Halal & Kosher Diets

Kosher, the common word for Kashrut, diets follow Jewish law dealing with what foods can and cannot be eaten and how they must be prepared and served.  Kosher dietary laws are observed year round and extend beyond the home into packaged foods found in most grocery stores.  The key rules are:

  • Certain meat may not be eaten at all including the eggs and milk that come from the forbidden animals.
  • Slaughtering and preparation of bird and animal meat must be followed in accordance with the written law.
  • Fruits and vegetables are permitted but must be free from bugs.  (Insects are not kosher.)
  • Meat cannot be eaten with dairy.  Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.  In some practices, fish may not be eaten with meat.
  • Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa.  Also, utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food.
  • Grape products (wine) made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

Because it is difficult to determine if ingredients used in packaged foods were sourced and prepared for kosher laws, a system of certification has become widespread.   The myth is that certification is a "blessing" of the food.   This is not true; certification involves examining the ingredients used to make the food, examining the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspecting the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained.   The certified products are given a mark that is placed on the package to let consumers who follow kosher dietary laws that the product is safe to consume. 

Similar to kosher, Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat or drink under Islamic Shariʻah. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared.   Foods that are forbidden include:

  • Swine/Pork and its by-products
  • Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
  • Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
  • Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and certain other animals
  • Foods contaminated with any of the above products
  • Foods containing ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, and flavors are questionable because the origin of these ingredients is not known.

Muslims are taught through the Qu'ran that all animals should be treated with respect and well cared for, limiting the amount of pain the animal will endure.  Some who are not Muslim may consume Halal meats because Halal is one of the most humane methods to slaughter animals.   Foods may be certified as Halal by following the policies and procedures stipulated by law and undergoing inspection by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), a leading Halal certifying organization in the United States.

Traditional Asian Diet

People in Asian countries tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and obesity than Americans, and they typically have longer lifespans.   Researchers suspect that this is due largely to their diet:  a low-fat, healthy diet that emphasizes rice, vegetables, fresh fruit, and fish, and very little red meat.   The Asian diet emphasizes rice and whole grains, followed by fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Asians also make a daily habit of consuming green and black tea and consume plant-based alcoholic beverages such as sake, beer, and wine in moderate amounts.   Small amounts of dairy and fish may be consumed daily; while sugary foods, eggs and poultry appear weekly in the typical Asian diet and red meats are eaten no more than once per month.  Asian foods also include a wide variety of foods made from soybeans, from steamed edamame (whole soybeans in the pod) to tofu and natto, a sticky, high-protein breakfast staple that may help protect the brain.  Asian diets also include high consumption of seaweed, which studies have shown may decrease the risk for heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. 

Studies of Asian diets show that they are higher in phytoestrogens from soy products that provide hormone-balancing and antioxidant benefits, and the high fish consumption provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids that inhibit some forms of cancer.   Also, green tea, a staple in the Asian diet, and generous quantities of fruits and vegetables offer antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients.

An enzyme found in the sticky natto threads, called nattokinase, prevents blood clotting, and may also help lower blood pressure.

Why this matters:

Over the decades, health food stores have offered dry seaweeds, a variety of soy products including tamari, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milks and cheese, textured soy protein (TSP), and other products that are part of a traditional Asian diet and a Macrobiotic Diet.  Historically, these items were not only considered “healthy”, they were only found in health food stores.  Today, consumers continue to learn about and purchase these products in natural product stores.

Macrobiotic Diet

The Macrobiotic Diet grew from the efforts of Sagen Ishizuka, a Japanese army doctor at the end of the 19th century.  Based on the traditional Asian diet, he applied a theory of nutrition and medicine that included the Western medical sciences of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and physiology.   At the time, he cured many patients by having them eat a traditional diet based on brown rice and a variety of land and sea vegetables.  The diet was based on five principles:

  • Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.
  • Sodium and potassium are the primary antagonistic and complementary elements in food mimicking the character of "yin/yang".
  • Grain is properly the staple food of man.
  • Food should be unrefined, whole, and natural.
  • Food should be grown locally and eaten in season.

A disciple and biographer of Ishizuka, George Ohsawa wrote a definitive expansion of the macrobiotic philosophy in his 1925 book Physiology of Japanese Mentality and Biography of Sagen Ishizuka and he devoted his life to worldwide education.  His foundation philosophy viewed Macrobiotics as a way of life, based on an understanding of the rhythm, the ebb, and flow of nature with roots that can be traced back through civilization to the beginning of human traditions.

The main food components of a Macrobiotic diet include:

  • A protein base of whole grains should equal 50-60% of total daily food, and beans (primarily soy products) should be 5-10% of the total.
  • Vegetables (in season; primarily roots, leafy greens, squashes, and cabbage) should equal 20-25% and seasonal fruits should be about 5% of the total volume.
  • Sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds represent 2%-4%.
  • Other common foods include salty condiments like gomasio (sesame seeds and sea salt) and umeboshi (plums pickled in brine), unrefined sesame oil, and corn oil.
  • Fish are used occasionally.
  • Preferred sweeteners are barley malt, rice syrup, and maple syrup.
  • Some foods are strictly avoided. These include red meat, poultry, and eggs; dairy products; coffee and stimulating herbs such as mint; the nightshade family vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers); sugar, honey, and corn syrup; and all artificially colored, artificially sweetened, chemically preserved, or chemically treated foods.

Ayurvedic Diet

Ayurveda is the ancient medical system of India. It offers one of the fastest paths to health. Instead of having to guess which foods, supplements, and behaviors are appropriate for you, there is a simple, direct prescriptive path that is developed for your unique body type or dosha. This takes all the guesswork out of getting healthy.  The three ayurvedic body types, or doshas, are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Most people are a combination of two doshas, but one typically predominates.  Each dosha has a unique set of characteristics, temperaments, and physical types depending on their proportion in the individual.  Vata individuals are wind-dominated, Pitta is bile-dominated, and Kapha is mucus-dominated.   Each of the dosha types is given recommendations for foods to avoid and foods to consume that are intended to work with the body type to maintain good health.

Some overarching Ayurvedic principles include

  • In Ayurveda, foods are classified into six tastes--sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Ayurvedic healers recommend that all of these six tastes be included at every meal.  Each taste lends balance so including some of each can minimize cravings and enhance digestion.
  • In general, the standard American diet has too many sweet, sour, and salty tastes and lacks bitter, pungent, and astringent foods. Chutneys and spice mixes are ways to include a variety of tastes.
  • Foods are also categorized as heavy or light, dry or oily (including too liquid), and warm or cool (temperature). Different qualities balance different doshas.   A balanced main meal should contain some foods of each physical type with varying proportions based on individual constitution needs, the season, and the climate.
  • A third Ayurvedic classification of food is by the effect they have on the non-physical aspects of the person: mind, heart, and spirit.
    • Sattvic foods (fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, honey, and mung beans) promote clear thinking and emotional balance
    • Rajasic foods (fried and overly spiced foods) are more stimulating and can disturb aspects of the mind, heart, or senses
    • Tamasic foods (heavily processed, old or stale; also meats and liquor) lead to lethargy and are considered a barrier to spiritual growth.

Food Combining

Food combining became well-known in the early 20th-century lead by Herbert Shelton (its founder) and Sylvester Graham (for whom the graham cracker is named).  More recently, it has resurfaced in the best-selling book Fit for Life. The theory is that the full digestion of nutrients is enabled by "food combining", which will aid in the prevention of certain chronic metabolic diseases. The Hay diet is one type of food combining diet.

The basic principle of food combining is that the enzymes needed for food digestion function best when foods are eaten in the proper combination.  Specifically, fruits should be eaten alone, fruits and vegetables should not be eaten together, nor should protein and starches.  Many people attest to high energy levels and improved health by following food combining principles.  Others dispute the theory that proteins and starches cannot be digested at the same time, citing foods like legumes and whole grains, each of which contains appreciable amounts of both protein and starch within an individual food and is diet staples around the world.

Blood Type Diet

The Eat Right for Your Type diet (Blood Type Diet) advises people to eat certain foods based on their blood type: A, B, AB, or O and the genetic heritage that is contained in the blood type.   Among other principles plan posits that each blood type digests food proteins (called lectins) differently and that eating the wrong food proteins can cause ill effects on the body—including slower metabolism, bloating, and even certain diseases. According to this diet, avoiding bad food proteins will help a person achieve better health. 

  • Blood Type A people flourish on a vegetarian diet
  • Blood Type B people should avoid corn, wheat, buckwheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts, and sesame seeds in order to maintain a healthy weight.  Other foods that Type Bs should consume to encourage weight loss are green vegetables, eggs, beneficial meats, and low-fat dairy.  Type Bs should avoid chicken, and replace it with beneficial meats such as goat, lamb, mutton, rabbit, and venison.  
  • Blood Type AB people should avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially in stressful situations.  Type ABs should focus on foods such as tofu, seafood, dairy, and green vegetables to lose weight and avoid all smoked or cured meats.  A wide variety of seafood and some dairy is also beneficial for Type AB – especially cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir.   Type AB people should also pay attention to food combining principles.
  • Blood Type O people can efficiently digest and metabolize meat because they tend to have high stomach-acid content. They should use lean, chemical-free meats, poultry, and fish.   Type Os should avoid gluten found in wheat germ and whole wheat products and certain beans and legumes (lentils and kidney beans) all of which contribute to weight gain.   Type Os have a tendency to have low levels of thyroid hormone or unstable thyroid functions, which also cause metabolic problems; therefore, it is good to avoid food that inhibits thyroid hormone (cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard green) but increases hormone production (kelp, seafood, iodized salt).  Type Os should eat fruits of alkaline nature such as berries and plums and severely restrict the use of dairy products.   Type Os of African ancestry should eliminate dairy foods and eggs altogether.

Raw Foods – Raw Food enthusiasts believe that heating food destroys the nutrients and natural enzymes that boost digestion and fight chronic disease.   Some believe that cooking actually makes food toxic and claims that a raw food diet can clear up headaches and allergies, boost immunity and memory, and improve arthritis and diabetes.  Most raw foodies eat uncooked, unprocessed, mostly organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains, most of which are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.   A minority of raw foods diet followers eat unpasteurized dairy foods, raw eggs, meat, and fish.  The food can be cold or warmed to a maximum of 118 degrees.

Cooking can reduce vitamins B and C but raw food diets require extra attention to protein, iron, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals like B12. Some raw food followers take nutritional supplements to make up for any nutritional deficiencies.  However, cooking does boost some nutrients, like beta-carotene and lycopene, and kills bacteria, which helps avoid food poisoning. One study found that a raw foods diet works for weight loss, but there’s no proof that eating only raw foods prevents illness.  Because some uncooked and unpasteurized foods are linked to foodborne illness, raw foods require extra cleaning, washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and being extra careful with risky foods like sprouts, raspberries, unpasteurized juices, green onions, and lettuce which can easily produce harmful bacteria if not handled properly.

Raw animal food diets include raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, and sprouted grains along with any animal product that can be eaten raw, such as uncooked, unprocessed raw muscle-meats, organ-meats, eggs, unpasteurized dairy, and aged, raw animal foods such as century eggs, fermented meat, fish, shellfish, and milk products such as kefir.   It’s recommended that raw meat consumers choose grass-fed animals or wild game rather than meats from grain-fed animals.

Fruitarian – Fruitarianism is a nutrition system and a lifestyle. The diet consists of only raw fruit and seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant. These fruits include pineapple, mango, banana, avocado, apple, melon, orange, all kinds of berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and chestnuts.   Some fruitarians eat only plant matter that has already fallen off the plant. Thus, a fruitarian will eat beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and the like, but will refuse to eat potatoes or spinach. Fruitarians may be motivated by the religious faith of the Old Testament dating back to the diet of Adam and Eve.

Paleo Diet

In 1970 gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin, MD, first promoted a diet emphasizing foods eaten during the Paleolithic Era, a period in human history that ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture.  It focuses on natural whole food with little or no processing, eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts.  The resulting loss of low nutrient carbohydrates, especially carbohydrates from cereals and grain, turns the body into a fat-burning machine.    In general, the Paleo Diet calls for

  • Consuming fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts & seeds, healthy fats, and eggs.
  • Avoiding dairy, grains, processed foods and sugars, legumes, starches, alcohol, refined sugars, and processed oils.

Today Paleo is rapidly becoming a diet of choice for customers who want to improve energy, fitness, and health.  New media, such as Paleo Magazine and a podcast titled “Latest in Paleo” are leading the movement and new products produced by manufacturers such as Zest Brands, and other newer companies, are launching products that they are touting as being “Paleo-friendly.”  Since adherence to Paleo philosophical standards will likely require certification, there is a debate in the industry about the inherent conflict of packaged, processed products and the underlying rule that Paleo diets should exclude most processed foods that could not be found during the Paleolithic era.

 

Words to Remember

HALAL

Foods and methods of preparation that are permissible under Islamic law, including which meats may be consumed and how the permissible animals must be slaughtered.

 

KOSHER

Methods and requirements of preparing food, including the utensils used and the premises in which the food is prepared, that are defined by Jewish law.

 

MACROBIOTIC

This refers to a dietary regimen of whole pure foods that are prepared based on Taoist principles of the balance of yin and yang. Mostly local vegetables and grains are included, and processed, refined foods and most meats are excluded. The dietary philosophy may also affect other aspects of a chosen lifestyle.

 

PALEO

Is a shortened word for Paleolithic, a period of time older than 10,000 years, when humans consumed mostly fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and some agricultural products such as grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, salt, sugar, and oils.

 

PHYTOESTROGENS

A compound found in plants that have properties similar to the hormone estrogen.

 

YIN / YANG

In Chinese culture, yin and yang represent the two opposite principles in nature. Yin characterizes the feminine or negative nature of things and yang stands for the masculine or positive side. Yin and yang are always described in pairs as they are the opposite of each other in nature, but they rely on each other and can't exist without each other. The balance of yin and yang is important.

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