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Diet and nutrition

INTEGRATION? YOU’LL FIND IT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AT MEALTIME

01/03/2018
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Bologna’s F.I.CO. (Fabbrica Italiana Contadina) Eataly World, the biggest food park in the world, opened its doors in 2018, the year of Italian food, with an intense programme of talks, discussions, lessons and seminars entitled ‘Fico Mediterranean Lectures’.
Marino Niola, an anthropologist, journalist and populariser, inaugurated the series of international keynote lectures with a conference on ‘Being and Well-being: the Mediterranean Recipe’.
According to Niola, who is the scientific director of MedEatResearch, a social research centre studying the Mediterranean diet at Naples’s Suor Orsona Benincasa university, ‘the Mediterranean diet lengthens our lives, brings us well-being and increases our feelings of contentment, because it isn’t merely a nutritional model based on seasonal produce, traditional cuisine and biodiversity; it is a way of living well that re-establishes the balance between the environment and development.’
It was in order to define this ideal – an ideal way of life as well as an ideal form of nourishment – that the American scientists Ancel Keys and Margaret Haney invented the term ‘Mediterranean diet’ in 1975. Italy has the honour of being the place where it was discovered: the two researchers were in the Cilento region when they wrote their bestseller How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way (Doubleday, New York).
‘In 2010, UNESCO put the Mediterranean diet on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, propelling it into the world’s nutritional mainstream’, said Niola. ‘In any case, the Mediterranean diet has always been international because it is made up of mixtures, loans, crosses and contamination. Even the most traditional dish, the most identity-forming standard has traces of others. It’s no coincidence that many of the basic ingredients of our cuisines come from distant countries: they are foreigners we put in our plates… and thank goodness they’re there. Our spaghetti with tomato sauce would never have existed without entirely American tomate. If aubergines hadn’t arrived here from the East, we’d be without our beloved aubergine parmigiana. Not to mention potatoes, peppers and chocolate. In this way, every recipe is none other than the mixture of different ingredients that become one single thing.’
Niola’s conclusion was greeted with resounding applause: ‘In such a scenario, the Mediterranean diet is a recipe for co-existence, made not only out of foods but also, and above all, out of ethical and social values, models for convivial life, for an awareness of sustainability, an openness to exchange, a welcoming of integration. In short, an example of how humanity in the future could be.’

Diet and nutrition

THE REDISCOVERY OF BUTTER

29/12/2017
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After having been demonised by health fanatics the world over for years, butter is having its rightful revenge.

As far back as 2014, it ended up on the cover of Time magazine with the title ‘Eat butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong’. Thus, the humble pat of butter has slowly made its way back into the kitchen. Even researchers studying social change have looked into the case. ‘We are faced with nothing short of a comeback as far as butter concerned,’ writes sociologist Enrico Finzi, ‘thanks to its sensory characteristics, which are often associated with the pleasure of eating and the extraordinary contribution that butter makes when preparing certain foods and recipes.’

In actual fact, much more lies behind the rediscovery of butter. A recent study by Coldiretti, the Italian farmers’ association, explains how ‘demand has increased thanks to the recognition of its health benefits: experts say that a portion of butter (10 grams) contains 24 milligrams of cholesterol, i.e. 8% of the recommended daily amount. But demand has also increased because, especially in professional kitchens, butter is used as an alternative to fats like palm oil, which is being abandoned by a growing number of industries.’ It is no coincidence that the price of butter has doubled over the past year in Italy. ‘In the last decade, the percentage of consumers who prefer this product has significantly increased, and it now accounts for 47% of the Italian population,’ writes Renzo Pellatti in his book Conoscere e Gustare il Burro (‘Getting to know and appreciate butter’), published by Daniela Piazza Editore.

While in the United States, people like Elaine Khosrova, the author of Butter: A Rich History, have invented the profession of butter taster, today in Italy the number of types of butter – produced by skimming the cream off whey or churning milk fat – is growing. Goat butter is the latest novelty: with its stronger flavour and pure white colour, it is easily digested by those who don’t drink cow’s milk. In contrast, clarified butter (ghee) has no water content and is casein and lactose free. In short, it only contains butter fat. What’s so special about ghee? It has a higher smoke point, so it is the perfect fat to use when frying, particularly meat, without burning anything. Then there’s low-fat butter, which contains a low percentage of fat (around 60% compared to the 82% of normal butter) and is perfect for eating ‘as is’ or spreading on bread.

Diet and nutrition

BIODIVERSITY, AN ITALIAN TREASURE

10/07/2017
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Why does the best basil in the world grow in Prà, in the western part of Genoa? Soil and sunshine certainly have something to do with it, but it’s also a question of wind: the northern Mediterranean breeze that meets that of the Maritime Alps there. The best basil in the world is the result of a series of extraordinary circumstances that combine in an area measuring 18.5 square kilometres, nestled between the districts of Pegli and Voltri. If you take a step back and look at the whole of Italy, you’ll see that Prà is just one of myriad cases like it. That’s because Italy benefits from unique geographic conditions: it’s a peninsula surrounded by a calm sea whose winds meet the mountains that run along the length of the country. That’s why it’s fair to say that biodiversity – i.e. the variety of animal and vegetable species that live within a particular ecosystem – is one of Italy’s true treasures. As many as 58,000 animal species and 7,000 varieties of edible fruits and vegetables have been registered, including 1,200 native grape varieties and 538 olive cultivars: incredible figures if we consider that the country only covers 0.20% of the Earth’s surface.

The threats that menace Italian biodiversity

During the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22nd May 2017, the United Nations raised concerns regarding the danger of extinction faced by many species of flora and fauna. Italy, the champion of biodiversity, also has to tackle a number of problems, starting with the reduction in the range of crops grown at an international level. However, it is also true to say that, in recent years, Italian agriculture has become the most environmentally friendly in Europe, with the highest number of PDO/PGI certifications awarded to food products, and it boasts the highest number of organic farms.

Agriculture: the future belongs to the young

According to a memorandum drafted by Coldiretti, the Italian farmers’ federation, Italy is the only country in the world that can boast 4,965 registered traditional food products, 291 PDO/PGI specialities recognised at EU level, 415 DOC/DOCG wines and 60,000 organic farms. It is no coincidence that agriculture was the industry that saw the highest increase in employment in 2016 (up 4.9% year on year). According to Coldiretti, employment grew thanks to a phenomenon whereby many young people are returning to the land. Almost one in ten companies run by under-35s works in agriculture (8.4%), which amounts to a total of 51,123 farms, up 6% in 2016. Their work ranges from food processing to wholesale, from teaching farms to farm kindergartens, as well as recreational activities, social agriculture for fostering the integration of people with disabilities, park, garden and road maintenance, nature wellness, landscape gardening and the production of renewable energy. The result is that, compared to the industry average, farms run by under-35s are bigger (with a 54% larger surface area), provide more work (50% more) and have a higher turnover (75% more).

Diet and nutrition, Food trends

HEALTH TRIUMPHS AT MEALTIMES

21/06/2017
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According to the Health/Wellness: food as medicine global survey compiled by Nielsen after studying a sample of 30,000 people from 63 countries, consumers from all over the world are increasingly concerned about how and what they eat and increasingly interested in discovering new healthy foods. Food is seen as a treatment/medicine, and diet is no longer just a nutritional regimen: it is, instead, nothing short of a way of life.

Why are consumers increasingly seeking out healthy foods?

Nielsen’s survey identified four reasons behind this phenomenon:

– The ageing of the world population;
– Growing rates of food allergies/intolerance and chronic illnesses;
– An increase in self-treatment and prevention;
– Consumers who are increasingly informed and online.

What sources do consumers consult when deciding whether a food is healthy or not?
(Nielsen)

Nutrition labels 34%
Packaging health claims (‘high fibre’, ‘low fat’) 28%
Medical/health-based websites 21%
Relatives/friends 21%
Medical professionals (doctors, dieticians) 20%
Magazines, newspapers or books 20%
TV programmes, films or documentaries 14%
Signs/labels on shop shelves/products 14%
Consumer blogs 10%


Healthy food in Italy

Italy was ranked the healthiest country in the world in the 2017 Bloomberg Health Index, which analyses the health of 163 countries. Italians are paying more attention to food than ever before, they are increasingly health-conscious and careful about what they eat. According to a report by Coldiretti (the federation of Italian farmers), the consumption of wholemeal foods is growing (up 11%), as is the consumption of gluten-free foods (up 26%), organic foods (up 20%) and vegetable drinks (up 7%). What’s more, Coldiretti has identified a trend linked to so-called ‘superfoods’: foods that combine taste with health benefits. The most popular superfoods include goji berries, adzuki beans, ginger (which has seen an increase in trade of 141% in a single year) and turmeric (with a 93% growth in trade). As well as exotic options (turmeric, adzuki beans and ginger are mostly produced in India and China), Italy also boasts a wealth of products that naturally aid well-being and the environment. Coldiretti has dubbed these products ‘Grandma’s superfoods’.
These extraordinary foods include Polignano purple carrots, considered nothing less than an elixir of long life, thanks also to the high quantities of polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins they contain. Then there’s The barattiere, an old variety of cucumber from the Puglia region; it’s the perfect food for people on a diet, as it provides high levels of potassium whilst containing low levels of sugar and sodium. In the Calabria region, they grow Diamante chili peppers, known as an aphrodisiac. The red onions of Cavasso Nuovo, in the Veneto region, have strong anti-stress benefits and are helpful in the fight against high blood pressure and cholesterol. Last but not least, there’s Piedmont’s white carrot, which is good for the liver because it regulates bile production.

 

 

Diet and nutrition

The properties of Chili Peppers

15/09/2016
chili peppers benefits

Chili peppers are used worldwide in foods for their pungent flavor, aroma and to prolong food spoilage. The different varieties offer a wide range of options for people all over the world. In addition to their use in cuisine, chili peppers have been explored for their antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Continue Reading…

Diet and nutrition

The Mediterranean diet: healthy and tasty

19/07/2016
mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean eating is not so much a single “diet” but more of an eating “pattern” varying based on location and availability of local foods. Mediterranean diet is a way of eating, of course, but it is also a true part of a culture that you can find in a specific geographical area that includes not only Italy, but also Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Northern Africa coast. Continue Reading…