When you think of Italian food, you probably think meatballs, pasta and cheese. You also probably think, “What would my doctor say about that?”

Italian food does get a bad wrap from those who are watching their blood pressure, but for good reason. You can’t head to the Olive Garden, or the mom and pop Italian restaurant down the street without that guilty feeling of eating beyond your heart healthy diet restrictions.

But, this new study might change some of your minds about how heart healthy Italian food can be…

The study published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology is the latest to endorse the health benefits of tomatoes, alongside other Italian staples, in combatting cancer, as well as heart disease.

The new research found that tomato extracts from two different Southern Italian regions, the San Marzano and Corbarino tomatoes, may help stop stomach cancer cell growth and prevent the cells from morphing into malignant mechanisms.

Researchers further concluded that tapping into this cancer fighting ability may be used in the future to both prevent and treat different forms of gastric cancer. And the best part is that folks can enjoy these benefits simply by eating ripe tomatoes without buying special extracts.

We all know how beneficial the Mediterranean Diet can be for heart health and maintaining low blood pressure. But check otu these key ingredients from an Italian-inspired diet that also help keep your blood pressure low…

Red Wine: Yes, my friends, I said red wine. For generations upon generations in Italy, red wine has been a staple in the Italian diet. And, it has helped maintain low blood pressure for many…who don’t over-endulgered. Red  wine has disease fighting phytonutrients such as resveratrol and anthocyanins which are linked to heart health.

Garlic: Garlic, my friends, is amazing. It’s almost a magical ingredient that has been linked to lower blood pressure and reducing certain cancers. Cardiologist Dr. Matthew Budoff, of the University of California-Los Angeles, found that Aged Garlic Extract even reduced dangerous plaque buildup in arteries. This staple of Italian cuisine is also thought to be an antifungal and antibacterial agent.

Figs: Figs have been a staple of the Mediterranean’s platter since before the Roman Empire. Even artwork among some of the most powerful men and women of ancient times show aristocrates munching on figs. Just two of these healthy autumn treats are a great way to increase your fiber intake and provide 1/10 of your daily potassium requirement.

Ricotta: Yes, there’s cheese on this menu of heart healthy Italian foods! Ricotta cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium. But, as with red wine, you don’t want to indulge too drastically on this treat. Please use in moderation.

There you have it! Some of the most beneficial Italian foods that allow you to feel less guilty the next time you go to your favorite Italian restaurant.