Lifestyle & Health Columnist Roula Marinos Papamihail of MyHealthySoma discusses the tremendous health benefits of the Greek salad.
When most people eat a horiatiki — Greek village salad — they usually don’t think about all the health benefits that they’re receiving from eating it. Most people just eat it because they either like the taste or they know they need to eat more vegetables. Little do they know that the Greek salad is a nutritional powerhouse; composed of some of the most nutritionally dense ingredients on the planet! And while this type of salad is often associated with summer months (and maybe not something on your current radar if you’re living in the Midwest) you can easily enjoy and benefit from eating this type of salad all year round.
So what exactly is in this salad that makes it so nutritious?
Whether you refer to your tomatoes as a fruit or a vegetable (it’s actually a fruit!) tomatoes are one of the most nutritionally dense foods available and are considered a “functional” food, meaning they go beyond the standard nutrition to actually prevent chronic disease. Besides adding some color to your Greek salad, tomatoes contain lycopene (phytochemical found to prevent cancer) and high levels of vitamin C (antioxidant AND involved in protein metabolism). Tomatoes also contain melatonin which help regulate sleep patterns at night and choline which support heart health. Keep in mind that blended tomatoes have actually been found to provide higher levels of lycopene then their whole counterparts so when preparing it’s definitely worth taking the time to chop them up for your salad AND chew thoroughly when eating. And while tomatoes are listed as a “dirty” fruit (high levels of pesticides used in growing) the overall nutritional benefit seems to outweigh the risks, even when eating a non-organic one.
Another powerhouse vegetable, onions are packed with antioxidants such as quercetin; a particularly powerful antioxidant shown to boost immunity and fight allergies. Onions also contain high levels of sulfur; acting as an anti-inflammatory agent and a natural blood thinner. They have anti-microbial effects and help regulate blood sugar. They have also been found to prevent osteoporosis and even reverse bone loss. Thanks to the many layers of skin, pests don’t bother them so they don’t need much pesticide spraying, making non-organic onions ok to eat. Warning: onion intolerance IS quite common so if you suffer from any digestive distress it’s best to skip these in your Greek salad until you get your digestive distress under control.
A Greek salad wouldn’t be a Greek salad without cucumbers, which are actually considered to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. They have high levels of vitamin K which is important for blood clotting and is also a needed adjunct to vitamin D. They contain fisetin, an antioxidant that has been found to play a protective role in brain health — specifically the maintenance of memory during the cognitive aging process. They contain high levels of vitamin c and several additional antioxidants that have all been linked to cancer prevention. The cucumber is highly anti-inflammatory and extremely detoxifying by helping to pull out impurities from the body due to their high water and fiber content. While organic cucumbers are ideal (conventional cucumbers are also considered a “dirty” vegetable) just like the tomato, the health benefits seem to outweigh the risks associated with non-organic versions so feel free to eat a thoroughly cleaned non-organic one.
We’re all very familiar with the benefits of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Not only is it one of the healthiest fats that we can consume, making it wonderful brain food, but it’s also known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It’s even been found to mimic the results of prescription painkillers. It’s been found to prevent cancer, lower blood pressure and even help prevent strokes. Of course, you want to make sure you have the real stuff and not the imitation fake oil. How can you tell if you’re eating the real deal? One of the key active ingredients in real olive oil, called oleocanthal, causes a stinging sensation in the back of throat when eaten. Not feeling that stinging sensation? Then you’re most likely not consuming real olive oil and instead it’s been either diluted with other oils, and/or over-processed so the active components have been destroyed.
Not only does olive oil have all of the above-mentioned benefits but it’s also a beautiful final addition to the Greek salad (or to any salad for that matter) because it aids and supports the overall digestion of all of the above nutrients. Olive oil encourages the production of peptides during the digestive process which allows your body to assimilate nutrients more efficiently AND help eliminate whatever is not needed in your waste more effectively.
Greek salad is a nutritional powerhouse
The above described salad is 100% raw, which provides you with all the natural enzymes needed for optimal digestion with a minimal amount of energy exerted by your body, and you truly DO have an amazing type of dish filled with 100% nutritional density.
Will you ever look at a Greek salad the same again?
Recipe: Greek (Village) Salad
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 onion, sliced and or chopped (red or white)
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (cold-pressed)
- Optional: add imported feta, green pepper, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice: all to taste.
Combine all of the above ingredients in large bowl. Eat and enjoy!
More on raw foods
If you’re interested in learning and or experiencing the benefits of eating more “raw” foods check out MyHealthySoma‘s upcoming Raw Food Recharge. You will not only learn how to make amazing salads like the one described above, but you’ll also learn how to make all sorts of raw meals. These meals that are 100% nutritionally dense and will not only help you feel amazing, but look amazing too!
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.