THE BIBLICAL FOOD LAWS
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
The Hebrew Bible set down a number of rules for healthy eating that are as important today as they were when they were first written several thousand years ago. They are described mainly in the books of Exodus and Leviticus of the Old Testament of the Bible.
The kosher laws. Some of the rules for healthy eating are together called the kosher laws. The word kosher means clean in Hebrew.
Are the kosher laws outdated? Some will say that the kosher laws were for a time before refrigerators and modern food processing, and are therefore outdated. For a few of them, this may be true. However, many of the basic kosher food laws are still extremely helpful and wise today.
Two types of rules. The two types of food laws are 1) what to eat and 2) how to eat. Let us discuss each of these in more detail.
WHAT TO EAT
Land animals. Do not eat products of the pig and other animals with a cleft hoof. There are at least two important reasons for this rule:
- Products of the pig, in particular, seem to slow down or even stop development. We don’t know why this occurs, but it does occur.
- All pig products except porcine pancreatin, a pancreatic extract, often contain intact eggs of trichina worms and perhaps other parasitic organisms. This occurs even when the pork, ham, bacon, lard or other pig products are well-cooked.
This apparently has something to do with the physiology of the pig. For some reason, parasitic infestation is much rarer among the cooked flesh of other animals that are excellent for food such as lamb, chicken, turkey, wild game, goat and/or beef.
Also, do not eat animals such as snails, insects, and reptiles such as frogs, lizards, crocodile.
Ocean Food. Do not eat any shellfish or other “seafood”. Shellfish include shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, lobster, mussels and crabs. Others that are prohibited are eel, water snakes, calamari, starfish and a few others.
Most of these creatures are bottom feeders and they are caught in coastal waters that are highly contaminated with toxic metals. This is a bad combination. As a result, none of them are safe to eat today. In addition, we find that shellfish may by tasty, but are not that compatible with human physiology.
The only creatures from the sea that Bible allows are fish with fins and scales. Today, we suggest even more restriction of food from the sea. Due to mercury toxicity of all fish today, eat only fish with fins and scales that are very small and preferably wild caught. Indeed, this is an excellent rule today.
Do not eat algae. The Bible does not allow such popular products as spirulina, chlorella and blue-green algae. In our experience, these are toxic for the liver. It is best to avoid these products, no matter how nutritious they are, and no matter what other benefits they may offer.
Kelp, by the way, is not in the same class of one-celled plants as those mentioned above. It is fine to eat, in my experience, and we recommend it for everyone.
Eat only fresh food.
Do not mix meat and dairy products in the same meal. In the Torah this is stated as “do not cook a lamb in its own milk”. This is not as important as the rules above, but it is a good general principle. For various reasons, milk products and meats do not make a good combination when eaten at the same meal. Have one or the other, but not both at the same time.
HOW TO EAT
Drain the blood from an animal before eating it. This rule is applied today almost universally, so it is rarely a problem. It was well known, however, even thousands of years ago. It is best not to gorge oneself on the blood of an animal, as is done by some tribes in Africa, for example. Blood not only contains infections in some cases, but it contains an essence that is not that healthful.
Do not refreeze meats. Each time one freezes meat, it bursts the cell walls more. This causes more bacterial contamination and tends to make the meat a little less safe.
Most fresh meats are flash frozen at the slaughterhouse, and transported to the supermarkets in a frozen state. At the supermarket, meat can be stored frozen until it is ready to sell. It is then placed in display refrigerators, where it slowly thaws. The expiration date is added at the supermarket based on when the meat begins to thaw.
This method of transporting and selling meats protects the consumer from a lot of illness. The kosher law is that one should ideally not take home thawed meat and refreeze it.
This is not as important as the first rule, but is a good basic rule about using meats, which can spoil very easily. This rule may have been added to the original law because freezing was not an option for early Hebrews.
Inspect and bless the food, where practical, by rabbis trained in food inspection. Inspecting all food before it is sent to market is a very excellent idea. I do not know if it requires a rabbi, but rather someone trained to inspect foods.
Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking and before eating. This is a simple cleanliness measure that is very important today because of the prevalence of various food-borne and other infections.
Sit when you eat. No standing up.
Eat alone most of the time. Do not eat with groups all or most of the time. This is so you will concentrate on your food, not on conversation. When eat alone or with others, keep your thoughts happy and positive when eating.
Eat only when relaxed. Do not eat when very anxious or upset.
Chew each bite at least 10 times so that you eat slowly.
Cook food properly.
No leftovers. Cook food fresh each time.
No touching food while cooking it. Keep hands out of the food.
Food is sacred. Do not make light of eating.
Do not drink with meals. This practice tends to dilute the stomach acid and damages digestion.
Stop before feeling full.
Rest a few minutes before the meal and half an hour after a meal.
If possible, always eat in a quiet, peaceful environment.
Is vegetarianism best? Some people say that the Bible suggests a vegetarian diet, because in Genesis the Bible states that God gave mankind “every herb bearing fruit” as food. This was true at first, and originally vegetarian diets were recommended.
However, if one keeps reading the Bible, the suggestion changes. The change comes after the great flood of Noah. This flood was quite a cataclysm, and the diets had to be changed. The lifespan of people was also shortened at this time, as one notices if one reads the Bible.
After the flood, a vegetarian diet is no longer recommended, and instead the kosher laws were given to Moses during the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and their walk in the desert of Sinai.