Symbolically, the New Year signifies a renewal life, hence our desire for regeneration and celebration.

Modern-day festivities encourage unbridled drinking and eating and are geared less towards restoring health and sanity.

By sampling some healthy New Year food traditions from around the world, we can ring in the new and discard the old without hangovers, indigestion and ill humour.

In Spain it's tradition to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. The grapes signify the past twelve months of the year.

This is a great idea, as grapes are high in potent antioxidants, which are capable of protecting against cancer and heart disease.

They are present in red wine too but considering alcohol impairs the liver and befuddles the brain, it is best to avoid over-consumption and stick to grapes.

Oranges are supposed to bring sweetness and wealth in the Chinese New Year.

Like all citrus, they are an excellent source of vitamin C our prime antioxidant which strengthens the immune system and fights infections.

Vitamin C is also required make collagen for strong bones, skin and joints. It helps to detox pollutants and combats the detrimental effects of stress.

Vitamin C's antihistamine activity also useful for allergy sufferers.

German folklore says eating herring at the stroke midnight will bring luck for the coming year.

Hardly surprising as herring is an "oily" fish (as are mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines) and its beneficial omega-3 fats are components all cell membranes, affecting the flexibility and permeability of our body cells.

Fatty acids (EFAs) are required for the structure and function of the brain and are needed to make prostaglandins which act like local hormones.

As the body cannot manufacture its own EFAs, we are entirely dependent on dietary sources.

People in the southern US believe eating black-eyed beans on New Year's eve is lucky.

Dried peas, beans and lentils are cheap and a good source of protein.

However, they don't contain all the amino acids we require so they should be served with plant foods and whole grains such as rice.

Southerners have another custom of eating cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach to attract money. What better incentive to eat up all our greens?

These peculiar traditions probably originate from the way ancient cultures used to greet new harvest seasons.

But over the centuries, our respect for Nature has decreased and we are more likely to celebrate longer opening hours at the supermarket.

Excessive habits, from binge drinking to endless rounds of fireworks appear to be frantic efforts to recapture our lost exuberance.

I crave more honesty and less cover-up in the coming year in order to find better resolutions to our global problems.

Personally, I resolve to learn to say "Happy New Year" in a new language every year, starting with Swahili.

So as they say in East Africa: "Heri za mwaka mpya."