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The Health Perks of 8 Italian Foods

Posted: 01/15/2012 10:18 am

By Michelle Edelbaum, Eatingwell Digital Editor

There are certain foods I can't get enough of and, incidentally, most of them fall within the Italian diet. Luckily for my health, Italian cuisine follows the Mediterranean pattern of eating -- it focuses on simple, natural ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, dark leafy greens and whole grains, making it one of the world's healthiest diets. Research suggests that the benefits of a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may include improved weight loss, better control of blood-glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression. Check out these eight essential ingredients of Italian cuisine, compiled by EatingWell's editors, that you should add to your diet.

Olive Oil
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Make olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat, your go-to cooking oil. By replacing butter with olive oil -- the most commonly used oil in the Mediterranean -- you'll cut back on saturated fat, help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and boost levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. In addition, extra-virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to heart health. Try eating like an Italian by dressing your salad greens with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, or use olive oil to saute fresh vegetables. You can even use olive oil in place of some butter in baking.

More from EatingWell:
8 Ways to Eat Like a Mediterranean
The 2 Healthiest Cooking Oils to Use (and 2 to Avoid)
6 of the Healthiest Fish to Eat, 6 to Avoid


Flickr photo by Prem Sichanugrist

What's your favorite Italian food?

By Michelle Edelbaum

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Michelle is the digital editor for EatingWell Media Group. She puts her background in journalism to work online at EatingWell.com and in each issue of EatingWell Magazine, authoring The Fresh Interview with interesting people in the world of food and health.

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