Monday, June 15, 2009

A "Biblical" Diet?

One of my girlfriends called me yesterday to ask my professional opinion of following a "Biblical diet."

"A what?" I asked. (Really, sometimes I feel behind the times. I could almost hear her rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone.)

"You know," she said, "a Biblical diet. Like the diet that people followed in the Bible."

I told her I'd have to do a little bit of investigation and call her back. Plus, my teapot was whistling... is Earl Grey part of a Biblical diet? I wondered...

First things first - I looked in the Bible. There it is, in Genesis 1:29-30, right after God creates man and woman: "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.' And it was so. "

On the surface, this idea sounds pretty intriguing, that somehow we can make ourselves healthier and more spiritually fit by asking the question "What would Jesus (or Mary, or Moses, or Paul) eat?" Trees and fruits with seeds, green plants, beasts of the earth, and birds of the air sound pretty tasty. Plus, I've generally liked some of the Middle Eastern foods I've been introduced to, like olives, hummus, and Moroccan couscous. So should we all be eating the foods in the Bible?

First, let's take a look at what a Biblical diet really would mean. I did a quick Google.

Some of the things that people call "Biblical diets" make general sense - such as eating a bunch of fresh food, including grapes, olives, and other fruits mentioned in the Bible, eating fish, and not eating too much fatty red meat. According to one scholar, the ancient Israelites also drank about a liter of wine a day!

On the other hand, the Bible was never intended to be a diet or nutrition guide. Obviously, people in Biblical times didn't eat packaged foods or fast foods, because those things weren't available. Wine was probably safer to drink than water - so does that mean we should be foregoing our 8 glasses a day and trading it in for Cabernet? Also, the Bible doesn't mention sushi or curry (some of my favorite international foods) - so should we decide these things aren't part of a "Biblical diet"?

I called my friend back and told her that, just like any other fad diet, the "Biblical Diet" isn't a panacea for making the wrong health choices or deciding not to work out. I went back to reading about this diet online, and I actually got a little upset, because I don't think it's fair that people are out there hawking something in the name of spirituality and the Bible that doesn't actually make sense.

On the other hand, maybe a few of us should get together and start selling "The Bible Workout." (Just kidding...)

So, what should we be eating, then? I'm going to have a call with a nutritionist friend later in the day and ask her if there are lessons we can take from the Bible when it comes to our diets. Overall, though, I keep in mind the "temple" idea - and if putting a certain food in your mouth doesn't fit with that image, maybe it's better to leave it out.

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