Fine Food and Drinks of Greece
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Epikouria Editorial:
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Original Energy Bar
Healthy Pasteli, a concoction of nuts and honey, can keep you going for hours. Anna Li rediscovers the ancient snack that even children will love...
by Anna Li
   
Last Look:
Like snowflakes, no two are alike. Unlike snowflakes, these colorful wooden vessels are a welcome sight of summer...
   
   
   
   
   
   
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Go ahead, stop a Greek on the street and ask him what Pasteli is. He will probably tell you it is a candy made with honey and sesame seeds. This is true: Pasteli is a sweet. But Pasteli is much more than that. Pasteli is an energy bar.

Sesame and honey, and their combination, are by no means new to any market. The cultivation of sesame seeds is as old as the cultivation of rice, dating back 6000 years ago. In Greek history, Herodotus, the Dorian Greek historian who is referred to as the Father of History, called Pasteli a health aid as well as a delicacy. In Homer’s Iliad, Pasteli is referred to as Intrion, a pie of honey and sesame seeds, notably eaten by Hellenes in order to endure the physical demands of wartime.

Hippocrates emphasized sesame as an important source of nutrition. Honey was a key ingredient in Ambrosia, a food of the Gods, and is referenced throughout ancient Greek medical texts as something of a cure-all. Democritus,
who lived to be 109, referred to honey as one of the secrets of his great health.

Simplicity in Nature Classically, Pasteli is a bar made with only honey and sesame seeds. This sounds like a good pairing. I say this: you have no idea.

Sesame seeds are remarkably high in copper, manganese, tryptophan, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, fiber and B1, to name only some properties. Every one of these nutrients is vital to the proper functioning of the human body.

Our bodies cannot make minerals; we must get them through our diet. Proper copper intake may help in the prevention of anemia, osteoporosis, and joint problems. It may also help with the maintenance of the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, as well as aid in correcting an irregular heartbeat. Manganese relaxes your nerves and muscles,
helps build strong bones, and keeps up a healthy blood circulation. Tryptophan can regulate your appetite, help you sleep better, and may act as a mood elevator. And as for calcium – there is as much calcium in a tablespoon of sesame seeds as there is in half a glass of milk. Sesame seeds also act as a potent antioxidant.

Honey is certainly a strong partner: it is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and an antimicrobal. It can aid digestive, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, as well as help with migraines, gastritis and rheumatism. Furthermore, honey has been time-tested to be an excellent ergogenic aid, meaning it enhances the body’s use of energy during athletic endeavors. Lastly, it has been thought to reduce recovery time after injury.

 

All these benefits make it easy to understand why the original Olympians probably looked to Pasteli as one of their energy sources. After all, it had been around for quite a while before the first Olympics in 776 BC.

 
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