The Greek diet is the perfect example of traditional Mediterranean eating. It’s based around a variety of colourful and flavourful foods that are high in nutrients and low in animal fats.
Wheat is 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.
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.
Greece is almost surrounded by sea, so it’s no surprise that fish and shellfish are eaten regularly.
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.
The warm climate of Greece makes it ideal for growing vegetables and fruits, and these are eaten in abundant amounts. 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.
Many types of nuts are used in cooking or eaten as snacks—particularly pine nuts, almonds, walnuts and pistachios.
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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