The other day, I accidentally came across a forum for a diet called the Hallelujah Diet. It’s a 85% raw, 15% cooked vegan diet. I was just reading the “what is” page for this diet. They quote as part of their evidence, a scripture from the Bible, Genesis 1:29:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat [food].
I don’t dispute the verse–I totally agree that plant foods are good for us–but isn’t kind of odd to base a whole diet on one Bible verse? Especially when there are plenty of other versus that talk about food, including instruction from God? I mean, look 1 Timothy 4:2-4:
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
Plus, if you are going to look to the Bible for clues on what to eat, why not look at what Jesus ate? Surely the Son of God wouldn’t put anything unhealthy into his body. And he ate meat, didn’t he? And bread. Hm.
It can be easy to misinterpret the scriptures, though. I did this years ago. I thought the scriptures said not to eat meat unless you had to. It was following my discovery of disgustingly abused and unhealthy factory farm animals. I vowed to be vegan. But I gave it up within a week when I read a verse in the Bible that said something or rather about it being wrong to refuse to eat meat (it might have been the above verse, actually). I immediately discovered, also, that there were ethical ways to purchase meat and dairy and happily started supporting them.
But you can read about any diet and all their “evidence” and they can, under a persuasive voice, sound totally reasonable. Even extraordinary–especially when you start reading the testimonials. There’s vegan, raw vegan, raw including meat and dairy, paleo, vegetarian, and the cursed American food guide pyramid–oh, no wait, they’ve changed that to “my plate.” These are just a handful of the many diets out there, but some of the more popular ones. Let’s take a look:
USDA Diet: Eat lots of grain, plenty of produce, and moderate amounts of other food groups. Aside from the excessive grain consumption, doesn’t sound too bad, except that they recommend lowfat everything. And the fats they do recommend are unhealthy polyunsaturates. Totally backwards. It doesn’t take a genius to see how unhealthy Americans are. It’s almost like you want to the exact opposite of what the USDA tells you. Although maybe we don’t need to be that extreme. After all, they are right about a few things.
Vegan: Even though I once considered it, when I look at it objectively, this way of eating seems a little crazy to me. Most people I know that are vegan do it for the animals. I love animals, but I am not going to put them above my own health. I’ve found that many people who are vegan for this reason tend to have serious deficiency issues because they are not really that interested in their health–just in saving animals. I know of someone who was allergic to soy, nuts, and dairy, but refused to eat meat. Where the heck was she getting her protein?? Though there are those who do vegan because they believe it’s healthier and probably fare better than the others, but most of these people are raw vegan.
Raw vegan: This one makes a little more sense. I can see why people would feel good on raw vegan–they are increasing their fresh food consumption, replenishing their bodies with important nutrients and enzymes. I can see this as a great healing diet. But long term? I’m not convinced. Especially since nearly all vegans are vitamin B12 deficient unless they take supplements. If you have to take supplements to survive the diet, then it’s not natural to eat that way.
Raw including meat and dairy: When I first heard of this, I thought it was insane. Aren’t we supposed to cook meat?? But actually, eating raw flesh is part of most traditional diets–they just don’t eat exclusively raw. I recently learned that all raw food contains enzymes that are destroyed when cooked at high temperatures, so eating meat raw would actually make it more digestible. Raw meat also would not contain dangerous oxidized saturated fat and cholesterol (just normal saturated fat and cholesterol which benefit the body). Raw milk is clearly the healthy choice over pasteurized. I could see people being very healthy on raw, though I would question the use of raw grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. I think somethings are just better cooked.
Vegetarian: I don’t know. I mean, you get to have protein from eggs and dairy, right? That’s good. But you still have to find your B12 somewhere, and the most available source is meat. Seventh Day Adventists, who are generally vegetarian, are supposed to be healthier than most Americans (although meat-eating Mormons apparently live even longer), but it could be related to the fact their health code also bars tobacco and alcohol, and they are likely more health-minded overall. All I know is that vegetarians have to eat a lot of grain and legumes to help them get their complete proteins, so that’s a lot of carbs, isn’t it? But then, I am not going to say that carbohydrates are inimical to good health…it just seems that high amounts lead to more dental decay… And then there is the fact that most people’s bodies just cannot handle this type of diet: They get sick.
Paleo: This is actually one type of a traditional diet. However, I think it can be a little too heavy on meat. Meat may be full of important nutrients, but it is also supposedly a “stress” food, meaning it puts stress on the body because it’s difficult to digest (although that problem may be alleviated if you eat raw). Now this is just here-say (well there is that study about Seventh-day Adventists), but I’ve heard more than once that despite the good health of traditional peoples that follow this type of diet, they tend to die earlier than other healthy peoples. And, well, if grains are so bad, then how come grain-eating Japanese have some of the longest-living people? And the Himalayans? However, I can see paleo also as being a diet for healing, particularly for people recovering from grain and dairy allergies and/or overconsumption, for people who are B12 deficient, protein deficient, or have other deficiencies that can be remedied with plenty of meat and veggies. And of course for people are sensitive to just about everything under the sun–except meat.
The thing I like about Nourishing Traditions is that all food groups are valued. There is also some flexibility to follow’s one’s own preferences and listen to one’s body. It makes sense to me to eat some of everything. Meats are demonized by vegetarians and praised by paleos. Grains are demonized by paleos and praised by vegetarians. Any chance they both have beneficial and non-beneficial properties and should thus be eaten in moderation? Oh, by the way, within 24 hours I’ve read that the human digestive tract is both too long to be digesting meat and too short to be digesting fiber. So that means we’re supposed to eat what, exactly? Juice?
I think meat is essential to good health, but I believe there are benefits to keeping our meat eating in check. I think there may be something to raw vegan diets as a healing diet–just as vegetable juices can facilitate healing–but that they would only be beneficial as a detoxing/rejuventing diet, rather than something that can sustain true health indefinitely. Everything I learn about food, when compiled together, leads me to believe that we should eat some–but not too much–meat, fresh fruits and veggies in season, nuts and seeds, and some grain. This is exactly what my religion’s health code prescribes, which is my fall-back when things get confusing (more on that later). And I think that raw dairy can be very beneficial, but depending on how you eat, may or may not be necessary.
But, yeah, I don’t know everything. This is just what makes sense to me on most days. Every so often I’ll shift a bit, based on some great persuasive argument and scientific evidence, but then a little later I’ll read something else that shifts me right back. So yeah. Here I am. (And tomorrowI will probably read something else that makes me rethink everything, ha.)