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Food, exercise, spirituality

Franco Berrino

The Bible tells us what the food for humans is: on the sixth day, after creating man, God said “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food”. Ever since, all the peoples throughout the world have eaten the seeds produced by the plants created by God, cereals and legumes, fruits and vegetables. The Mediterranean cuisine has pasta and beans, fava bean soup, pasta and chickpeas, spelt soup and the splendid Tuscan ribollita. In North Africa we have couscous, prepared with durum wheat semolina and chickpeas; in the East, there is rice with fermented soy products; in the villages of the Himalayas the dal bhat, lentils with rice; in Central America, corn tortillas with black beans; in sub-Saharan Africa, millet with peanuts, which are also legumes.  

Until a hundred years ago.

Then, in the space of 50 years, everything changed. Today we eat things that humans have never eaten in their history, things that not even God had imagined we could eat, things that are bad for health: flours deprived of fiber and germ (the so-called 00 flour), hydrogenated vegetable fats (margarines), fats extracted with solvents from seeds or olives, meat from animals that no longer eat their natural food, vegetables grown without their roots in the soil, meat grown in bioreactors through the proliferation of muscle stem cells, foods with dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers, enhancers, artificial flavors.

Scientific research analyzes the relationship between what we eat and what we get sick or die from and gives clear indication of what is good for us and what isn’t. The European Code Against Cancer[1], the Recommendations of the World Fund for Research on Cancer, [2] the Healthy Eating Index of Harvard University,[3] recommend to:

  • Eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Limit the consumption of fast food-type foods, rich in unhealthy fats and sugars,

and avoid sugary drinks.

  • Limit your consumption of red meat (no more than a couple of times a week)

and avoid the consumption of processed meats (cured meats, frankfurters, canned meats).

  • Limit the consumption of salt (no more than 5 grams per day) and foods preserved in salt.
  • Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Stay lean. 
  • Exercise daily.

These indications are consistent with the pre-industrial revolution Mediterranean diet, with the macrobiotic diet and with the macro-Mediterranean® cuisine proposed by the association La Grande Via (www.la grandevia.it).

In my talk I will evidence recommendations to choose certains foods and avoid or limit others. especially ultraprocessed foods- and give examples of delicious dishes and desserts which can be easily prepared at home.

Food, exercise and spirituality are three ingredients which can help us improve and maintain health, well-being and age well -let’s use them!

[1] Norat T et al., 2015.  European Code Against Cancer 4th Edition: Diet and Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol 39: S56-S66.  The Italian translation of the European Code Against Cancer is available on the website

[2] www.WCRF.org

[3] Walter C. Willett. Eat healthy, drink healthy, live healthy. Mondadori, Milan, 2018.