Prevention and lifestyle
Human health and efficiency depend mostly on nutrition which contributes to build up, regenerate and support the body, thus providing the essential energy for proper functioning of all organs. Eating too much and incorrectly can lead to overweight, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Eating slowly reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese: the longer you chew the sooner you will feel full.
A wide range of animal and vegetable foods is the basis for a healthy and well-balanced nutrition.
Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables of all kinds, fat-free and rich in vitamins, minerals and fibres.
Eat more legumes, such as beans, peas, chickpeas, broad beans and lentils. Legumes are a valuable source of proteins and are fat-free; for this reason they can be substitute for meat.
Eat more fish. Its protective effect is due to the type of fats contained in fish (omega-3) which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat fish twice or three times a week.
Preferably use vegetable oils, in particular extra-virgin olive oil and seed oils (maize, sunflower), reducing the intake of animal fats, such as butter, lard, suet and cream which contain high amounts of saturated fats. It is important to bear in mind that oils have a high energy content.
Preferably eat lean meats, such as chicken and turkey (without skin), veal and rabbit, reducing the consumption of red and fatty meats, such as pork, duck, goose. It is recommended to remove the visible fat and avoid collecting cooking fat. Steam or grill cooking is preferable and consumption of dishes which require sauces rich in fats should be reduced. Avoid eating meat every day.
Reduce the intake of sausages, such as frankfurters, salami, and bologna sausage. Preferably eat lean cold cuts, such as Parma ham, speck, and bresaola, but keeping in mind that they are high in salt.
Reduce the intake of cheese, preferring low fat fresh cheeses (such as cow ricotta). Cheese should not be eaten at the end of a meal being a substitute for meat or fish.
Reduce the intake of desserts, which are rich in fats and sugars. Preferably eat home-made cakes (only if made with vegetable fats) but in moderation. Reduce the consumption of industrially-produced desserts.
Preferably choose starch-rich foods, such as bread, pasta, potatoes, polenta, trying to use wholemeal products which are rich in fibres. This type of food has a high energy content but does not contain high amounts of fat. Reduce the amount of pasta, bread and rice if you are overweight or obese.
Preferably eat foods with a high cholesterol content, such as eggs, no more than twice a week. These foods include also entrails (brain, liver, kidney).
Reduce salt consumption because it increases blood pressure. Reduce the amount of salt added to food, while cooking and before consumption, replacing it with spices and aromatic herbs. Pay attention to the amount of salt contained in packaged foods (cheese, bread, tinned food, food preserved in salt, oil or pickle).
Reduce the amount of soft drinks, preferring sugar-free freshly-pressed and fruit juices.
Control your alcohol consumption: no more than 2-3 glasses of wine a day for men and 1-2 for women, considering that a can of beer or a small glass of liquor correspond to a glass of wine. Wine and beer, when consumed in moderation with meals, can reduce the risk of myocardial infarction and stroke. Alcohol increases blood pressure and damages the liver; therefore it is recommended for people suffering from hypertension. Remember than alcohol interferes with drugs and may have unwanted side effects.
For further information, refer to the website of the Italian Research Institute on Food and Nutrition (INRAN).
© Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS)