The Italian Diet

Italian Food FlagSo it seems like the Italians seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to eating healthy! Many of the standard ingredients that are a MUST for Italian cooking are up there are the heart-healthy eating guides. Here are just some of them:

Olive Oil
Make olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat, your go-to cooking oil. By replacing butter with olive oil—the most commonly used oil in the Mediterranean—you’ll cut back on saturated fat, help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and boost levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. In addition, extra-virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to heart health.

Tomatoes
There’s nothing quite like a ripe tomato, whether served on a bed of fresh greens or made into an Italian red sauce to dress a bowl of hearty pasta. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant that may also help prevent some cancers (particularly prostate). Vitamin A, potassium and folate are also among the tomato’s nutritional benefits. Although cooked tomatoes have less vitamin C, their lycopene is more available and antioxidant activity is undiminished.

Garlic
Garlic is magical; at least that’s what the ancients Romans thought. We now know that garlic has both antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. In an era before antibiotics, garlic may have kept the Greeks and Romans free of infection. Garlic boasts anticancer characteristics—studies show it may lower breast, colon, stomach, throat and skin cancer risks. It’s heart-healthy, too, as it’s been shown to prevent clotting. The secret to all these health benefits? Sulfides. Those beneficial sulfides aren’t released, however, unless the garlic is crushed or chopped and left to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes before eating or cooking. Garlic purchased already chopped offers the same benefits.

Red Wine
What Italian dinner is complete without a glass of wine? And preferably, for health, make it red wine. Enjoying wine in moderation during meals, not drinking alone outside of the meal and never in excess, can increase “good” HDL cholesterol, may help regulate blood sugar and can even help you digest your food and absorb its nutrients. Pour yourself a 5-ounce serving of your favorite Chianti, Montepulciano or other Italian red to pair with the earthy flavors of Italian cooking.

So if you were looking for an excuse to get cooking, just say your doctor told you it was for your health! Per la vostra salute!

Bumper Crops Day 4 – I’m Seeing Red!

Bushels of Tomatoes

Well, here it is, the last day of bumper crop week and I think I’ve saved the best for last. Tomatoes! If you’ve ever grown your own, you know you seem to go from “Man, when will I ever get a decent tomato to slice up for a salad or a sandwich?” to “What am I possibly going to do with all of these tomatoes? Can I somehow convince people that tomatoes are the new currency?” Even if you don’t grow your own, you’re bound to see bushels full at your local grocery stores and farmers market. So what can you do with all of these little red gems? Besides packing a few in your family’s lunches everyday trying to push the benefits of lycopene? (FYI tip: The lycopene found in tomatoes, is a powerful anti-oxidant, and studies have shown that it helps protect the blood vessels around the heart and neck better than vitamins A, E, or CoQ10, as well as having Cancer fighting properties. However in order for your body to properly absorb the lycopene, the tomatoes need to be cooked first, preferably in olive oil, which helps the body absorb the full benefits of the nutrient). The answer is easy! Tomato Sauce! You can set aside a few hours and make quarts and quarts of your own tomato sauce, varying between zesty, spicy, garlicky, you name it! You can make a day of it by putting on some opera, pouring a nice Chianti and pretending you’re in Rome for the day! Ciao Bella!