Symbols for Nutrition – The health benefits of the Rosh Hashanah symbols from Leket Israel Dietitian Moran Kilzi

A Rosh Hashanah tradition is eating simanim, certain foods that symbolize blessings for the coming year. These symbols include a variety of fruit and vegetables that provide many health benefits for the body.

The most well-known tradition is dipping an apple in honey, symbolizing a blessing for a sweet new year.  But apples and honey have nutritional benefits as well.

Rosh Hashanah Symbols

Honey has therapeutic properties that make it an effective treatment for coughs and other ailments. Honey also contains antibacterial properties that help relieve sore throat pain. Contrary to popular practice, it is healthier to eat a spoonful of honey on its own, rather than mix it into tea, as honey’s medicinal properties weaken above 104°F.

Apples are rich in dietary fiber and Vitamin C and contain relatively few calories. There are no caloric differences between apple varieties, but there are differences in health benefits. The level of polyphenols, which are substances produced by plants that protect us from diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease, and high cholesterol, vary between apple varieties.  For added health benefits, don’t peel an apple before eating.  About half of an apple’s polyphenols are in the peel.

Studies show that drinking pomegranate juice can protect against developing cardiovascular disease. In a study conducted at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa (northern Israel), it was found that a daily glass of pomegranate juice can lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Additionally, the pomegranate’s red pigments contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Dates are high in dietary fiber, which slows digestion and prevents spikes in blood sugar, making them a perfect substitute for candy when looking for something sweet to eat. Dates also contain calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that contribute to maintaining bone health and strength.

Beets contain high levels of nitrites, which help protect against cardiovascular disease.  A University of London study found that drinking a glass of beet juice helps reduce blood vessel stiffness and lowers blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension.  

Pumpkin and squash are rich in Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for vision, immune system function, and skin health.

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