Signs for Healthy Times
Adapted from an article originally print in Family Table
Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner, and with it comes a long list of prayers, actions, and traditions that are meant to bring health, wealth, happiness, and more in the coming new year. Among these traditions are the Rosh Hashanah simanim, a group of auspicious foods, which many Jews incorporate into their holiday meals in order to symbolically encourage good things to come our way. But the benefits are not mere spiritual or symbolic; each of these simanim (literally translated as “signs”), is also full of physical health benefits. Here are just some of the ways these foods can lead to a better you!
In Praise of Pomegranates
Health tip 1: The pomegranate, known as a “superfood,” has more antioxidants than cranberry juice or green tea, and it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It can be difficult to find pomegranates when they’re out of season, so seize the moment when you see them in your local supermarket.
Health tip 2: Pomegranate juice, ideally consumed while eating the raw fruit, reduces the buildup of cholesterol and plaque by preventing blood platelets from clumping together.
Quirky fact: The name pomegranate means “seeded apple.” It’s derived from the Latin words pōmum (apple) and grānātum (seeded).
Quirky fact: Native to Iran (originally Persia), the pomegranate is one of the oldest known fruits in the world.
Recipe Idea: Try this spicy, sweet Syrian Spinach Salad!
Health tip 1: Maybe there’s some truth to the well-known axiom, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” USDA scientists applaud the apple for its disease-fighting antioxidant concentration. The Red Delicious and Granny Smith varieties ranked in the top 20 of the 100 Foods with Disease-Fighting Potential.
Health tip 2: Apples score high in pectin, a soluble fiber that prevents cholesterol from building up in the lining of blood vessel walls and reduces the risk of developing heart disease.
Quirky fact: Wish you had a toothbrush with you? Bite and chew an apple instead; the saliva it produces in your mouth will lower the level of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. (Of course, eating an apple dipped in honey will likely negate that cavity-fighting potential!)
Quirky fact: If you think there are only a dozen or so varieties of apples, because that’s what you see in the supermarket, think again. There are 2,500 varieties grown in the United States—Red Delicious is the most popular—and an astounding 7,500 varieties are grown throughout the world.
Recipe Idea: Want to keep the nutrients in those apples while still making them extra flavorful? How about this Apple Cole Slaw?
A Honey of a Remedy
Health tip 1: The timing couldn’t be better! We dip our apples in honey just when cold and flu season is beginning. Organic honey is full of vitamins and enzymes that protect the body from bacteria. Some honey fans even swallow 1-2 tablespoons of honey mixed in warm water every day, to bolster their immune systems.
Health tip 2: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping honey away from children age one year and younger, to avoid any possible risk of infantile botulism. But buckwheat honey is recommended for treating children ages 2-6 with coughs, sore throats, and congestion, especially since the FDA has recently recommended that children under six should not be treated with over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.
Quirky fact: Honey as a pimple remover? Dab raw, organic honey directly on a blemish and keep it on overnight. After a few nights of this treatment, blemish-be-gone! (But you might have a sticky pillow!)
Quirky fact: Consult with your allergist before you try this alternative bit of advice, but if you are suffering from pollen allergy, eat a teaspoon a day of a honey made from the region where you reside. It possibly will help your body develop resistance to the pollen allergy that plagues you.
Recipe Idea: Honey is great in everything, especially these Corned Beef Spring Rolls from Heshy Jay!
Crazy About Carrots
Health tip 1: Why we do associate eating carrots with improving eyesight? Orange carrots are such an excellent source of the plant pigment beta-carotene that beta-carotene was named after the word carrot. It’s this beta-carotene that turns into Vitamin A when digested, and Vitamin A is especially important for taking care of your eyes.
Health tip 2: Second only to beets, carrots have the highest percentage of natural sugar of any other vegetable. But it’s all relative; snacking on a dozen baby carrots beats a handful of cookies any day.
Quirky fact: A baby carrot is not a young carrot; it’s just a large carrot that was chopped down in a factory to become a small rounded carrot. The idea was dreamed up by a business-savvy carrot merchandiser who wanted to make money from all of the less-than-perfect large carrots being tossed because they had some kind of defect, but which could easily be cut away.
Quirky fact: We presume that all carrots are orange, but in certain parts of the world carrots are purple.
Recipe Idea: This Carrot and Raisin salad is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. Not only is it nutrient-rich, it also has sweet raisins for a sweet new year.
Kvelling over Leeks (and Cabbage)
Health tip 1: One cup of cabbage contains only 15 calories yet it is rich in vitamins. This is especially true for the outer, dark green leaves. The inner leaves, which are mild in color, are far less nutrient dense.
Health tip 2: Leeks share many health benefits with onion and garlic, such as raising the HDL “good” cholesterol.
Quirky fact: The next frontier in natural health? Cabbage extracts have been proven to kill certain viruses and bacteria and boost the immune system.
Quirky fact: The scientific name for leek is allium ampeloprasum var. porrum. Try asking your local grocer for that next time you want to make chicken soup!
Recipe Idea: This Cauliflower and Leek soup will warm you to your core.
“Beet-er” Than Coffee!
Health tip 1: For a healthier alternative to your morning coffee, try some homemade or store bought beet juice. It’s been shown to improve blood circulation in your brain, which will sharpen your thinking.
Health tip 2: Don’t throw away the beet greens. They will cook up just like Swiss chard. When blanched and sautéed with olive oil, salt, and garlic, they taste great—and provide a super source of vitamins A and C.
Quirky fact: If you’re feeling adventurous – or desperate – about dandruff, try boiling beets in water and then massage that beet-red water into your scalp. Just be sure to wash out all of the beet water from your hair afterward, or your bedding will be stained red forever.
Recipe Idea: Use these Marinated Beets as a side, salad, or snack!
Sweet on Dates
Health tip 1: High in iron and fiber, dates are a tasty treat that help to alleviate anemia, constipation, and fatigue.
Health tip 2: Dates, which are low in sodium and high in natural sugar, are one of the most nourishing, healthy natural foods available on this planet. High consumers of dates around the globe have been found to have lower than normal rates of cancer, which may be partly attributed to the high content of magnesium found in dates.
Quirky fact: Four million tons of dates are grown on this planet annually.
Quirky fact: Israeli researchers recently managed to get a date pit estimated to be 2000 years old to sprout once again.
Recipe Idea: Just because this No Bake Vegan Chocolate Tart is sweet, doesn’t mean you don’t reap the nutrient benefits.
A Heads Up on Fish
Health tip 1: What makes fish a healthy protein? Fish protein is high in essential amino acids and is more readily digestible for children and adults than beef or poultry, which both tend to be higher in fat and calories.
Health tip 2: Don’t be so quick to pass on the fish head. The head of the fish is the most nutrient-rich part, providing mega doses of omega-3’s and serotonin. In countries all over the world, the fish head is the most prized part of the fish!
Quirky Fact: Experts can determine the age of a tree by counting its rings. Likewise, trained eyes can figure out the age of a fish by looking at its scales, because its scales have growth rings, called annuli, which appear every year.
Recipe Idea: Sure you can roast the fish head, but you can also use the filets for these tangy and sweet Orange Fish Fillets!
It’s “Gourd” For You!
Health tip 1: Like all members of the gourd family (including pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds. Your bones will appreciate its potassium, and your nervous and immune systems will drink up its vitamin B6.
Health tip 2: Squash can help to protect against inflammation disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, because its high antioxidant content helps fight against inflammation.
Quirky fact: Since raw gourds are basically an inedible fruit with a hard rind, civilizations all over the world have dried and hollowed out colorful gourds to create drinking vessels and bowls.
Recipe Idea: The gourd possibilities are almost endless, but Vegetarian Stuffed Kabocha Squash, is a great place to start.
Simanim are definitely not a requirement for Rosh Hashanah, but they’re a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your holiday feast. Plus, as you can tell, they’re also quite the conversation piece.