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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman

Why We Heart These Italian Pantry Favorites

12 January 2024
by Regan Hofmann
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman
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These staple foods are more than just delicious, they’re good for heart health, too. 

With all the cheese, carbs, and rich meats that are (an admittedly delicious) part of Italian cuisine, it sometimes takes people by surprise that people in Italy tend to be healthier and live longer than their American counterparts. There are a number of reasons for this disparity that we’ve dug into in the past, but they usually come down to lifestyle or mindset differences. 

And while those are potent indicators for your overall health, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, we wanted to make sure some of Italy’s most good-for-you foods got a little love. Is it a coincidence that some of the Italian foods we most closely associate with Valentine’s Day happen to be great for your heart? We don’t think so! 

So eat up and feel great as you protect your heart with these five Italian favorites: 

Extra Virgin Olive OilOlive oil. There are many, many health benefits to Italy’s favorite cooking oil, from fighting inflammation to easing digestion. It protects your heart with a powerful blend of 75% monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol.  


Guido Gobino extra dark chocolate bar

Dark chocolate. Good news for all the chocolate lovers out there: rich dark chocolate is totally good for you! The higher the percentage of cocoa in your bar, the more flavanols it contains, which helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, lowering your risk of heart disease. Giada loves this 75% bitter bar from master chocolatier Guido Gobino. 



Anchovies: OK, these little fish might not be the most romantic food, but they sure inspire love in chefs who adore their salty umami goodness! An important building block for recipes like Caesar salad dressing and pasta puttanesca, anchovies are a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids and the mineral selenium. These important chemicals lower your risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure and reducing inflammation. 

 Calabrian chili pasteChili peppers. All spicy chili peppers tingle the tongue thanks to capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory chemical that reduces inflammation in the body, clearing plaque buildup in blood vessels that can cause heart disease. For the perfect balance of flavor and fire, we love the fruity heat of Tutto Calabria’s Calabrian chili paste. 


Red wineRed wine. It wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without the wine! When consumed in moderation, red wine gives us the antioxidant called resveratrol, which can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and prevent blood clots and artery damage. Cin cin to that! 


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