Italian food is the world’s most popular cuisine. With its abundant flavors, ease of preparation, emotional comfort, and sheer variety, it is not hard to see why Italian cooking is so venerated outside of Italy.

However, these days, where “dieting” is the norm and new fad (bad) diets appear out of nowhere, it’s worth considering whether our favorite pasta dishes are actually good for us.

When you look at Italian food on the surface, it’s hard to see past the wine, cheese, bread and pasta, which can give it a bad image by some people’s standards.

Realistically, Italian food is incredibly good for you, and in this article we are coming to the defense of all Italian cooking, by giving you 5 reasons why eating Italian food is good for your health.

Full Of Vegetables

When we say full, we mean full. Even the meatiest of meaty Italian dishes will have at least one or two vegetables thrown in. A good example of this is the traditional recipe for Bolognese.

Authentic Bolognese is a meat sauce with cream, wine, stock and herbs, yet it still has carrot, onions, and celery in it. If we go down the other end of the spectrum and take the most popular Italian sauce, a marinara, it is all vegetables.

Tomatoes, onions, and garlic all appear in a marinara, and it is still absolutely delicious.

Vegetables are the key to a healthy immune system and body; they provide key nutrients and help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure. Without vegetables, our bodies wouldn’t get the vitamins or minerals they need to keep working.

Since Italian food is full of vegetables, it could easily boost the amount of nutrients you have in a day, and it is the perfect cuisine to have if you are not getting enough vegetables in your diet.

An Enormous Variety Of Food

The sheer abundance of food on offer in Italian cooking is astounding. When we think of American food, often it is a limited variety of meats and vegetables, along with an UNlimited variety of junk food and fast food.

This is the same for a lot of countries. Not so with Italy. Italian cuisine spans not only different foods, but different cooking methods, different flavors, and different experiences.

If I was to place an Italian dish in front of you with 3 side dishes, they could be completely different. Let’s say your main course is a carbonara, and the sides are bruschetta, a caprese salad, and roasted fennel.

Each dish was made in a different way with different ingredients, and each has a completely different flavor, but they are all divine. This variety means no matter what you are having, you can be sure that you are gaining as many vitamins and minerals as possible from one meal.

Not only that, but the enormous variety will likely stop you from getting bored with the cuisine, as you can have a completely different dish each night.

Fresh Food Is The Way Forward With Italian Cuisine

Fresh Italian food

I know this is kind of a weird claim to make considering the amount of dried pasta and pasta sauces there are all over the world but hear me out. When making an Italian dish from scratch, you are less likely to grab frozen vegetables or throw spam into the sauce, right?

It’s because Italian food tastes better fresh, the premise of the food itself is being fresh and vibrant. Italian cuisine encourages you to cook from scratch, not just because it tastes better, but because it is easy to do.

Pasta is a good example of this. Dried pasta is easy to buy, but unlike say noodles, fresh pasta is also easy to make. It requires only flour, egg, water, and a rolling pin, then you can make it yourself.

Since it is so easy to cook fresh, it helps you cut out preservatives and other chemicals that could be bad for you, while keeping a wonderful flavor.

You may think that starting would at least be difficult to do, but with the variety of Italian cuisine, there is always an easy recipe to help you get your foot on that ladder.

Good Source Of High-Quality Carbohydrates

Italian cuisine is chock-full of carbohydrates. If it was a store, carbohydrates would take up half of the display items. While a lot of diets recently, especially Keto, treat carbohydrates as the enemy, they are very important to your body, as long as you’re getting the right type.

Carbohydrates are macronutrients that give your body energy, in fact, according to the scientific data 45 to 60% of your diet should be carbohydrates, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

This is a huge proportion of our dietary requirement and may be difficult for some to achieve, however eating a diet of Italian cuisine can help with that.

Pasta is a great source of carbohydrates and is used in many aspects of Italian cooking, from soups to main courses, and is easy to make and prepare for a quick dinner.

Other sources of carbohydrates in Italian cuisine are bread, which can be as hard as friselle or as soft as focaccia, or rice, which with the abundance of risotto you will never be short of when cooking up an Italian feast.

High In Calcium And Protein

Unfortunately, when people think of calcium or protein nowadays, they often think of saturated fats as well. We most often associate them with hunks of meat and lots of cheese, however I believe this is unfair, not just on calcium and protein, but on meats and cheeses as well.

We’ll start with calcium, which is one of the most important minerals that we consume. Calcium is the mineral that builds our bones, lets our blood clot, lets our muscles contract, and keeps our heart beating. Without it, our bodies wouldn’t work.

One of the best sources for calcium is dairy. Cheese is a good source of calcium, but also associated with calories. However, a lot of Italian cheeses are made fresh and are low in sodium and calories, but high in calcium and protein, with mozzarella being the prime example.

For protein, cheeses are another good example, but Italian cuisine also uses a lot of meat and fish. While many will scream about fatty meats, such as guanciale, the fat is often rendered out and drained before the final dish.

Not only this, but a lot of lean meats like fish and chicken are used in Italian cooking as well. This makes Italian cuisine a perfect source of nutrients without adding to your waistline.

Final Thoughts

Italian food is often mislabeled as gut expanding, fatty, or indulgent, and while it can certainly be wonderfully indulgent, it’s diversity and cultural traditions means that it should not be fattening.

Many different Italian recipes simply rely on the ingredients to bring forth the flavor rather than oils, fats, or chemicals, which makes them more palatable and better for you.

Even the most unhealthy Italian dish has a host of nutritional value and can be changed to accommodate your dietary needs. As such, Italian food is a great way to maintain a healthy diet, while also giving you that little bit of comfort eating without piling on the pounds.

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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