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Giovanni Visci. Feeding the mind and the heart: nutrition for growth

Lifestyle / -

At Expo Milano 2015 the pediatrician and child psychiatrist moderated the conference entitled "Feeding the mind and the heart", aimed at raising awareness and provide training for professionals working with children and young people on the fundamental role that nutrition plays in our growth and development. In this interview he explains why food is important in terms of both psycho-emotional and social well-being, and how to pass on the message to children that food isn't just nourishment for the body, but also for the soul, and for the heart.

Javier Zanetti. Putting his best foot forward for the children

Lifestyle / -

Javier Zanetti
Javier Zanetti © Daniele Mascolo

Javier Zanetti, the former Inter Milan captain returns to the city’s San Siro stadium one year after his farewell match. An anniversary that will be centered on emotion and solidarity, for the Zanetti and Friends Match for Expo Milano 2015, being held on May 4, is a fundraiser dedicated to child nutrition.

Javier Zanetti, 41, who has been flying the flag for Inter for almost twenty years, and is now the club’s vice-president, is also one of Expo Milano 2015’s Ambassadors. As a player, he has always been among the most popular - and not only with Inter fans - for his sportsmanship and for his values both on and off the field.

In 2001, he and his wife Paula launched the PUPI Foundation, an association that supports an extremely poor area of Argentina, helping the most disadvantaged children and providing them with education and care.

As his first event as Expo Ambassador, Zanetti has chosen to organize a soccer match that will help promote sport, as well as what we might call the “culture of food”. The Zanetti and Friends Match for Milan Expo 2015 will be held on May 4, 2015, at 21:00 at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (better known as San Siro) in Milan, and will be attended by the football stars both present and past. The event will bring to the stadium thousands of students, who will play an active role by creating banners promoting healthy eating.

You’re now part of the team of ambassadors of Expo Milano 2015. The fundraiser Zanetti and Friends Match is your contribution to the "feeding the planet" cause. What is the aim of the initiative?
This is the first sporting event of Expo Milano 2015, and it will be held in San Siro, a stadium with a long history. The mission of Zanetti and Friends is humanitarian, as it will support many organizations that help the children and the people who need it most. So I think it's a wonderful opportunity as well as a great responsibility.

Your sporting career has been characterized by your values. On the subject of food, what advice would you give to young people who come to the sport?
Good nutrition and a healthy diet are essential for everyone, not only children. For this reason, we must be careful to make available the right information, because this is how you educate people to eat properly, which is helpful for all of us. I believe that this subject is really important. Expo is doing a lot to increase awareness on this topic, and I hope to be able to do the same through sporting events such as this.

The PUPI Foundation helps many children in Argentina. What have you learned these past 13 years about solidarity, and how has it changed your work?
It has influenced it a lot. If a person decides to get involved in the world of charity, it’s because it feels like something he or she must do. Every time I go back to Argentina, to my homeland, I realize that the children that my foundation is helping are doing well, they’re happy. I therefore wanted to do something in Italy too, something that would help many children. I'm happy to now be able to do this also in my city, Milan, and I hope that it will be a great success.

Milk Day: Celebrating our first food, and a delicious ingredient, plus the chance to sample quindim and dulce de leche

Taste / -

giornata latte

From new-borns to grown-ups, milk is the universal drink.

The best-known and most popular is undoubtedly cow’s milk, with dairy cattle providing some 83 percent of the world’s total production. Water-buffalo are responsible for a full 13 percent of global output, with goats and sheep next up, accounting for two percent and one percent, respectively. The remaining one percent is made up of camel’s milk, which takes 0.3 percent of the whole, and the rest comes from mares and yaks.
The world’s milk producers
World milk production has risen by 50 percent in the last thirty years, from 482 million tonnes in1982 to 754 million tonnes in 2012. India is the world’s largest milk producer, contributing 16 percent of total world output, followed by the United States of America, China, Pakistan, and Brazil. Italy produces just under nine million tonnes of milk per annum, one part of which is made into cheese, butter, and yogurt, and other dairy products.
Depending on how the milk is processed, it has different characteristics, diverse nutritional values, and longer shelf-life.
From dulce de leche to quindim: milk-based recipes galore
Milk is a basic ingredient of a wide array of recipes. One of the best-known of these is probably dulce de leche, which is a milk and sugar confection, typical of Latin American countries such as Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela.
The sweetened milk is heated slowly, and its distinctive caramel flavor derives from the Maillard reaction, which also makes the color change to a hazelnut-brown. The same treat is very popular in the Philippines, where it is often used as a cake-filling, or is poured over cake and ice-cream.
There are many legends connected to the invention of dulce de leche. One of the best-known tells that this dessert was created by accident in the 19th century in Argentina, when the maid of a famous politician of the time forgot a pan of sugared milk on the stove.
Another milk-based specialty sweet that is much loved in Brazil is quindim, which has Portuguese roots, and is a baked custard. Made with condensed milk, grated coconut, and egg yolks, it has a rich, sweet taste, and can be served hot or cold. In Portugal, almonds are used in place of coconut, and the dish is called Brisas do Lis.
Other milk based sweet dishes are crème caramel, Portuguese custards tarts (Pastel de nata), and any number of rice-base puddings that each have their own distinctive names.
Milk can also be used in savory dishes, however, since it mitigates salty tastes.  Examples here include Pork Roast Braised with Milk, or Portuguese salt cod with potatoes.
Milk is, of course, also drunk on its own, or can be served as part of a milk shake, with fresh fruit, or chocolate.
Fermented milk
Some 2,500 years before the birth of Christ, the Persians and the Egyptians, among others, were expert at making fermented milk products, such as yogurt, so they could conserve milk longer. These days, these products are much-prized in that the micro-organisms that they contain are considered to offer health benefits.
From camel to yak: lesser-known sources of milk
While cows provide the majority of milk for human consumption, water buffalo, sheep and camels also do their part. Less common sources include yaks, horses, reindeer, and donkeys.
Sheep’s milk is the only option in the semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean, while goats carry out the same function in areas of Africa where the soil is not very fertile. In the steppes of Central Asia, mares provide milk, and camels do the same in desert lands, water-buffalo serve the identical purpose in the tropical humid zones, while yaks are perfectly well-suited as milk providers at high altitudes, such as the Tibetan Plateau.
Camels are the main source of milk in Africa and Asia, with nomadic tribes being able to survive for an entire month at a time, drinking nothing but camel’s milk. In Central Asia, this milk is fermented and then used to add flavor to savory dishes, or for making a popular drink called shubat, or chal.
In the steppes of Central Asia, and especially in Mongolia, mare’s milk is also prized. Collecting it is very time-consuming: the actual milking process takes time, and needs to be repeated between five and six times a day. In addition, the mare will not produce milk unless she has a foal. Donkey’s milk is also of also rare, and in some African communities is used only for medicinal purposes.
Yak milk, on the other hand, provides essential sustenance to the inhabitants of the Tibetan Plateau. This is because yaks can survive not only at high altitudes, but also at temperatures of forty degrees below zero.
Check out these links for more on the subject of milk:
- Milk Facts, an infographic published by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- Afghanistan: Stabilizing Rural Communities published by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

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