“Better Than” Melomakarona

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.

These cookies not only taste wonderful, but have an amazing aromatic smell contributing to their irresistible desirability. One is never enough for many, including myself!
If you too, struggle with eating more than just one, read on to see how you can make this delicious cookie “better than.” That way, you’ll not only be able to enjoy its amazing taste but you’ll also be able to benefit from its provided nutrition AND avoid many “modern day” toxins found in the ingredients used.
Melomakarona
Melomakarona are a Christmas staple. IMAGE: GOOGLE

How to make melomakarona “better than”

Let’s look at some of the main ingredients of melomakarona, and how they make a difference.

 

Wheat

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.

Replacing modern day wheat flour with a more traditional wheat flour, such as einkorn or emmer is a must when baking these cookies, especially if you’re planning on eating a lot. These 2 flours have been found to NOT contribute to the above-mentioned associated negative health effects…at least not as much, as modern day wheat flour does. (1)

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.

Honey

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.

When preparing melomakarona, many home chefs will heat the honey (mixed with water) to incorporate it. For those that are familiar with this process, it’s common practice to dip cooled baked cookies into hot, diluted honey.
Keep in mind, that excessive and rapid heat to honey destroys all of the above associated health benefits. What can you do instead to preserve these beneficial qualities? Monitor heat to not exceed 98.6 degrees. This may take more time, but worth it if you want to experience the honey’s health benefits.

Walnuts

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.

Which do you prefer? Coarsely chopped walnuts or finely ground walnuts sprinkled on top? For many, one or the other is ideal, but from an optimal digestive perspective, ground is best. Unless you actively focus on thoroughly chewing your food, which most don’t (and is almost impossible with these cookies because you just want more!) digesting large chuncks of nuts doesn’t allow for effective nutrient assimilation. For example, studies have shown that thoroughly chewing nuts releases more unsaturated fats into the body from the nuts, when compared to not chewing.

*As always, be aware of any known nut allergies and avoid when necessary.

Cinnamon

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!

Beware — all cinnamon is NOT created equal! Unfortunately most cinnamon commonly found in grocery stores is cinnamon cassia which has high levels of a plant compound called coumarin. Excessive coumarin (even small daily quantities!) has been linked to liver and kidney damage.
Ceylon cinnamon, while more difficult to obtain (but readily available online) has negligible amounts of coumarin AND has all the above associated health benefits. It’s definitely worth taking the extra step to purchase to make these traditional cookies.

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.

Baking soda

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.

Baking powder

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.

TIP: Look for an aluminum-free and GMO free certified baking powder.

Other ingredients

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.

Regardless of where you’re recipe for melomakarona comes from or who’s recipe you’re using, be sure to source the above-mentioned high-quality, toxic-free ingredients.Then, you’ll not only be able to enjoy these cookies symptom-free, but you’ll also be able to benefit from their added health properties. It’s a wonderful way to ensure continued health through this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and Hronia Polla!

(1) Source: Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD


Want to lose weight in 2017? Have health and wellness goals you want to achieve, but don’t know where to start? Roula can help! Website, Email


More from Roula Marinos Papamihail:

Harness Ancient Greek Wisdom of Evdaimonia for Successful New Year’s Resolutions

Probiotics: Superfoods of the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet is Loaded with Prebiotic Superfoods

Your ‘Greek Eating Habits’ May Not Be Serving You-Part 2

Your ‘Greek Eating Habits’ May Not Be Serving You-Part 1

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts Does a Body Good

Why You Should Meditate Like the Ancient Greeks

Dandelion Greens: the Greek Superfood

Avoid Weight Gain While Vacationing in Greece

Wisdom of the Ancients: When Kids Are Right & We’re Wrong

The Amazing Power of the Greek Salad

Bakaliaros and Skordalia: a Heathy Synergy

5 Ways to Stay on Track: New Year, New Habits, New You

“Better than” Kourambiedes

Philautia and the Holidays

Sirtaki, Bouzouki and Fried Potatoes

Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC
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Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC

Roula is a certified holistic health coach and the founder of MyHealthySoma, an organization dedicated to helping individuals optimize their health. Her emphasis is on digestion, weight loss, and habit change. Through workshops, individualized coaching programs, and health-empowering education, she not only helps individuals overcome digestive difficulties AND lose weight, but she also helps them instill the lifelong habits needed to do so.

She trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis, and is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over phone or Skype. Email: Roula@MyHealthySoma.com
Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC
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