The best Italian food for your body and mind

The mediterranean diet

Thousands of years ago, Indians, Chinese and Sumerians discovered that some foods could be effectively used to prevent and treat certain diseases.

Hippocrates, the true father of Western medicine, used to say “let food be your medicine and your medicine be food“.

From this statement comes the expression “We are what we eat”,  but we’ve also understood that proper nutrition plays a basic preventive function for many diseases that could potentially develop;

Professor Umberto Veronesi, who created the European Cancer Institute IEO, studied the beneficial aspects of nutrition and came to the conclusion that some types of vegetable and fruit can help to prevent cancer.

In particular fruit and vegetables that contain Flavonoids and Polyphenols, these include extra-virgin olive oil, strawberries, peppers and others that we describe here below.

Nobody can love well, think well and sleep well if they did not eat well”.

Virginia Wolf

Italians have the best health on earth

According to a ranking prepared by Bloomberg (the Global Health Index) Italy is the country with the best health on the planet.

In practice, as shown by this statistical study, Italians have a longer life expectancy, better mental health and a lower risk of heart and cerebrovascular diseases compared to other world populations.

How come we often hear about Mediterranean diet?

This concept was introduced by the American epidemiologist and physiologist, Ancel Keys, who, in his study called “Seven Countries Studies”, scientifically demonstrated how Italians’ quality of life is strictly related to their diet.

The Tuscan food pyramid

What is the Tuscan Food Pyramid?

The Tuscan Food Pyramid (also called PAT) is a pyramidal graphic representation that helps the consumer to adopt a healthy and balanced diet.

The Pyramid is divided into six levels and indicates the indicated proportions of the different foods. The foods to be consumed frequently are illustrated on the base of the pyramid; going towards the top, however, we find the foods to be consumed in moderation or even to be avoided. In all, the pyramid has 70 products, of which 65 belong to the Tuscan tradition; an appropriate consumption of water, wine, together with constant physical activity.

The levels of the Tuscan Food Pyramid

The six steps of the PAT, from bottom to top, are: fruit and vegetables; cereals and derivatives and extra virgin olive oil; legumes, nuts, milk and yogurt; fish and poultry; cheeses, eggs and potatoes; finally meat, cold cuts and sweets. Apart from specific indications for wine, water and physical activity.

1. Fruits and vegetables

2. Cereals

3. Legumes, dried fruit and milk

4. Fish and poultry

5. Cheese, eggs and potatoes

6. Meat, cold cuts and sweets

The PAT was born thanks to the work of a qualified scientific committee, made up of a group of researchers from universities and various Tuscan institutes dealing with nutrition. Their work has served to provide simple and proven indications, respectful of our cultural, agricultural and gastronomic traditions, useful for making us live in good health.

How to prepare the vegetables to preserve their vitamins and minerals.

We usually clean the vegetables by washing them and removing the damaged external leafs or unedible parts. However we can loose a significant part of nutrients by doing so, in particular if we peel carrots and potatoes because vitamins and minerals are more concentrated in the peripheral parts of the vegetables, rather than the central parts..

For example, in the potato there is a maximum concentration of vitamin C in the areas located near the skin; excessive peeling can therefore cause a loss of vitamin C of up to 30-40%.

Thus in the carrot, whose peripheral areas are rich in thiamine, niacin, ribofiavin; in lettuce and spinach, whose outer leaves are high in carotene, B-complex vitamins and ascorbic acid.

Therefore you should scrub the surfice of the carrots gently rather than peel them. And for the potatoes you can either buy baby-potatoes that you can eat with the skin or boil them and then remove the skin, which will come off easily.

How to cook vegetables to preserve the nutrients

A rule to keep in mind is to start cooking with hot water in order to allow the coagulation of the protein substances present in the vegetable, which often constitutes a barrier to the escape of cellular juices. This rule is especially valid if the cooking water is not used.

The destruction of vitamins is also due to the prolonged action of heat. It is therefore preferable to choose cooking methods with short times. If the cooking water is also used, as for example in soups, all the components dissolved in water are recovered, while the problem of partial destruction of the vitamin kit remains unchanged.

Steam cooking is one of the best methods to preserve nutrients

Steam cooking can be carried out either using steam at atmospheric pressure (a normal pan on the bottom of which a veil of water is spread and the vegetables are raised from the bottom through a perforated basket), or with a pressure cooker.

With this system, contact with the solubilizing medium (water) is avoided and therefore the loss of soluble nutrients is reduced to almost zero. Furthermore, with the pressure cooker, you can significantly shorten the cooking time, limiting the destruction of vitamins to a minimum.

Nutraceuticals

The term derives from the union of 2 words: 1 – nutrition 2 – pharmaceutical NUTRACEUTS ARE CHEMICALS NATURALLY CONTAINED IN CERTAIN FOODS THAT HAVE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS ON OUR HEALTH. Usually the beneficial and nutritional characteristics of NUTRACEUTS TEND TO VANISH WITH THE INDUSTRIAL PREPARATION OF FOODS.

It is right to start this article talking about NUTRACEUTICALS, a term invented  by the American,  Dr. Stephen de Felice, in 1989.

foods in which the nutraceuts are naturally present ARE VERY RARE AND EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY IS ONE OF THESE.

Barberi, Dr. Alessio. The miracle of high quality extra-virgin olive oil for our health: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil reduces mortality by 25% and selectively kills cancer cells . Kindle Edition.

Regular consumption of small quantities of fruit and vegetables rich in flavonoids, i.e. antioxidant compounds, can promote the maintenance of a healthy weight in the long term, also leading to the risk of obesity.

These are the conclusions reached by a large American study, conducted in collaboration by the University of Harvard and East Anglia, published in the pages of the British Medical Journal

Il consumo regolare di piccole quantità di frutta e verdura ricca di flavonoidi, ossia di composti antiossidanti, può favorire a lungo termine il mantenimento del peso forma, pervenendo anche il rischio di obesità.

Sono queste le conclusioni cui è giunto un ampio studio americano, condotto in collaborazione dall’Università di Harvard e East Anglia, pubblicato sulle pagine del British Medical Journal

THE FLAVONOIDS

Not all fruit and vegetables are equally beneficial or have the same results on the body. Those containing, for example, good quantities of anthocyanins, flavonoid polymers or flavonols, all compounds belonging to the flavonoid family, in addition to counteracting the action of free radicals and skin and cellular aging, would also be valuable for controlling fat deposition.

The flavonoids then have the merit of being present in various types of fruit – apples, strawberries, blueberries, pears, oranges – and vegetables such as peppers, radishes, onions so as to favor the composition of a varied diet that respects the five colors of health.

I flavonoidi hanno poi il merito di essere presenti in svariate tipologie di frutta – mele, fragole, mirtilli, pere, arance – e verdure come peperoni, ravanelli, cipolle così da favorire la composizione di una dieta varia e rispettosa dei cinque colori della salute.

Polyphenols

But how does the high quality extra-virgin olive oil express its preventive effect on the damage of the endothelium and its repair? The basis of everything derives from its content in POLYPHENOLS, SUBSTANCES THAT REPRESENT A GREAT PART OF THE NUTRACEUTS.

Cholesterol

The endothelium is usually damaged as a result of our physiological aging process. However, it is damaged MORE QUICKLY if some of our normal components, in incorrect concentrations, are present in our blood. Among these we should focus our attention on cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, sulphites and nicotine derivatives. Cholesterol travels in the blood bound to proteins mainly in 3 forms that are called 1 – HDL (high density lipoproteins) 2 – LDL (low density lipoproteins) 3 – VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) HDLs represent the so-called “good” cholesterol while LDL represent the so-called “bad” cholesterol.

Barberi, Dr. Alessio. The miracle of high quality extra-virgin olive oil for our health: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil reduces mortality by 25% and selectively kills cancer cells . Kindle Edition.

Fondazione Veronesi https://www.fondazioneveronesi.it/magazine/articoli/alimentazione/la-cottura-degli-alimenti-frutta-e-verdure