A Healthy Hanukkah

Tradition is not supposed to harm good health. Isn't there an alternative to deep-fried white-flour donuts doused in powdered white sugar and filled with sugary jam?

3 min

Rabbi Lazer Brody

Posted on 21.11.18

Some people roll their eyes in delight as they bite into their bakery or store-bought Hanukkah-delicacy deep-fried donut. Sure, it's a tradition to eat foods during the eight days of Hanukkah that contain or have been prepared with oil. Today, the two most popular ones are potato pancakes (latkes), fried in lots of oil, and those notorious deep-fried jelly-filled donuts (sufganiyot), smothered in powdered sugar.


Tradition is not supposed to harm good health, much less make a person sick. The Rambam, whose health and nutritional advice are uncontested to this day, outlasting all the diet and nutritional fads that come and go, would undoubtedly shudder at the thought of a deep-fried donut doused in powdered white sugar and filled with sugary jam. Why?


White sugar is poison for the body. So is white flour. Both are empty carbohydrates with no nutritional value other than calories that overwork the pancreas and liver by increasing blood sugar and demanding more insulin from the body. These two culprits are not only the key to the obesity epidemic but to Type 2 diabetes as well.


Traditionally, at many synagogues, the donuts are served with Cola and sugary liqueurs. What a nightmare…


Do you know what's in that jelly-filled donut?


An average sized jelly-filled, powder-sugared donut contains between 320-350 calories and between 20-25 grams of sugar. It'll zap your body with 35-45 grams of carbohydrates, empty ones at that, which will send your blood sugar through the roof and simply make you hunger for more donuts. And, if the oil used is commercial and the bakery or the home has fried repeated batches in the same oil, the free radicals will also wreak havoc on your whole body.


Look what the body must do to burn the calories of one average-sized donut: if you're a person of average height and weight, you'll need to do 75 minutes of brisk walking at 3mph or 30 minutes of no-nonsense jogging at 6mph. Yes, that's for one donut. Worth it?


So what about tradition?


Tradition doesn't tell you to deep fry in commercial oils. It doesn't tell you to ingest sugar, either.


The type of oils that most people fry in are soy, corn and canola, all of which have high Omega-6 contents and low or no Omega 3. Even if you do fry, why use them, especially during Hanukkah?


Olive oil was the star performer in the miracle of Hanukkah. It's one of the three healthiest oils and therefore should be the oil of choice for Hanukkah.


Oddly, the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) doesn't even mention eating oil and/or oil-fried foods during Hanukkah, but it does mention eating cheese and dairy, since the heroic Yehudit fed the despotic Greek Seleucid King salty cheese and a lot of wine before killing him with his own sword.[1]


In Judaism, we don't argue with tradition, but we do argue with things that destroy our health.


Try this for a healthy Hanukkah alternative and a complete fulfillment of tradition, even commemorating our victory over the Greeks:


Eat a Greek Salad that includes Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peppers, with your favorite olives and chunks of feta or other goat cheese. Season with Himalaya salt, black pepper, oregano and thyme, or the Middle-East spice mix known as zatar. Sprinkle cold-pressed olive oil liberally over the whole salad, and you're good to go. Now you'll have a healthy Hanukkah with no heartburn, indigestion or weight gain.


For a Hanukkah to be a really happy one, it has to be healthy too. Just ask Judah Maccabee and his brothers.


[1] See Rama, Shaulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 670:2, and Mishna Brura there, letter yud


Tell us what you think!

1. Sue


I'm vegan! Dry cooked potatoes for sure.

Since I'm vegan I will be making homemade applesauce and dry cook potatoes shreaded and chopped onions. Yum. One could always use olive oil to put the flames on instead of wax candles.

2. Sue


Since I'm vegan I will be making homemade applesauce and dry cook potatoes shreaded and chopped onions. Yum. One could always use olive oil to put the flames on instead of wax candles.

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