The nutritional value of the vine leaves and dolmas: a nutritious and tasty appetizer

With the cooperation of Athena Rudou, Clinical Nutritionist and Dietitian 

Vine leaves have their own specific nutritional value and the ideal harvesting period is in May, before vineyards are sprayed with pesticide. Vine leaves are used in cooking and they are mostly used to make dolmas. Dolmas derive from the word dolmak, which means "stuffed" and refers to vegetables or sea food which are usually stuffed with aromatic herbs, rice and/or minced meat. Dolmas can be served either as an appetizer or as a main dish. 

With regard to the nutritional value of the vine leaves it is important to report that they are low in calories (93kcal) and that they have a high content on vegetal fibers (11 gr). As a consequence, vine leaves contribute to the good function of the bowel, fight against constipation and are conducive to a dietary program to lose weight since they allow us to feel full over a long period of time and they reduce the absorption of food fat. 

Furthermore, vine leaves have a high content of lutein and zeaxanthin (1747 mcg/100 gr), antioxidants that protect the cells from the harmful effects of the free roots, decreasing the possibility of severe diseases, such as various forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. More precisely, scientific research reports state that due to the high content in antioxidants, the red grapes vine leaves extract is therapeutic to chronic venous insufficiency since it improves blood circulation and shields the vascular walls. 

In addition, the nutritional value of the vine leaves is increased, thanks to their rich content in vitamin Α (27520 IU/100 gr), which improves vision, skin and bones health, has antioxidant action and is responsible for the right development and function of the body. 

It is worth mentioning that the simultaneous present of vitamin K (109mcg/100 gr), calcium (363mg/100 gr) and magnesium (95mg/100 gr) in vine leaves contributes to a better vertebral health and to the avoidance of muscular cramps. 

One of the main uses of vine leaves is dolma yalanci. The basic ingredients of this particular meal are: vine leaves, rice, dill, spearmint and onions. 
  • Rice is at the basis of Mediterranean Diet Pyramid and its frequent weekly consumption is recommended since it contains about 90% of simple and complex carbohydrates which are the main fuel of human body. Rice does not contain sodium, cholesterol, fat and gluten; as a result, it can be consumed by people with gluten intolerance. The nutritional value of rice is enhanced by the big quantities of vitamins B, such as niacin, riboflavin and sulfamin. These vitamins participate in the production of energy in the body. Lack of these vitamins causes fatigue, weakness, headaches as well as skin dehydration. Furthermore, the combination of rice with vine leaves is ideal since the vegetable fibers of the vine leaves facilitate the digestion of carbohydrates contained in rice.
  • Onion, an important ingredient of the recipe, is responsible for the decrease of blood sugar levels, increasing the quantity of free insulin. It is leading to the improvement of blood sugar levels. In addition, it has been proven that it can decrease high cholesterol levels and high tension, helping to prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic cardiomyopathy, as well as reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, it contains a significant number of flavonoids protecting the walls of the large intestine from the harmful effects of certain cancerous substances. Several anti-inflammatory agents in onions make them useful in the reduction of the severity of symptoms related to inflammations such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory response to allergic asthma and chest congestion related to the common cold. 
  • Dill, another important ingredient of the recipe, enhances metabolism, contributes to the good function of the digestion system, the improvement of various kidney diseases and decreases blood pressure.
  • Spearmint has a lot of beneficial and therapeutic properties. It is good for chololethiasis, antispastic, calming and digestive. It also fights against insomnia. It is great compress for certain skin diseases and relieves from rheumatoid arthritis pain. It should be noted that if we add minced meat to dolma yalanci, then their content in protein and iron is increased, enhancing haematopoiesis and the muscular system. 
As a consequence, dolma yalanci are a nutritional alternative for an appetizer or main meal since they are light in calories, fat and salt. Actually, their high content in vegetable fibers, vitamins, metals and antioxidants, contribute to the good function of our body.