Note to those loving a good, salty nosh: it is okay to eat pickles. According to the Jewish Chronicle online, the “macrobiotic diet,” which combines a list of recommended foods and a “zen” lifestyle, can include pickles and other Jewish foods. Apparently, Jews have a long history of eating healthily. Poor Jews in Europe would eat whole wheat bread and pickled vegetables, preserved for the winter, during hard times. As it turns out, the acidity of pickled foods can actually be good for you. Pickled foods, like cucumbers and sauerkraut, are considered good for the body. What does that mean for the rest of Jewish food? Let’s do a health-rundown of our favorite Jewish snacks.
Gefilte Fish: Protein-rich gefilte fish is a big one this time of year, given that we’re coming up on Passover. Also rich in B-vitamins, gefilte fish—made up of whitefish and veggies—comes packed with a fragrant smell, too.
Hummus: The chickpeas in hummus are high in fiber, protein, magnesium, and folic acid, just to name a few.
Bagels: They can be high in calories and use fatty spreads, but check out a whole-wheat option for a healthier twist.
Pretzels: One of my favorite snacks, pretzels actually only have one gram of fat per serving, while chips have ten grams per serving. However, they don’t really have much in the way of nutritional value.
Falafel: Rich in protein and amino acids, falafel is also low in fat, but is often fried.
Corned Beef: Though it’s high in fat, corned beef is also high in protein and zinc.
Coleslaw: Take out the fatty mayo and put in yogurt for a lower-fat alternative.
Sabich: Although the eggplant in this eggplant, egg, tahini, and veggie sandwich is fried, the rest of the good ingredients are packed with minerals and protein.
Pastrami: Pastrami contains a high amount of cholesterol and a good deal of sodium.
Latkes: The deep-fried latke, though tasty, can add up to a fatty food.
Rugelach: This delicious dessert is also very high in fat and calories.
Tuna: The mayo in tuna can inch up its fat count, but try putting lemon juice in your fish instead as a tangy alternative.
So, what have we learned from digging into the health benefits and costs of Jewish snacks? For one, just like food from any other culture, there are healthy and unhealthy options in Jewish cuisine. In addition, there are ways to make each choice more beneficial to the eater. However, by looking at all of these various foods, it does make me proud that such a small amount of people worldwide have made a significant contribution to international cuisine by eating and creating these foods. With that said, let’s break out a piece of matzah and a glass of grape juice and toast to many more Jewish dishes, full of deliciousness and delight!