provided evidence questioning the link between red meat and cancer [4], it’s enough to know that eating a lot of one type of food, like red meat, is not consistent with the concept of a balanced diet. In fact, as the Italians (and other healthy countries) have discovered, reducing red meat intake is a good way to be healthy.

While some Italian food does contain red meat—everything from beef to pork to veal to sausage—many dishes are made with no meat at all, while others contain fish, chicken, shrimp, or other seafood ingredients.

Finding other proteins to add to your diet can help you to enjoy your favorite dishes while scaling back the red meat intake enough to promote better health.

Moderate Wine Consumption

Italians are famous for their red wine—and they have added high quality wine to their diet! Studies have found that the resveratrol in red wine is a potent antioxidant that has both anti-cancer [5] and anti-inflammatory [6] properties. While it’s not a miracle cure for health problems, it’s definitely one more ingredient to a healthy diet that can improve your internal functions and decrease your risk of certain diseases.

Smaller Portion Sizes

Italians eat high-carb, high-fat, high-calorie foods—like pizza, pasta, and lasagna—but they eat them in typically smaller quantities than the average American. In fact, an Italian meal can be anywhere from 50 to 75% the size of an American meal. The smaller portion sizes means fewer calories consumed on a daily basis, which means less chance of overdosing on food intake. Moderation is a critical part of what makes the Italian diet a healthy one.

Homemade Meals

Italians don’t do “chain restaurants” like Americans do; in fact, most restaurants in Italy are family-run places, with recipes handed down from generation to generation. Much of the food is home-style cooking that includes dishes served at home.

Most Italians also like to cook and eat at home, with using fresh ingredients and preparing meals entirely from scratch. This means that they are eating healthier, less-processed, less chemical-laden foods. The result: healthier eating!

Resources:

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-olive-oil

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21443487

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21443487

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/health/red-meat-heart-cancer.html

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27058985

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28001084

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