Don't miss this "lucky" New Year's dish

There are so many holidays we associate with food.

Whether it's the Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas goose, or the Easter ham, these dishes are often as symbolic as they are delicious.

But there's one culinary tradition that occurs in January and has incredible health benefits -- and if you've never heard of it, it's not too late to get started on it now.

Ringing in the new year by cooking black-eyed peas is popular in the American South and in the Southwest as a way to bring prosperity for the coming year. Some folks serve them with collard greens, representing money, and corn bread for gold.

But according to the latest research, the bounty of black-eyed peas doesn't end there -- because they contain compounds that can help alleviate symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Brought to the U.S. from Africa generations ago, these tasty little legumes actually aren't peas at all, but beans -- with a distinctive, ivory-colored skin and a little black "eye" in the middle (hence, their name).

Like all beans, they're packed with fiber and protein, plus potassium, magnesium, and iron. They're also full of natural antioxidant compounds called polyphenols.

And a recent data review conducted by French scientists found that a diet rich in polyphenols can help alleviate symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease per se, but a cluster of health conditions or characteristics that are known to significantly raise your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.

These conditions include obesity -- especially extra weight around the belly -- plus high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When they exist together, these conditions can form a perfect storm for chronic and deadly diseases.

The study examined the effects of polyphenols on different features of MetS, and found that different types of polyphenols improved different symptoms of MetS.

While just eating foods rich in polyphenols can't destroy MetS on its own, when combined with regular exercise and an all-around healthy diet -- that's a recipe for success

It's never too late to celebrate with a "lucky" meal that showcases black-eyed peas. Go for dried rather than canned, and soak them in water for a few hours. Then simmer in broth with some chopped onion, seasonings, and a little bacon for rich flavor, until they're tender. You can even make them in the slow-cooker.

Other delicious examples of polyphenol-rich foods include green tea, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, brightly colored berries, dark cocoa powder, and cinnamon.

You can also find plenty of cell-protecting, inflammation-busting polyphenols in red wine and dark beers... so go ahead and propose a toast to 2017. Cheers to a healthy year!

Sources:
Effects of dietary polyphenols on metabolic syndrome features in humans: a systematic review
(onlinelibrary.wiley.com)