BIBLE TUCKER IS GOOD TUCKER
(Investigator 53, 1997 March)
The great skeptic Barry Williams wrote:
"I am concerned that, in the fine traditions of the loonies who think the Bible is a science text book, we are about to see the emergence of Fundamentalist Cuisine… Apart from milk, honey, locusts and assorted burnt offerings…what other tucker has the Divine imprimature?" (the skeptic, Spring 1996, p. 7) Let's try to answer that question.
The Bible mentions a range of foods in favourable context. A list is included with this article. This does not imply that the listed foods are the only foods which are good for people. The Bible also mentions some foods in an unfavourable context. This, similarly, does not imply that such foods are the only harmful foods.
Nor does the Bible in most cases tell us what it is about particular foods that benefits or harms or in what ways. The Bible is simply not exhaustive in its statements about food.
Let's, then, examine some of the Bible's comments about foods.
Mr Williams will find that "Fundamentalist Cuisine" could improve his health and prolong his life.
DANIEL'S SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT
Daniel – better known for the lions' den episode – performed an experiment on the effect of diet on health. The report of the experiment is not simply a miracle story but referred to an actual "test". (Daniel 1:12, 14)
One group of young men consumed "rich food and wine". Science would call this group the "control group." They did what they normally did and were not subject to any experimental variables.
A second group of young men – four in number – consumed "vegetables and water". Science would call this group the "experimental group." They were subjected to an experimental variable – a change in diet.
The two groups were matched according to age. (Daniel 1:10)
After ten days an independent observer concluded that the vegetable eaters were, "better in appearance and fatter in flesh."
Modern research has shown that high vegetable content in diet fights indigestion, appendicitis, diverticulitis, varicose veins besides providing vitamins and minerals which maintain general health, aid wound healing and prevent scurvy. More attention to Daniel might have prevented the deaths of thousands of sailors from scurvy prior to the 19th century!
Some of Daniel's procedures have become cornerstones of modern science, including the procedures of:
1. Using a control group and an experimental group;
2. Controlling for variables which experience tells are relevant such as age;
3. Not leaving the evaluation of results to the prejudices of the experimenter.
CLUES AS OLD AS THE BIBLE
In Ancient clues to modern nutrition (Reader's Digest September 1987) C and M McConnell wrote: "the secret of healthful nutrition is as old the Bible."
"the combination of foods in the traditional diet of Mediterranean villagers helps shield them from the ravages of heart disease and many cancers common in the West."That "traditional diet" includes whole grain bread, olives, grapes, green vegetables, beans, fruit, garlic, onions, fish and yogurt, and wine in moderation. The reader may like to compare this with the list from the Bible.
Olive oil provides most of the fat intake in the traditional diet. Olive oil is cholesterol free but rich in monounsaturated fats. Olives and olive oil get commendatory mention in the Bible.
Fats are vital in nutrition but intake of animal fats raises the blood's level of low density lipoproteins which are associated with heart disease.
WEIGHING UP FAT
Mike Rayner (New Scientist 1989 July 22) wrote:
He wrote of "a worrying trend in high-fat foods" particularly consumption of chips, crisps, burgers, and fried chicken. "25 … recent reports on diet … are in broad agreement that we should eat less fat, particularly less saturated fat, less sugar, less salt and more dietary fibre." (p. 28)
Fats can be grouped into three broad categories:Polyunsaturated (mostly of vegetable origin extracted from seeds)
Monounsaturated (found in peanut oil and olive oil)
Saturated (mostly of animal origin – meat fat, dairy foods; also palm oil)
Some researchers have attributed the modern high incidence of prostate problems in men to high levels of animal fat in the diet. In Your Heart by the Heart Foundation we read, "Eating foods high in saturated fats tends to increase blood cholesterol levels." High cholesterol in turn correlates with coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
The Law of Moses included commands against eating of animal fat. However, nuts, including almonds and pistachios get favourable mention in the Bible. (Genesis 43:11)
Some years ago the American Heart Association listed nuts among foods to avoid. Confectionary producers began removing nuts from their products! Then research involving samples of up to 30,000 people for six years showed that eating nuts five times per week halves the rate for heart disease. The oils in nuts are the good ones – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids!
Nuts are also full of vitamins and minerals and have been called "a soup of antioxidants".
"Every tree with seed in its fruit…for food" (Genesis 1:29) probably includes nuts.
After his alleged resurrection Jesus ate "broiled fish." That was a good example. An article in Muscle & Fitness by Armand Tanny (Mr USA) explained How Fish Can save Your Life. Omega-3 fatty acids (oils), which are plentiful in fish, inhibit blood clots, widen blood vessels and improve the response of T cells in the immune system.
Two meals of fish per week have been connected with a 50% lower death rate from heart disease in men, reduced incidence of colon and prostate cancer, and lower levels of cholesterol. (Cholesterol together with high blood pressure damages the lining of arteries. The cholesterol together with cellular material then forms "plaque" which narrows the arteries.)
Fish is a lean source of protein and eating fish is therefore a way of reducing meat intake, lowering cholesterol and losing weight but still getting adequate protein.
The Law of Moses forbade Israelites from eating rabbits, pigs and shellfish. Rabbit meat can transmit tularemia, pork can transmit trichonosis and shellfish can transmit typhoid.
Detailed lists of fish and animals which could, or should not, be eaten occur in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
Fish which by those lists are good for food would include anchovy, barracuda, bass, butterfish, carp, cod, dolphin, flounder, hake, halibut, herring, kingfish, mackerel, mullet, perch, pike, salmon, sardine, swordfish, trout, tuna, whiting.
Animals good for food by those lists include antelope, deer, giraffe, goat, hart, ox, roebuck, sheep.
Birds listed in the two lists are all "unclean". However, by comparison with quail which were eaten (Numbers 11:31-33) birds good for food would include chicken, dove, duck, geese, grouse, partridge, pheasant, pigeon, song birds, turkey.
Stated generally, the "unclean" fish, animals and birds are the more risky ones to health if used as food although thorough cooking reduces the risks as does modern farm practice with meat inspection and other government controls.
A study of dietary habits of 88,751 nurses was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (1990 December 13 p.1664). Frequent consumption of red meat, especially pork, beef and lamb, correlated with increased risk of colon cancer but consumption of fish and chicken correlated with lower risk. The most unhealthy fat, according to the study, is animal fat.
WHAT TO DRINK
Good for your thirst is water. (Deuteronomy 8:7; Proverbs 25:21, 25) But try to use clean water. The Law of Moses, for example, forbade drinking from a pool containing dead animals.
Take care with alcohol! Heavy drinking still has a macho image. In contrast the prophet Isaiah criticised "heroes at drinking wine" and Solomon (in the book of Proverbs) related heavy drinking to poverty.
According to a government pamphlet the immediate effects of alcohol consumption include loss of inhibitions, dizziness, impairment of brain and nervous system functions, general loss of coordination, slow reactions, aggression, blurred vision, slurred speech, vomiting and unconsciousness. (Alcohol The Drug Offensive)
"Over the years, case-control studies have consistently shown that heavy drinkers are 15 times as likely to develop mouth and throat cancer..." (New Scientist 1991 November 23 p.25)And Reader's Digest, citing a WHO report, said: "Alcoholism now ranks among the world's major health concerns..." (1980 August p.19)However, wine in moderation is beneficial.
The Old Testament mentions alcoholic wine favourably. (Psalm 104:14-15; Ecclesiastes (9:7) Jesus allegedly converted water to wine (John 2:1-10) and the apostle Paul wrote:
"use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." (1 Timothy 5:23)Dr. E A Maury in Wine Is The Best Medicine (1976) wrote: "a good quality wine is at the same time a body building food, a dietary complement, a supporting therapy, a chemical conveyor of natural products, and a psychic tonic." (p. 43)He listed benefits to the digestive, nervous and cardiovascular systems. The book lists scores of maladies and the wine remedies for them including diarrhea, dyspepsia, enteritis, flattulence, gallstones, salmonella, stomach ulcers and hernia.
In 1979 The Lancet (a British Medical journal) showed correlation between wine consumption and low heart disease rates.
In moderation, "Wine gladdens life." (Ecclesiastes 10:19; 1 Timothy 3:8)
The New Testament advises being "moderate in habits" and having "self control" and this can be applied to eating habits besides other habits.
The Bible directly condemns "gluttonous eaters of flesh." (Proverbs 23:20-21) Regarding honey it says, "It is not good to eat too much honey." (Proverbs 25:27)
The Bible says that salt is good. (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34) However, modern research shows that salt in excess contributes to high blood pressure. Quantity, or relative quantity of anything, is an important variable!
And try to eat in a peaceful setting with a calm mind. (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1; 23:1-8)
If you follow the "Divine" cuisine in addition to relying on modern research you won't go far wrong.
The World Health Organization recommends cereal grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole-grain bread, together with fish, low-fat dairy products and small portions of lean meats. Again, this is virtually identical to foods getting favourable mention in the Bible.
Be moderate, avoid gluttony and excessive wine and enjoy variety. The Bible presents "God" as wanting us to live long, healthy, lives. Eating the right food is among the activities which promote that result.
Skeptics who eat foods compatible with statements in the Bible can expect to live to criticize the Bible for more years than otherwise!
Not all food is equally good.
(Job 6:6-7; Proverbs 23:l-3; 30:8; Isaiah 55:1-3; 65:4; Daniel l:l5-16)
Psychological factors of mood, setting and company affect the benefit we get from food. Proverbs 23:1-8; 15:17; 17:1
Foods getting favourable mention in the Bible include:
Bread/Grain Genesis 3:19; 14:18; 21:24; Psalm 72:16; John 21:13.
Wheat & Barley Deuteronomy 8:8;
2 Samuel 17:28-29
Flour Ezekiel 16:13
Spelt Isaiah 28:25
Vegetables Daniel 1:5-17
Beans 2 Samuel 17:28-29
Lentils Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28-29
Cheese 1 Samuel 17:18; 2 Samuel 17:27-29
Butter Genesis 18:8; Isaiah 7:15
Eggs Leviticus 21:6-7; Luke 11:12
Meat Genesis 9:3; Deuteronomy 14:3-6
Game Animals Genesis 25:28;
1 Kings 4:22-24
Beef 1 Kings 4:22-24; Luke 15:23,30
Goat Deuteronomy 32:14
Mutton 2 Samuel 17:28-29
Fowl 1 Kings 4:22-24
Quail Numbers 11:31-33
Fruit Genesis 2:9; 3:2; Leviticus 26:4
Apples Proverbs 25:11;
Song of Solomon 2:5
Dates Song of Solomon 2:5
Figs Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Samuel 25:18
Grapes Isaiah 65:21; Deuteronomy 8:8; Numbers 13:23
Olives & Pomegranates
Deuteronomy 8:8; Haggai 2:19
Raisins 2 Samuel 16:1
Fish John 21:9-15; Luke 24:42 Water Proverbs 25:25 Locust; Cricket; Grasshopper
Leviticus 11:22; Mark 1:6
Milk Genesis 18:8; Proverbs 27:27 Honey Exodus 3:8, 17; Proverbs 24:13 Wine John 2:1-11
Grape Juice Deuteronomy 32:14; Zechariah 8:12
Vinegar Ruth 2:14
Almonds Genesis 43:11
Pistachios Genesis 43:11
Cane Juice Isaiah 43:24 Mustard Matthew 13:31-32
Salt Matthew 5:13
Olive Oil Ezekiel 16:13; Deuteronomy 8: