The final step to eat like a Mediterranean is to add herbs, garlic and lemon to everything. Ok, well almost everything. We know from research that the Mediterranean diet is not about eating specific foods but rather the incorporation of all the foods to your diet, including condiments. Don’t expect to get the benefits of the Greek diet just because you add olive oil to your salad or because you eat Greek yogurt for breakfast. It appears that the combination of all these ingredients is what gives you the protection and health benefits.
There are 3 condiments that a Greek kitchen will always have: lemon juice (from real lemons-none of that fake bottled stuff), oregano and garlic. All three of these ingredients are sources of antioxidants and other substances that protect from various chronic diseases.
A favorite condiment for Greeks. If you go to a Greek restaurant, almost everything you order is accompanied by a lemon wedge (that you are supposed to use-not just as a garnish) whether that’s meat, sausage, cheese, fish, beans and vegetables. Greeks add it everywhere. Originally it was used to kill bacteria, today it’s added for the taste. Apart from the fact that it’s a source of vitamin C, which is also an antioxidant, vitamin C also increases iron absorption when consumed with foods rich in iron such as meat and beans. The interesting thing though is the fact that Greeks added lemon to their meat probably without really knowing that it increases iron absorption, or did they?
This is my mom’s favorite herb. Whatever I make or serve she always says: “make you sure you add oregano”. Oregano is added to meat, salads, potatoes, bread, sauces, marinades and salad dressings. It is an excellent source of antioxidants and it prevents the development of heterocyclic amines, substances present in cooked meat that may increase the risk of cancer. Rubbing meat with oregano before grilling can have a protective effect. Other studies show that oregano can slow the growth of microbes in food and help neutralize the bacteria that cause ulcers.
It is one of the most popular ingredients not only in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine but also around the world. It contains over 100 sulfur compounds including allicin, which helps fight off infections. Studies have shown that it may help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and reduce the risk of colon and stomach cancer. Greeks use it when cooking meat, in their cooked vegetables, in the dips tzatziki and skordalia.