Staying Healthy in Passover


By Patricia Vaisberg

In Deuteronomy it is written, “You shall be very careful of yourselves,” (4:15). A simple translation is: we are obligated to take good care of our health and our well-being. It is now becoming clearer that it is not only those with actual health problems who have to change their cooking and eating habits. Everyone at all times, even in Passover, should remain eating healthy as a responsibility with themselves and their loved ones.

We all wait for Passover festivities; it is a time for sharing with friends and families. Much of this time is spent sitting down together at festive gastronomic meals. These meals, along with what we are required to eat during the Seder, entail a serious change in the foods, quantities, and times we are used to eating.

healty-passover2Most of us do not realize that beyond the spiritual meaning of the foods at the Seder Plate lie hidden, like the Afikomen, health benefits that boost our immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even improve our eyesight.

Karpas, represented by Parsley, is packed with folic acid, and may protect against cardiovascular disease and tumor formation.

Charoset, with all the varieties along many traditions of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, has been shown to help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, thereby guarding against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Maror, the bitter herb, is represented by either romaine lettuce or horseradish. Green lettuce is loaded with Vitamin A and K, assisting blood clotting and improving eye sight. Horseradish, with its high content of Vitamin C, improves the immune system and has a clearing sinus effect, as used by the Jews in Egypt.

Zroa, the sacrificial lamb, provides our bodies with iron, a critical agent for transporting oxygen to the cells, and zinc, which helps support the immune system.

Beitza, the almighty egg, symbolizes good health in women, reducing the development of breast cancer, and improving hair and nails. It is recommended for pregnant women due to its richness in choline, which is vital for brain functioning, muscle control, memory and to reduce inflammation.

Over time, in an effort to replace everyday foods which are forbidden for ritual reasons, more and more industries are loading supermarkets with replacement products that contain ingredients terribly harmful to our bodies. This is why you may feel digestive distress, constipation, and fatigue. They are all part and parcel of the Passover experience.

Eating healthy foods, staying healthy through Passover, and feeling good, does not have to be so difficult. You would be surprised to know that it is less of a struggle, and less expensive, than shopping and dealing with all the “Kosher for Passover” products that you find all around.

As a health coach, my mission is to educate people on staying healthy at all times, and share tips and advice with my clients regarding how to improve their personal and family health through simple steps they can take on a daily basis. As we prepare our homes for Passover by taking away what is not allowed during this holiday, it is a perfect time to begin making new changes in our lifestyle that will improve our health and make us live happier and healthier lives.

Here are some tips to get you through this holiday without compromising your health:

  • As you clean your pantry and fridge for the holiday, take the opportunity to put away all unhealthy items you have been collecting throughout the years. Make a healthy kitchen makeover.

  • Do not stock up on highly processed foods that replicate everyday foods;  they will be constantly tempting you, as when displayed at supermarkets. We are commanded to think and act as though we are the ones who were brought forth from Egypt, and our ancestors didn’t have fake pancakes, breads, pasta, or pizza! Another reason not to buy these highly processed products is that they are loaded with sodium, preservatives, and chemicals that are extremely harmful to our health.

  • Avoid Cottonseed Oil because it is nothing more than a by-product of industrial waste produced during cottonseed processing. Cottonseed oil is also genetically modified because it comes from cotton, the majority of which is genetically modified. Healthier options are olive oil and grape oil.

  • Offer organic grape juices to our kids. Do we really want to fill our kids up with sulfite preservatives? Organic juice tastes so much better than the nonorganic one, so adults may prefer it as well. Always check the nutrition facts, and be aware of the sugar content on these products. Use them only for ceremonial purposes. If you do not want to commit these days to fresh juices, water and a piece of orange or lemon are a great option for kids,.

  • Beware of excess matzah, unless it’s made from whole wheat. Matzah is a refined carbohydrate product. Beyond the portions eaten for ritual purposes, all holiday menus are laced with matzah in the form of farfel, matzah meal, matzah cake flour, and more. Besides the immediate—and  notorious—effects on the digestive tract, we all now know that white flour products are a major contributor to heart disease and diabetes, and this damage starts in childhood. Matzah moderation allows us to fulfill the great mitzvah of caring for our bodies even as we observe the wonderful rituals. Build meals around lean protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and you won’t need the matzah.

  • Enjoy the season in its natural form. Besides all the Passover symbols that remind us of spring, extend your appreciation to the spring season by including colorful fruits and vegetables, such as dark green leafy vegetables, fresh asparagus, artichokes, leeks, strawberries, and many others. This will be a great antidote to the “excess matzah” effect.