Healthy Diet and the Bible

A healthy diet is not a short-term strategy for weight loss. It is a long-term commitment to biblical and commonsense principles of healthy eating.

Diets don’t work for most people! If you are looking for a quick fix for losing weight, this article is not the one for you. Why not? “Diets”—as understood by the customary definition of restricting yourself to small amounts or special kinds of food or supplements in order to lose weight—most often result in gaining more weight.

An AP article on dieting sums up the reasons diets fail as follows:

  • “Diets can be boring and there’s always a temptation to return to old habits.
  • “Serial dieters may also become discouraged and give up when their weight plateaus.
  • “People who lose too much too soon don’t learn to make the overall lifestyle changes—eating healthier foods and exercising regularly—that are necessary to keep their weight stable” (“Dieting Usually Fails in the Long Run, Study Finds”).

There is, however, a “diet” that can be very healthy and that brings lasting results if you also engage, no matter your age, in a balanced program of moderate exercise and strength conditioning. That healthy diet is defined as the wholesome foods that a person habitually eats.

It’s a diet that lasts all your life, doesn’t make you hungry, gives you abundant energy and burns fat. But it’s a healthy diet that must become your way of life, not an exception between junk food binges and not a fantasy expectation of supreme health by taking a magic elixir.

There are thousands of conflicting web pages about health, fitness and dieting. There is, however, one book that speaks authoritatively about key principles that ensure health for all people, whether rich or poor, on all continents.

Obedience to God’s laws

God cares about our health. The Bible tells us we can come to God to be healed from diseases if we obey God’s commandments and statutes (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:15; James 5:14-15).

If we follow His specific instructions about a healthy diet and apply the principles of His laws to our present environment, we will experience better health than those who do not. And as you will read below, one biblical key in establishing a healthy diet is to avoid eating “food” that is designated as “unclean” in the Bible. Although described by God as a matter of holiness (Leviticus 11:44), the avoidance of eating animals designated “unclean” (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14) has also been shown to have health benefits.

Avoid eating impure things

We are what we eat! No one reading this article would knowingly eat poisonous mushrooms. They actually aren’t “food.”

An ornithologist would advise you to not eat the meat of a red-tailed hawk because it’s also poisonous. Most of us are also educated enough to not include roadkill or animals discovered dead from an unknown cause as part of our diet. The fact is that everyone recognizes there are animals and plants that, if eaten, can cause sudden death or a disease leading to death.

God categorizes many of the above items as “unclean.” Most would gag at the thought of drinking blood, which is also something God commands us not to do.

Our Creator, who designed our gastrointestinal tract and bio-assimilation system, fully understood which animals and plants could be safely ingested as nutrients to be transformed to supply life-giving energy.

But His creation also included things that could never be considered part of a healthy diet. That which God labels as good food is “sanctified”—identified and set apart in the Bible (1 Timothy 4:4-5); that which is impure or toxic to our health is also designated in the Bible (Leviticus 11). From the beginning God instructed mankind to choose from “every moving thing that lives” in the same way we choose from “green herbs.” Just as there are toxic plants, there are also toxic creatures (Genesis 9:3-4).

Even before the Flood, God made it clear there were clean animals and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2). And nothing had changed over 17 centuries after the Flood when we find Daniel, one of the three most righteous men mentioned in the Bible, refusing to eat the polluted food from the king’s table (Daniel 1:5-8).

Looking at the list of unclean creatures, it seems that God doesn’t want us to eat predators and scavengers. Avoiding consumption of these animals can reduce the risk of consuming harmful bacteria, the bacterial toxins produced by them that cannot be cooked out of food, harmful viruses, man-made pollutants and so on.

Of course, many people today do eat these unclean animals without apparent repercussions. However, the knowledge that God tells His people not to eat them gives us the strongest reason to avoid them.

Commonsense principles

The premise in establishing a healthy diet is clear and simple: eat food and drink fluids that are beneficial to our health.

The average adult is 50 to 65 percent water. To remain healthy, we need to drink unpolluted water and nourishing fluids.

A general rule of thumb is to eat foods that can spoil but eat them before they do. Eating foods grown or picked in their natural state will go a long way toward improving and maintaining our health rather than eating a diet of highly processed and refined foods.

Barring allergies, eating a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy products, fish and lean, clean meats has been proven to be good for most people’s health. (The principle of moderation is discussed in biblical passages such as Proverbs 25:16, Proverbs 25:27.) And we should eat only the number of calories necessary to maintain a healthy weight (neither overweight nor underweight) that ensures vital energy throughout life.

God does give specifics about which creatures we should not eat. However, He does not list everything that humans might possibly eat or in what quantities, so it’s up to us to educate ourselves and make wise choices.

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t require a degree in nutrition. If we follow commonsense principles of not eating toxic things and eating biblically sanctioned foods in moderation, we can have a healthy diet.

Healthy diet summary

  • Diets, as advertised in many publications as ways to lose weight fast, often don’t work!
  • A healthy diet is defined as the balanced, wholesome foods that a person habitually eats.
  • Obedience to the laws of God is primary in establishing a healthy diet.
  • God, in His Word, gives us principles to follow for a healthy diet.
  • We must avoid eating animals designated “unclean” in the Bible.
  • We must educate ourselves and strive to make wise decisions about which “foods” are healthy or unhealthy for us.

For more about healthy living, see the other articles in this “Health” section of the Life, Hope & Truth website.

About the Author

Greg Sargent

Greg Sargent

Greg Sargent has pastored churches throughout the United States for 50 years. A native of Montana, he graduated from Ambassador College in Bricket Wood, England, in 1966. One week after graduation, Greg married Marian Ecker, his constant companion throughout his life.

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