So it seems like the Italians seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to eating healthy! Many of the standard ingredients that are a MUST for Italian cooking are up there are the heart-healthy eating guides. Here are just some of them:
Make olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat, your go-to cooking oil. By replacing butter with olive oil—the most commonly used oil in the Mediterranean—you’ll cut back on saturated fat, help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and boost levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. In addition, extra-virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to heart health.
There’s nothing quite like a ripe tomato, whether served on a bed of fresh greens or made into an Italian red sauce to dress a bowl of hearty pasta. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant that may also help prevent some cancers (particularly prostate). Vitamin A, potassium and folate are also among the tomato’s nutritional benefits. Although cooked tomatoes have less vitamin C, their lycopene is more available and antioxidant activity is undiminished.
Garlic is magical; at least that’s what the ancients Romans thought. We now know that garlic has both antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. In an era before antibiotics, garlic may have kept the Greeks and Romans free of infection. Garlic boasts anticancer characteristics—studies show it may lower breast, colon, stomach, throat and skin cancer risks. It’s heart-healthy, too, as it’s been shown to prevent clotting. The secret to all these health benefits? Sulfides. Those beneficial sulfides aren’t released, however, unless the garlic is crushed or chopped and left to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes before eating or cooking. Garlic purchased already chopped offers the same benefits.
What Italian dinner is complete without a glass of wine? And preferably, for health, make it red wine. Enjoying wine in moderation during meals, not drinking alone outside of the meal and never in excess, can increase “good” HDL cholesterol, may help regulate blood sugar and can even help you digest your food and absorb its nutrients. Pour yourself a 5-ounce serving of your favorite Chianti, Montepulciano or other Italian red to pair with the earthy flavors of Italian cooking.
So if you were looking for an excuse to get cooking, just say your doctor told you it was for your health! Per la vostra salute!