Unfortunately, on the whole, they’re not. Italian American food, as with most cultures, has its food bastardized and blown out of proportion here in the States. Weirdly enough though, our American habits are rubbing off on other countries nowadays, particularly European ones.
In more recent years some of the traditional places in Italy and other countries have adopted some of our pastimes. McDonald’s and other fast food chains are world-wide. Generally these are seen in the more urban and metropolitan areas. The more rural parts of the country tend to stick more closely to a traditional Mediterranean-style diet.
There are parts of Italy that still incorporate what is known as a Mediterranean diet. A traditional Mediterranean diet draws from food patterns found from the Greek island of Crete, other parts of Greece, and southern Italy. It has been shown to incorporate optimal ratios of fatty acids, and its followers are known to be some of the longest living cultures on the plant with very low rates of morbidity. Many smaller towns in Italy consume a similar diet to this.
Studies show the Mediterranean diet has great benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, arthritis, allergies, and diabetes while increasing longevity. The traditional Mediterranean diet incorporates these attributes:
· Olive oil (mostly extra virgin) is the main source of fat; the diet has a high monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio.
· Foods are processed minimally, if at all.
· The diet is based around large quantities are plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, potatoes, pasta, beans, and even bread.
· There is a focus on seasonality, eating foods only that are readily available naturally.
· Fresh fruit is seen as a typical dessert. Honey and other natural sweeteners are eaten only a few times a week.
· Red meat is consumed in low amounts (in some cases, as infrequent as once per month).
· Dairy products, most of which are yogurts and cheese, are consumed in low amounts.
· Fish is consumed on a regular basis, while poultry and eggs are consumed somewhere between 1-4 times per week.
· Wine (mostly red) is usually consumed with meals in low-to-moderate amounts.
Olive oil is composed of mostly the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid, but it also has many other health benefits. Olive oil contains a plethora of antioxidants that account for its health benefits. Olive oil is known to be a viable agent for protection against heart disease.
It has been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, and increasing the beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. Olive oil protects LDL cholesterol from damage via free radicals. It has also been shown to contribute to maintain and stabilize high triglycerides, which are a common symptom found in diabetics.
Hope this helps!