Nutritionist – Dietologist


Assistant Professor in Healthy Diet and Foods

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics Sciences

School of Health Science

Hellenic Mediterranean University

Melekouni of Rhodes connects the tradition of the island with the modern diet! A traditional, healthy product of Rhodes that all Rhodians love. It is offered everywhere and at all times, on holidays, at weddings, christenings, at all social events. The women of the village gather together and in a festive atmosphere with singing and joy they make the melekounia - this is also the secret of the recipe. It is the sweet of happiness and good fortune, "as many grains as each piece has, so many years may the couple have", this is what they wished at weddings.

Melekouni differs from village to village, but its taste remains wonderful and sesame-like. Its texture is pliable and soft with an elastic consistency. Its shape is rhomboid and its colour is golden yellow, releasing its aromas immediately when chewed. It differs from pasteli in terms of its ingredients and the way it is prepared. Pasteli in Greece is divided into honeyed and crispy types, depending on which of the two ingredients prevails. In Rhodes, "melekοuni" is an aromatic honey pasteli, because honey predominates (Kyprioti 2019).

It is produced in a traditional way in local workshops or homes. Small industries produce melekouni and supply it to various local food stores, as well as throughout Greece, as a nutritious snack.

The name "Melekouni" is related to the Rhodian dialect. The term "kounni" is used to refer to the sesame seed, and is combined with the word "Honey".

Its history begins in antiquity and is known since Homeric times. Pasteli is mentioned by Homer in the Iliad under the name "indrion", which meant sweet pie with honey and sesame, which the Greeks ate to be able to endure the hardships of war. The common name of pasteli in ancient times was sesamis-(idos). These sweet pies were symbols of fertility and were offered to the guests and especially to the bride, after the wedding ceremony, as she crossed the threshold of the house. The first historian to mention pasteli is Herodotus. In the 8th century, the family surname Pastillas is recorded in the Papyri, which reveals that some were then professionally engaged in the preparation of pastilles (Kyprioti 2019).

Its preparation process remains unchanged for hundreds of years. Fragrant honey, unhulled roasted sesame, roasted almonds, spices and citrus zest are its main ingredients. In the islands of the Dodecanese, excellent quality honey is produced in different varieties such as "flower, pine, conifer, thyme, etc." honey. Thyme and flower honey stand out for their excellent quality, wonderful aroma and unique taste. They are the honeys chosen for the preparation of melekouni. Honey is a product of nature that does not undergo any processing and consists of water, natural sugars, organic acids, proteins, trace elements, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, microorganisms, flavonoids, alkaloids, pollen grains, aromatic and colouring substances. Sesame seeds are produced in the region and their nutritional value is high, mainly due to the quality of their proteins and the monounsaturated fats of their oil. Almonds are the favourite nuts of many with a wonderful buttery taste and high nutritional value. Citrus fruits (juice and zest) and spices (cinnamon) give melekouni a special taste, smell and plenty of nutrients.

100 gr. Melekouni consist of 6 gr. almonds, 0.10 g. cinnamon, 1 gr. orange juice, and 4 gr. orange zest, the remaining being equal quantities of sesame and honey.

100 gr. of Melekouni offers 462 kcal. Comparing it to "snack" foods such as chocolates, donuts, cookies, croissants, it has equal calories, nevertheless melekouni has the highest nutritional value. Its average oil content is 25 g, with monounsaturated fats (oleic acid-o-9) holding the highest proportion. Monounsaturated fatty acids have the ability to significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels and are found in sesame and almonds which contain melekouni. Cholesterol is found in very low amounts, while saturated fat is absent (Bos MB et al. 2010, Griffin BA. 2008).

The protein content per 100 g. of product is 9 g. Melekouni is a good source of vegetable protein. It is relatively low in lysine, but contains sufficient amounts of methionine, cystine, arginine, and leucine due to the sesame. The carbohydrates in melekouni make up 57 g. of its total weight, due to the honey. It also contains saccharides 4 g., and dietary fibre, which cover 7 g. Adequate intake of dietary fibre benefits human health, as it is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as better weight management and prevention against constipation (EFSA, 2010).

In terms of minerals and trace elements, melekouni contains 505 mg of calcium, 335 mg of phosphorus, 8 mg of magnesium, 7 mg of iron, 291 mg of potassium, 8 mg of sodium and small amounts of selenium and zinc. It is a good source of calcium and phosphorus. 100 gr. of Melekouni contain 505 mg of calcium, i.e. five times the amount of sheep's milk, which gives 170 mg of calcium (Trichopoulou A. 2004). The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is approximately 1000 mg of calcium per day for healthy adults. Also, 100 gr. of Melekouni contain 335 mg of phosphorus, an amount greater than beef (260 mg) and some fish such as tuna (230 mg), salmon (280 mg), mackerel (240 mg) and herring (210 mg). Finally, 100 gr. of Melekouni contain 7 mg of iron, i.e. almost five times the amount of spinach (2.1 mg) and eggs (1.9 mg) (DRI. 2010, Τριχοπούλου Α. - Κορνηλία Γ. 2004, George Mateljan 2018, Djin Gie Liem 2011, Leo van Buren 2016, Sung Kyu Ha 2014). Melekouni is also a source of B complex vitamins (pyridoxine (B6) 49 mg, niacin 2 mg, and folic acid 1 mcg) and vitamin C. B complex vitamins participate in important metabolic functions, they are considered essential for the smooth functioning of the nervous system, maintaining skin and hair health. Its most important property is the antioxidants it contains and which are based on the composition of sesame. Phytochemical substances with strong antioxidant properties, such as sterols and lignans, are known for their beneficial properties (Τριχοπούλου Α. - Κορνηλία Γ. 2004, Παπανικολάου Γ. 2009, Gropper S.S et al. 2008, Institute of Medicine 1997, DRI 2010, AN Martinchik et al. 2011, S Devarajan 2016, N Pathak 2014, George Mateljan 2018, Namiki M. 2007, AN Martinchik et al. 2011, S. Devarajan 2016).

Due to its ingredients, which are honey, sesame, cinnamon, orange, melekouni of Rhodes has beneficial properties for health, contributes to well-being and longevity. It is characteriσed by antioxidant, antiaging, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antihypertensive, antithrombotic and hypocholesterolemic effects. It has osteoprotective properties. It prevents atherosclerosis, cancer, degenerative diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease) and diseases of the digestive system. It regulates blood sugar, contributes to a balanced energy balance (BW, BMI) and an ideal body composition (BF%). It improves memory, mood, cognitive function and brain clarity. It is a nutritious snack for children and pregnant women, due to its natural origin, but also an energy snack for athletes, as it improves sports performance, increasing aerobic capacity and reducing muscle damage (Kyprioti 2019).

As a precious heritage, melekouni is included in the Greek Breakfast of Rhodes. It is a "customary practice linked to the eating habits of the Rhodians and the propagation of the tradition". As the ambassador of Rhodes to the rest of Greece, it has already been recognised as a Product of Protected Geographical Indication and has been included in the national index of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece. As a food product in the modern era, it can connect the traditional Rhodian gastronomy with the new trends in nutrition.

The traditional dietary pattern throughout Greece has been constantly characterised by a conscious management of nutritional resources, in order to cover the nutritional human needs, with the greatest possible economy for resources, the environment and biodiversity. The use of biotic and abiotic factors was done diligently, in order to cover the need, the aesthetics, the gustatory pleasure. The traditional recipe of melekouni is excellent and, perhaps, unsurpassed. Today, however, many challenges exist in the nutritional sector. One of them is the combination of the traditional standard with modern trends, possibilities and limitations. If the effort to combine is carried out consciously, including the demands of sustainability of our time, we will continue to refer to healthy food choices when talking about the enrichment of the traditional food pattern with new foods and practices.


Ευρωπαϊκή Αρχή για την Ασφάλεια των Τροφίμων, EFSA, 2010

Παπανικολάου Γ. «Σύγχρονη διατροφή και διαιτολογία», Θυμάρι: Αθήνα, 2009

Τριχοπούλου Α., Κορνηλία Γ. Πίνακες σύνθεσης τροφίμων και Ελληνικών φαγητών, 3η Έκδοση, Επιστημονικές Εκδόσεις Παρισιάνου ΑΕ, Αθήνα, 2004

Υπουργείο Αγροτικής Ανάπτυξης και Τροφίμων. Πληροφορίες για τη Μελισσοκομία, 2018

Ψαρουδάκη Αντωνία, Κυπριώτη-Σπάρταλη Ελευθερία. «Το Mελεκούνι Ρόδου, ένα παραδοσιακό προϊόν: Θρεπτική Αξία, Παραγωγή & Κατανάλωση», Πτυχιακή Μελέτη, Τμήμα Διατροφής & Διαιτολογίας/Ελληνικό Μεσογειακό Πανεπιστήμιο, Σητεία, Κρήτη, Μάιος 2019, σελίδες: 146-193

Bos MB, de Vries JH, Feskens EJ, van Dijk SJ, Hoelen DW, Siebelink E, Heijligenberg R, de Groot LC. Effect of a high monounsaturated fatty acids diet and a Mediterranean diet on serum lipids and insulin sensitivity in adults with mild abdominal obesity. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2010 Oct; 20 (8): 591-8

Devarajan S1, Singh R2, Chatterjee B3, Zhang B4, Ali A5. A blend of sesame oil and rice bran oil lowers blood pressure and improves the lipid profile in mild-to-moderate hypertensive patients. J Clin Lipidol. 2016 Mar-Apr; 10 (2): 339-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2015.12.011. Epub 2015 Dec 24

Djin Gie Liem, Fatemeh Miremadi, and Russell S. J. Keast. «Reducing Sodium in Foods: The Effect on FlavorNutrients» 2011 Jun; 3 (6): 694–711. Published online 2011 Jun 20. doi: 10.3390/nu3060694

DRIs, Dietary Reference Intakes, 2010

George Mateljan. "Sesame seeds" The world's healthiest foods November 13-19, 2018

George Mateljan. "Oranges" The world's healthiest foods January 22-28, 2018

George Mateljan. "Cinnamon ground" The world's healthiest foods January 22-28, 2018

George Mateljan. "Almond" The world's healthiest foods February 12-18, 2018

Griffin BA. How relevant is the ratio of dietary n-6 to n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to cardiovascular disease risk? Evidence from the OPTILIP study. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2008 Feb. 19 (1): 57-62

Gropper S.S., Smith J.L., Groff J.L. «Διατροφή και μεταβολισμός», 2008 Πασχαλίδης: Αθήνα

Institute of Medicine, "Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride", National Academies Press (US): Washighton (DC), 1997

Leo Van Buren, 1, Mariska Dötsch-Klerk,1 Gila Seewi,2 and Rachel S. Newson1. «Dietary Impact of Adding Potassium Chloride to Foods as a Sodium Reduction Technique» Nutrients. 2016 Apr; 8 (4): 235. Published online 2016 Apr 21. doi: 10.3390/nu8040235

Namiki M. Nutraceutical Functions of Sesame: A Review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2007 47:7; pp 651-67

Sung Kyu Ha, M.D. «Dietary Salt Intake and Hypertension Electrolyte Blood Press» 2014 Jun; 12 (1): 7–18. Published online 2014 Jun 30. doi: 10.5049

Trichopoulou A., Vasilopoulou E., Georga K., Dilis V. «Traditional foods: Why and how to sustain them. Trends in Food Science & Technology», 17, 2006, 498-504