If you’ve accidentally put diesel in a gasoline-powered car or vice versa, you’ve experienced first-hand what it means to use the wrong fuel. The car crashes, stops running and you have to run to the workshop. The same goes for our body. Every organ needs food that they can offer them substances useful to function at its best and to maintain the state of health. So, turmeric and chocolate for the brain, for example. Avocado and beans for the heart, yogurt and oats for the intestine and so on, as we will see during these four chats with Marco Bianchi, scientific popularizer, passionate about healthy cooking and good food, who dedicated his latest book to the subject, Journey into the human body between science and recipes (HarperCollins, € 18.90).
Marco, this time you wrote a volume for a more mature and prepared audience
It’s true. “Traveling” through the organs of the human body, highlighting the foods that provide the nutrients useful for their proper functioning and with this message reaching everyone is a great challenge. But today people are more aware than a few years ago, they choose what to eat with their head, not just with their stomach. They understood that to feel good they must “love” each other also through what they put on their plate. In my opinion, then, 2020 has made a contribution in this sense: after the first moment of compulsive and consolatory spending for the general situation, many have begun to think, in order not to be victims of their own eating whims. And I’m not just talking about cheats, but also about bad habits. For example, many people always eat the same foods: it’s not good and the question is not whether they are healthy or not. One of the rules for proper nutrition is to eat variously.
You have also recovered one of the key concepts of a great philosopher, Feuerbach, that is “man is what he eats”
Yes, Feuerbach’s words have always inspired me. As he said, “Food becomes blood, blood, heart and brain, thoughts and moods”. If we learn to nourish the body in a respectful way, with the right balance, we will have a better reactivity on the part of the immune system and we will be able to counteract various pathologies. The body is a wonderful machine, working to create a winning team in defense of health.
Every food choice determines a reaction …
Yes. For example, if we eat fried for 10 days the body reacts and we will feel weighted down. Foods like popcorn are good in themselves, but if they are too salty, then we get thirsty. Every food choice has consequences, negative or positive on the organism. The book was created precisely with the aim of strengthening this awareness.
But it is not that making these conscious food choices we find ourselves then in front of lunches and dinners, how can I say … a bit boring?
Far from it. It is often thought that eating healthy means preparing wholemeal first courses or grilled chicken breasts with salad. It is a difficult concept to dismantle, but the insiders and I too are working on this front with great commitment. If I make myself a toast and use cereal bread, a boiled egg, edamame soy cream, I have supplied the brain with energy and useful nutrients to protect it from the passing of time. Not only that, I also made sure I was getting a good amount of fiber by eating something tasty. Today there is a lot of emphasis on fibers, because they are essential for regulating the intestine (the appearance of our feces reflects the state of health), but taking them does not mean eating only boiled vegetables.
The Mediterranean diet is one of your workhorses. In the book you recommend olive oil and nuts to ward off the risk of cardiovascular disease. What about the rest of the dried fruit?
The same goes for almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts. But it must be said that walnuts have the right balance of protective fats for the heart. Olive oil too. For cardiac well-being, it is very important not to skip breakfast. Scholars have found that the heart remains young if we train it to receive the necessary nutrients over the five meals of the day.
Meat and cheese. How do you manage?
I eliminated red meat from my diet, both for ethical reasons and because it can be useful for the prevention of colorectal cancer. But I eat white meat, fish and cheeses. The latter must be controlled and possibly reduced if pathologies are present.
You look a little softened compared to the past …
Yes, it’s true. At one time I was rigid on some positions, luckily we change. For example, I did not consume milk, for fear of food intolerances. Then the research confirmed to me that the problems related to dairy products often depend on the quantities. Just adjust the shot and you can eat anything. There are no good or bad foods, let’s always remember that.
Do you ever get off the rails of this way of eating? Sincere…
Yes, of course, it happens to me too, we all fail. I love pizza, it is my comfort food, when I get nervous it is my cuddle, sometimes I eat it even 3-4 times in a week. Same thing for the chocolate. In addition to 20-30 g of dark chocolate, only calories and sugars are taken and the beneficial effect of its antioxidants, flavonoids, very useful for reducing cardiovascular reactivity caused by mental stress, vanishes. But who doesn’t happen to succumb to an entire tablet? And the wine? This is a food that is bad for you, period. The only molecule toxic to the liver is ethanol. But a glass of red is a caress for the soul, we can’t deny it every now and then. The important thing, I repeat, is awareness. If we have this tool in hand we can correct the shot and easily find the “way home”. That is to return to our foods, those that are part of everyday life and, we know, are our best fuel.
What food do you miss when you are away from home?
Definitely the pasta with tomato sauce, with grated cheese. And then the legumes. I love “playing” in the kitchen with soy, chickpeas, lentils. It is very important to me that these foods are always present in the diet.
Love for cooking does not mean being a chef …
Absolutely no. In my opinion, love for cooking develops especially if you have people you love next to you. Let’s think about it: when we love someone, we also dedicate ourselves to them through food. Isn’t it true that we shop carefully, we look for the best products, perhaps organic foods? Don’t mothers behave like this with their children? Often they create new and appreciated dishes, working with imagination. To see little men and women eat with pleasure, grow well, be happy.