Professor Luigi Fontana, a doctor and scientist who has been studying the mechanisms underlying cell aging processes for years, is absolutely convinced of this: "The our food choices take or add years to us, as well as increase or decrease the risk of developing a range of chronic degenerative diseases. Basically, it's us, with the lifestyles we adopt, to decide how long and how well we will live. We may not yet be fully aware of this, but there is now no doubt that food plays a fundamental role in longevity».
What then should we bring to the table?
MORE VEGETABLES IN PLACE OF PASTA
"The answer is simple: foods that are high in nutrients and relatively low in calories, which are then those typical of the traditional Mediterranean diet », says Professor Fontana, who however is keen to make a clarification. "The food pyramid as conceived by the various nutritional societies (and which we are used to knowing) should be modified to adapt to lifestyle changes in recent years. There is no denying it, we have become more and more sedentary. Most of us spend many hours sitting at our desks or in the car. And he needs less energy (if he doesn't want to take the risk of gaining weight). That is why at the base of the scheme there should no longer be cereals, but vegetables which, among other things, should be consumed in quantities significantly higher than those of fruit ».
Luigi Fontana talks about this new food pyramid in the book Happiness has the taste of health, written together with chef Vittorio Fusari (Slow Food Editore, 19,50 euros). We present it to you here in preview. To help you understand, with the advice of our super expert, what to put on the menu to keep you young and healthy, keeping the typical diseases of Western countries at bay: cardiovascular disorders, strokes, diabetes, tumors, dementias and even allergies and autoimmune diseases.
FOCUS ON QUALITY
The first thing to do, if you want to age well, is staying slim (as we know, the fat that accumulates in the abdomen produces inflammatory substances that undermine our well-being).
«To succeed in the intent it is necessary reduce the portions of what we eat, but focusing on higher quality foods (for example organic and km0). They cost more, it is true, but they undoubtedly have an extra gear to defend our health (and also that of the environment). The milk or cheese from a cow grazing in the high mountains, just to give an example, it has a different content of phyto-compounds and vitamin D than that of animals kept in a stable. Likewise, the goodness and nutritional value of free-range eggs they are better than those of battery-reared birds ».
DON'T EXAGGERATE THE QUANTITIES
But focus exclusively on a adequate supply of valuable nutrients (proteins, Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins, mineral salts and phytocompounds) as guaranteed by the new pyramid of the Mediterranean diet suggested by Fontana, it would not be enough to prevent many diseases.
“If we consume noble foods in excess, such as extra virgin olive oil, fresh and dried fruit, dates, wholemeal bread or pasta, even if of excellent quality, we provide our body with a caloric surplus which will result in an accumulation of abdominal fat and will favor the development of all those pathologies we have talked about. In other words, the beneficial effects of the substances contained in these foods would be quickly canceled », Professor Fontana warns.
CUT CALORIES WITH "FAST"
It is therefore necessary reduce calorie intake. By following these few rules suggested by our expert: replace refined and processed foods (ready meals and industrial snacks) with those vegetables rich in fiber; getting up from the table before feeling full; once or twice a week practice a plant-based fasting (excluding potatoes) cooked or raw, seasoned with oil, vinegar and a maximum of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day (so as not to exceed 500 calories); take most of your food in one limited time window of 6-10 hours, for example between 8 and 18.
In short, the ideal is to concentrate the most of the calories in two large meals early in the day and then have a very light dinner as soon as possible. "Like this the metabolism remains at rest much longer to the full advantage of our health ”, assures Luigi Fontana.
THE "REVISED" SCHEME
At the base of the new pyramid there are no more cereals, but vegetables. Because we have become more sedentary (and therefore need fewer calories).
Browse the gallery and find out which foods to put on the menu and how often.
EVERYDAY IN THE MENU
Here are the foods to always consume. In abundance (such as vegetables) or in small doses (oil, fruit, yogurt).
Extra virgin olive oil
To be used in small doses, because it is very caloric, it is the condiment to be preferred. Contains vitamins and various antioxidants, phytosterols and squalene (a precursor of cholesterol) useful for the prevention of colon, skin and lung cancers.
Of all colors (varying is a must!) They are low in calories and rich in water, vitamins, minerals and other precious substances. They occupy the first level of the pyramid. They are the food to be consumed without limits.
Rosemary, sage, thyme, mint are a new entry. They are found at the base of the pyramid along with the vegetables. Compared to simple water, they have more properties: stimulants, antiseptics, sedatives, tonics, diuretic ...
Fruit and yogurt
First side by side with vegetables, apricots, peaches, plums ... they must be brought to the table without exaggerating the quantities. Because they bring vitamins, mineral salts, antioxidants, but also sugars, with which we must not overdo it. Eat fruit for breakfast, with a jar of organic white yogurt. Or use it to make a refreshing smoothie.
In the new pyramid they no longer stand on the first level, alone, but on the second. They should therefore be eaten in lower quantities than vegetables, choosing them only wholemeal. The reason? Having a lower glycemic index than that of refined grains, they reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer. Furthermore, being richer in thiamine, they protect the cells of the nervous system.
It should be brought to the table every day as a snack, alternating it with seeds (absolute novelty). It gives phytosterols (useful for lowering cholesterol), vitamin E, Omega 3 and other beneficial substances. Try not to exceed 30g.
They no longer share the second step of the pyramid with fruits and vegetables. Now they are placed side by side with cereals: consumed together, in fact, they supply all the essential amino acids necessary for the well-being of the organism. And so many fibers that nourish the good bacteria in the gut helping to prevent allergic and autoimmune diseases and colon cancer.
2-3 TIMES A WEEK
Fish, molluscs and crustaceans
Fish, especially blue fish, is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, iron and Omega 3 (good fats that help prevent heart arrhythmias, reduce blood triglycerides and lower blood pressure). Together with molluscs and crustaceans it is also an excellent source of zinc, essential for the proper functioning of the immune system.
1-2 TIMES A WEEK
Eggs and cheeses
They must be consumed in small doses, to ensure an adequate intake, without excess, of proteins. An abuse of these nutrients "inflames" the body, giving rise to various diseases.
MAX 1 TIME A WEEK
It should rarely be eaten not only because it is rich in saturated fat and cholesterol, but also because it provides methionine, an amino acid that facilitates cell aging.
ONLY ONCE EVERY TIME
They must be limited to special occasions, such as a birthday party. They are caloric, rich in sugars and fats that make you gain weight and inflame the body.