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Eat Like an Italian

Eat Like an Italian

By Rick Zullo

Welcome to EAT LIKE AN ITALIAN, where we discuss how to maintain a healthy diet without "dieting." Join us in the kitchen and at the table for a generous helping of delicious food. Ciao!
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The Mediterranean Diet vs. Fad Diets

Eat Like an ItalianApr 28, 2023

The Mediterranean Diet vs. Fad Diets

The Mediterranean Diet vs. Fad Diets

Both the Mediterranean Diet and the Paleo Diet ask us to “eat the way our ancestors ate.” BUT, the Mediterranean Diet asks us to look back only 3-4 generations, whereas the Paleo would have us look back 2.5 million years, or roughly 80,000 generations. Evolution has had plenty of time to catch up…

During the Paleolithic period, early humans lived in caves or simple huts and were hunters-gatherers, which is the crux of the Paleo Diet. Approximately 75% of deaths at the time were caused by infection, including diarrheal diseases that resulted in dehydration and starvation. Other causes were injury/accident, animal attacks, and complications of childbirth.

Life expectancy back then was approximately 33 years. In other words, they did not have time to develop diseases of aging.

Then, agricultural communities developed approximately 10-12,000 years ago when humans began to domesticate plants and animals. By establishing domesticity, families and larger groups were able to build communities and transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle dependent on foraging and hunting for survival. Lifespans increased significantly.

But nowadays, we've become victims of our own success. Low quality food and sedentary lifestyles have caused a whole host of age-related degenerative diseases.

Fortunately, we have population data from generations of communities in the Mediterranean and other "Blue Zones" to show us how to get back on the path to health. For ourselves and for our planet.

Apr 28, 202325:42
Is Pasta Good For You?

Is Pasta Good For You?

Pasta has gotten some bad press in recent years. In the age of the "fad diets," pasta contains an awkward amount of that evil archnemesis, "the carb." Or worse, carb's ugly cousin, gluten.

Well, populations who follow the Mediterranean Diet have been eating carbs and gluten for centuries with no ill effects. Indeed, these are the healthiest, longest-living people on the planet. Which begs the question: Is there such a thing as too much pasta?

So what gives? Why are some people so eager to embrace misinformation?

No surprise, it's fed by a combination of factors:

• Intuition: It just "seems" like a good idea.

• Logic: If gluten is bad for people with celiac disease, maybe it's bad for me, too.

• Celebrity endorsement: If eliminating gluten is encouraged by someone I admire, maybe I should give it a try.

• Anecdote: Hearing about someone with bothersome symptoms that "magically disappeared" after eliminating gluten is difficult to ignore.

• Marketing: Those selling gluten-free products or books about gluten-free diets can be convincing, even if there's little science to back it up.

Before you buy into the gluten-free lifestyle, be aware: It likely won't help, it may actually cause trouble, and it’s going to cost you more at the supermarket.

The simple truth can be so boring sometimes. Pasta dishes created from whole ingredients and in proper proportions can be extremely healthy and do not cause weight gain.

Do you want actual scientific proof that pasta does not make you fat? Glad you asked, and here it is from The Journal of Nutrition and Diabetes: Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio

Apr 01, 202320:29
The Health Benefits of Red Wine

The Health Benefits of Red Wine

The general consensus is that red wine, in moderation, (maximum 2-3 glasses a day, depending on your age, weight, and sex) can impart cardiac benefits, and contribute to overall well-being. But it's more complicated than that. 

Yes, experiments with laboratory animals have shown remarkable benefits for subjects given large doses of resveratrol, the so-called "magic" ingredient in wine. But these experiments were in ideal lab conditions where every variable could be tightly controlled... which is not the case in the reality of day to day human life. 

So we look to the centenarians around the world, like in The Blue Zones Project. Lo and behold, almost all of them drink a couple glasses of red wine per day. However, beyond their modest consumption of red wine, they also have other lifestyle factors that would seem beneficial to wellness. 

Therefore, perhaps the wine is just one ingredient in a larger recipe that includes clean air, close friendships, organic food, and lots of walking and other natural movements. In other words, it's an overall lifestyle rather than one magic ingredient.

The lesson here is avoid reductionist thinking. Resist clinging to any one ingredient, or even any one molecule, whether it's to be embraced (ex. resveratrol) or shunned (ex. gluten). Instead, simply adopt an overall healthy lifestyle, but try not to obsess over it. In any case, sooner or later, more research will become available and science will (rightly) change its mind. 

Further reading:

Wine is Good For You

The Language of Wine

Mediterranean Way of Drinking and Longevity

The Blue Zones Project

Mar 05, 202320:04
The Best Italian Cheeses

The Best Italian Cheeses

Recently there was an article published by Taste Atlas that listed the Top 100 cheeses in the world. Not surprisingly, cheeses from Italy took 8 or the top 10 spots.

I spoke about this with Robert Campana from Stop Italian Sounding, a brand dedicated to educating consumers on the differences between genuine Italian products and "fake" products that only borrow (read: steal) credibility from the real deal. 

Have a listen to our conversation and let us know what you think about this somewhat "controversial" list. Ciao!

Stop Italian Sounding on Instagram

Stop Italian Sounding on TikTok

Feb 21, 202330:49
Food In Italian Culture

Food In Italian Culture

If you want to learn about Italian culture, there is no better lens from which to look than through Italy's food traditions and regional cuisines. 

Today on the podcast we welcome Dottoressa Arianna Salomon, a PhD candidate at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and a graduate of Università Ca' Foscari in Venice, Italy. This semester at FAU, Dott.ssa Salomon is teaching a course entitled, "Italian Culture Through Food," and she was kind enough to share some of her insights on this episode. 

Food is a central part of Italian life, and it is used to celebrate special occasions, such as holidays and weddings. It is also used to show hospitality to guests. But perhaps more significantly, it has a central role in daily life. The Mediterranean Diet, Slow Food, the regional cuisines in Italy… these concepts all speak to the importance of what we eat, how we prepare it, and whom we share our meals with.

Buon appetito!

Feb 03, 202337:07
The Best Food In Puglia

The Best Food In Puglia

Looking for the best food in Puglia? From traditional Italian dishes to unique regional specialties, listen to this podcast episode to learn about typical food from Puglia. 

Scott Maxwell, a Scottish expat in Puglia, leads us through a culinary journey of the regions most iconic cuisine. This is the Mediterranean Diet at its best, with fresh seafood, great local wines, and "killer" pasta. Here's a link to his site and his recommendations:

Join us in Puglia!

Jan 07, 202329:43
Italian Food Traditions at the Holidays

Italian Food Traditions at the Holidays

On this episode, we discuss Italian food holiday traditions with Robert Campana from "Stop Italian Sounding." We explore such topics as The Feast of the Seven Fishes, including its historical context and how it became a strong tradition in Italian-AMERICAN households, yet still  remains relatively unknown in Italy. We also dive into the annual debate over Pandoro vs Panettone, and offer our opinions on which one is "better." 

Dec 17, 202227:52
Stop Italian Sounding Products
Nov 10, 202227:42
Foods That Help Fight Cancer

Foods That Help Fight Cancer

It’s easy to take for granted during our busy routines, but food plays such an important part of our lives. It nourishes us, it comforts us, it connects us to our culture… and it can help heal us, too. 

Cancer is a serious illness that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there are some foods that have been shown to help fight it off. (Of course, there’s more to it than that, and you should always consult with a physician.)

My guest on this podcast episode is Judy Witts Fancini. Besides all the aforementioned roles of food in our lives, for Judy, it’s also her livelihood. She’s been involved with the procurement, preparation, and most importantly, the enjoyment of food at every level. Better still, not “just” food, but the traditional regional dishes of Italy.

Jun 16, 202235:37
What Do They Eat in Venice?

What Do They Eat in Venice?

Even though it's technically on the Adriatic Sea, can we still consider Venetian cuisine as part of the "Mediterranean Diet?" Well, there's lots of seafood and vegetables. Perhaps more polenta and rice than pasta, but otherwise, yes the traditional dishes in Venice are healthy and diverse. If you want to know where the locals eat in Venice on a regular basis, it’s in little stand-up bar places called barcari. The most authentic food in Venice is often “hidden” inside these little gems. But you’ll need a bit of local knowledge to find the best of the best.

Apr 12, 202233:48
The Italian Food Rules
Nov 29, 202114:11
Crimes Against Italian Food
Sep 12, 202113:24
Starvation: Quarantine and The Fasting Mimicking Diet
May 01, 202019:48
Time-restricted Eating

Time-restricted Eating

Fasting is NOT synonymous with starvation. There are many variations of time-restricted eating that are easy to follow with enormous health benefits.
Jan 12, 202011:53
Six Steps to Achieve the Mediterranean Lifestyle Diet

Six Steps to Achieve the Mediterranean Lifestyle Diet

Starting a new diet or lifestyle regime can be daunting. The trick is to break it down into "bite-size" steps so that you don't get overwhelmed and frustrated, causing you to give up too soon.

In this episode I outline six simple steps to achieve the Mediterranean Lifestyle Diet. Each one is fairly easy, and in the end, you've made some big changes towards improving your health. 

Dec 26, 201916:43
Introduction to the Mediterranean Diet
Dec 24, 201912:52