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​​Celebrating Passover: Traditional Foods and Tips for a Healthy Holiday

April 14, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey
Reviewed by
Amanda D.
CD, RDN

April brings in a new season and a host of holidays, one of which is Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew—a widely celebrated Jewish holiday. It commemorates the Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt and their journey to freedom.

The holiday, celebrated for eight days and nights, is typically observed in April or May and begins on April 15 this year. During Passover, Jewish people eat symbolic foods like matzo and charoset and tell the story of the Hebrews' liberation from bondage.

The History of Passover

In addition to its culinary traditions, Passover also has a rich religious history. As one of the oldest and perhaps most important holidays, Passover is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate their heritage. But what's the story behind it? How did it start, and why does it continue to be such an important holiday for Jewish people worldwide?

The Biblical story of Passover begins over 3,500 years ago in Egypt, where the Israelites were enslaved at the time. As the story goes, God spoke to Moses, telling him to lead his people out of slavery to freedom. Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites go, but the Pharaoh refused. So, God sent ten plagues down on the Egyptians as punishment, and Moses led his people to freedom as promised.

The word Passover itself refers to the tenth plague that God sent to the Egyptians where the firstborn son of each family was killed. Moses' people were told to sacrifice a lamb and paint the doorposts with the blood so the angel of death would "Pass over" that dwelling and spare the sons of the Israelites. The foods, table arrangement, and readings done during the Passover Seder are all instructive and full of meaning.

Interestingly, Orthodox Jewish people write G-d instead of God because they consider the written word to be sacred. In Hebrew, the name of God is transliterated as YHWH or JHVH which forms a biblical proper name for God. These four letters are considered too holy to be written down, so Orthodox Jewish people use the word "G-d" instead. This practice reminds Jewish people about the importance of using God's name with reverence and respect and prevents people from taking God's name in vain. In addition, by writing "G-d," Orthodox Jewish people can avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton aloud. 

How is Passover Celebrated?

Passover is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 15th day of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar. During Passover, Jewish people eat celebratory foods, tell stories, and perform traditional ceremonies.

The highlight of this time is the Passover Seder meal where family and friends come together to celebrate, remember their history, and teach their children about it. The Seder plate is the centerpiece of the meal, and it is usually adorned with various symbolic foods. A seder plate is a special plate used during the Passover Seder, decorated with six foods that have symbolic meaning. 

The foods on the plate represent different aspects of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. For example, the roasted egg symbolizes spring and new life. The bitter herbs represent the bitter experience of slavery. The lamb bone represents the sacrifice made to save the Israelites from bondage. 

Together, these foods help to tell the story of Passover and to remind us of the importance of freedom.

Some Traditional Passover Foods we Love

matzoh bread split in half

Many people think of Passover as a time for eating matzah and avoiding leavened bread. But there's so much more to the holiday than that! When it comes to Passover, certain traditional foods are a must. From matzo ball soup to gefilte fish, these main dishes have been passed down for generations. They are an essential part of the holiday. 

The beginning of Passover means a lot of cooking for many, but if you’re not familiar with Passover foods, you may feel lost. From sweet to savory, traditional Passover foods are as varied as they are flavorful. 

Here are some of the most common traditional Passover foods we recommended adding to your meal, along with the nutritional content of each one:

Matzoh Bread

sheets of matzoh bread

Matzoh is a type of unleavened bread made from flour and water. It has a cracker-like texture and is usually very thin. Jewish people have been eating matzoh for thousands of years; it’s part of many Jewish traditions and religious ceremonies. According to the Torah, God told Israelites to eat only unleavened bread during the seven days of Passover to remind them that their people left captivity in haste and didn't have time for the bread to rise. 

Nutritional Content: 1 Matzoh has 120 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein

Maror

These are bitter herbs eaten during the Passover meal. They serve as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery and are dipped in charoset, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Hebrews when the Egyptians enslaved them. The herbs used for Maror may vary by geography and availability, but bitter lettuces and horseradishes are the most common.

Nutritional Content: 1 tablespoon of Maror with horseradish has 7 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrate, and 0 grams of protein

Karpas

Karpas is a traditional dish eaten during the Passover Seder. It's made from either fresh vegetables or dried fruits and can be enjoyed as a side dish or appetizer.

Nutritional Content: This will vary depending on whether it's made from vegetables or dried fruit 

Root Vegetables

Grain-free for Passover this year? You can keep with tradition by adding more of the veggies to your meal! Roasted root veggies like parsnips and sweet potato are often found as grain-free, healthy Passover sides.

Nutritional Content: 1 cup of roasted root vegetables contains approximately 55 calories, 1 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein

Zucchini

Zucchini is another typical side dish and a great way to curate a healthy Passover table. Vegetable sides can be cooked in olive oil or lemon juice and are great paleo and keto options for your Passover feast.

Nutritional Content: 1 cup of zucchini has 21 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein

Seder Wine

matzoh and wine

The word "seder" refers to the list of foods used to tell the story of Moses leading the Israelis out of Egypt. The wine is quite a common addition to Passover meals. This wine is usually red, symbolizing the blood that was shed when the Israelis were freed. It is symbolic to drink four glasses of wine

Seder wines can be sweet or dry, but they must be kosher for Passover. In addition, many Jewish people believe that it is good luck to only use newly-pressed wine for the holiday. Partaking in the seder meal and drinking seder wine is a way to commemorate and celebrate this historic event.

Nutritional Content: 5 fluid ounces of Seder wine contains 125 calories, 0 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein. The calorie and carbohydrate content will depend on whether this is a sweet wine or dry wine, with a sweet wine typically having more calories and carbohydrates. 

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut macaroons are cookies made primarily from shredded coconut and are one of the most common sweet treats found on Passover tables. They are often made with almond flour, making them a great gluten-free and dairy-free Passover dessert.

Nutritional Content: 1 medium 2 inch diameter macaroon has roughly 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 17 grams of carbohydrates,  and 1 gram of protein

Kugel

Kugel is a baked pudding or casserole made from lokshen or Jewish egg noodles or potatoes. Lokshen (more on that below) is the Yiddish word for noodle. Jewish egg noodles are made from flour, eggs, water, and salt. They are wide and flat and have a slightly chewy texture. Potatoes are also a common ingredient in kugel, and they can be either sweet or savory. 

Sweet potato kugel is typically made with egg noodles, while savory kugel is made with potatoes. The type of noodle or potato you use in your kugel will depend on your preference. Some people prefer the rich flavor of egg noodles, while others find that potatoes add a more substantial texture to the dish. 

Nutritional Content: 3 ounces of Potato Kugel contains 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein

Brisket

a pan with cooked brisket

Brisket is a cut of beef that is usually slow-cooked, smoked, or braised, and it is one of the most commonly found Passover recipes. Some of the more common spices used in brisket recipes for Passover include kosher salt, paprika, ground black pepper, and garlic powder.

Nutritional Content: 3 ounces of lean beef brisket contains 167 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 28 grams of protein

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is another protein commonly found on Passover tables. There’s a lot of room to experiment here. You can play around with stuffings, braise it, add it to your slow-cooker, or keep it classic!

Nutritional Content: 3 ounces of roast chicken (no skin) contains 144 calories, 4 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 28 grams of protein

Borscht

Borscht is a soup made with beets and potatoes. This hearty soup is served with sour cream or yogurt and garnished with dill or parsley. Jewish borscht is a traditional dish that originates in Eastern Europe and is now a popular Passover dish in other parts of the world.

Nutritional Content: 6 ounces of Borscht contains 50 calories, 0 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein. This does not include sour cream or yogurt 

Egg Lokshen

a slice of egg lokshen

Egg lokshen is a noodle made from eggs and flour, and it's often used in Jewish cooking. Egg lokshen is traditional in Ashkenazi cuisine and is often used in soups and casseroles. It's similar to Italian pasta or Chinese noodles, but it has a unique, slightly chewy texture and rich flavor.

Nutritional Content: 1.25 cups of Egg Lokshen contains 230 calories, 2 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein

Roasted Lamb

Tired of brisket and chicken? Try some lamb! A Passover delicacy, the lamb, is typically roasted with herbs like fennel and olive oil. Some sources suggest that in ancient times, Passover included the sacrifice of a paschal lamb, eaten at Seder on the first night of the holiday. This changed after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century.

Nutritional Content: 3 ounces of roasted lamb contains 153 calories, 6 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 24 grams of protein

Schmaltz

Schmaltz, a Yiddish word that means "fat," is rendered in English either as schmaltz or chicken fat. It's a type of poultry fat rendered from the fatty tissues of the bird (usually chicken or goose) and has a high smoke point. Schmaltz is often used to flavor foods such as roasted potatoes, onions, and chicken.

Nutritional Content: 1 tablespoon of Schmaltz contains 115 calories, 13 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein

Charoset

Charoset is a paste made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine. Charoset is representative of the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they slaved for the Pharaoh. This is used as a type of relish into which the maror, the bitter herb, is dipped and then shaken off before eating.

Nutritional Content: This will depend on how it is made, but 1 tablespoon of Charoset typically contains about 30 calories, 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.5 grams of protein

Gribenes

Gribenes is made from crispy onions and chicken skins. It is traditionally served as an appetizer or as a side dish. Gribenes is high in fat and calories, but it is also packed with crunchy texture and flavor.

Nutritional Content: This will depend on the ratio of chicken skins to onion, but 3 ounces of chicken skins contains 343 calories, 33 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein

Matzah Ball Soup

matzoh ball soup

Matzah ball soup (also known as Matzah, matzoh, or matza ball soup) is a popular Jewish dish during the Passover holiday. The soup consists of broth, matzah balls, and various vegetables. Matzah ball soup is considered comfort food and is often served as a main course. Matzah balls are much like dumplings, but they are made from matzo meal instead of flour. This is because Passover meals cannot include any grains that might ferment and become leavened.

Nutritional Content: This will depend on the size of matzah balls and vegetables used in the soup but 1 cup of soup will have roughly 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein 

Dark Chocolate

Passover desserts are a vital part of the holiday (yum!). You may find brownies with chocolate chips, fudgy chocolate cake, and other sweet treats on Passover tables. On Passover, there are many dessert recipes to choose from. If you want to make your desserts a little bit healthier this year, try using dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants. 

Nutritional Content: 1 ounce of 70 to 80 percent dark chocolate contains 170 calories, 12 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein

Dietitian-Approved Tips for a Healthy Passover

a woman talking with a dietitian

Passover is a time for family and tradition, but it can also be a time of temptation. And, with all those delicious foods, who can blame you? But there are some easy ways to enjoy the celebrations while still ensuring you have a healthy Passover.

From eating the right foods to getting enough exercise through the holiday, a little planning can go a long way toward keeping you feeling your best. This year, try to focus on your health and tradition during Passover. Here are some tips from the NutriSense team to help you stay on track:

  • Eat the proteins and fiber on your plate first. It will help your body slow its uptake of sugars from carbs and sugar-laden foods
  • Try substituting a nut butter for the sweet red wine in your charoset this year. You’ll be substituting sugars for some extra protein and healthy fat while still maintaining a desert profile. 
  • Make carbohydrate-heavy foods the smaller portions on your plate. 
  • Start with small portions. You can always go back for more, but remember that it takes your body approximately 20 minutes to register if it is full. 
  • Watch your portion sizes. It's easy to overeat during Passover meals, so be mindful of how much you're eating.
  • Make sure you're drinking plenty of water. It will help keep you hydrated and prevent overeating.
  • Go for a short walk after your meal. This will help your blood glucose levels remain steady and aid your digestion. 

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With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

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​​Celebrating Passover: Traditional Foods and Tips for a Healthy Holiday
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What are the Ideal Ketone Levels For Ketosis?
What are the Ideal Ketone Levels For Ketosis?

A blood ketone level of .5 to 3.0 millimoles per liter is the ideal range for ketosis. Find out more here.

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9
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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?
What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?

Review our helpful article where we discuss the best times to eat if you are trying to lose weight.

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11
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Ways to Reverse Prediabetes with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Ways to Reverse Prediabetes with Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Explore the ways in which you can actively begin reversing prediabetes through diet and lifestyle changes.

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9
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Weight Loss and Blood Glucose
Weight Loss and Blood Glucose

Learn about how weight loss can impact blood glucose levels, and find tips for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

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9
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What A Digital Detox Can Do for Your Mental Health
What A Digital Detox Can Do for Your Mental Health

Do you spend all your free time scrolling through social media? If you can’t remember the last time you went offline, you may need a digital detox.

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9
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Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?
Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?

Read on to find out what impact, if any, vinegar really has on our body’s ability to balance blood sugar.

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8
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Useful Glycemic Index Charts For Fruits and Vegetables
Useful Glycemic Index Charts For Fruits and Vegetables

Review our glycemic index charts for the most common fruits and vegetables to better understand the impact on your glucose levels.

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8
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Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health
Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health

Did you know that menopause can affect your metabolic health, and vice versa? Read on to understand the relationship between metabolic health and menopause, and how to manage metabolic health during your menopausal journey. 

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7
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Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research
Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research

What really happens to your brain when you consume sugar? Review how interesting the relationship between the brain and sugar is, and why it’s important to control your blood sugar.

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9
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Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis
Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common yet often ignored condition. Learn more about the symptoms to watch out for, how you can seek treatment, and read first-hand accounts from two women who have dealt with endometriosis.

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6
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Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences
Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences

Quickly understand the differences between hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, how to recognize the signs, and key prevention tips.

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6
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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]
Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Learn everything you need to know about the relationship between triglycerides levels and blood glucose.


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7
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Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer
Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer

If you're gearing up to travel or spend more time outdoors this summer, here are a few tips to help you stay safe and hydrated in the sun.

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7
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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim
Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim

Purim, a joyous occasion celebrated around March or April every year, is just around the corner! Read on to learn more about the holiday and the delicious foods that accompany it.

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5
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Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians
Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians

Still haven't settled on the perfect gift for your Valentine this year? Take a look at our Nutrition Team's favorites for some thoughtful ideas.

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10
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The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For
The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For

Because nerve damage can have many silent symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed in the early stages. Read on to learn more about what causes nerve damage and some warning signs to watch out for.

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7
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The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health
The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health

Ready to learn all about fiber beyond just the basics? In this post, we dive deep into the different kinds of fiber and health benefits of each. From functional fiber to fermentation, we break down all the jargon into a layman's language.

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8
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The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar

Did you know that cardio can help you lose weight as well as optimize your health and blood glucose? Here's everything you need to know about cardio and its relationship with blood sugar.

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7
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The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss
The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss

Find out what unhealthy weight loss is and learn more about its side effects and what you can do to prevent them.

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6
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The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure
The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure

Learn about the warning signs of low blood sugar and the relationship it has on blood pressure.

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10
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

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7
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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6
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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8
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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9
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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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7
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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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12
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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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6
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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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9
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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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10
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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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6
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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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9
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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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10
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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8
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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9
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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.