“It’s in the nature of Italians to live life with a positive tone and to celebrate the invitations that come along in life. Italian food is so conducive to all of that.”
– Lidia Bastianich, Chef
I spent some time in Italy in the summer of 2019 and I’d like to share with you 5 reasons why I believe Italy is one of the healthiest country on earth.
1) They eat with the seasons and care a great deal about food miles
Food that’s in season, that’s been picked at peak ripeness and delivered shortly after will be fresher, tastier and more nutritious. It’ll contain a whole host of vitamins and minerals then food that’s come from miles and miles away.
2) They care about how their food has been grown
There was huge emphasis on growing organically, without pesticides and GMO’s, even in restaurants especially when it came to the wheat, dairy and meat. The wheat (that makes the pasta, bread and pizza) is grown, processed and cooked in a way that makes it more digestible (like sourdough) and less likely to cause health problems. Cheeses came from farms in which the goat, sheep and cows were pasture raised – and was very seasonal. This is great because that means that the mozzarella, the burrata and the ricotta is rich in heart healthy Omega 3’s! That’s guilt free cheese if you ask me :).
2) They cook from scratch
Making meals from scratch means that their meals will have less salt, sugar, trans fat and preservatives and will contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And by cooking with a good oil like extra virgin olive oil (not processed unhealthy seed oils like soy, canola and corn) which is basically drizzled on everything and used to sauté everything. This has a benefit to your health because olive oil eaten with vegetables will allow you to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals found in the vegetables you’re cooking with.
4) They’re social butterflies
Some may say that it’s ingrained in the Italian culture to be social butterflies. That may be the case but I also think their piazzas and parks, which are essentially public spaces where people gather to socialize, have something to do with it. I mention this because there’s a very strong link between the richness of your social connections and longevity. Italians rarely eat alone and they love being and eating together.
5) They walk a lot
Rome, as well as many other European cities, is very walkable – and walking is very good for your health. People walk to work, to do their errands and to meet their friends rather than drive. This might be a little tougher for us here in big North American cities because of urban sprawl, so for ideas on how to integrate more walking into your life I’d suggest you read an old blog of mine tiled Sitting Kills, Moving Heals…
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to move to Italy to embrace the healthy habits Italians practice. You can make some changes for yourself right now. Actions like buying foods that are fresh and in season, making an effort to spend time with friends and family and finding ways to lessen driving and increase walking are all simple but impactful.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I’m confident that with a little effort and determination, you can build your healthy habits to last as long as the Eternal City.