All Posts from October, 2015

The Future of Nutrition: Food Prebiotics

October 27th, 2015 | By Michele Pili in Parco San Marco | No Comments »

Prebiotics – in the two decades since its discovery, numerous studies have been carried out to highlight the positive effects of prebiotics.

What are prebiotics? What role do they play in nutrition? What beneficial bodily functions do they trigger?

Prebiotics are non-digestible organic substances which selectively stimulate the growth and activity of a limited number of useful or ‘good’ bacteria in the colon. In the 1990’s, a research study began into prebiotics and its resulting aim was to develop certain nutrients for intestinal microbiota which would stimulate their growth. In order for a substance to be classed as a prebiotic, it must display certain specific characteristics. It must be able to survive, and without damage, the processes of the first part of the digestive tract (mouth, stomach and small intestine); it must provide a fertile breeding ground for the intestinal micro-flora; it should have positive luminal or systemic effects on human health. These requirements are so strict that many substances which could potentially be prebiotics on account of the indigestibility in the stomach, have to be excluded.

The most studied prebiotics are oligosaccharides, in particular those found in Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) but also other substances such as galacto-oligosaccharide (TOS), gluco-oligosaccharide and soya-oligosaccharide (SOS).

Prebiotics have many useful effects on the human organism, for example the reduction of fecal pH in conjunction with the acidification of contents of the intestine. In fact, the fermentation of prebiotics by the colonic microbiota creates lactic acid and short-chain carboxylic acids which creates favourable conditions for the growth of symbiotes (bifidobacteria, lactobacilli) which in turn counteract the development of pathogenic microorganisms. This results in a reduction of hostile microbiota and their associated toxins which, when occurring in high concentrations, encourage inflammation of the mucous membrane and alter its permeability which in turn has adverse consequences for the whole organism.

These include ammonia, biogenic amines, nitrosamines and secondary bile acids. More desirable effects are an increased supply of intestinal mucosa, an increase in mineral bioavailability as this facilitates the indirect absorption of water and mineral salts, in particular calcium and magnesium. Finally of note is the cholesterol-reducing effect which is helpful by reducing the plasma concentration of cholesterol and, to a lesser extent, triglycerides.

It is probably why so often, when discussing cholesterol, the efficiency of these substances is dependent on the diet of the individual; the higher the cholesterol level of the nutrition, the greater the effect of the prebiotics.

Oligosaccharides exist naturally in many edible plants such as chicory, artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, corn, bananas, oats and soya beans. Industrially manufactured inulin is derived principally from chicory root. Other prebiotics including FOS can also be made from the same fibre.

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of the two best-known and most intensively-studied prebiotics (FOS and Inulin) is generally between 2g and 10g per day.

A higher intake can cause slight stomach upsets including flatulence, feeling bloated and diarrhoea.  In order to avoid this, it is recommended that doses be increased incrementally over the course of a few weeks.

A balanced and prebiotics-rich diet can help to restore the intestinal flora after a course of anti-biotic treatment and is recommended to patients prone to gastrointestinal disorders.

And now we can show you how – Prebiotics on the Menu

Functional Food

The term “Functional Food” is nothing new for lovers of Asian cuisine. In China, dishes (whether raw or cooked) have always been prepared traditionally according to their healing or preventative properties. The term itself however comes from Japan where, in the 1980s, it was influenced by the country’s health authorities / ministry. It recognised the need for improvement in the general quality of life within a steadily-increasing elderly population and in line with an increasing life expectancy coupled with simultaneously keeping health care costs under control.

A publication in the British Journal of Nutrition of 1999 defined “functional food” as the following: “A food can be regarded as ‘functional’ if it is satisfactorily demonstrated to affect beneficially one or more target functions in the body, beyond adequate nutritional effects, in a way that is relevant to either an improved state of health and well-being and/or reduction of risk of disease.”

A few examples of prebiotic foods are bananas, honey, dried fruits, whole wheat flour, beans and pulses in general.  Such ingredients can be used to develop exclusively and completely prebiotic recipes – here is just some examples:


Fried Banana with Honey and Walnuts

A really easy dish and an excellent snack for your children.

Bananas contain large quantities of magnesium and potassium, the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of honey are well-known and finally, nuts are rich in amino acids (Omega-3).


1 banana

2 soup spoons honey

4 shelled walnuts

• fry the halved banana over a high heat

• remove the bananas and warm the honey in the pan with a little water

• pour the sauce over the banana and garnish with the crushed walnuts




Pasta and Beans A La Treviso

This recipe contains beans, a foodstuff rich in amino acids, natural fibres, minerals and vitamins (equivalent to meat) and one of the prebiotic ingredients par excellence, the radicchio lettuce from the chicory family.


Ingredients (serves 4)

300g dried Borlotti beans

160g dried pasta

1 onion

3 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 celeriac

1 carrot

Salt and pepper to taste

Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)

Parmesan cheese

1 radicchio lettuce


• Leave the beans to soak overnight in a large quantity of water

• Discard the water, rinse the beans well and fill a large pan with water

• Cook the beans over a moderate heat for about 2 hours

• Put half the beans to one side and mix the other half with the finely sliced celeriac, carrot and onion that you’ve pre-cooked in a frying pan with a small quantity of bio-oil (or, depending on your preference, diced pork belly or lardons).

• Now mix everything together and blend with a hand-held mixer (electric)

• Add salt and pepper to taste

• Cook the pasta al dente in a separate pan, mix with the bean sauce and leave the pan on the heat for a few minutes

• Chop the radicchio thinly and garnish plate generously

• Serve the pasta and bean mix on top


Don’t forget a dash of olive oil!




Bon appétit!

Dr. Yolanda Cerrone

Chef Michele Pili


A Brief History of Smuggling Between Italy and Switzerland

October 21st, 2015 | By Paola Mazzo in Parco San Marco | No Comments »

Contraband comes from the mediaeval Latin “contra bannum”, which means against the law. Smuggling refers to the movement of prohibited goods (or contraband) across borders illegally or without payment of the mandatory customs duties. Smuggling was a common occurrence in former times and intensified with the creation of the kingdom of Italy and the establishment of state-run monopolies in Italy.

confine svizzero

During World War I, a shortage of food in Switzerland led to a flow of contraband from Italy to Switzerland. Another Swiss shortfall of food supplies, which began in 1943, meant that Italy  was forced to supply large quantities of rice whereas coffee, tobacco and salt were smuggled from Switzerland to Italy. The area most notorious for ​​smuggling is situated around the border between Lake Como and the Ticino. More particularly, the Intelvi Valley and the upper valleys of Lake Como, which are characterised by ravines, gulleys and steep slopes, allowed smugglers to avoid the clutches of the Italian finance police.

As a consequence of the geographical location and a lack of other income sources, smuggling also became a major part of local life in our region of Lake Lugano. This is particularly true of the Val Cavargna near the Swiss border. The route the smugglers took went up the Mottarone and then inside the “Belarma”, following a path along the steep slopes above Lake Lugano. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Italian state created the Network Bordering Order in an attempt to isolate the upland areas of the two sides of the border and thus end the illegal trade. The result, however, was to only increase the solidarity between the people of Lake Como and Ticino to the extent where smuggling became more prominent, and in some cases, the single-most important industry of some areas.


Not even the events of World War II and harsh trade restrictions, which consequently led to severe shortages of supplies, managed to eradicate smuggling between Como and Ticino. In fact, towards the end of the conflict, rice was the most smuggled commodity between the two regions, not only as it was easy to cook but also because it was filling. Instead of supplying rice to the German occupiers, Italian farmers preferred to sell their rice in Lugano and Bellinzona even though they had to avoid the customs officers at the border. The period between the 1950s and the 1970s saw many changes and the “spalloni” or smugglers who used to cross the border with their “bricolla” (a pannier or back-pack) became a thing of the past. Smuggling today uses other means and crosses newer, different borders.

Detailed accounts of the region’s smuggling can be found at the Customs Museum at “Cantine di Gandria”.  The Museum is located on the south bank of Lake Lugano, on the (green) border with Italy. The best way to get there is by ferry and the trip across the lake from Lugano (Giardino, Centrale or Paradiso stops) takes about 25 minutes. The ferries dock at the museum (Museo doganale stop) or at Cantine di Gandria, from where it is just a short walk along a foot path to the museum.

cantine di gandria

Among the signs of history: the Mendrisiotto and its treasure

October 5th, 2015 | By Paola Mazzo in Parco San Marco | No Comments »

A stay at Lago di Lugano during this period is a unique experience for all your five senses: from the food, until the wellbeing there is really lots to discover. Furthermore, the Mendrisiotto (just 30 minutes far away from Parco San Marco by car) and Lower Ceresio region offer the chance to discover Ticino. This romantic journey becomes an amazing experience immersed in a landscape of exceptional beauty; it is no longer alpine, but not yet Tuscan.


Village by village, among mountains, hills and the lake the most southerly region of Switzerland is a hospitable land, all waiting to be discovered; from the peace of the lake to the gentle hilly slopes dotted with olive trees, from the industrial plains to the rows of vineyards.

The Mendrisiotto is a land full of contrasts and offers unique moments in every season: in spring when the calm green of the meadows in the Muggio Valley are tinged with the white of the narcissus; in summer when the only cool place is under the pergolas of the inns and grottoes or by the lakeside; in autumn when the countryside takes on warm colours and Mendrisio is host to the wine harvest festival and livestock fairs; and in winter, often very mild, when the infinite can be seen from the peaks of Monte Generoso and Monte San Giorgio; the breathtaking panorama of the snowy Alps and the Padana Plain, right down to Milan and the Apennines.

And one of the best ways to appreciate this land is to go into the museums and churches where history and culture interact – oases of silence just a few steps away from one of the main European transit routes.

tp vigna origlio

Would you like to have a unique experience in contact with nature by actively taking part in the grape harvest? In the Mendrisiotto and Lower Ceresio region it is possible.

Various wine growers and wine producers have expressed their readiness to welcome visitors, who can personally experience the magic and festive atmosphere which traditionally accompanies the grape harvest season. The guests will be able to spend a full day in the vineyards gathering ripe grapes in close contact with the producers and they will have a chance to learn more about the first stages of wine-making. A convivial break is planned at lunchtime. All the participants will suspend their activity to unite around a table and taste a simple rural meal in a relaxing and festive atmosphere.


Period for the offer:
(depending on the wine growers’ and producers’ availability)

approx. from 10am to 5pm

Sign up:
at the Tourist office Mendrisiotto Turismo
telephone: 091 641 30 50

Here you find some tips for the wineries in the Mendrisiotto area:

Valsangiacomo Vini:

Azienda Agricola e Vitivinicola Davide Cadenazzi:

Cantina Sociale Mendrisio:

Tenuta Vitivinicola Roberto e Andrea Ferrari:

Azienda Vitinicola La Costa: