healthy italian food, italian chef, chiara manzi, cucina evolution, nutrition, healthy eating, diet, body, health, q by equinox

Meet the Pizza Whisperer

One woman's mission to squeeze every drop of flavor and healthy goodness from Italian cuisine.

Between the pasta, the cheese and the wine, Italians clearly know how to eat. But there's so much more to those famous flavors than carbs and saturated fat. In fact, Chiara Manzi, university professor, nutritionist, celebrated Italian chef and founder of Cucina Evolution (where "the art of cuisine" meets "the science of nutrition"), is on a mission to join taste and health in perfect harmony. 

Manzi has created a food culture centered on strategically combining and cooking ingredients to maintain optimum flavor without compromising their health-promoting nutrients and anti-aging properties. Seven years into her crusade and 15 certified restaurants later — the latest is London’s Evoluzione at Hotel Xenia in Kensington — Manzi is clearly onto something. Her food philosophy: It's forbidden to forbid. Every food taken in the right quantities, and cooked in the right method, can offer anti-aging benefits. Here, her tips to change the way you cook, eat and age:

1. Begin every meal with 2-3 glasses of fresh water flavored with fruit or herbs. Water is the first anti-aging ingredient.

2. Every dish you prepare should be beautiful: beauty in food enhances our sense of replenishment, which means you will eat less and feel fuller.

3. Cooked food is sometimes healthier than raw food. For instance, tomatoes contain one of the only three true antioxidants: lycopene, which protects our skin from aging and is more active in cells when its molecules are broken down. Thus, a tomato has more efficacy when it is cooked for a long time.

4. Pair foods strategically. “Any food rich in anti-aging benefits can become ineffective when taken in the wrong quantities, cooked in the wrong way or joined with a food that negates its nutritional qualities," says Manzi. Take curcumina, which is contained in turmeric and has great health-promoting properties — it lowers cholesterol, fights depression and inhibits fat cell production. Eaten alone tumeric is not absorbed very well, but if we eat it with black pepper, its intestinal absorption multiplies 2,000 times.