Certified Holistic Health Coach Roula Marinos Papamihail joins WindyCity Greek as a Lifestyle & Health Columnist. She’ll be writing about health, nutrition, and overall well-being. Today she shows us how to make our Greek fries healthier.
Who Doesn’t Like Greek Fries?
One of the fondest memories that I have growing up as a kid is watching my mother cutting potatoes for one of my favorite foods, tiganites patates, also known as Greek fries. I can still see her standing over the kitchen counter, peeling and slicing away, sirtaki and bouzouki playing in the background. I don’t know of a single Greek today, both adult and child that does not love their Greek fries. I also know that many people today, including myself, try to avoid eating them due to their associated negative health risks.
Regardless, fried potatoes are a staple in the Greek cuisine, especially in Greece, and still continue to be served and eaten regularly. Unfortunately, most of us in the US do not get to experience the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. This would indirectly offset many of the adverse health effects linked to eating them. Hence, why so many in Greece still continue to enjoy their tiganites patates without worry. What we can do instead, is to try and make our Greek fries “better than.” This way we too, can continue to enjoy eating them.
How to Make Your Greek Fries Healthier
Use organic potatoes.
Unfortunately today’s potatoes are not the same potatoes used by our parents and grandparents years ago AND not the same potatoes used in Greece. Our current potatoes are one of the “dirtiest” vegetables (covered in pesticides) and are also set to be genetically modified. The risks associated with consuming large amounts of pesticides and genetically modified foods are many, and should be avoided whenever possible.
Fry with olive oil and or coconut oil.
DO NOT use peanut and/or vegetable oil. While peanut and vegetable oil will make your Greek fries extra crispy these oils have been found to significantly contribute to a variety of health problems (i.e. weight gain, hormone imbalance, cancer) especially when heated to a high heat. Both olive oil and coconut oil have a much higher smoke point and will continue to retain their health properties even when heated for frying.
Soak your potatoes in water prior to frying.
My mother took this extra step to prevent the potatoes from browning as she finished cutting them. Little did she know that this step actually removed one of the most unhealthy chemicals associated with fried potatoes– acrylamide. Acrylamide is a chemical (found in many fried foods) and is formed when foods are cooked at extremely high temperatures. High levels of acrylamides have been linked to cancer. Soaking potatoes in water for as long as you can (ideally about an hour) prior to frying, helps to remove a significant amount of these acrylamides.
Squeeze some lemon on top.
Not only does adding this ingredient make for phenomenal Greek fries, but lemon has been found to have cancer inhibiting properties, making it a super healthy addition to any meal.
Add Himalayan sea salt.
Instead of using a refined, nutritionally dead table salt, make sure to add a raw Himalayan sea salt. This way, you’re also adding in additional minerals.
Eat them cold.
While serving Greek fries this way may not sound ideal, cold cooked potatoes are a form of resistant starch. What is resistant starch? Resistant starch is a type of food that actually feeds the good bacteria (probiotics) in your stomach. Probiotics are needed for a multitude of health functions including proper digestion and weight management. In addition, cold potatoes will cause minimal glucose spikes and can be eaten even if you’re trying to manage your insulin levels.
Add raw feta cheese and sprinkle with oregano.
These two ingredients make for the ultimate Greek fries. Use real Greek feta cheese — one that’s NOT from animals treated with RBGH (a growth hormone also linked to cancer) — and oregano. Ideally your oregano should be hand picked off the mountains in Greece, from your family’s village of origin. If not, any Greek oregano will work and the benefits of Greek oregano are many.
Play some traditional Greek music in the background.
This will add ambiance and will make your overall kitchen experience more enjoyable.
Why do all that just to make Greek Fries?
As your preparing your Greek fries in this manner, not only will you be eating and serving a food made with the healthiest of ingredients and prepared in the healthiest way possible, but you will also be serving a dish full of love — the most important ingredient of all. Love for the Greek culture, love for your history, love for your families, and most importantly, love for yourselves.