Last year Lifestyle & Health Columnist Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC showed us how to make healthier kourambiedes. This time she takes on melomakarona.
Melomakarona: honey-dipped Christmas cookies
It’s that time of year where there’s an abundant amount of melomakarona, the traditional Greek Christmas cookie dipped in honey and covered in crushed walnuts. The word “melomakarona” is a combination of the word “meli” (honey) and “makaria” (blessed). The ancient’s baked “makaria” (oval-shaped bread) to serve at funerary dinners (to bless the dead). They eventually started soaking them in honey and serving them for Christmas time blessings. Today, the sweet treat is not only a staple at Christmas time, but can be found at many celebratory Greek events.
How to make melomakarona “better than”
Let’s look at some of the main ingredients of melomakarona, and how they make a difference.
A staple ingredient in the cookie, today’s wheat is nothing like our ancestors wheat. Genetically modified contamination, hybridization techniques and toxic cultivating techniques have all contributed to associated negative health effects, particularly when overconsumed. These effects include, but are not limited, to gastrointestinal difficulties, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative disorders and weight gain.
Note: If you’re on a gluten-free diet you CAN replace wheat flour with a gluten-free flour of some sorts. However, keep in mind that the consistency, texture, and taste will deviate from traditional melomakarona.
Another staple ingredient, Greek honey’s documented health benefits are many. These range but are not limited to antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and cancer preventative properties.
Walnuts* are a well-known superfood and enjoyed by Greeks since ancient times. The best way to experience their health benefits is to soak and/or dry them. While the consistency of just-soaked walnuts are not ideal for this recipe, the extra time consuming step of either drying (or dehydrating) them is worth it. Soaking removes the phytic acid found in the walnut which causes gastrointestinal difficulties AND mineral depletion. For more information on phytic acid and how to soak and dry, click here.
*As always, be aware of any known nut allergies and avoid when necessary.
This spice is loaded with antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, has been linked to reduction in heart disease, lowers blood sugar, and protects against cancer…and the list goes on!
TIP: Not sure if your cinnamon is cassia or Ceylon because it’s not labeled? Assume its cassia since this is the most sourced cinnamon in the US.
Ever wonder where this versatile ingredient comes from? Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. It comes from soda ash, which can be produced either synthetically or harvested from natural sources. Synthetically-derived baking soda is presumed to contain genetically-modified ingredients as it originates from fertilizer during manufacturing. A natural sourced baking soda is ideal for this recipe.
A must for the preparation of a perfect cookie but unfortunately, it contains aluminum in the form of sodium aluminum sulfate or sodium aluminum phosphate. Aluminum has been linked to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders and health problems. In addition most baking powders contain cornstarch and unless labeled organic are most likely genetically modified (gmo). Genetically-modified foods have been linked and continue to be linked to a variety of health concerns.
Orange essence, lemon, brandy, cloves, and semolina are additional ingredients often used in small amounts for melomakarona. Their use is usually dependent on the source and origin of the recipe followed.
Merry Christmas and Hronia Polla!
(1) Source: Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD
More from Roula Marinos Papamihail:
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.
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