Ring in the New Year with these four healthy—and “lucky”—foods

Today, we celebrate the closing of one year…and the beginning of another.

In most cultures, they have special culinary dishes to enjoy on New Year’s Eve. The foods are said to bring good fortune and prosperity in the year ahead.

Even better? They typically carry good health benefits, to boot!

So, today, let’s talk about four of them…

Four healthy, lucky foods to enjoy on New Year’s Eve

1.) “Hoppin’ John.” People in the American South often enjoy a dish called “Hoppin’ John” to bring good luck in the New Year. It contains pork-flavored black-eyed peas (which symbolize coins) and rice. You’ll often find it served alongside collard greens (which symbolize money) and cornbread (which symbolize gold).

Of course, this lucky dish also contains lots of healthy nutrients. For example, the black-eyed peas (which are actually beans) contain fiber, protein, vitamin A, folate (B vitamin), iron, manganese, and potassium. And the collard greens—which belong to the disease-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables—are an excellent source of calcium (which you should only ever get from foods, not supplements), folate, and vitamins K, C, and A.

2.) Grapes. On December 31st in Spain, they traditionally eat a grape with each strike of the clock bell at midnight to welcome the New Year. This fun tradition is also said to bring good luck and prosperity in the year ahead.

Of course, grapes contain lots of polyphenols, such as anthocyanins. These potent plant nutrients reduce inflammation—which is a root cause of most chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In fact, as I explained in the February 2021 issue of Insiders’ Cures, my monthly newsletter, grapes can help ward off the memory decline that leads to AD (“The best-kept secret behind ultimate brain health”). If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, I can’t think of a more perfect time to become one!

3.) Pork and sauerkraut. In Central Europe, people commonly enjoy pork and sauerkraut at their New Year’s Eve bash. And, despite what the medical myths might have to say, pork is a perfectly healthy meat that can help you increase your protein intake.

In addition, sauerkraut (which you make by fermenting cabbage) is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. For one, it contains lots of naturally occurring fiber. And, secondly, as a fermented food, sauerkraut supports the health of your all-important gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome (the environment in your gut where billions of “good” bacteria thrive.)

4.) Fish. In Japan, fish symbolizes the idea of abundance. So, they traditionally enjoy an array of fresh fish—including shrimp, herring, and sardines—on New Year’s Eve. (Shrimp is said to bring forth a long, healthy life. Herring brings fertility. And dried sardines bring a good harvest. In fact, they long used sardines to help fertilize rice fields.)

Of course, people in Japan consume a lot of fish year-round, which explains why they have such good health and longevity compared to the rest of the world. And as always, I encourage you to eat fresh, wild-caught seafood as much as possible to obtain the essential omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.

Let moderation be your guide on New Year’s and all year long

Before I go, I’d like to share a few quick reminders from my friend and colleague Dr. George Lundberg, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association, that we should all remember during the holidays (and year-round):

  • If you drink, don’t drive. Designate a driver beforehand.
  • If you drink, don’t walk either, at least not around motor vehicles. Dead pedestrians often have high blood alcohol levels.
  • Mixing alcohol and firearms is especially dangerous.

Have a happy and safe New Year. I’ll see you in 2022!