Summer without Greek salad is like a sweet without sugar

Greek salad is an integral part of the summer table, either a meal for those who want something light and refreshing on warm summer afternoons or a preferable dish for tourists.

Nutritional value of greek salad

Fresh tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, onions, olives, feta cheese and of course virgin olive oil are the main ingredients of Greek salad with salt, oregano, capers or purslane, which is customary in many Greek islands.

Tomato:  A moderate tomato gives about 40 calories and it is one of the vegetables which is believed to have anticancer activity, due to lycopene containing. Lycopene is one of the carotenoids (pro vitamin A) with antioxidant activity.  It is a very good source of vitamin C, a vitamin that exhibits strong antioxidant activity and contribute to the formation of collagen in the skin.

Cucumber: The main ingredient of cucumber is water (97%), so it is quite low in nutritional value compared with other vegetables but with fewer calories. It is very pleasurable to eat in the summer, mainly because of its fresh taste. A medium cucumber gives 32 calories and contains no cholesterol and fat.
Tip: Put in the salad without the shell, before of course wash thoroughly. If the peel is removed, the nutritional value drops to almost zero, as well as much vitamin A, C and fiber are there.

Green pepper: It has few calories (one medium pepper gives 19 calories), but it is among the richest in vitamin C and contains many antioxidants. It is eaten raw like all vegetables, but it should be washed thoroughly before you put in the salad.

Onion: A medium onion gives 60 calories. It belongs in vegetables which are known primarily for their antiseptic action, while various studies in recent years mentioned the protection which is likely to offer in your body from cancer. But the fact is that you may avoid it, due to the strong smell and taste, especially when it is raw. In this case, you can benefit from it without eating: cut it into the salad, after waiting a bit until it leaves the nutritious ingredients and soak the bread in the oil.

Feta cheese: It holds a leading position in Greek kitchen, it is «our» national cheese, although it is not registered as’ product designation of origin. The traditional feta is made from goat, sheep milk or cow. Although it is extremely tasty, feta cheese should be consumed in moderation, as it offers enough calories (240 calories per 100 g.) Moreover, it is a high source of animal fat, cholesterol and sodium. Feta cheese is rich in calcium, has increased humidity compared to the yellow cheese, which is dehydrated, while it has less fat. Therefore, it is clearly preferable to replace it with another white cheese with less fat and salt, as for example cream cheese (anthotiros) or white cheese low in fat ( katiki Domokou or cottage)
Tip: If you have a large amount that will not be eaten immediately, store it in brine or with milk and water.

Olive oil: It is definitely the best oil that you can trust in your daily diet. It is rich in vitamin E, with potential anticancer activity. Olive oil is added to the salad and helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by improving your lipid profile. In addition, the antioxidants in olive oil further enhance the cardio protective effect. Although it is extremely useful, olive oil has many calories (one tablespoon gives you about 135 calories). In a normal salad for four people, 3-4 tbsp is enough.

Olives: Although it is the fruit which oil becomes, the nutritional value is not the same. The olives are rich in calcium and phosphorus, and they have three hundred times more vitamin A than olive oil.  Five olives give about 45 calories. Furthermore, olives are rich in nutrients and compete with virgin olive oil. They contain significant amounts of vitamin A, carotenoids and vitamins in small amounts like B1, B6 and B12. Black olives are richer in total tocopherols in relation to green and are the only ones that contain beta-tocopherols and alpha-tocotrienols. Also, olives contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. The olives preserved in brine thus contain large amounts of sodium – salt.
Tip: The olives contain a lot of salt, and can raise the pressure. Prefer to take the salt off before eating or select olives preserved by salting and not in brine.

Purslane: 100 grams gives only 16 calories which means that they have very low caloric content, so it should be used for you who care about your weight. The important thing is that it is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, similar to fish. It contains calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, vitamin A, C, B and carotenoids. Eating purslane can reduce the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. It has a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action and prevents from arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Purslane is best consumed as fresh, because in this way retains all the organoleptic components.

Oregano: It prevents the action of free radicals and contains plenty of essential oils (thymol and carvacrol), which seems to prevent the action of various harmful microorganisms by protecting your body.

In addition, you should accompany your salad with:bread, rusk, crouton or roasted bread, so this will turn your salad into a complete and healthy meal and will provide you with all the necessary nutrients without causing you a feeling of heaviness or discomfort.

Secret taste for Greek salad

Cut all ingredients and after add olive oil, oregano, purslane and capers (if any), before serving, put the salad in the refrigerator for a while. So it will remain cool while the vegetables will leave their scent in the oil giving an excellent taste. Therefore, due to the fact that salad contains enough salty ingredients (feta, olives, capers), and vegetables with a strong and distinctive flavor (onion, pepper), it is good to put a little bit of salt. Finally, a salad is estimated to give about 300-500 calories (depending on the amount of feta and olive oil).

Enjoy your vacations and try our Greek salad!!!

Niki Voulgarakis
Dietitian – Nutritionist / nvoulgaraki@hotmail.gr

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