10+ completely secular reasons to appreciate the foods on the Passover seder plate.
If you’ve ever been to a Passover Seder there is good chance you noticed the signature centerpiece on the table: the seder plate. The decorative plate designates a spot for 5 symbolic foods:
- beitzah, the hard-boiled egg
- zeroa, the lamb shank bone
- karpas, a vegetable (most often celery, or parsley)
- maror, the bitter herbs
- and haroset, the pasty apple, nut, and wine mixture
Pick up your average Hagadah and somewhere around page four you’ll find the spiritual meanings for these foods, but here at F-Factor, nutrition is our wheelhouse, and that’s how we’re approaching this plate today. This Passover, while you spend your time searching for the Afikomen, let us dish out the health benefits of your table’s centerpiece.
The hard-boiled egg represents springtime and renewal on the seder plate—but outside of Passover, and from a nutrition standpoint, this food does a whole lot more! Eggs are a great source of protein (6g per egg!), and chock-full of nutrients, like vitamins B6 and B12, which help keep your energy levels up. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin A, which plays a key role in vision.
From a diet standpoint, egg whites are just EGGcellent. While one large hard-boiled egg is just 72 calories (not too shabby by any means), if you forgo the yolk, you’ll save yourself 55 calories, while still getting 4g of muscle-building protein.
PRO TIP: Keep the springtime renewal theme going all Passover long by whisking egg whites into riced cauliflower before cooking for a fluffy protein punch. Or, whip up a batch of our Spinach, Feta and Egg White Mini Muffins – 54 calories and 8g protein for 2 delicious savory muffins.
The shank bone, which is traditionally a bone from a lamb, commemorates the lamb sacrifice made the night the Jewish People left Egypt. Some people also say it symbolizes G_d’s outstretched hand, since the Hebrew word “zeroa” translates to “arm”. Although symbolic, the bone is not meant to be ingested, so we’ll address the benefits of the actual lamb meat.
Lamb is a lean protein and is a good source of both iron and zinc, the former of which plays an important role in red blood cell and hemoglobin formation and oxygen transport in the body. Zinc deficiency is linked to acne, and including it in your diet helps to keep the immune system strong. Anyone can agree that feeling healthy with clear skin is better than feeling sick with acne any day…
PRO TIP: Don’t like waste? Keep the shank bone and boil it with chicken bones from your matzah ball soup to create a collagen-rich bone broth.
The celery, the go-to vegetable to fulfill the karpas in the seder, symbolizes freshness and spring. And as a non-starchy, very low-calorie vegetable, it adds freshness to our plates too. One cup of celery is only 15 calories, and packs 5g of belly-filling fiber. Because celery is a free food with a high-water content, it’s great to fill up on during appetizers to help prevent you from overeating once the main course is served. Alternatively, people use parsley here too, which as an extra bonus, helps combat halitosis.
PRO TIP: Like carrots, celery can go hours without refrigeration and still stay fresh. Pack both to bring with you wherever you go this week so you’ll always have a healthy, snack option on hand when hunger strikes, and GGs are off limits.
The bitter herbs, horseradish, and romaine lettuce, are meant to remind us of the bitterness of slavery–intended to bring tears to your eyes recalling it. But outside of Passover, all that’s bitter is certainly not bad, not at all! Like celery, romaine lettuce is a non-starchy vegetable that contains 2g of fiber per serving. It’s also high in vitamin C—one cup contains 40% of your recommended daily needs–which helps strengthen your immune system, as well as vitamin K, which works with calcium to build strong bones. Similarly, horseradish packs a vitamin C punch and provides potassium too, which is essential to improving blood flow and widening arteries, as well as decreasing risk for high blood pressure and stroke. Because it has a spicy kick, horseradish revs metabolism, which is helpful since matzah is notorious for weighing us down.
PRO TIP: Spice it up with horseradish. Its strong flavor means a little goes a long way. Whisk a teaspoon into salad dressing, or use as an excuse to make a round of Bloody Mary’s–they’re not not Kosher for Passover….
Haroset, the sweet paste made from apples, red wine, walnuts, and cinnamon, represents the mortar the Jews used to build bricks when they were slaves in Egypt–hence the usually pasty, variably unappealing look. Despite being a mashup of ingredients, each of the traditional components used to make haroset have a nifty health benefit or two. The red wine’s big benefit is resveratrol, which among other things, has been linked to heart health. The inclusion of cinnamon means this dish can help reduce inflammation and boost metabolism too. Not only do walnuts provide omega 3’s, and have anti-inflammatory properties, but one study found they can decrease anger and boost mood too–how ’bout them apples!
But really, how about apples, another quintessential haroset ingredient. Apples are a great source of fiber and what’s great about using them to make haroset is that the skin is usually kept on. The apple’s skin contains most of the fiber, and is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that has a natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effect. Quercetin can help to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, which cause an allergic response. These allergic responses are triggered by pollen and other allergies. According to one study by the British Thoracic Society, people whose diets included apples as a staple had greater protection against both allergies and asthma.
PRO TIP: Use extra walnuts and cinnamon to make Cinnamon Spiced Walnuts, which works well as a dessert, or serve in a candy dish for guests to munch on with their cocktails.
For more information on an #FFACTORAPPROVED Passover, click here.