The festive feasting period is over and it’s time to get back to a sensible diet. January diets can be daunting and often unsuccessful. But eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s no secret that Italian food makes up one of the healthiest diets in the world. It follows the Mediterranean pattern of eating, focusing on simple, natural ingredients, such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and whole grains, which is what makes it one of the world’s healthiest diets. Research suggests that the benefits of a Mediterranean diet may include improved weight loss, better control of blood-glucose (sugar) levels and even a reduced risk of depression. So, you can get healthy and fight the January blues just by eating delicious Italian food!
Check out some of the essential ingredients used in Italian cooking that make this diet so beneficial for you:
It’s a quintessential ingredient in Italian cooking and the starting or finishing point for so many popular Italian dishes. By using olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat, you are cutting back on saturated fat, and therefore helping to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your diet and boosting levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Extra-virgin olive oil is also high in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to improved heart health. Whether you use olive oil to sauté your fresh veggies or to dress your salads or bruschetta, it’s a highly beneficial ingredient to incorporate into your cooking.
These perfect, spherical red beauties are a vision of health and whether you enjoy them freshly chopped over your favourite bread or in a salad, or cooked into a hearty sauce for a pasta dish, this delicious fruit is full of great things. Tomatoes are packed with Vitamin A and C, potassium, folate and lycopene – a heart-protective antioxidant that may also help prevent some cancers.
Bet you didn’t think your beloved, comfort-food pasta dishes could be healthy? Think again! Diets that are rich in whole grains can protect you against heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Leaving the grains whole lowers their glycemic index, so they are digested more slowly and produce gentler rises in glucose and insulin than refined grains. Whole grains also retain all their fibre, magnesium, vitamin E and other antioxidants. To reap all these benefits, ensure you use whole-wheat pasta to cook up your favourite Italian pasta dish, or whole-grain bread to make your delicious bruschetta appetisers.
You can never have too much garlic! And lucky for your January health kick, it’s far from a bad addiction to have. Garlic has both antibiotic and antifungal properties as well as anti-cancer characteristics. Studies show that garlic may lower the risk of breast, colon, stomach, throat and skin cancers. It’s also been shown to prevent clotting which makes garlic great for your heart. The secret to these numerous health benefits are sulphides. Sulphides are released when garlic is crushed or chopped and left to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes before eating or cooking. If you don’t already add garlic to EVERYTHING, try adding it to your sautéed or roasted vegetables, homemade tomato sauce or even your salad dressings and garlic bread. (Tip: if you’re feeling lazy, rushed off your feet or don’t particularly love the smell of it on your fingers – pre-chopped garlic also has the same benefits!)
Seafood is a staple protein in Italian diets. From seafood spaghetti and risottos to fillets of seabass and salmon, Italians love seafood! High in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, niacin and selenium, it’s no wonder Italians look and feel so great. Include at least two servings of fish or seafood in your diet each week to ensure you’re filling your body with all the good stuff!