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Does the Bible Serve Up the Healthiest Nutrition Advice?

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In his March 18th article, “Food news can cause indigestion,” The Seattle Times staff columnist Jerry Large humorously begins, “Do you eat food? If yes, then maybe you haven’t been reading all the latest news.”



Large writes how he is striving to adapt to changing nutrition recommendations and doing “whatever it takes to stay healthy.” For instance, Large is considering a weekly plan of meatless Mondays, fish Fridays, tofu Tuesdays, and maybe water-only Wednesdays.

I thought, Water-only what? He must be joking, but it’s hard to tell. Before anyone considers a diet that includes regular fasting, perhaps they should consider what the Bible says on nutrition and spiritual, health-promotive thoughts – but more on that in a minute.

Reading the online comments to the Large article, I found that I’m not the only one viewing nutritional reports in the media with a grain of salt. Have you noticed how the reports are often contradictory? Experts have noticed this also, including science writer Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories – Bad Calories, who has questioned the validity of many widely accepted ideas regarding carbs, calories, and what is considered healthy eating.

Another critic of nutritional studies is respected meta-researcher Dr. John Ioannidis, of the Stanford School of Medicine. Ioannidis has spent his career uncovering bias and wrong conclusions in medical research. His findings have shown that studies often sharply conflict with one another and are prone to numerous errors. When asked by The Atlantic “How should we choose among these dueling, high profile nutritional findings?” Ioannidis suggests a simple approach: ignore them all.

That’s right, he suggests we ignore all the nutritional studies.

It leaves me wondering where we should turn when it comes to finding healthful eating guides. It may not be everyone’s first place to look, but I’ve noticed that relevant perspectives regarding today’s discussions on eating and health can be found in the Bible. Here are a few:

1. Questioning nutritional guides is nothing new. A healthy skepticism regarding nutritional recommendations goes back to the biblical time of Daniel. Over 2,500 years ago, Daniel held to his religious beliefs and proved that he and his friends could refrain from the recommended diet and yet be healthier and better nourished.

2. What you eat is not what is most important. Jesus Christ stated that we should not worry about what we eat. He even advised his followers to eat whatever was served to them. And since he devoted so much time to healing others, I don’t think he was uncaring about their health. Some may think this view to be an irresponsible approach today, but not the French. When it comes to what they eat, the French appear to have followed Jesus’ suggestion. A recent article from WebMD.com explores French eating habits that are less concerned about what to eat than having reasonably sized portions.

3. More important: What thoughts are you consuming? Jesus also emphasized that it wasn’t what went in someone’s mouth that mattered, but what came out of it. I think this means that what we say represents the thoughts we’ve consumed, ruminated on, and then repeated out loud. With all the mental junk food available today, I believe Jesus was cautioning us regarding our mental diet.

4. Think grateful thoughts. The Bible notes that our mental diet should include grateful thoughts and seeing the good in life. John Kralik’s A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life highlights the restorative benefits of this way of thinking.

Regardless of what the next nutritional report recommends and before beginning water-only Wednesdays, consider taking a cue from the Bible and focus on spiritual, health-promotive thoughts. These are a form of healthcare we can all afford.

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About Bill Scott

Professionally, I'm a licensed architect in both Washington and California State. I love architecture, but when it comes to priorities, it’s hard to top good health. That’s why I’ve shifted my interest from the physical to the mental environment that we abide in. My articles focus on presenting helpful ideas regarding the important connection between what we think and our health. I’ve been writing for Blogcritics and other online and print publications since 2011 and I was published in the international medical/science journal, "Global Advances in Health and Medicine" in 2012. I also serve as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Washington State. Feel free to contact me at: washington@compub.org or on Twitter @WilliamEdScott.
  • One of your best blogs yet, Bill. Great job!

  • zingzing

    holy claptrap!

  • Another demonstration of how you can take pretty much anything said by anybody in the Bible and contort it to support any argument.

    The Old Testament does actually have some pretty specific dietary advice, mainly involving things you’re not allowed to eat. Personally, I reckon Jews aren’t allowed to eat things like shellfish because some rabbi long ago didn’t like shellfish and figured that if he couldn’t have any, nobody else ought to be able to either.

  • Zingzing

    More for me.

  • Bill Scott

    Eric – I appreciate the thumbs up and for following my posts!
    Zingzing – sorry you didn’t find my post worthwhile, but love your concise comments.
    Dr D. – I agree that the spiritual meaning of the Bible is susceptible to misinterpretation. I’d prefer not to dive into Old Testament dietary restrictions, but welcome your views on the four Bible references I made.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • Well, Bill, with the possible exception of Daniel, I don’t think the references have anything to do with nutritional advice.

  • Bill Scott

    Fair enough, viewing nutritional advice from a conventional perspective, but I think Jesus was offering healthful advice. Nonetheless, ask yourself– what value is something experts encourage us to ignore?

  • Life expectancy was much lower two thousand years ago. People ate essentially the Mediterranean Diet of fish, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and water.

    Our life expectancy improved over the centuries due to better sanitation, medical advances, refrigeration, mass media, penicillium, better education etc.

  • Bill Scott

    I wonder if anyone really knows how long people lived 2,000 years ago? I mentioned how the French are less considered with what they eat. This cultural characteristic has apparently not harmed their life expectancy, since it is higher than that of Americans.

  • I wonder if anyone really knows how long people lived 2,000 years ago?

    Yes, we do. Bones and teeth can tell us the age at which people died and can also tell us a lot about their state of health.

  • Bill Scott

    Good to know. Getting a little off topic, but do you know of any studies that have answered the question?

  • Yes, many thousands of them. If you go to Google Scholar and type something like “determining age at death” into the search box, you will find all the papers on the subject you can handle! (A lot of them will be abstracts or summaries that ask you to subscribe and/or pay in order to see the whole thing, but you should find at least a few full-text articles.)

  • Although any discussion of life expectancy ought to keep in mind the fact that the human genes that control aging haven’t changed much over the last hundred thousand or so years. Life expectancy statistics are an average, and are skewed low in most historical populations by their extremely high rates of infant mortality.

    Nevertheless, if you could make it past childhood and manage to avoid disease, you had every chance of living to a ripe old age.

  • Bill Scott

    Thanks for the feedback. Getting back to a mental diet of health-promotive thoughts– there is an interesting report recently published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It’s called, “Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity.”  Interesting read.