Wednesday Wonders: What’s Matzo?

passover matzoThis week is Passover, one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. If you’re not familiar, the Passover holiday celebrates the escape of the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt. Matzo is a mainstay of the Passover holiday, and it is eaten in place of chametz, the collective name for leavened products containing wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt.

What is matzo and why do we eat it?

Matzo is unleavened bread, and looks like a cracker. It is made by combining flour and water and baking it before it has time to rise, which is why it turns into a flat, crunchy cracker. Matzo is eaten over the course of Passover (which lasts 8 days) because it is what the Jews ate when they escaped from Egypt. In the rush to leave, the Jews did not have time to bake bread; instead, they mixed together flour and water and quickly baked it, without waiting for it to rise. It was the only food they took on their journey to freedom.

Where does matzo stack up nutritionally?

Most people think matzo is low calorie because it’s just made with flour and water and is so light. However, a whole piece of matzo (1 whole square) contains 125 calories, 28 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein, 0 g fat. Nutritionally it doesn’t provide too many benefits, and I can’t say it’s the most delicious food, but it can become nutritioulicious™ when you use it as a base for sandwiches or use it to make matzo pizza (my favorite)!

These days there are other varieties of matzo:

  • Egg matzo is made with flour, fruit juice, and eggs and contains 130 calories, 28 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein, 0.5 g fat per serving (1 piece)
  • Whole wheat matzo is made with whole wheat flour (nutritious!) and water, and contains 100 calories, 23 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, 0 g fat per serving (1 piece)

Matzo is known to be a bit difficult to digest and can lead to constipation, so it’s very important to eat enough fruit and vegetables over the holiday to prevent digestive problems.

Do you eat matzo? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

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