Purim, which is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, is a time when we remember the deliverance of the Jewish people of Persia from Haman’s plot to destroy them as recorded in the book of Esther. I have fond memories of celebrating Purim in Israel when my children were small. I remember listening to the Megillah (book of Esther), watching one of my daughters playing Queen Esther in a play, giving mishloach manot, and making hamantashen cookies. Time has quickly passed and now this Purim season my oldest daughter is expecting my first grandchild any day now. One of the things that I hope to pass on to the next generation is a passion to honor Hashem with our bodies in every season of our lives which includes a focus on health and nutrition. Along these same lines, I would like to share with you some food for thought and helpful information for celebrating a happy and healthy Purim.
Queen Esther is said to have eaten a vegetarian diet in order to keep kosher while living in King Achashverosh’s Palace. This explains why many people, in Esther’s honor, serve a meatless meal for their Purim feast. It is believed that Esther’s diet consisted of nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. This could be one explanation of the custom to eat poppy seeds during the holiday which is found in Ashkanazi hamantashen as mohn filling. Lekvar, prune-based fillings, are second to mohn in popularity. In 1731 this prune filling for hamantashen began when a Bohemian Jewish merchant was falsely charged with selling poisoned prune and plum preserves. He was acquitted and released four days before Purim. In his home city, a great celebration happened that day which came to be celebrated as povidl Purim. Prunes became a standard hamantashen filling from that time.
Prunes have been proven to be a natural way to improve bone density and they contain a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. Dr. Bahram Arjmandi of Florida State University has been doing research on dried plums since the early 1990’s, looking at bone-building factors in a variety of fruits. In conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture and the California Dried Plum board, they have found that the dried plum group had significantly higher bone mineral density in the forearm and spine, apparently due to the ability of prunes to inhibit the breakdown of bone cells. Dr. Arjmandi urges people to eat prunes preventively – not to wait until osteoporosis develops or a hip or other bone fracture occurs due to poor bone density. He encourages both men and women to start eating 2 to 3 dried plums per day and gradually increase to around 6 to 10 per day. He states they can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes. A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that generally healthy adults can eat 10 to 12 prunes daily without significant changes in their bowel habits. If a person does need some help with “regularity” prunes are a great addition to one’s diet because of their fiber and sorbitol content.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods describes prunes as a “healthy high-energy snack that provides antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, iron, and vitamin A.” They also fill our daily requirement for a trace mineral called boron. Boron is essential for bone metabolism. In addition, they are also known to boost heart health!
So, while you are preparing or eating prune-filled hamantashen, think of all the health benefits you are giving your body or someone else’s.
Visit www.wherewhatwhen.com to find the following types of prune recipes to incorporate into your diet on Purim and year round: Whole grain hamantashen, Brown rice flour hamantashen, Traditional Lekvar, Dried plum puree, Dried plum-filled oatmeal bars, and Prune pudding cake.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simchah!