- Traditional New Year foods worldwide symbolize luck and prosperity, high in nutrients beneficial for heart health, such as black-eyed peas, collard greens, and lentils.
- The health benefits of these foods depend greatly on their preparation and serving. Traditional dishes often add components like high-salt cured meats which can increase sodium content, so alternative, healthier preparation methods are recommended.
- Overindulgence of even healthy foods can lead to imbalance in diet. It’s important to enjoy these traditional foods in moderation during the festivities to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.
Striving for a healthier lifestyle as a New Year resolution? These ‘lucky’ foods enjoyed worldwide during New Year celebrations are not only symbols of good fortune but can also be good for your heart.
Black-eyed Peas – A Southern Delicacy
For many in the American South, New Year isn’t complete without black-eyed peas. Despite the name, these delicious items are types of beans often served with rice in a dish called ‘Hoppin’ John.’ James Shikany, who specializes in cardiovascular disease, commented that black-eyed peas are wholesome food. However, he cautioned that their health benefits depend on how they are prepared. As these peas contain fiber, iron, thiamin and other nutrients, they’re excellent for a healthy diet. Shikany, however, mentioned that many traditional recipes include high amounts of salt and fatty meat, both of which should be consumed in restraint.
Collard Greens – Symbolic of Wealth
Said to symbolize folded cash, collard greens have plenty of fiber, vitamins, and iron. However, the traditionally added components of cured meat, such as ham, fatback, or bacon, can increase the dish’s sodium content. While they’re beneficial when consumed fresh, overcooking can reduce the nutritional value of these greens.
Lentils – The Lucky Beans
In various countries, including Italy, Nigeria, and Brazil, lentils, which resemble coins, are considered lucky. While lentils alone are wholesome, rich in nutrients, some recipes may require cooking them with fatty sausage. Yet, dishes such as lentil soup, made with carrots and different vegetables, are healthier alternatives that also enhance the nutritional value of the food.
Grapes – Fruitful Prosperity
The custom of welcoming the New Year by eating 12 grapes is celebrated in many Latin American cultures. This ritual symbolizes wishing for a prosperous New Year, with each grape denoting a successful month.
Pomegranates – The Bursting Health Bomb
Even though smashing pomegranates doesn’t necessarily yield nutritional advantages, eating them certainly does. This fruit is filled with antioxidants and flavonoids contributing immensely to one’s health.
Fish – The Lucky Seafood
Fish is a common food partaken worldwide, representing good fortune. The whole fish, including bones, head, and tail, is often prepared, typically by steaming, making it a healthy option.
Dumplings – Delicious Symbol of Gold
Dumplings are popular during the Lunar New Year since they resemble gold, hinting at prosperity. While traditionally baked with white-flour dough and filled with vegetables or fatty pork, healthier substitutions include using a mix of whole wheat flour and leaner pork.
Spring Rolls – Golden Bars
To keep the health quotient in check while enjoying these ‘golden bars,’ stuffed with pork and cabbage, try limiting consumption to one or two.
Tamales – A Rich Historical Dish
The ancient Mayans and Aztecs originally made Tamales, and today this food is a central part of Mexican culture’s New Year celebrations. Family gatherings are organized to stuff husks with cornmeal, meat, vegetables, or cheese. Modifying the filling by using leaner meat cuts or more vegetables can make this dish healthier.
Eating in moderation is key. Remember, while these foods are a part of our culture and shared during festive seasons, being mindful of portions is essential to maintaining balance in our dietary guidelines.
Have a treat on New Year, but remember that moderation remains key, and continually indulging could lead to unhealthy eating habits.