How to eat healthy and without too many sacrifices

Experts now agree. Serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, obesity and heart attack they have a common denominator: inflammation, which is often triggered by what we eat.

Should we then condemn ourselves to a diet of restrictions and renunciations? To plain dishes and menus without desserts? "Not at all. Eating healthily does not mean giving up taste, on the contrary: it means rediscovering the pleasure of all flavors and never leaving the table unsatisfied ", he replies Serafina Petrocca, nutritionist specializing in nutrition for cancer patients and author of Eat better, live a long time (Fabbri, € 17). We asked her which foods are good for us and which ones to limit and how to use them without mortifying the pleasure of the table. Discover with us the false myths to dispel.

Sugar is one of the main causes of inflammation: is it better to replace it with sweeteners?

"Do not, artificial sweeteners are best avoided. Because the body still receives the signal that something sweet has been ingested and the insulin mechanism is activated the same to lower blood sugar (see box on the last page of the article). Even the "natural" ones (agave syrup, malt, etc.) should be used in moderation, like sucrose. They can be useful for getting used to less sweet flavors, as some have a caramelized taste that gives an extra touch, but the effects on blood sugar do not change. And beware of fructose: its use seems to be associated with liver damage ».

What about stevia? Isn't it also recommended for people with diabetes?

«Yes, but its main limitation is the flavor, which does not give much satisfaction: there is therefore a risk of relying on traditional sugars. Furthermore, from some studies it seems that it predisposes the intestine to absorb the sugars that come from other foods more ».

Should butter be banned?

«No, lipids are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Even the saturated ones contained in this "condiment" derived from milk. The fats to avoid are "artificial" ones, such as margarines (hydrogenated or not), present in many industrial products ».

Can the risotto be whipped then?

«I would say that you must, of course, without exaggerating. To lose weight, it is very wrong to eliminate carbohydrates and fats. The classic bresaola with salad does not help to lose weight, quite the contrary. When we eat only proteins, as in this case, the insulin rises anyway and "sequester" that little bit of sugars that are in circulation causing the blood sugar to collapse. The result? We are immediately hungry and craving for sweet. The solution is to focus on complex carbohydrates, i.e. pasta, bread and whole grains in general, but also on grains such as quinoa and buckwheat or on legumes. Then complete dishes such as pasta with clams, or with squid and courgettes, or even with fish sauce are welcome ... They allow us to maintain balance and taste ».

You will have to pay attention to the portions then ...

«There is no need to be with the slingbar to weigh the amount of dough. If you combine nutrients well with each other, even 100-120g of pasta makes no difference. You satiate with taste and keep blood sugar peaks at bay for many hours. The ideal is to organize menus that include complex carbohydrates, combined with proteins from meat, fish, eggs or a little cheese, fiber derived from vegetables and good quality fats, especially those of extra virgin olive oil. Proteins, fats and fibers have a fundamental role because they slow down the absorption of sugars present in carbohydrates. And you don't feel hunger for many hours ».

But desserts have to be given up.

«Biscuits, industrial snacks and pastry products should be an exception. We can learn how to make desserts at home, using wholemeal flours, oat flakes, fresh and dried fruit, raisins and a little brown sugar or maple syrup. They are perfect for breakfast, instead of the traditional milk and biscuits that make your blood sugar soar. It is only a question of educating taste a little at a time to appreciate less sweet flavors ».

And with fried foods, usually excluded from diets, how to behave?

«There is no need to give it up. Indeed, if done well, frying is one of the "glycemic-saving" cooking methods. But it must be done following certain rules: the foods must be battered or breaded and totally immersed in oil, preferably olive or peanut. With high heat, the flour or breadcrumbs caramelize, creating that crust that does not allow the seasoning to penetrate the food. Before consumption, however, it is advisable to dry the fried food thoroughly with absorbent paper ».

Is the "sautéed" okay too?

«Yes, I even recommend it for pasta, which must first be cooked al dente, then sautéed in a pan with oil. In this way the starches present become less assimilable. And our palate will be satisfied, so we won't go looking for sweets ».

Meat is often in the dock. How to regulate?

"Personally, I don't encourage consumption, I prefer to recommend the fish, especially the blue one. The World Fund for Research on Cancer (Wcrf) says to limit the consumption of red meats and to avoid that of preserved meats, not exceeding 500 g per week ".

Gluten-free products are now "in fashion" even for those who are not celiac. Are they really lighter?

«No, because a lot of fats and other flours with very high glycemic indexes are used to compensate for the lack of gluten and give body to the product. On the other hand, foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as rice and corn, are perfectly fine ».

A food usually considered taboo is potatoes ...

“Here is a trick to not deprive yourself of it. It is true that they cause blood sugar to soar, especially when they are consumed boiled, but if they are kept in the refrigerator before cooking them, starches change and become less absorbable. Or just combine them with fats and proteins, for example with a sea bream in foil, and the problem is overcome. If you then make the purée, adding a little butter (and therefore of fats that "block" insulin) the game is done ».


For breakfast and lunch do not give up on pasta and bread (better if whole): it will prevent you from having dangerous drops in sugar in the most active hours of the day.

What about dinner? Better to reduce the portions of cereals or opt for a plate of legumes, especially if you have weight problems. "During sleep the cells (having fewer carbohydrates available) will use the stored fats to produce energy, to the advantage of the line", explains Dr. Serafina Petrocca. "On the contrary, if we ingest simple sugars (because we indulge in a dessert at the end of the meal), the body will produce a lot of insulin, which will prevent the cushions from being burned, favoring further storage".


Among the substances that promote inflammation, in the first place there are simple sugars, those that we find in sweets: sucrose, glucose and all the others that end up in the same way (maltose, fructose ...). The reason? In the long run they cause a phenomenon called

insulin resistance. It means that the hormone produced by the pancreas to lower blood sugar no longer works as it should. Thus sugars are stored in the form of fat in the body, causing chain reactions that promote inflammation.

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