Apart from the ‘superfoods’ that we know, love, and come from all over the world, there are some that are exclusive of Greek origin. These ‘Superfoods made in Greece’ are not only nutritious but have also highly therapeutic. You must know them, and if not, we’ve put together a list for you. So, next time when you’re in Greece, make sure to pick them up!
The word ‘superfoods’ has entered our vocabulary and life for the last 15 years or so. These are foods with high nutritional value that due to the high concentration of nutrients as well as antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols are said to reduce the risk of some diseases. Some of them escaped from the health food stores and flooded the shelves of the supermarkets. Some have always been there, we just did not include them in this category, as we did not know of their great value for a long time.
Since 2007, the European Union has banned the use of the term “superfoods” on the packaging of products for advertising purposes, unless their beneficial properties are identified based on scientific evidence. Others have described them as “marketing tools without a specific scientific basis”. However, the increase in their consumption worldwide is huge. Every day we find them not only packaged on the shelf but also as ingredients in recipes and dishes suggested by restaurants.
How and When Superfoods Benefit us
Superfoods can never be traditional medicine. Nevertheless, the inclusion of these foods in the daily diet has a positive effect on health by strengthening the body with antioxidants and antimicrobials, vitamins, fiber, and beneficial fats in quantities greater than other “conventional” foods. In the long run, their consumption can limit the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular and neurological, cancer, obesity, cholesterol, and diabetes. This of course applies when they are part of a balanced diet model, otherwise, they may not provide any benefit to our body at all.
The Greek Superfoods
The market is filled with expensive foreign products that promise miracles. Nonetheless, there are some foods that in Greece we consume almost always and we have not yet understood their importance. Clinical dietitians-nutritionists Asteria Stamataki and Konstantinos Xenos, write the book “Get to Know the Greek Superfoods” and through it, they present the unknown magical properties of Greek food. It is worth saying a few words about each one so that we can see them with a different eye and consume them with a different appetite.
Mastic has been used for more than 2,500 years as a traditional Greek medicine for the treatment of several conditions, such as gastritis and peptic ulcers. The “tears” of the mastic tree were used to flavor the wine. The only place in the world where mastic is grown is in Chios and is known worldwide for its healing properties. Its antioxidant extract prevents atherosclerotic plaque by protecting the heart. Its polyphenols lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Frequent consumption of mastic reduces the formation of dental plaque. Moreover, it prevents and treats diseases related to the digestive system. Finally, mastic and its derivatives can fight many pathogenic bacteria, but also fungi, such as Candida strains
The excellent Greek caviar comes from the lagoons of Messolonghi and Aetoliko and has been characterized as a product of Protected Designation of Origin. It is rich in protein of high biological value, fatty acids, but also vitamins, such as vitamin E and C. It became known in Europe by Lord Byron who visited Messolonghi in 1824. Due to its uniqueness, roe deer to the elite. According to studies, it contains significant amounts of squalene (a substance also found in olive oil) and phytosterols (substances that under certain conditions lower cholesterol levels). Most importantly, however, Greek scientists have concluded that roe lipoids have anticoagulant activity, as they can inhibit platelet aggregation. Finally, it contains valuable omega-3 fatty acids. They play a key role in brain development, strengthen the immune system, improve mental functions, prevent cancer and have anticoagulant action.
Saffron was widely used in medicine in Ancient Greece. It is extremely valuable and expensive as they harvest and process it by hand. It takes more than 75,000 “threads” from the yolk blossom to produce about 500 grams of saffron. Its unique composition, however, is a valuable addition to the diet. It is one of the most popular and valuable spices of ancient civilizations, for its aroma, color, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Studies show that it protects the cardiovascular system. In traditional Persian medicine it was used against depression. The data on its effect against Alzheimer’s are also impressive.
It is unique, irreplaceable, and the definition of nutrition and indulgence. It is the “liquid gold”, as Homer called it. None of the nearly 3,000 scientific studies published on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet would have had the same value if olive oil had not been at the forefront. Olive oil loves the heart and blood vessels. Many epidemiological studies have significantly strengthened the hypothesis that it helps reduce the risk of breast cancer, and is a shield for the intestine. More specifically, it protects against heart disease, stroke, heart attack, breast, and colon cancer and eradicates the H. pylori bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.
Rich in antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. In fact, the darker it is, the stronger its antioxidant action is. It contains over 180 nutrients, good carbohydrates, antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. One of the excellent types of honey both in terms of nutrition and in terms of taste and aroma is from thyme. According to scientific studies, it has a significant antimicrobial activity, while drastically reducing the viability of endometrial cancer cells. It also has a chemoprotective effect against breast and prostate cancer.
Greece should be proud of its own, very beneficial tea, which grows in rocky areas at high altitudes. Research has shown that extracts of tea from Evia and Malevos may in the future be the basis for the creation of functional foods against osteoporosis. Also, studies that are in the experimental stage show that Olympus tea fights Alzheimer’s.
The gift of Pluto to Persephone, a protagonist in the scientific arena. Studies have shown that it fights atherosclerosis. It has beneficial effects on heart and blood vessels, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, bacterial infections, male infertility, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and even dental diseases. Research has shown that it also works as a natural Viagra.
Pistachio from Aegina
Among the nuts that we all know there is one -unique in taste, aroma, and texture- that occupies a prominent place in the taste of the Greek and is none other than the pistachio of Aegina. Research has shown that it regulates cholesterol while providing significant antioxidant benefits. It is rich in vitamins B1 and B, trace elements such as copper and manganese, beneficial fats, and antioxidants. They lower triglycerides and improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, protecting against heart disease and diabetes.
They also call it “Greek black gold” – and not unjustly. It is rich in fiber, sugars, and micronutrients of particular value to the human body. A study by scientists from Harokopio University in Athens, which investigated the action of a special extract of Corinthian raisin on human colon cancer cells, concluded that it had significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cytoprotective effects. Rich in anti-cancer and antihypertensive properties, it can help diabetics with hypertension regulate blood pressure without raising their blood sugar.
Low in calories and rich in antioxidants that shield the body. Santorini and Tinos -among others- are also famous for the local specialties with capers. It is a source of many minerals and trace elements, such as copper, iron, and selenium. Laboratory studies show its action against bacteria and fungi, while it also seems to help with diabetes.
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