2018-01-01 / Health & Fitness

Eat for health and wealth on New Year’s and beyond


Pomegranates are said to bring abundance and fertility for the New Year. Pomegranates are said to bring abundance and fertility for the New Year. No matter where you are or what you do to bring in the New Year, there is one tradition that the majority of people partake in: eating. Across the world according to traditions, New Year’s Day meals will bring you good fortune in the year to come. Superstitions or not, these rituals are not only fun, but also delicious and worth trying for their health benefits.

Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens: The Southern United States

In the South, eating black-eyed peas traditionally shows humility and thus invites good fortune. The beans represent coins and the greens resemble folded paper money. When served together, it’s a wish for prosperity.

Black-eyed peas are actually beans that provide high levels of dietary fiber, which can help prevent constipation and lower cholesterol. They also have iron and folate to help prevent anemia and are rich in potassium to assist normalizing blood pressure. They are also high in vitamin A to help protect vision and skin.

Seafood symbolizes hope, progress and abundance in the coming year. Seafood symbolizes hope, progress and abundance in the coming year. Collard greens are from the cabbage family and are your quintessential green leafy vegetable, classically used in Southern cooking. As a close relative to kale they are good for eye health, being a significant source of lutein and zeaxanthin. One cup provides almost the same amount of calcium as 8 ounces of milk. They are also a good source of vitamins C, A and K. They are reported to provide valuable cancer- fighting phytochemicals and heart-friendly potassium.

Pomegranates: Turkey and Greece

In Turkey, consumption of pomegranates is believed to bring abundance and fertility. In Greece, when the New Year begins, a pomegranate is smashed on the floor in front of the door to break it open and reveal seeds symbolizing prosperity and good fortune.

The pomegranate is one of the oldest fruits known to man with reported anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-tumor properties providing a good source of vitamin A, C, E and folic acid. Research suggests pomegranate juice may help slow aging and protect against heart disease and cancer.

Grapes: Spain

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, some Spaniards eat a grape each time the bell tolls, representing each page of the calendar ahead. A sweet tasting grape represents a good month; if it tastes bitter, they watch out for that month.

Resveratrol, which is a phytonutrient mostly found in the grape skins, seeds and flesh, has been shown to increase expression of three genes related to longevity. Flavonoids found in grapes represent high-antioxidant properties and may have a significant beneficial effect on brain function and the central nervous system. The polyphenols have been shown to decrease chronic inflammation.

Grapes are eaten for each month as the bell tolls. Grapes are eaten for each month as the bell tolls. Sauerkraut: Germany

It is said the more strands in a bowl, the more prosperity the new year will bring. That makes sense for creating a prosperous gut full of good bacteria. Sauerkraut is made from one of the healthiest foods – cabbage – fermented to create the good probiotics. In order to get the full benefits of the live cultures it must be non-pasteurized and processed the traditional way with lactic acid bacteria. The high fiber content and supply of probiotics improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel flora, protecting against many diseases of the digestive tract.

Lentils: Italy and Brazil

Italians eat lentils for good fortune in the New Year, as these legumes resemble Roman coins and therefore, wealth. Lentils are legumes loaded with fiber, especially soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels under control. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as lentils, helps prevent heart disease. Lentils are also good sources of folate, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and iron.

Fish: Asia and Europe

Some Europeans believe that fish bring good luck because their scales resemble coins, and they swim in schools, which invoke the idea of abundance. Swimming ahead and never moving backward, fish symbolize hope and progress. Fish in general is a high-protein, low-calorie food with a wide range of health benefits. The superstars among fish and shellfish are the ones low in contaminants, caught in an ecologically sound manner and high in omega 3’s. This list includes wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sablefish and oysters.

The American Journal of Cardiology reports fish consumption is associated with a lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease. The DHA part of omega 3 in fish is a dietary essential for the brain and eyes.

The American College of Rheumatology found that higher consumption of fish lowers disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, a study published in Nutritional Journal found that fatty fish helped students between the ages of 14 and 15 to concentrate.

With all these benefits, adding fish to your diet can bring progress with whatever New Year’s dietary resolutions you’ve made.

Susan Summerton, OD, is a board-certified optometrist at Tyson Eye, a certified nutrition specialist and an adjunct professor of nutrition at Hodges University. She can be reached at susan.summerton@tysoneye.com.

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