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Monday, July 31, 2017

A Friend Writes...Top Health Benefits of Eating Italian

Jonathan of Maple Holistics kindly stopped by Evenings with Peter to give us the skinny on eating Italian the healthy way.

He writes: So many kitchens, so little time… nevertheless, one cuisine which I keep coming back to in any kitchen - mainly because I make a serious attempt to! - is Italian cuisine. Italy has it all - history, culture, and fine dining. These guys know how to treat food and drink with respect, and so it is one country which has always held a special place in my heart. Did I say heart? I meant stomach.

Italy has some starters, entrées, and desserts which are to die for. But the boot-shaped kitchen is not only succulent and delicious, it can also be healthy. Not all Italian dishes are healthy ones, of course. That goes without saying. There are guilty pleasures and guiltless recipes in every kind of kitchen. So, without further ado, here is our list of the top health benefits of eating Italian. Salute!

1.     Extra Virgin Olive Oil - this one comes first, because it exists in many dishes. I have read it is more prevalent in southern dishes, but I can’t really tell the difference yet. Olive oil is abundant in oleic acid (Omega-9 fatty acid) and has some Omega-3 and Omega-6. Vitamin K and E are also part of its makeup, and it is no wonder it is considered one of the healthiest oils in the world. And the taste is finger-licking good. Yum.

Remember - you don’t want to have everything dripping with oil. There is such a thing as getting too much of a good ingredient. The basis of any healthy diet, regardless of the region or individual, is proportionate use of ingredients. Keep everything in moderation, and you will be on your way to health and happiness.

If olive oil is not your thing, for whatever reason, culinary
argan oil is a great substitute. Not in all dishes, though. It is literally a matter of taste. Give it a shot, and see if it agrees with you.

2.     Salted Beef - not your run-of-the-mill beef, mind you, but rather the air-dried bresaola. When sliced nice and thin, and served with some leafy greens like arugula, it can make your mouth dance and sing with delight. While it is true that meat is not the healthiest of ingredients, this particular Italian dish is usually lean and sweet. It has significantly lesser amounts of fat and carbs, and is high in protein. Try it with a glass of semi-dry red.

3.     Pappa Al Pomodoro - sure, some Italian soups may cause your arteries to clog, but others can seriously provide your system with a hearty boost! This one soup stands out as one of the healthier options, but there are others. Traditionally prepared using fresh tomatoes, bread, garlic, and basil, Pappa Al Pomodoro is a rich, thick soup which the whole family can enjoy. As an added bonus, this specific soup can be served at any temperature - hot, chilled, or room temp - and still taste great. Not unlike the French, the Italians love fresh garlic, and they use it in a variety of dishes, though not in excess.

4.     Rabbit - while this isn’t a personal favorite of mine, it is an ingredient which has the potential to be very healthy. It is all about how you prepare it, and what sides you add to it. Rabbit is leaner and lower in bad cholesterol than other popular meats, which is why the Italian people love to roast it, braise it, grill it, and fry it. Served with a green salad and a glass of light wine - so as not to diminish the rabbit’s flavor - it can make for one amazing lunch or supper.

5.     Pasta - okay, this one is a given. You gotta have pasta on this list, right? But pasta has gotten something of a bad rap in the eyes of some. But honestly, it has some really great benefits to it. It all depends on the type of pasta, and method of preparation. It can be very healthy, if you substitute the wheat for sweet potato or cornmeal varieties of gnocchi, for instance. Do that, and you open yourself up to healthier possibilities. Served with spinach or asparagus, and with a fresh pesto made with basil and almonds to boot, it can take your dish to a whole other level. You don’t always need the obvious meat and cheese combo, you know! Sometimes, less really is more.

6.     Jam - finally, something for the sweet lovers out there. Jams are known to be quite high in sugar, but traditional mulberry jam requires less sugar to make, effectively making it a healthier option than most. Does it mean it is a health food? Nope, but it is a different and probably better way to go. Mulberries - when fresh and raw - contain nice amounts of iron and vitamin C, and lesser amounts of other vitamins and trace minerals of all kinds.

Italian for dinner? Yessir. Most definitely. It may not be the first cuisine which pops into mind but healthy Italian dishes do exist. With the right mixture of ingredients - meats, spices, veggies, and wine - it can become a delicious part of a balanced diet. The health benefits of eating Italian are there for the taking, and there are plenty of them out there.

Buon appetito!

Jonathan is a writer and researcher for Maple Holistics.

Thanks to for the image