How you and your stomach can survive Pesach


Matzo balls. Matzo brie. Matzo crackers. Matzo meal.

It’s enough to make your colon close up shop for a week.

In addition to a week’s worth of non-nutritious matzo, Jews who observe the dietary restrictions of Pesach are deprived of digestion-healthy, high-fiber grains and legumes that normally keep things moving. So it’s not unusual at this time of year to hear people complain about the undesirable side effects of all this matzo in the diet. But there are things you can do to combat this problem, sometimes known as Pharaoh’s Revenge.

* “Fruits and vegetables will add bulk to your dietary tract and help your bowels move,” Carol Grotha, a registered nurse and nutrition advocate, said. There are many ways to incorporate these healthy items into your diet. For example, instead of drinking orange juice eat an orange. Place bowls of dried fruit and Omega-3-rich walnuts around the home in place of candy bowls. Select recipes that emphasize vegetables as the main ingredients. Cut down on the amount of items you consume that are made with white flour matzos. Do you really need to make, or eat, Passover brownies? Why not opt for a bowl of fresh strawberries (one cup contains three grams of fiber) or a fruit salad of pears, apples, bananas, blueberries and walnuts instead?

* It’s also essential to move your body if you want your body to move. “Exercise is important,” Grotha said. “Activity stimulates the bowels and dietary tract as opposed to sitting around letting everything just settle.” She recommends exercising 30 minutes a day, a minimum of five days a week. You don’t need to engage in vigorous exercise, just taking a 30-minute walk will satisfy this requirement.

* Water is another factor in keeping things moving along. “Water facilitates absorption in your body and gets bulk into your digestive tract,” Grotha said. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.

* Limit foods that are high in fat — a task that is somewhat of a challenge during this week. High-fat items are not only a problem for your digestive system but they also contribute to heart disease and other health problems. Eat only the white of the egg, or cut the yolk in half. Substitute olive oil in the place of butter or margarine. Cut down on portion sizes. Make sure you don’t eat more than three ounces of fish, meat or chicken (three ounces looks like a deck of playing cards).

* Cook like a Sephardic Jew. The Sephardim’s diet is based on the rich bounty of the Mediterranean and is full of nuts, fruits, olives, salads, vegetables and olive oil. Ashkenazic cuisine, on the other hand, emphasizes heavier food fare such as fat, potatoes, and root vegetables. Try a recipe for a Sephardic charoset which is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Don’t limit enjoying this annual concoction to just the seder table; make a variety of charoset and eat them all week long.

* Try whole wheat matzo. While the texture and taste of this fiber-loaded version (each piece has four grams of fiber) is different than the traditional white flour pieces, the health benefits are worth it. Use whole wheat matzo when making matzo brie and matzo pizza. Spread a little bit of margarine on a piece, with a dab of whole-fruit preserves. This type of matzo has a hearty taste and is good for you.

Follow these suggestions for a healthy Pesach and your digestive system will reward you.

Maybe this year you can make an exodus from health problems!