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How Italians Heal Sickness with Food

By January 29, 2016October 8th, 201810 Comments

The old maxim goes: “Feed a cold, starve a fever,” which is based on the Medieval belief that eating food can help the body generate warmth during a cold and conversely avoiding food can help it cool down but this has been debunked. Recent medical studies maintain the old saying is wrong. It should be, “Feed a cold, feed a fever.” It may easily have been a team of Italian scientists that disproved this old adage.

brodo is the magic cure for illness in italy

When you are sick in Italy there is never starvation involved but Italians are remarkable when it comes to what you should and should not eat when sick. While Americans just plow through ailments or hide in bed – and not eating if they don’t feel like it – in Italy not having at least a bowl of mamma’s chicken soup is punishable by a lengthy jail term, so imagine fasting. Heresy!

Whether to treat minor issues like the colpo d’aria (stiffness or a cold from a draft, basically) or to attack more serious conditions, Italians have an entire protocol when it comes to eating the sickness away.

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10 Comments

  • Carrie says:

    Chicken broth must be the international healing and comfort food! I’m also wondering if Italian immigrants brought the “steak remedy” to the US… Great piece!

    • Thank you Carrie! Italian immigrants brought a lot of food-related intel overseas, and found a plethora of other incoming cultures with their own baggage of knowledge, so who knows, maybe… 🙂

  • Paula Barbarito Levitt says:

    I love this article for so many reasons. The “cures” for so many common health ailments treated through food, most of which were taken in stride growing up in an Italian American home. I still follow many of the treatments you outlined and they are effective. Thank you Eleonora!

  • Neno says:

    Ha ha ha.

    This is so great. It is not just Italy it is all over Mediterenean.

    I am Croatian and we are also obsessed (well my mother is anyway) with healing powers of chicken soup.

    Neno

    • I’m happy to hear that Neno 🙂 There’s an Italian saying that goes “Tutto il mondo è paese” which roughly translates to ‘the entire world is a village’ meaning that some habits are common all around the world. Thanks for stopping by and dobra večer
      🙂

  • Sounds like you know my Italian mother! This is how I grew up!

    • Elizabeth Janus says:

      thank you for your comment kathryn. we probably do know your Italian mamma (i’m one myself!). it’s wonderful to keep up those traditions and pass them on to our friends and family. hope you enjoy our other posts. there will be much more. . .

  • Ellie says:

    I would love to continue reading the article, however it appears as if it has been taken down!

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