In this post, I will explain how adopting Italian eating habits can improve your health and fight off diabetes.
Italians are considered the best culinary minds in the world. Despite what you might think, true Italian cuisine is not all pasta, pizza, and wine.
I spent a week in Italy and was blown away by the culture, especially the fresh food and drink.
While they do eat bread on occasion, it’s WHEN and HOW MUCH they’re consuming throughout the day that can really make a difference.
Italians have prided themselves on quality for thousands of years. According to, C N Trueman in: “Medicine In Ancient Rome”
“The Romans were great believers in a healthy mind equaling a healthy body. There was a belief that if you kept fit, you would be more able to combat an illness. Rather than spend money on a doctor, many Romans spent money on keeping fit.”
You see this mentality outside of the touristy hotspots, far-far away from selfie-sticks and pizza vendors.
Italians have had to adapt as these sites see ~40 million tourist annually. So as a service-oriented country, what and when you eat is critical.
8 am Most Italians that I observed just sipped on a cappuccino or espresso at the café bar before heading to work; others chowed down on a Cornetto (thin sourdough beard) if they had time to chat with the barista.
No Cappuccino past 10 am – Italians believe that drinking milk during or after a meal will screw up your digestion. (source).
I knew it was true when I saw bar keeps scoff at tourists ordering cappuccinos when I was sipping on prosecco at noon (don’t judge me).
A walk through the nearest market will prove that point, brands promote FIBRE and rave about improved digestion.
All of the shops take a 3-4 hour break anywhere between 2-7 pm.
Most workers headed home to rest. Speaking with a few locals, they just skip lunch and opt for an early evening espresso before their head back to work.
7 pm: A warm-up to dinner and happy hour combined. Most tavernas served light snacks like olives, nuts, or bruschetta with balsamic (along with the wine or prosecco, of course). With such a large gap between meals, aperitivo helps stimulate the digestive system prepping/priming the body to consume dinner.
8-9 pm: while there is a ristorante or every corner with 4-course meals for the tourist, locals that are working late head to the local cafes for street food. Fresh bread, sliced meats, mozzarella, etc.
Some will grab fresh pasta, fish, greens, meat, and fresh olive oil on the way home.
Tangent: the hummus craze has not reached Rome yet. They are indeed not basic.
Notice the spacing between breakfast and the evening meals…Italians take their time consuming their food.
On a Chianti wine tour, our tour guide told us that from a young age locals are taught to understand the quality of wine through taste and to appreciate the craftsmanship.
I thought this paired well with the way Italians look at food and health.
“A person should put aside some part of the day for the care of his body. He should always make sure that he gets enough exercise especially before a meal.” Celsus.
Reason 1: Minimal milk. Italians limit themselves to small amounts of milk early in the day. They do consume some dairy with cheese at dinner, but nowhere near the amount that most Americans are used to.
Reason 2: Whole foods, planet-based foundation. Unfortunately, the old Mediterranean diet has been “Westernized” over the last 70 years –
“The greatest changes were found in Mediterranean Europe, recording high availability of non-Mediterranean food groups (animal fats, vegetable oils, sugar and meat), whereas the availability of alcoholic beverages, including wine, and legumes decreased.” (source)
; HOWEVER, while these western foods are prevalent, it’s hard to find processed meats, boxed pasta, or vegetables that have been sitting for days.
Preservative packed high-fructose corn-starchy foods simply aren’t in demand.
Reason 3: Eating less throughout the day.
Italians take their time and enjoy eating around family and friends – it’s a marathon meal, not a sprint feast.
Reason 4: High Fiber and Protein-Rich foods.
Italians eat smarter, meaning they eat cleaner, less processed grains making every Energie (calorie) meaningful. (reference)
Reason 5: Italians simply don’t diet.
It’s a lifestyle and maintaining a healthy life is literally part of their DNA. Based on a recent study reviewed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology by Silvia Berciano and Tuft University reps,
“Genes implicated in behavioral and psychological traits drive a significant component of an individual’s food preferences and dietary habits.”
To tie it all together – eating a wholesome, fiber-rich diet with less frequent meals can help diabetics and those at-risk for diabetes self-manage blood glucose levels.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
Medically reviewed by our Providers. Written by Our Editorial Team