In Italy, I was inspired by its history and art, but I was just as inspired by its food. Italian meals are juicy, sensational, sensual, delightful, fulfilling, engaging… I just can’t use enough adjectives to explain my experience. It’s taken my relationship with food to a whole new level. And while Italian foods are certainly rich and tasty, they’re also refreshing and nourishing. What’s their secret? Here are a couple of my thoughts:
This delicious ingredient that spices up Italian food does much more than stir up your appetite. Garlic is also a potent antioxidant, particularly protective against toxins that build up in the liver.
Studies have show that a garlic-rich diet may protect against heart disease and various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. So adding one to two garlic gloves a day to your meal is not only delicious but also healthy.
Of course, for many, the big turnoff is the odor of garlic breath. But eating some fennel seeds or parsley after your meal helps neutralize the smell.
Italians are very generous when it comes to olive oil. In Italy, I often found my pasta soaked with juicy and tasty olive oils. It seemed so rich and sinful. But to my surprise, it’s really quite healthy.
Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Even better, olive oil is also well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. No wonder I don’t have any bloated feelings after an apparently rich and oily meal.
I notice that in a typical Italian dish, there are not a lot of veggies. So where do Italians get their veggie intake? Other than salads, I think the Italian’s secret is their tomatoes.
A rich source of vitamins A and C, tomatoes are known to reduce heart disease and prevent cataracts. Tomato’s red pigment, called lycopene is an antioxidant famous for its cancer prevention properties. And lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when the tomato is cooked. The clever Italians!
Wine is certainly a big part of Italian meals. Sipping a glass of wine with a beautifully presented dish and a lively conversation is certainly the Italian way of life, and a healthy and delightful one in my opinion.
Research has confirmed the benefits of wine for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It seems that a little wine with dinner is not only enjoyable, but also comes with added benefits, such as reducing cholesterol, preventing cancer, and preventing blood clots, stroke and plaque buildup.
What impressed me the most was the freshness of Italian dishes. Whether in a nice restaurant or a small mom-and-pop shop, Italian foods are always fresh.
It is intensely satisfying to smell and taste the fresh ingredients and enjoy food that is alive, not dead. Unlike the large supermarket chains we’re used to, in Italy there are many small farmers’ markets around where both restaurants and individuals source their food supplies on a daily basis.
Delicious and healthy is the Italian secret. My trip to Italy has inspired one of my New Year’s resolutions: to visit local farmers’ markets more often and make cooking and eating more about enjoyment and art, and less about just filling my stomach.
I hope you are as inspired by the Italian way as I am. Buon Appetito!