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Shavuot – First Fruits in All the Colors of the Rainbow

For many people, Shavuot is associated with dairy foods – but is it? What are the different first fruits, and what is their connection to healthy nutrition and the Nutritional Rainbow?

For many people, Shavuot is associated with dairy foods – but is it?

Shavuot is a holiday that celebrates, chiefly, the first fruits, specifically the first crops. When the State of Israel was founded, the holiday started symbolizing, more than anything, the connection between man, working the land and harvesting the crops that were sown. For many years, this holiday represented both the first fruits, including vegetables, wheat, and other grains, and tools for working the land.

In addition to presenting the first fruits, a common traditional custom of Shavuot is eating dairy foods.

The connection between the holiday customs and the Nutritional Rainbow

Fruits and vegetables, together with whole grains, legumes, and many other natural foods, form an important and substantial part of Israel's national dietary recommendations, the Nutritional Rainbow. They are located on the green and yellow bows. See further information on the Nutritional Rainbow in the article: The Nutritional Rainbow Diet for Healthy Nutrition.

Dairy products and their substitutes are also part of the Nutritional Rainbow. However, some of them are not. The new Nutritional Rainbow is predominantly based on plant-based, natural foods that have not undergone processing or have undergone minimal processing.

Dairy products that have been heavily processed, such as those with added sugar, salt, or saturated fat, should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether. Some of these products are labeled with red symbols to indicate it. See further information on the red symbols in the article: The Red Symbols are Coming to the Shelves.

However, products like milk, yogurt, and others that are labeled with green symbols can be part of healthy nutrition if they are consumed moderately, according to the yellow bow. Usually, consuming up to two portions of milk products per day is considered moderate. You can substitute these products with tofu or soy drinks with no added sugar. See further information on the green symbols in the article: The Green Symbol.

Shavuot is also known as the Water Holiday, and it is time to be reminded of the importance of sufficient water intake to our health.

According to both the national nutrition recommendations and the green bow, it is recommended to drink tap water throughout the day. See further information on water in the article: Tap Water – Clearly Healthy).

The Seven Species for healthy nutrition

"For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it" (Deuteronomy 8:8).

Shavuot is also known as the day of first fruits. The first fruits are seven types of crops: wheat, barley, vine, fig, pomegranate, olive, and date, a symbolic representation of the fertility and abundance of the land of Israel in biblical times. The inhabitants of Israel (Bnei Israel) presented the first-ripening crops to the temple as a gift offering. 

Can these first fruits, which in biblical times were a crucial component of the weekly diet and met the people of Israel's nutritional needs, now be a part of our menu and do the same for us?
Absolutely. They have a wide variety of nutritional fibers, minerals, and vitamins, and some of them are antioxidants as well. It is advised to eat them in accordance with the green bow at each meal.

Nutrition according to the green bow in Shavuot has an environmental value

A diet based on the Nutritional Rainbow consists primarily of plant-based foods that are sustainable since they have a minimally negative environmental impact. Numerous resources are typically needed to create foods of animal origins, including water, soil, fuel, and additional supplies for feeding the animals used to generate these foods.
Plant-based foods generally require fewer resources to produce than animal-based foods. This is evident in the lower greenhouse gas emissions and water and soil usage associated with plant-based foods. 

For example, growing legumes, a substitute for foods high in protein, uses substantially less soil and water than growing sources of animal protein, such as cattle. Plant-based foods derived from sustainable food systems, such as ecosystems, contain fewer contaminants, conserve biological diversity, help distribute land more fairly, and create employment opportunities. Additionally, this upholds respect for traditional production, advances knowledge of it, and protects our environment and the food chains that are vital for our health. Additionally, plant-based foods affect how food is selected, produced, processed, and transported to consumers.

Healthy nutrition on Shavuot and at any time is nutrition based on a diversity of natural foods, or those that have undergone minimal processing. These foods are primarily plant-based, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, combined with a smaller quantity of animal-based foods, such as low-fat, sugar-free dairy products.

  • If you choose to consume dairy products, ensure they are sugar-free and low in sodium and saturated fats. It is preferable to consume those marked with green symbols
  • If you choose to consume dairy substitutes, such as soy products, ensure that they are sugar-free and low in sodium and saturated fats. In this instance, it is also preferable to consume foods marked with the green symbol.
  • Above all, remember that Shavuot is the harvest festival and can be celebrated with the produce of the land: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. It is recommended to incorporate them into our daily intake at every meal.

Further reading

Recipes for a Family Meal
The Nutritional Rainbow poster (HE)