Incorporate these healthy staples of Italian cuisine into your diet for health benefits and added flavor.
Ingredients of Italian cuisine are a great part of the Mediterranean diet and every other healthy, balanced diet. Italian cuisine is one of the most popular and broadly adopted gastronomies all over the world. Italians believe in respect for good produce and simplicity, so some of the most adored dishes of Italians include just a few simple elements, carefully chosen and served at their prime.
10 Ingredients of Italian Cuisine
Experts submits that the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style eating pattern can include reduced risk of depression, better control of blood sugar levels, and improved weight loss 1 . Following, you can find out which main ingredients of Italian cuisine you should include in your well-balanced diet:
- Olive oil
Olive oil is your go-to cooking oil. This oil is high in monounsaturated fat. By swapping butter with olive oil, which is the most commonly used in the Mediterranean diet – you will cut back on saturated fat, boost levels of “good” cholesterol and help lower “bad “cholesterol. Moreover, extra-virgin olive oil is rich in powerful antioxidants, known as polyphenols, which have been associated with cardiovascular health. 2
You can try eating like an Italian by dressing the salad greens with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or use this oil to sauté fresh veggies. Plus, you can use olive oil instead of butter in baking.
There is nothing quite like ripe tomatoes, whether made into an Italian red sauce to dress pasta or served on a bed of fresh greens. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and lycopene, which is a heart-protective antioxidant found to help prevent certain types of cancer (particularly prostate). 3
Folate, potassium, and Vitamin A are also among the nutritional benefits of tomatoes. Even though cooked tomatoes have a smaller amount of vitamin C, their lycopene is even more available and its antioxidant activities are undiminished. 4
To boost the tomato in your diet, you can add some fresh tomatoes to pasta dishes, soups, or salads, or learn how to make delicious homemade tomato pulp. Or slice a tomato and enjoy the fresh tomato taste with a piece of whole-grain toast and dash of grated Parmesan.
Eggplant is used in the cooking of many cultures. It’s often stewed, like in the French ratatouille, or simply deep fried as in the parmigiana di melazane, which is one of the traditional preparations of southern Italy. Eggplant has numerous health benefits. 5
Garlic is supernatural! Well, at least that is what the ancients Romans believed. We now that garlic has both antifungal and antibiotic properties. Garlic may have kept the Romans and Greeks free of infection in an era before antibiotics.
Garlic has anticancer benefits – research found it may lower skin, throat, stomach, colon, and breast cancer risks. It is heart-healthy, as well, as it’s been proven to prevent clotting 6
7 . And the secret to all these benefits? Sulfides! They are not released, though, unless the garlic is chopped or crushed and left to sit for at around 15 minutes before cooking or eating. Garlic bought already chopped provides the same health benefits.
Try adding some chopped garlic to homemade spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, or sautéed greens.
In Italy, nut trees are common as olive trees. Nuts are consumed as snacks, sprinkled on salads, and ground into sauces. They are loaded with heart-friendly monounsaturated fat; they are also rich sources of magnesium, calcium, folate, Vitamin E, fiber, and protein 8 . As you already know, Nutella is a popular Italian product made with hazelnuts, which are probably the most adored nuts in Italy right after the almonds.
- Whole Grains
Traditionally, unrefined grains (whole grain bread, whole wheat couscous, and whole wheat pasta) are the staple of the Mediterranean diet. Leaving the grains whole drops their glycemic index, hence, they are digested more slowly and produce gentler rises in insulin and glucose than refined forms; they also retain all their Vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and other antioxidant phytochemicals. Eating whole grains may protect against diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. 9
- Dark Leafy Greens
Italians appreciate dark leafy vegetables, particularly broccoli rabe, a bitter brassica which pairs well with bold ingredients like hot pepper, anchovy, and sausage.
Dark leafy greens are nutrition icons, providing lots of vitamins K, C, and A as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber 10 . Include a generous portion of dark leafy greens, such as collards, escarole, kale, and chard, either sautéed with garlic and olive oil or in a salad and a touch of some crushed red pepper.
Seafood is a main protein in the Italian diet; any and all sorts of fish and shellfish are celebrated, sometimes several in the same meal. While fattier kinds like salmon and tuna supply heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lean seafood like squid, mussels, sea bass, and shrimp provide ample selenium, niacin, and protein 11 . Serve seafood or fish at least 2 times a week.
- Herbs: Basil, Rosemary, and Sage
Basil, rosemary, and sage are the basic ingredients in the preparation of almost every Italian meal. Rosemary is closely related to sage, and they are often considered “sister” herbs”. Actually, many of sage’s benefits are derived from the rosmarinic acid that is a natural compound found in rosemary which makes it so powerful. Sage is a perfect stimulant for the stomach and nervous system. Rosemary tea is especially helpful for treating candida 12 . The health benefits of basil include fighting diabetes, depression, inflammation, disease, stress, and cancer. Find more about basil’s benefits: LINK
- Red Wine
Italian dinner cannot be imagined without a glass of Italian wine, preferably red wine. Enjoying wine moderately during meals, not consuming alone outside of the mealtime and never in excess, may help regulate blood sugar, increase “good” HDL cholesterol, and could even help you digest the food and absorb the nutrients. 13
Ingredients of Italian cuisine play a great role in the Mediterranean pattern of eating, which focuses on simple, natural ingredients, such as garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, whole grains, and dark leafy greens, making it one of the world’s healthiest diets.