Of all the global cuisines, there’s nothing that quite compares with the taste and experience of eating traditional, authentic, Italian home cooking. Italian food is the product of thousands of years of culinary wisdom, with recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next, for centuries past. Therefore, it can be of little wonder that it continues to be one of the most popular styles of cuisine, both here in America and across the pond in the UK.
However, whilst we do share a love of pizza, pasta and red wine, what we don’t seem to share is the good health and low obesity rates enjoyed by our Italian cousins. In fact, America has the unenviable reputation of having one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world. This worrying statistic naturally gives rise to the question, if the average westernized diet already consists of so much ‘healthy’ Italian food, then just where exactly are we going wrong?
Quality Over Convenience
One of the fundamental ways in which the Westernized diet differs to that of the Mediterranean one, is in the quality of the ingredients used. Italian cuisine is renowned for using fresh, seasonal produce that’s locally grown, minimally processed, and packed full of nutrition. So perhaps the secret to good health and maintaining a healthy and natural weight is to eat a varied diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
They also use olive oil in many of their dishes, which although is still a fat and should therefore, be consumed in moderation, is a far healthier alternative to the saturated fats and trans-fats that make up such a worryingly large part of the American diet. There is now even evidence to suggest that regular consumption of olive oil could help to lower cholesterol and prevent high blood pressure, which is supported by the fact that health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke are far less prevalent in Italian people than in American.
Changing Old Habits
Another secret of the Mediterranean diet is, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, red wine. Red wine is something of a staple in the Italian diet, although they’re not a culture that drinks to excess, as is commonplace in some other countries, such as America, Australia and the UK. Many studies now suggest that drinking red wine in moderation, the way in which the Italians do, can actually have significant health benefits. It can help reduce the risk of heart disease, and even certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. Drinking moderate amounts of red wine is also believed to help stimulate memory and improve cognitive function, which could help prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia from developing in later life.
Another way in which American and Italian eating habits differ is in our attitude towards not only what we eat, but crucially, how we eat it. For the Italians, a meal is an experience and an occasion, something to be both savored and enjoyed, which is in many ways completely at odds with the American fast-food culture of instant gratification. Much like the Chinese style of eating, the Italian dining experience is spread out over a few hours, allowing diners time to relax, socialize, and most importantly savor, each and every part of their meal.
Forging a New Path
There is also ‘Passeggiata’, a charming Italian tradition where multiple generations of the same family take a gentle stroll through the countryside after eating. This form of mild exercise, not only promotes good health, but also helps to forge and maintain strong bonds between the old and young. If America were to adopt such a tradition, it may help to open the lines of communication between family members, which could improve relationships and the experience of family living.
Therefore, when you consider the diversity of the Italian diet, their strong focus on harmonious family living, as well as their frequent walks in the fresh and unpolluted countryside air, it really can be of little surprise that Italian people not only live longer, but also enjoy better health and arguably a better quality of life. If we were to make simple changes not only to what, but also how we eat our food, perhaps American society could benefit in exactly the same way.
Mediterranean food – MaxPixel Public Domain
Italian Cuisine – pixabay Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Hollie is a freelance writer for hire, and has been working in the print and digital media industry since 2012. She specialises in copywriting and ghostwriting for small businesses, private clients and the odd multinational corporation. She has worked on numerous projects to date including articles, blogs, product descriptions and press releases, right through to eBooks and our traditional friend – the printed book. Residing in a white-washed Victorian cottage on the edge of the Cotswolds in the UK, when she’s not working (which is practically never!), you’ll usually find her supping cider and putting the world to rights in one of the local pubs. She particularly loves to write about anything that helps to make sense of this crazy thing that we call human experience and hates having her photo taken. To find out more about Hollie, and how her services could benefit you, check out her website:
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