Diet

Five ways the Slow Food movement is good for your health

Bringing down the speed and eating more mindfully helps us enjoy our food, but the Slow Food movement can also offer health benefits

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Picture this: You’re dining Al fresco with friends and family in a quaint Italian villa and you take a moment to soak in the view. The leaves on the Cypress trees rustle gently from the warm breeze coming from the south and its clear blue skies. The white table linen is covered with a colourful array of foods — a feast of fresh-baked cheddar bread, roasted olives, garlic lemon linguine with asparagus and shrimp, prosciutto and arugula pizza, Mediterranean tomato and bean salad, and bottles of almost-empty red and white vino.

Western Europeans are famous for taking long, drawn-out meals, such as this. Perhaps they’ve learned that the only way to truly appreciate life (and good food) is by slowing down. We can learn a lot from that philosophy, and it’s what inspired Carlo Petrini to start the Slow Movement in the mid-1980s to protest the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant by the Spanish Steps in Rome. “Traditionally making food is an act of love, and there is a difference between pornography and making love,” he told The Independent.

Whether you agree with that analogy or not, most of us have a constant need for speed. (I’m definitely guilty of tapping my foot when a restaurant takes over 30 minutes to serve my meal.) In a culture dominated by fast food and fast service, where quality takes a backseat to quantity, it has become our ethos: Everything in an instant.

This summer, why not make an effort to gather friends and family for an afternoon of browsing your local farmers’ market, cooking, then savouring and enjoying each bite of the communally-made cuisine. Sound fun? It is! And good for you, too. Here are five reasons why taking things slow leads to a healthier lifestyle:

1. Digestion begins in the kitchen: As soon as we smell food, our body begins to produce enzymes that aid in digestion. Therefore, smelling the aroma of a pot roast in the oven prepares our body for digestion better than if we were to pop a Lean Cuisine into the microwave.

2. Promotes sustainable food production: By purchasing locally grown produce and regional livestock, you’re not only helping local farmers’ businesses, but also helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint — it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a strawberry from California to New York.

3. Studies confirm that eating slower results in consuming less calories: It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’re full, so if you’re trying to lose weight, pace yourself and chew slower.

4. Looking for locally-produced foods leads to better food choices:
By purchasing locally grown food, you’ll consume less processed food, less refined sugars and carbs, and likely eat healthier fruits and vegetables — eating local foods mean that the produce can ripen longer and will contain more nutrients.

5. Helps with stress reduction: The more conscious we are of our eating habits — eating slowly and enjoying each bite rather than shoveling in a meal in front of the television — the more mindful we are of our bodies. According to Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, “food meditation” brings your attention back to you physical senses and encourages us to take pleasures in the moment.

For more information on the Slow Food Movement, visit Slow Food Canada or read In Praise of Slow.