Cooking to your heart's content

Written by  Marianna Pellegrini
Advice from the Italian Cardiology Society on watching your cholesterol intake while staying cheerful.
Recently, an unusual volume appeared, published by the Italian Cardiology Society and distributed by the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara.
Unusual firstly because of the authors: Roberto Ferrari, professor of cardiology at the University of Ferrara, and his wife Claudia Florio, cinema director and scriptwriter. The authors themselves tell us that the book, skilfully illustrated by Ferrara photographer Paolo Zappaterra, is the product of 'an amateur cook and a professional cardiologist'.

Cardiovascular disease is unfortunately still the main cause of decease in Italy, and is though to be responsible for 43% of deaths. The fight against cardiovascular disorders is therefore a priority not only for medicine but also for society at large.
Current scientific knowledge has repeatedly demonstrated that the incidence of much illness is closely linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices: smoking, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition and excessive or inadequate exercise are all factors implicated in the risk of contracting cardiovascular - and other - diseases. So we need to persuade the public to adopt healthier lifestyles, and this is the aim of La Cucina del cuore, which provides general advice on the kinds of foods most likely to promote good health.

The work is in two parts. In the first, there is a series of information about foodstuffs, cooking advice and an exhaustive table of the calorific content and contents of various dishes; in the second, a wide selection of recipes. The book is clear and straightforward, and is imaginatively illustrated by Zappaterra's lens and Mrs Florio's scenography. It is often said that we should 'eat a balanced diet'. Just as often this advice creates practical problems for those who would like to become experts in the nutritional field. Knowing the ideal menus for healthy eating and avoiding excess cholesterol is not so simple, and nor is it easy to put into practice.

Professor Ferrari has set himself the task of setting a clear and enjoyable path to healthy eating, with a range of culinary suggestions that will please the palate without damaging the health. Some of you may remember the provocatively-entitled Le diete fanno male ("dieting is bad for you") which was published some years ago. This book stressed the fact that diets can make us very miserable. Professor Ferrari is well aware of this danger, hence the sub-title to his book: "how to watch your cholesterol while staying cheerful".

Heart disease is not just the most common killer today; it is also painful and distressing. Fortunately there has been dramatic progress in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in recent years and many lives have been saved. Once patients are on the road to recovery, however, the real pain begins.
The cardiologist is suddenly transformed into a tyrant.

At this point the tensions grow: the patient commits the innocent error of trying to get himself organised. And what does he do? He asks the cardiologists what diet he should follow.

Immediately, he is presented with a black-and-white photocopied sheet with a series of suggestions that give him the horrors.
La cucina del cuore aims to put this right with a collection of appetising, easily consulted recipes. In full colour, attractively presented with lots of photographs, the book has been supported by the Italian Cardiology Society in the hope of convincing cardiac patients that, despite everything, they can continue to enjoy the pleasures of the table ? while still keeping that cholesterol in check