Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  
 
 

Greek cuisine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greek diet is the perfect example of traditional Mediterranean eating. It's based around a variety of colorful and flavorful foods that are high in nutrients and low in animal fats.

Grain foods

Wheat has been cultivated in Greece for thousands of years and it's a staple part of Greek cuisine. It's used to make a variety of breads including pita bread and crusty whole grain peasant bread. Bulgur, which is made from cracked whole wheat, is eaten as an accompaniment to hearty stews or added to soups and salads. Pasta, which was introduced to the Greeks by the Italians, is also a popular wheat-based food.

Another important grain food in the Greek diet is rice, which is used in pilafs and bakes, served with stews or wrapped in grape leaves to make dolmades.

Olives and Olive oil

Like wheat, olives have been cultivated in Greece since ancient times. The golden green oil extracted from the first cold pressing of olives is called extra virgin olive oil, and it is used in some form in most traditional Greek dishes. Crusty bread dipped in a little extra virgin olive oil is also a popular accompaniment to food.

As well as being used for their richly flavored oil, olives are also eaten whole. The most frequently eaten type is the plump kalamata olive which is added to stews and salads or eaten as part of a meze (appetizer) dish.

Fish, shellfish and poultry

Greece is almost surrounded by sea, so it's no surprise that fish and shellfish are eaten regularly.

The most popular types of fish and shellfish include tuna, mullet, bass, halibut, swordfish, anchovies, sardines, shrimp (prawns), octopus, squid and mussels. This fish and seafood is enjoyed in many ways: grilled and seasoned with garlic and lemon juice, baked with yogurt and herbs; cooked in rich tomato sauce, added to soups; or served cold as a side dish.

Chicken is also eaten regularly, as are game birds such as quail and Guinea foul.

Meat and dairy

Meat doesn't play a prominent role in traditional Greek cuisine. It's usually reserved for festivals and special occasions or used in small amounts as a flavor enhancer. When meat is eaten it's most often sheep or goat, but these animals aren't just used for their meat. Sheep and goats also provide a valuable source of nourishment—milk. As milk spoils easily in the warm Mediterranean climate, it is traditionally turned into cheese (such as feta) or yogurt to help preserve it.

Vegetables, fruits, herbs and seasonings

The warm climate of Greece makes it ideal for growing vegetables and fruits, and these are eaten in abundant amounts. A myriad of colorful and flavorful vegetables form a fundamental part of Greek cuisine. These include tomatoes, garlic, onions, spinach, artichokes, fennel, lettuce, cabbage, horta (wild greens), zucchini, eggplant and peppers.

Fruits are eaten either fresh, or preserved by drying. Popular varieties include apricots, grapes, dates, cherries, apples, pears, plums and figs.

A variety of herbs and seasonings are used to flavor food including flat-leaf parsley, dill, oregano, cilantro, mint, ground pepper, sea salt and cinnamon. Lemon juice and lemon rind are also used to season food and in dressings.

Legumes and nuts

Legumes such as chickpeas, lima beans, split peas and lentils are widely used in traditional Greek cooking. They are eaten either whole in stews, bakes, pilafs, soups and salads, or pureed and used as a dip or spread such as hummus.

Many types of nuts are used in cooking or eaten as snacks—particularly pine nuts, almonds, walnuts and pistachios.

Desserts and beverages

Fresh and dried fruit are the usual dessert. Rich desserts and pastries, often sweetened with honey, are mostly reserved for special occasions or eaten in small amounts.

Wine is consumed regularly in Greece, but mainly with food, and in moderation. Ouzo (an aniseed flavored spirit) and beer are also popular alcoholic beverages. Strong black coffee is one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages.

 

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