My Rouses Everyday, March | April 2018
The Mediterranean diet reflects traditional eating patterns of those countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea: Italy, Greece, Southern France, Spain and Portugal. Research has shown that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce heart disease and is also associated with a lower risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
What I like most about this way of eating is that it generally requires small swaps and changes over time instead of drastic food restrictions and fluctuations. Here are a few changes you can make in your own diet to better follow the patterns of a healthy Italian diet:
Use more olive oil. Varieties that come in tin or tinted bottles are best, because they stay fresh longer and retain more vitamins and minerals. For a high-quality olive oil, try our new Rouses brand Sicilian extra virgin olive oil or Italian extra virgin olive oil.
Eat more vegetables and fruit. Some of the commonly used vegetables in Italian cooking include tomatoes, garlic, onions, artichokes, bell peppers, broccoli, eggplants, mushrooms and zucchini.
Incorporate more seafood, which is a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Replace salt with herbs and spices. Basil, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme are common ingredients in Italian cooking.
The Mediterranean diet touts the value of moderation. It’s not always what you eat, but how much you eat. Typically, Italian dishes involve some form of pasta, but the key is to keep the serving size small — just enough to enjoy the taste and not feel overstuffed.
Of course, you can’t think Italian and not think cheese! While some cheeses are deemed a bit healthier than others, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, this is another aspect of moderation, where smaller portions every now and then are perfectly fine. Some of the most popular Italian cheeses include Asiago, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, provolone and ricotta.
Wine is also an integral part of the Italian diet. Moderate consumption is thought to help raise “good,” or HDL, cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with lower risks of heart attack. Moderate consumption of alcohol has also been linked to better blood-clotting functions, which could help decrease the incidence of both heart attack and stroke. I’ll toast to that!