If you think Italian food is all about pasta, pizza, lasagna, and prosciutto, you’ve barely even scraped the surface of what this country and its cuisine has to offer. Real home-cooked Italian food has a whole variety of tasty vegetables cooked to perfection. Here are 9 reasons why Mediterranean food is counted among one of the healthiest in the world and why Italians are so healthy.
1. They Use A Lot Of Herbs
Italian cuisine uses an array of fresh herbs mostly grown in their own balconies and backyards. Herbs are incredibly loaded with a vast array of vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting nutrients, but are most of all helpful in flavoring foods without using too much salt, sauces, or artificial flavorings. Adding lots of chopped herbs can take all your recipes up a notch.
2. Going Seasonal
All over Italy, you can see weekly markets and farmers markets selling organic and local produce at great prices. When something is out of season, it usually comes from abroad, and Italians prefer not to buy it. Most local cuisines have evolved on the basis of seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables. Using the seasonal and local produce helps ensure that your food is always fresh and reduces your carbon footprint.
3. Use Every Part Of Fruits And Vegetables
Most people throw away tops and peels which are actually rich in nutrients, but not the Italians. They saute beet tops in garlic and olive oil; use fennel, carrot, and celery tops to make a tasty pesto; and roast pumpkin peels so they get crisp and chip-like. This way, you get 100 percent of your money’s worth.
4. Don’t Make Mealtime Stressful
For Italians, meals are not a chore. Taking a break to enjoy their meals is a big part of the Italian way of life. When you take the time to enjoy the food you’re eating, you also chew slowly and relish the food more. This helps in better digestion and makes mealtime a pleasant experience.
5. Eat Hyper-Local
Italy has an incredible variety of indigenous produce and grains, which vary a lot by region. These local varieties are often sold in their whole-grain version and usually contain little gluten. Italy also has over 15,000 different kinds of indigenous produce. This variety gives life to many recipes involving vegetables without making the meals meat-centric.
6. Use Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
No dish from the Mediterranean is complete without a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. In central and southern Italy, it is a staple, and people go through bottles and bottles of it. Most Italians never use any other oil. It can be used for low-heat stir-frying, dressing pretty much anything, or even for baking and sweets. Unheated, unfiltered, and freshly pressed, extra-virgin olive oil is the best option to go for. Olive is filled with antioxidants, vitamin E, and healthy monounsaturated fat.
7. Ignore Imported Foods
It is really easy to overeat even so-called healthy food when given the availability. Having less imported food teaches you to make the best of what you have and realize what you actually need and what you don’t. Italians still have a knack for getting a little more creative with flavors, even if they just end up assembling a salad.
8. Mediterranean Food Has Healthy Fats
In spite of the huge differences between northern and southern Italy, most people in the country eat some version of the Mediterranean diet, which is said to be one of the healthiest in the world. Its abundance of healthy fats and total lack of processed foods is credited with one of the lowest incidences of cardiovascular diseases.
9. Italians Eat At The Table
Meals are not just for eating; they are also an opportunity for exchange and for building relationships. Italians always eat at the table and nowhere else. Taking time when sitting at the table, whether in a restaurant or for a dinner with family and friends, is important to the process of enjoying your meal and relaxing. No matter how crazy your schedule is, learning to take a few minutes to actually sit for a meal is a huge part of healthy eating.