Pioppi or not-ti?
The Pioppi Diet has crept into conversations of late, almost as often as Will flexes his biceps (oop, there he goes again). To minimize the risk of looking “not in the know”, then read on messieurs dames, all will be revealed…
What the harry heckles is the Pioppi Diet?
Well, it takes its name from a small Italian village where the locals not only tend to live longer - the average man has a lifespan of 89; many live to 100 - but do so without contracting the chronic diseases of ageing, such as type-2 diabetes and dementia, that the rest of the world accepts as probable / almost inevitable. Life in the tiny village is portrayed to be as simple as it is long and healthy. There is no gym, no supermarket, the food is delicious and they enjoy a glass of wine every evening.
Is that all there is to it? If so, I’m sold.
OK, there’s a little more. There are apparently 8 steps to get properly Pioppi-ing, and they look a little like this:
1. We’re not to fear fat; sugar and refined carbs are apparently the enemy of the peeps of Pioppi.
2. We’ve gotta keep moving – but we are to exercise for health not weight loss (and walking is apparently best).
3. Extra virgin olive oil should be viewed as medicinal, along with (a small handful of) nuts. We should eat both every day.
4. We should snooze for seven hours a night.
5. We’ve gotta stop counting calories – after all, not all are created equal.
6. We need to chow down on 10 eggs a week – not only are they satiating, they’re also full of protein.
7. 2 portions of veg need to work their way into at least two meals a day.
8. Finally, the Pioppi diet tells us to fast once a week for 24 hours - have dinner, then don’t have breakfast or lunch the next day. I’ve got a panic sweat on just thinking about it.
Come on, be honest. What’s your initial reaction?! Mine was that I’ve heard all this before. It sounds remarkably like the good old Mediterranean diet, just an ultra-low carb version of it. This Mediterranean way of eating has for a looooong time been associated with good health, particularly good heart health. There is no one definition of the Mediterranean diet and it varies by region, but in a nutshell: eat plenty of fruit and veg, fish is great, meat less so (especially processed meat), bread and pasta are staples, and olive oil rocks.
Whilst the carbs seem to be the one key differentiator between the Pioppi diet and the Med Diet, some local Pioppi-ans (?!) spoke out after Dr Aseem Malhotra’s book ‘The Pioppi Diet: A 21-Day Lifestyle Plan’ was launched, saying that their diet absolutely included processed carbohydrates, and for good reason. The particular Pioppian quoted here was 94 years old: ‘Pasta is my favourite food. I don’t understand why so many people try to cut that and bread out of their diets – it is like medicine for the heart and it is silly not to eat it.’
A slightly more recognized source also spoke out on carbohydrates, The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). They don’t find an association between total carbohydrate intake and type 2 diabetes and obesity. Instead, they conclude that dietary fibre – which wholegrains make an important contribution to in our diet – is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
No bad thing then that many farm workers in rural Italy do not – could not – survive on a diet of fish and seasonal vegetables. Pasta is as central to the Italian diet as potatoes are to Britain’s. So too is bread. This is the elephant in the room for anyone trying to pretend that Italians eat a low carb diet, or indeed that anyone should.
“Once you accept that pasta and bread are important elements of Mediterranean cuisine, the actual Pioppi diet involves lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, starchy carbohydrates, mushrooms, nuts and eggs, but little or no cake, biscuits, processed meat, crisps and red meat. In other words, it is the UK government’s Eatwell Guide with extra virgin olive oil”. Health.spectator.co.uk
So why aren’t us Brits as apparently healthy as the Pioppians, or those following Mediterranean diets? Quite simply because we don’t stick to the guidelines. We eat a shed load of the off limits stuff, and not enough of the good stuff. What’s more, it’s not all about diet, lifestyle comes into it as well. And theirs is quite different to ours. Pioppi is a rural farming and fishing community, where most of the residents are engaged in manual labour from childhood, and remain active throughout their lives. The air is clean and they are outside most of the day breathing it in.
As well as diet and lifestyle, affluence also comes into it. The Pioppians have traditionally been too poor to eat a lot of red meat. Indeed, they have been too poor to eat a lot of anything, hence the low rate of obesity and its associated diseases.
To conclude, following the Mediterranean or Pioppi diet, or simply paying proper attention to the good old English Eatwell guidance, there are some basic healthy eating principles that all 3 advocate: increase your fruit and veg, and decrease your intake of junk. And healthy living principles: eat less, move more, and get some fresh air.
I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, and make no claims to the contrary. What is written on this site should not be taken as fact or advice. It is merely an opinion blog.