with nutritionists and food professionals.
|starting left Marco Petrini (President
of Monini North America, INC.),
Albert DeAngelis (Executive Chef at the Ramze Zakka
Karen Ayoub (Alliance volunteer), and
Dr. Barry Boyd (Director of the Integrated Medicine
program at Greenwich Hospital)
The old saying, “You
are what you eat” never has been more
true. Recent research has shown definitive links between
diet and health — or conversely, between diet
and certain diseases.
We know that eating foods rich in anti-oxidants,
high in protein, low in fat (particularly saturated
fats), high in fiber and not overly processed is a key
factor in preventing certain diseases, including breast
cancer. But sorting out all the options and discerning
the hype from the facts can be complicated. To gain
a better understanding of what foods, diets and lifestyles
are beneficial to our health, the Breast Cancer Alliance
• Dr. Barry Boyd, Director of
the Integrated Medicine program at Greenwich Hospital
and author of the upcoming book, The Missing Link: Obesity,
Insulin and the Cancer Connection - The True Basis for
Integrative Cancer Care;
• Marco Petrini, President of
Monini North America, a specialty olive
oil importer/distributor; and
• Albert DeAngelis, Executive
Chef at the Ramze Zakka restaurant group, which includes
Acqua in Westport, Terra and Mediterraneo in Greenwich,
Solé in New Canaan and Aurora in Rye.
Here, our panel shares its views on
Mediterranean and American diets, choosing healthy options
both at home and in restaurants, and the truth about
a healthy diet? And, how can healthy eating combat obesity?
is enormous confusion between a healthy diet and a diet
to lose weight. Obesity is the single most important
issue when it comes to nutrition and cancer. But, people
really need to change their focus when they diet. There
is good epidemiological evidence to suggest that you
don’t need low carbohydrate diets to lose weight.
You don’t need to overload on certain foods, either.
Although we know that broccoli and cauliflower break
down carcinogens rapidly and that processing foods reduces
their nutrients, the key is a healthy dietary pattern
rather than concentration on a single food. Exercise
and stress reduction also come into play. Remember,
it’s not the soy — it’s the healthy
People need to pare down their portions — if they
see it, they eat it, and it’s often too much.
DeAngelis: As a restaurant, we need
to make portions generous enough that people feel they
are getting value for their money, but our real value
is in offering good ingredients prepared well. People
should also slow down — if they eat more slowly,
they will be satisfied with a smaller amount of food.
Why do southern
Europeans have healthier eating habits than many Americans?
In the United States, people want their meals to be
“quick.” They mistakenly assume that a good
meal requires numerous ingredients and two hours of
preparation. But all it really takes is a few ingredients,
a little time and some passion! People in Europe, especially
children, also eat a more varied diet — here,
children’s menus are always the same. Another
thing I notice is snacking. In Europe, we have bigger
meals and take our time about them, but we don’t
eat while we drive in our cars, for instance.
People sometimes don’t realize that cooking simply
can make a great meal. A simple piece of fish with a
drizzle of flavored olive oil is just as appealing as
one with a creamy sauce, not to mention healthier and
faster to prepare. Sometimes when you overcomplicate
a recipe, you lose the basic flavor.
is known that the Mediterranean diet is high in Omega
3 fats found in fish, olive oil and vegetables. People
in that area of the world are known to have significantly
lower incidences of lung, prostate and colon cancer.
In this country, we eat far too much processed food,
including concentrated carbohydrates such as corn syrup
and sugar. It is a human evolutionary trait to search
for sweets so our bodies can store fat. That’s
a hard habit to break when we make sweet foods so abundantly
Why do we
hear so much about the benefits of olive oil?
Can you guide us through the different types of olive
Olive oil has long been a staple of the Mediterranean
diet, and studies have proven that it is a healthier
fat than animal fats like butter or lard. The preliminary
results of a study currently underway show that the
use of olive oil in every day quantities protects against
the development of breast cancer. The reason: olive
oil is rich in natural antioxidants like Vitamin E,
which is beneficial for heart and circulation problems
as well as some cancers. Olive oil is also rich in monounsaturated
fats, which the human body can easily break down. In
fact, Italian pediatricians often prescribe 1 tsp. of
olive oil per day for infants because it helps protect
their digestive system. And olive oil can be used in
baking — for cakes, biscuits, frying — anywhere
you would use other fats. Not every type of olive oil
offers a benefit, however. It is extremely important
to use extra virgin olive oil, which simply means that
the oil has been extracted through a method of mechanical,
not chemical, pressure. Extra virgin olive oil may be
organic or not, depending on how it is grown, but it
is all natural — there is no processing and nothing
is added. Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than
other olive oils because the yield is low — a
harvest of 100 pounds of olives yields roughly 20 pounds
of oil. But the health benefits are undoubtedly worth
the added price.
How do popular
diets and other eating trends affect a restaurant?
We definitely have more customers who make specific
requests based on diets like Atkins and South Beach.
They might request two vegetables rather than a vegetable
and a starch. Many of our customers also request organically
grown vegetables. But going “all organic”
becomes a cost issue for a restaurant, so we try to
have a mix. Ironically, consumer preference for “healthier”
foods sometimes has a downside. For instance, people
don’t want to be limited to seasonal choices anymore.
The result is that we import many fruits and vegetables
whose growing conditions may not be up to American standards,
and which can sometimes cause serious illness. Hydroponic
farming is another example — lettuce can now be
grown year round in a water mixture, but it isn’t
as tasty and it is missing essential phytonutrients
like selenium found in soil. Finally, certain fish have
become victims of their own popularity. Chilean sea
bass is now an endangered species, tuna is blasted with
nitrogen to keep its red color and farm salmon are injected
with dyes and antibiotics. Sea scallops are often injected
with sodium trisulfide, which causes them to fill with
water — making them weigh more and thus cost more.
We do our best to avoid these less-than-natural products,
but consumers need to be aware when they shop for their
own food as well.
What’s your best
advice to consumers in terms of healthy eating?
They need to become more knowledgeable. If an expensive
seafood is available at $3.00 per pound, it’s
probably coming from another country where it is injected
with dye, fed antibiotics and farmed poorly. It’s
important to have a relationship with the people you
buy your food from so you can trust that the product
you’re buying is really what you think it is.
Make it a habit to read labels — don’t just
look at price and packaging.
good eating choices and integrate those choices into
an overall health plan. We now know that obesity is
a health issue, not a cosmetic one, so people need to
make choices that will lower their risk.