Thursday, May 24, 2012

What the Creator gave us for Nutrition

“I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”—Genesis 1:29, NET Bible.

This verse is significant: God’s human creations, Adam and Eve, were to get all their nutrition and nourishment only from the vast array of flora! This is the first command from the Creator on diet, and it is adamantly vegan. There is nothing about collecting chicken eggs or milking cows, and certainly nothing about slaughtering cattle, chickens, and pigs for food. They were to be manifestly vegan: digesting fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains—implementing a whole-foods plant-based dietary regime. Save the eggs, dairy, and animal flesh.[1] This continued even after their fall into sin, as Genesis 3:17-19 says: “…cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you,[2] and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Thus the vegan diet remained in affect.

Is veganism a reasonable stipulation though, and is it even healthy? The Bible stands or falls on this point. The stakes are high indeed. If the dietary command in Genesis 1:29 and 3:17-19 present an extreme, unreasonable, or downright unhealthy diet, then these scriptures represent a bullet hole through the Bible. But if veganism on the other hand is the most nutritious and ecologically friendly diet one can possibly have, then we have an example of insight that could have only come from the Creator. Stated briefly and succinctly, nutritional science of the twentieth century has discovered that a whole-foods plant-based dietary regime is indeed the most nutritious and ecologically friendly diet one can possibly have. It is by far the healthiest and most vivacious. Thus we see how the Creator, the almighty God Jehovah, meant for us humans to live and eat, to be healthy, fit and glowing, and to be at peace with our faunal neighbors who share the earth with us!

But the fall into sin eventually affected our diet. Animals were first used for sacrificial means by Adam’s son Abel, who used sheep. (Genesis 4:2-4) There is no scriptural evidence that sheep or any other animals were used for food though, and Genesis 5:29 even indicates that people still harvested vegetation up until Noah’s birth. This only changed after the Noachian Deluge. Then for the first time, as recorded in Genesis 9:3, was meat added to our menu: “You may eat any moving thing that lives. As I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (NET Bible) Aside from the stipulation in verses 4-5 about not including blood, allowance was now provided for slaughtering animals for food. This may have been given due to the postdiluvian environment as an allowance until the vegetation recovered. If it was, God saw no need to reestablish antediluvian veganism. This allowance to consume cooked animal flesh is seen again in Deuteronomy 12:15 and 20 which say: “But whenever you desire it, you may slaughter and eat meat ... and you say, ‘I want to eat meat,’ because you desire to eat meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire it.” (But notice it was not a requirement to eat meat. The door was left open for anyone to inquire if the regular consumption of meat was advisable or healthy.) This is not to say however that He just let us choose to eat as we please, however, as we see stipulations of what to eat and what not to at Leviticus 11:2-31 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21.

Excursus on animal fat
One of these stipulations is in fact quite direct, as seen in Leviticus 3:17: “This is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all the places where you live: You must never eat any fat or any blood.” (NET Bible) The injunction against eating animal fat was due to the previous verse, which declared that “all the fat belongs to Jehovah.” Interestingly, aside from that sacerdotal and sacrificial reason for this restriction, it turns out that abstinence from animal fat was a protection for them, as it is now known to be associated with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes, while plant-based fat is not. Clearly the Creator knew this about animal fat, and thus he was also sparing them from additional complications to their health.

Further information on animal fat:
(End excursus.)

Of special interest is Psalm 104:14-15, which declares: “[God] provides grass for the cattle, and crops for people to cultivate, so they can produce food from the ground, 15 as well as wine that makes people feel so good,[3] and so they can have oil to make their faces shine, as well as food that sustains people’s lives.” (NET Bible) This indeed is the closest thing to restating antediluvian veganism, and in reality appears to be a description of our intended diet. This is in contrast to animals created to be carnivorous, as “lions roar for prey, seeking their food from God.” (Psalm 104:21, NET Bible) Thus this Psalm appears to be describing the intended diets of both humans and their faunal neighbors.

Capturing our attention next is the example of Jesus Christ, whose closest friends and followers were fishermen. As fishing was an established industry in his day, this clearly was not the time to restore antediluvian veganism either. In fact, even after his resurrection, Jesus commanded them to fish and was seen cooking and serving fish on the beach. (John 21:4-13) This however was done to illustrate the potential of the Christian ministry only, and certainly had nothing to do with sanctioning the fishing industry.

But why was antediluvian veganism never restated? A clue may lie in Jesus’ words at Matthew 19:7-9 and Mark 10:5-9. There he said that divinely-instituted divorce was made ‘out of regard for their hardheartedness,’ but that was not the case from the beginning of humanity, for Adam was given one wife to be one flesh with. Thus Jesus was indeed very aware of what God established with the first people. The application to diet therefore is that God has made a concession for meat, eggs and dairy to be added to our menu out of our want of heart beyond the recovery of flora after the Deluge. But that in no way indicates that His original whole-foods veganism was somehow defective. Indeed, as said above, modern research has revealed that it is the best, healthiest diet—the one originally intended for us from our loving Creator.

Further information on the whole-foods plant-based dietary regime:
With the development of Christianity came modified and liberating dietary allowances, as Christians were free from the Mosaic Law and its dietary code. For instance, at Acts 10:11-15 Peter had a vision of animals unclean per the Mosaic Law’s dietary code, yet he was now instructed to “slaughter and eat” them. This vision certainly had nothing to do with addressing what the healthiest diet is. Nor was it sanctioning the slaughterhouse industry. It was simply illustrating that the former dietary code had now concluded and that the invitation to Gentiles to enter the Christian Congregation was now in affect. A similar lesson is gleaned from 1 Timothy 4:1-5, where Paul stated:
“However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth. The reason for this is that every creation of God is fine, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified through God’s word and prayer over [it].”
The lesson here is that Christians are not bound to any religious dietary code, and nothing should be rejected on that basis. Paul also similarly declared that “One man has faith to eat everything, but the man who is weak eats vegetables.” (Romans 14:2) But he was by no means suggesting that the pre-sin Adam, as well as Noah and his household and Daniel (Daniel 1:12) were weak in their faith. Again, Paul was specifically addressing the issue of the Mosaic Law’s dietary code. For instance, under that diet, pork was unacceptable as food. (Leviticus 11:7) However, that Law was no longer binding after Jesus’ sacrificial death. (Ephesians 2:15) Then, three and a half years after Jesus’ death, Peter was told that from God’s standpoint no food should be viewed as defiled. (Acts 10:11-15; 11:7-12) With these factors in mind, some Jewish Christians may have felt that they could eat pork—or enjoy some other food that had been prohibited under the Law.[4] This naturally lead to friction between some Christians whose faith was dependent on observing the Mosaic Law’s diet and others whose faith was liberated from the Mosaic Law by faith in Christ—the very friction that Paul was addressing. Thus, Christians can eat vegetables outside of the controversy of the Mosaic Law’s dietary code and have abundant faith. Another controversy he addressed was meat that had been sacrificed in pagan cult worship that had been made available to purchase as food. He said: “Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience.” (1 Corinthians 10:25) His point was that, although Christians would not share in pagan worship, meat that had been sacrificed in a temple was not intrinsically contaminated.[5] He was not condemning God’s Edenic diet. Thus, as with the Acts 10 vision, Paul’s admonition certainly had nothing to do with addressing the nature of the healthiest diet, nor would it have to be. Context is the key in understanding these passages.

God wants us to have good health,
and he allows us to research matters and to seek him out. (Acts 15:29; 17:27) Discovering that his Edenic diet is still the healthiest, most delicious and ecologically friendly diet is part of doing such groping for truth.

Further information from other groups using a Bible-based approach:

Christian Vegetarian Association
Hallelujah Acres
(I am not a member of these groups, nor do I advocate membership for them.)

Daniel’s Diet
When Daniel and his three companions were in Babylonian exile, they were given rich food for consumption. Daniel 1:5, 8 describes it simply as “delicacies of the king,” along with wine. But Daniel declined, not wanting to “pollute himself” (Daniel 1:8), and pleaded: “Please, put your servants to the test for ten days, and let them give us some vegetables that we may eat and water that we may drink.” (Daniel 1:12) Three questions may be asked about this notable event:
  1. What were these royal delicacies he was declining?
  2. What dietary regime was he requesting in their place?
  3. And could that really have had a noticeable effect on someone after only 10 days?
As to what those delicacies consisted of and why they would be so objectionable, the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy explains:
In what way would the Babylonian king’s provisions pollute the young men? First, the delicacies may have included foods prohibited by the Mosaic Law. For example, the Babylonians ate unclean animals, forbidden to the Israelites under the Law. (Leviticus 11:1-31; 20:24-26; Deuteronomy 14:3-20) Second, the Babylonians were not in the habit of bleeding slaughtered animals before eating their flesh. Eating unbled meat would be in direct violation of Jehovah’s law on blood. (Genesis 9:1, 3, 4; Leviticus 17:10-12; Deuteronomy 12:23-25) Third, worshipers of false gods customarily offer their food to idols before eating it in a communion meal. Servants of Jehovah would have none of that! (Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20-22.) Finally, indulgence in rich foods and strong drink day after day would hardly be healthful for people of any age, let alone for the young.pages 37-38. (underscore added)
While the first three reasons listed above are of a religious nature, an expression of godly devotion, note that the last reason is of a nutritional nature. This harmonizes with what he was requesting instead. The above book Daniel’s Prophecy continues:
One reference work states: “What Daniel and his companions were requesting was the plain vegetable fare of the general populace rather than the richer, meaty diet of the royal table.” Thus, vegetables could have included nourishing dishes prepared with beans, cucumbers, garlic, leeks, lentils, melons, and onions and bread made from various grains. Surely no one would consider that a starvation 40.
Additionally, The New American Commentary on Daniel states that the Hebrew word for “vegetables” includes “not only vegetables but fruits, grains, and bread that is made from grains.” (Page 69.) Thus Daniel was requesting a diet similar to what God provided for Adam, and it was evidently a whole-foods plant-based diet. His ten-day trial period was approved, and the results were remarkable! Verse 15 reports: “their appearance was better and their bodies were healthier than all the young men who had been eating the royal delicacies.” (NET Bible) Thus they remained on their whole-foods vegan diet (1:16) and excelled over their colleges (1:20). They enjoyed Jehovah’s blessing (1:17) which was enhanced and accommodated by their healthy food choices. This ten-day trial and its beneficial results is seen in a modern study of a 21-day trial period mimicking Daniel’s diet. This later trial also produced similar results enjoyed by Daniel and his three companions:
“Within a matter of weeks, participants placed on the vegan diet outlined by the prophet Daniel experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and C-reactive protein levels, a marker of inflammation within the body.” (Biblical Daniel Fast Put to the Test.
Thus, the results of their ten-day trial are repeatable. Addressing the third question though of noticeable affects after ten days, I would say based on personal experience that it is not surprising at all. Given that they also had Jehovah’s approval, he could also have accelerated the beneficial effects of the wholesome nutrients they were ingesting, blessing their godly devotion. Simply put, they were making themselves more receptive and accommodating to Jehovah’s blessing and support.

In addition to repeatability, the 21-day trial also demonstrated the healthful superiority of the whole-foods vegan regime over a carnivorous one. While the Daniel’s Prophecy book on page 41 and the 2007, September 1 issue of The Watchtower on page 18 focused on Jehovah’s blessing per Proverbs 10:22 as the main causal agent in the success of the ten-day trial,[6] modern nutritional science as well as the 21-day trial confirm that Daniel’s dietary choice was the healthiest one, as well as the most potent one for producing immediately noticeable, beneficial results.[7]

Near the end of Daniel’s life, as recorded in chapter 10, he again mentioned his food choices. In that chapter he was fasting, and in verse 3 he explained: “I ate no rich food [or bread, as the Hebrew word lechem can mean], and no meat or wine entered my mouth.” In verse 4 he stated when this fast ended: “on the 24th day of the first month.” Hence, the Daniel’s Prophecy book (page 201) says the fasting period included the Passover, observed on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan. As the Passover observance included eating the Passover lamb and unfermented bread, it appears that Daniel abstained from eating the Passover meat at this time. Therefore I’m not sure if his fast from meat means that he was regularly eating meat before the fast, as he may have been subtly referring to the Passover meat. In any case, Insight on the Scriptures notes that the “common people did not ordinarily eat much meat” (under “Food,” page 844).

Food From God
Elijah: At 1 Kings 17:2-7 the refugee prophet Elijah was fed for the first time by God. The account reads: “ravens were bringing him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the stream.” This lasted for “some days.” (verses 6-7) Thus he was fed carbohydrates and protein from a familiar source. I imagine the meat was cooked, but even if not it was fat-free and bled per Leviticus 3:17. It must be noted that that was not the time to teach him healthier plant-based sources of protein, as he was a refugee in the barren wilderness. This therefore should not be seen as a contradiction of God’s dietary regimen prescribed in Eden. On a later occasion he was fed twice by an angel, who provided him with “a round loaf on heated stones and a jug of water.” (1 Kings 19:5-8) No animal meat this time, just bread and a free jug of water! I imagine this bread was of high quality, multigrain, and very nutritious.

Manna: What’s interesting about manna is that even though it was of supernatural origin and management, it evidently derived from a natural plant-based source. For instance, in the Sinai Peninsula there exists resin from the Tamarisk tree, known by the Arabs as “man es-simma,” roughly meaning “heavenly manna.” “Tamarisk trees (particularly Tamarix gallica) were once comparatively extensive throughout the southern Sinai, and their resin is similar to wax, melts in the sun, is sweet and aromatic (like honey), and has a dirty-yellow color, fitting somewhat with the Biblical descriptions of manna. However, this resin is mostly composed from sugar, so it would be unlikely to provide sufficient nutrition for a population to survive over long periods of time, and it would be very difficult for it to have been compacted into cakes.” However there is an insect that feeds on this resin, a scale insect called the Tamarisk manna scale (Trabutina mannipara), that secretes a product, a honeydew, that “rapidly dries due to evaporation of its water content, becoming a sticky solid, and later turning whitish, yellowish, or brownish.” This Tamarisk honeydew “is considered a delicacy in the Middle East, and is a good source of carbohydrates.” It is considered to be the closest existing analogy to Biblical manna.[8] It appears then that Jehovah took something natural and plant-based that the Israelites may have been familiar with and then miraculously modified it to be more nutritious and useful.

“Land of Milk and Honey”: It must be stated at the outset that animal milk was just something the Israelites were familiar with, and the description is catering to their desires. Also the Insight on the Scriptures volumes present these insightful comments:
The description of Palestine as “a land flowing with milk and honey,” often repeated in the Scriptures, is apt, for not only was the land well supplied with the product of bees but also with the syrup of fruits. (Ex 3:8; Le 20:24; De 11:9; Jos 5:6) (Vol. 1 p. 1135 “Honey, Honeycomb”)
The Promised Land is repeatedly described as “flowing with milk and honey,” denoting abundance, fruitfulness, and prosperity due to Jehovah’s blessing. (Ex 3:8; De 6:3; Jos 5:6; Jer 11:5; Eze 20:6; Joe 3:18) (Vol. 2 p. 402 “Milk”)
It must be noted too that the Hebrew word for “milk” (chaleb) basically denotes “richness,” being the richest or choice part. Thus the “milk” may also have included the “syrup of fruits.” In any case this phrase also communicated bountiful blessing from Jehovah, the creator of nutrition. This phrase cannot be taken as sanctioning the dairy industry or the human consumption of acidic animal milk.

“All things in moderation.”
One response to information like this on what God has created for our nutrition and health is “All things in moderation.” In other words, eat anything you want no matter how deleterious for your body and mind, as long as it falls within the nebulous and undefined boundaries of “moderation.” But ask yourself: Where is God in the expression “All things in moderation”? Therefore, we should be asking instead, “What has God created for me to eat?” This expression is a product of honest godly devotion and therefore leads to Jehovah’s approval, whereas the other attitude of “All things in moderation” is the product of selfishness and intellectual dormancy, and therefore leads to Jehovah’s toleration and can only culminate in His disapproval.

From our publications
If Christian publications approve of eating meat and animal products, that does not automatically mean they are right or ignoring God’s creation for our nutrition. They could just be addressing a global audience with differing access to healthy plant-based food. For instance, notice the wording in one Christian publication, the Awake magazine of June 2015, page 5:
As for proteins, eat small and lean portions of meat and poultry and try to eat fish a couple of times a week, if possible. In some lands it is also possible to find protein-rich foods from vegetable sources. (Improve Your Health: Watch What You Eat)
Thus, it is not claiming that meat is exclusively healthy, and it qualifies it with the words small and lean.

[1] While the next verse mentions that God gave animals “all green vegetation for food,” the meaning is not the same as in verse 29. Vegetation serves as a basis for the food chain, and herbivores are eaten by carnivores. (And as animals were never meant to live forever, their carcasses would need to be scavenged, as Adam had doubtlessly observed. Scriptural support for scavenging is found in Revelation 19:17-18, 21 and Ezekiel 39:17-20.) Carnivorous animals are engineered to prey on certain animals, and they were not redesigned and re-engineered to be carnivorous during God’s day of rest from designing and creation. (Genesis 2:2, 3) This is also true of the specialized defense mechanisms found in certain prey like the bombardier beetle. They were created that way from the start. (For additional explanation, please refer to the Creation FAQ under “Animals”:

[2] That just means that they were outside of the rich, cultivated garden. Thorns and thistles existed prior to this and served as a defensive structure for plants against herbivores.

[3] As one author duly noted: “[wine] goes beyond what is strictly necessary to maintain life and adds to our joy. (Eccl. 9:7; 10:19) Yes, Jehovah wants us to be joyful, our hearts filled with ‘good cheer.’—Acts 14:16, 17.” (“Is Your Recreation Beneficial?” The Watchtower 15 October 2011: 8)

[4] Glorify God “With One Mouth” The Watchtower 1 September 2004: 9

[5] “Did You Know?” The Watchtower 1 October 2010: 12

[6] For reference, these state: “This is not to be taken as evidence that a vegetarian diet is superior to a richer, meaty one. Ten days is a short time for any kind of diet to produce tangible results, but it is not too short for Jehovah to accomplish his purpose. ... (Proverbs 10:22)” and “Was a vegetarian diet responsible for the better countenance of the four Judean youths? It was not. No diet can produce such changes in a mere ten days. The credit for the change in countenance of the young Hebrews goes to Jehovah, who blessed them for trusting in him.—Proverbs 10:22.” As I said and maintain above, I do not believe that the ten-day period was too short to produce tangible results. A diet full of organic fruits and vegetables supplemented with multi-grain bread is known to produce noticeable results after a relatively short span of time, especially if done in comparison to others not on the same regimen, as I can personally confirm. Also as noted above, this healthier diet made them more receptive and accommodating to Jehovah’s blessing and support in possibly accelerating the beneficial results of their healthier and superior food-choice. But I do not believe it was required for the success of the ten-day trial, I believe their healthier diet was all that was needed to do all the work for Him.

[7] It must be noted that vitamin B12 deficiency is a concern for modern followers of the whole-foods plant-based regime. I specify modern since God was not concerned that vegan Adam would be B12 deficient, and neither was Daniel. The same website that presented the results of the Danielic dietary 21-day trial also states as to why:
It’s true, plants don’t make B12. Animals don’t make it either. B12 is made by microbes that blanket the earth. These bacteria grow in the guts of animals, which is why their bodies and products can be a source of this vitamin. Our herbivore primate cousins get all they need ingesting bugs, dirt, and feces, and we may once have gotten all we needed by drinking out of mountain streams or well water. But now we chlorinate our water supply to kill off any bugs. So we don’t get a lot of B12 in our water anymore, but we don’t get a lot of cholera either—that’s a good thing!
So in our modern, sanitized world those eating plant-based diets must ensure a regular, reliable source of vitamin B12. (Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective.
Thus it is due to pathological imbalance wrought by man and not by nature that vitamin B12 is a concern today among whole-foods vegans.

[8] From the well-documented Wikipedia article on manna:

[Jehovah] looked upon the earth, and filled it with his good things; with all kinds of living beings he covered its surface, and to it they return.
Sirach 16:29-30

Additional Reading:

Introductory picture from Learn From the Great Teacher page 189. Published by Jehovah's Witnesses, 2003.

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