Tu Bishvat is a celebration of the fruit trees in Israel. Every year we praise G-d for giving us the beauty and blessings inherent in produce.
This holiday was the first acknowledgment of superfoods. Superfoods are foods that are nutrient rich and have a tangible and immediate effect on our health. In fact, 4 of the 7 special fruits of Israel grow on trees, and each is lauded as a super food internationally. It seems we have a lot to celebrate.
The excitement begins with the date. This amazing food is full of various vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of every major nutrient and carries essential minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc. It is also a great source of folate for expectant mother's.
All of these special properties of the date, make it a perfect digestive aid and it can also help to repair certain intestinal disorders. The date promotes good bacteria in our digestive tracts and inhibits the growth of harmful ones. This delicious treat is definitely a superfood. Try them stuffed with a walnut and partially dipped in chocolate. The "Land of milk and honey", according to many sources, is actually referring to date honey.
Israel is also famous for another super fruit, the Pomegranate. Pomegranates are not only delicious tart treats, but they have life saving benefits as well. “Pomegranates are full of anti-oxidants and are one of the richest sources of anti-oxidants on the planet, even more powerful then green tea or cranberry juice”.
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research, has written in the AICR's "Nutrition Wise" newsletter. Anti-Oxidants are what bond to free radicals in the body and stop these radicals before the can cause cell damage that is a major contributor to all varieties of cancer, especially prostate cancer.
At this time of year in Israel, you will most likely see pomegranates that are ripe for juicing. This is the perfect drink for your Tu' Bishvat seder. The Pomegranate Juice may help stop plaque from building up in the blood vessels and improves over all blood flow to the heart (source). In fact, unlike many other juices, there was no negative blood sugar effect at all to diminish the benefits of the juice according to Dr. Dean Ornich MD.
My favorite way to celebrate with this powerful elixir is to add ½ cup of pomegranate juice to ½ cup of seltzer. It is truly a blessing to be thankful for when something that delicious can help save our lives.
Israel is full of famous life saving superfoods. The fig, another of the Bible's Seven Species that Israel is blessed with, is celebrated worldwide as a holy fruit of Israel. It is usually found dried, but here is Israel you can also find them fresh just in time for Tu Bishvat. What makes the Fig truly unique is that it has been shown to lower triglycerides (a form of fat the circulates in the blood) which are usually associated with too much fructose or fruit sugar. This amazing fruit helps to undo the damage of harmful high fructose corn syrup and it's leaves even help to fight diabetes.
Figs are so good for us, and a necessary addition to your celebration. Try them raw in a salad or dried figs baked into a healthy fig bar. Now matter how you enjoy them your heart will thank you tomorrow. Get the recipe here.
The last fruit from the seven sacred species that we celebrate is the grape. In Israel, the grape season is long over and we mostly enjoy a variety of raisins. This fruit is often thought of as a child's snack. However, we have a lot to be thankful for in the raisin. Raisins have very high levels of Boron, a mineral that is critical to bone health, especially in women as they age.
Raisins are also have one of the highest levels of anti-oxidants for a dried fruit. They can retain most of their power even during the drying process.
The healing power of our special fruits native to the land of Israel brings a new weigh to the label superfood. Try to celebrate the raisin this year but adding it to homemade granola or soak them in warm water and enjoy over plain yogurt.
No matter where you live, Tu Bishvat is a celebration of the fruit trees of Israel. Enjoy these foods, fresh or dried worldwide, keep this special tradition alive so that super foods can retain their special status in Jewish life.