In with the old: The seven ancient species of Israel as a basis for modern nutrition

Tags: Tu B'Shevat, Living Israel, Holidays, Food

by Michael Berezin

There are seven specific foods that formed the basic nutrition of the ancient Israelites. They were Wheat, Barley, Dates, Figs, Pomegranates, Grapes, and Olives. With the many passing years we have replaced these ancient staples with such foods as “the Shwarma”, “the Falafel”, and “the Boureka”.

Funny how much can change in a few thousand years. In the pursuit of a “better” life, we have turned to fatty fried foods and processed sugars. The proof in this miscalculation is literally in the pudding.

So how do we fix it? Is it even fixable?

The answer is yes, and here is how.

What we need to do is to reintroduce the seven ancient foods of our ancestors back into our daily diets. Found within these foods are the three macro-nutrients our bodies need in order to thrive: They are healthy fats, plant proteins, and quality carbohydrates. These nutrients allow for cellular stability, muscle growth, and readily available energy, so that we can perform life's tasks to the best of our ability. But more specific then that is the individual breakdown of each food type and what that specific food type brings to the overall equation of health.

The following is a basic overview as to how amazingly healthy these seven species are and what they can do for your general health and wellness.

Wheat when it is in it’s whole form, meaning it’s not enriched or refined is a great source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber enables the body to both properly absorb and dispose of food with improved efficiency. In addition whole wheat is a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral which plays a big part in keeping the heart healthy. It also helps make sure that bones are strong.(If you are sensitive to gluten then this is not one you should focus on)

Barley’s claim to nutritional fame is based on its being a very good source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Selenium has been shown to fight cancer by protecting the body's cells from damaging free radicals. Barley is also known to be a good source of phosphorus, copper, and manganese, key minerals the body needs in order to maintain and protect itself.

Grapes, one of the most delicious fruits, are rich sources of vitamins A, C, B6, and foliates. In addition to essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron, grapes contain flavonoids. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to slow down the aging process due to its protective nature in maintaining cellular health. Other health benefits of grapes include the ability to treat constipation, indigestion, fatigue, kidney disorders, and macular degeneration and to prevent cataracts.

Figs. The ancient sweetener contains about 83% natural sugar. If you are one for liking things sweeter than they naturally are, then figs can be your answer to doing away with added white sugar. Because figs digest so well due to their high fiber content, using them as a substitute sweetener will enable you use more of these carbohydrate calories as immediate energy and less of it will end up in fat storage. Your body will process more efficiently what's more natural to it, rather than what is less natural like added sugar and chemical substitutes.

Dates. It is said that dates are so important that in order to maintain a balanced diet one need to consume at least one a day. Dates help in fighting constipation, intestinal disorders, weight gain, heart problems, sexual weakness, diarrhea, and abdominal cancer.

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants that can keep one's cholesterol from oxidizing. This degradation of cholesterol seems to be an initial step in the development of atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries. Pomegranate juice, like aspirin, can also help keep blood platelets from clumping together to form unwanted clots. Consumption of this fruit enables one to literally keep their pipes clean.

Olives are concentrated in monounsaturated fats and are a good source of vitamin E. The stability of monounsaturated fats translates into a protective effect on the cell that, especially when combined with the antioxidant protection offered by vitamin E, can lower the risk of damage and inflammation. This is key to healthy cellular maintenance. There are several ways to get more olives and olive oil into one's life. Whether it’s in a salad or used as a spread on bread, both olives and olive oil are a great addition to one's diet.

In conclusion one can plainly see the overwhelming benefits and pluses to a diet rich in these seven foods. It's time we looked back to what we once were so we can all avoid what we are becoming. Simply put, Fat.

It is no coincidence that we Jews are blessed to inherit a country with the natural ability to provide all of us with what our bodies need to both thrive and survive. And with so many great ways to buy blue and white, these native species of the Land of Israel are now accessible by everyone around the world.

Michael Berezin is a Jerusalem based Fitness Trainer/Therapist who works with pre-army teens, older adults and everyone in between. You can contact him at or 054-625-0269 or at

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Tags: Tu B'Shevat, Living Israel, Holidays, Food