KOSHER FOOD LAWS FOR HEALTH
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2013, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
The kosher laws are an extensive set of dietary and other instructions for healthful living that were set down about 5000 years ago in the Old Testament of the Bible. They are detailed in the books of Exodus and Leviticus of the old Bible or Torah.
Today, these laws are not followed very much. Orthodox Jewish people follow them closely, but most reform and many conservative Jewish people do not follow them much. It is true that many Jewish people do not eat pork or ham, but many do.
Meanwhile, many Christians do not follow the kosher laws, although some Christians like to follow them because they are in the Bible. It is confusing because many preachers tell us that we are no longer under the obligation to follow the kosher laws based on various Bible references. Others say that these are mis-translations of a very important principle – that of eating healthfully. So this subject is most confusing. Here are some comments upon it based on nutritional balancing science.
Are the kosher laws outdated? Some will say that the kosher laws were for a time before refrigerators and modern food processing, and are therefore outdated. For a few of them, this may be true. However, many of the basic kosher food laws are still extremely helpful and wise today. Here are the ones I feel are most important and essential, in fact:
1. Do not eat products of the pig and other animals with a cleft hoof. All pig products except porcine pancreatin, a pancreatic extract, may contain intact eggs of trichina worms and perhaps other parasitic organisms. This occurs even when the pork, ham, bacon, lard or other pig products are well-cooked.
This apparently has something to do with the physiology of the pig. For some reason, parasitic infestation is much rarer among the cooked flesh of other animals that are excellent for food such as lamb, chicken, turkey, wild game, goat and/or beef.
2. Drain the blood from an animal before eating it. This rule is applied today almost universally, so it is rarely a problem. It was well known, however, even thousands of years ago. It is best not to gorge oneself on the blood of an animal, as is done by some tribes in Africa, for example. Blood not only contains infections in some cases, but it contains an essence that is not that healthful.
3. Do not mix meat and dairy products in the same meal. In the Torah this is stated as “do not cook a lamb in its own milk”. This is not as important as the rules above, but it is a good general principle. For various reasons, milk products and meats do not make a good combination when eaten at the same meal. Have one or the other, but not both at the same time.
4. Do not refreeze meats. Each time one freezes meat, it bursts the cell walls more. This causes more bacterial contamination and tends to make the meat a little less safe.
Most fresh meats are flash frozen at the slaughterhouse, and transported to the supermarkets in a frozen state. At the supermarket, meat can be stored frozen until it is ready to sell. It is then placed in display refrigerators, where it slowly thaws. The expiration date is added at the supermarket based on when the meat begins to thaw.
This method of transporting and selling meats protects the consumer from a lot of illness. The kosher law is that one should ideally not take home thawed meat and refreeze it.
This is not as important as the first rule, but is a good basic rule about using meats, which can spoil the easiest of most foods. This rule may have been added to the original law because freezing was not an option for early Hebrews.
5. Do not eat any shellfish or other “seafood”. The only creatures from the sea that Bible admonishes us to eat are those with fins and scales. I would go even further and say that due to mercury toxicity of all fish today, eat only fish with fins and scales that are very small and preferably wild caught. Indeed, this is an excellent rule today.
This means avoiding shellfish such as clams, crabs, lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels, oysters, sea horses, and others. Also, it means avoiding other se creatures including eel, starfish, water snakes, calamari, and others.
This rule is important today because most shellfish and seafood are caught near shore and are much more toxic than most regular fish that have scales and fins. Shellfish and seafood are toxic, in part, with heavy metals from contaminated shoreline waters, but also because of their structure and genetics, apparently. They are all best avoided.
6. Do not eat algae. I find that products such as spirulina, chlorella and blue-green algae, which are popular today, are toxic to the liver. I do not know why this is so. However, it is best to avoid these products, no matter how nutritious they are, and no matter what other benefits they may offer.
Kelp, by the way, is not in the same class of one-celled plants as those mentioned above. It is fine to eat, in my experience, and I recommend it for everyone.
7. Among land-based animals, the Bible tells us to avoid animals such as snails, insects, and reptiles such as frogs, lizards, crocodile, and other foods that some people eat around the world. While some of these may be okay, this is also probably a wise general rule.
8. Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking and before eating. This is a simple cleanliness measure that is very important today because of the prevalence of various food-borne and other infections.
The Biblical kosher laws are far more extensive than the above. However, the particular rules above will help keep anyone safer and will tend to enhance one’s health greatly, as well. They should be observed, ideally, by everyone at all times.
9. The kosher laws require that the food be inspected and blessed by rabbis trained in food inspection. Inspecting all food before it is sent to market is a very excellent idea. I do not know if it requires a rabbi, but rather someone trained to inspect foods.
Is vegetarianism best? Some people say that the Bible suggests a vegetarian diet, because in Genesis the Bible states that God gave mankind “every herb bearing fruit” as food. This was true at first, and originally vegetarian diets were recommended.
However, if one keeps reading the Bible, the suggestion changes. The change comes after the great flood of Noah. This flood was quite a cataclysm, and the diets had to be changed. The lifespan of people was also shortened at this time, as one notices if one reads the Bible. After the flood, a vegetarian diet is no longer recommended, and instead the kosher or kathruth laws were given to Moses after Mount Sinai.