Despite all the pasta we’re known to consume, we Italians are statistically very healthy people! In fact, studies prove Italians show signs of ageing up to a decade after other Europeans and even anecdotal evidence shows that Italians are all about La Dolce Vita.
You might be surprised to know that in Italy and specifically here in the Veneto region where the Candoni De Zan winery is based, we don’t spend too much time thinking about our health. In fact, we rarely count calories or perform specific exercises; we stay healthy by living “The Italian Way.”
You can, too! Here are six healthy tricks to taking the Italian route toward good health.
1. Move more, count less
It’s true: You’ll rarely meet an Italian who’s serious about Triathlons or even a member of an expensive gym. In Italy, moving our bodies is just ingrained in our culture, from strolling through the great outdoors to walking from shop to shop to pick up our groceries. Italians take 28% of all their journeys on foot, so prescribed “exercise” is hardly necessary. Walk more, drive less!
2. Drink one glass of wine a day
Countless doctors have long touted the health benefits of wine. Red wine, in particular, is rich in antioxidants which are shown to lower cholesterol and even fend off heart disease. In Italy, we think nothing of enjoying a glass of wine with lunch and hardly a dinner is served without a nice bottle on the table. The secret, though, is always enjoying wine with food, and never overindulging. Too much of any good thing easily becomes a bad thing, even wine!
3. Eat more lycopene
It’s delicious, we promise! Lycopene is actually the pigment which gives foods their red color. It’s commonly found in berries, fruits, and especially tomatoes. In Italy, we eat tomatoes by the bushel: sliced with mozzarella, stewed into a hearty pasta sauce, or fresh off the vine like apples! Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant and has been shown to be best absorbed by the body when consumed in conjunction with omega fats. Tomatoes + olive oil = The Fountain of Youth!
4. Spend less time alone
Globally, people are spending less and less time communally thanks to long work hours and the “connectivity” of the Internet. In Italy, we still place a lot of importance on spending physical time with one another, particularly over a meal. Sharing a glass of wine, discussing the latest news as a group, and even mourning together after a sad event helps keep us healthy. Studies prove that people who are better integrated into their communities live longer, healthier lives.
5. Work your brain
All those communal discussions? They keep our Italian brains young. Some studies also show that those who drink a glass of wine a day perform better on memory and cognitive tests well into their 70s. This is because wine naturally prevents clots and reduces blood vessel inflammation. Italian families tend to be more multigenerational than other cultures’, too. Spending time among the youthful is undoubtedly good for mature brains.
6. Eat real food
“Food” is easier and cheaper to come by today than ever before. The problem is, so much of it is processed! Real, whole food – produce, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish and chicken – are unquestionably better for the body. Not only do people feel fuller when eating “real” food, they generally describe the actual act of eating as more satisfying. Take a tip from the Italians and ditch the granola bars and meal replacement shakes. Put on some pasta, grill some vegetables, and pour yourself a hand-crafted glass of vino. Your body deserves it!
No one thing makes Italians “healthier” than other people; it’s a collection of small lifestyle differences that add up to what we think is a more fulfilling, enjoyable existence. Ask any Italian and they’ll tell you living a long life isn’t worth it if it means counting calories and slogging through hours of solitary exercise each week!
The Italian way of life isn’t just beneficial to your health, it’s a whole lot of fun. We invite you to share your culture’s own special health tips with us on the Candoni De Zan Facebook page…together we can become a healthier world!
-Barbara Candoni De Zan