Italian Cuisine is known as one of the worlds healthiest diets. It focuses on simple and natural ingredients and the benefits of this Mediterranean diet can include weight loss, improved sugar levels and a healthy mind. The best way to start is to stock up on the core ingredients used in commonly used in their various dishes.
Olive oil is a common one to stock up on. By replacing butter with olive oil you’ll be replacing bad cholesterol with good cholesterol. It is high in monounsaturated fat and is the best cooking oil to use. The Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols, the antioxidants which have been linked to good heart health. Use olive oil to dress your salads with a bit of lemon, or to lightly sauté fresh vegetables.
Tomatoes are a must have ingredient for any Italian cuisine. They are either used in a fresh salad or in a red Italian sauce and are packed with vitamin c and lycopene, another antioxidant which protects the heart and is also known to prevent some cancers. Additional nutritional ingredients in a tomato include vitamins A, potassium and folate.
Garlic adds flavour to any Italian dish and is good either fresh, dried or in powder form. It is a well-known natural health remedy used to treat certain ailments and can strengthen the immune system as well as fight off infections and reduce cholesterol. Garlic can also prevent the growth of the candida fungus.
Seafood is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein, vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is known to eliminate some problems associated with memory loss, cardiovascular functions, colon cancer, strokes and PMS. Omega 3’s are healthy fats which are important for optimal immune function. They increase metabolism and help in hormone production.
Whole Grains are the core ingredients in Mediterranean cooking and known to lower cholesterol, prevent constipation and lower the risk of many chronic diseases. The risk of type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart disease is reduced by eating whole grain foods and it also helps in weight management.
Beans are a big part of Italian cuisine and are an inexpensive source of protein that can be very versatile. They are often substituted for meat and can be used in salads, soups, stews, pasta, side dishes and dips to name a few. They are known to prevent health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. They contain protein, fibre and almost no fat and are good at filling up on as they contain almost no fat.
Dark Leafy Greens. The Italians love their dark leafy greens which contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, and betaine. The vitamin K found in the greens help to prevent blood clots and age related issues and not getting enough of this can result in cardiovascular disease, fragile bones and artery and kidney calcification. The best way to eat leafy greens is in a salad or sautéed in olive oil with garlic.
Nuts. Nut trees are almost as popular as olive trees in Italy and they offer various health benefits. They are loaded with protein, fibre and essential fats and are good in salads, as a snack on its own or use pine nuts, hazelnuts or almonds to make a good pesto sauce.
Red Wine. No Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine. Red wine is better for your health and a glass of red with your meal can be good for cholesterol, blood sugar and help with digestion.
As they would say in Italy “Buon Appetito!’.