The Influence of Food and Religion in Our Health
There is a substantial amount of people from all different backgrounds, cultures, religious beliefs and food habits. A person’s level of religious commitment may influence their dietary practices which can lead to health problems. Generally people that come from different backgrounds and specially strong religious beliefs and practices, exhibit problems when it comes to medical treatments; this is often due to their dietary selection being influenced by their religious beliefs.
Some examples of how religion can affect our health through dietary selections are shown below.
Seventh-Day Adventists follow a strict plant based diet; this generally means no meat, fish, poultry; no alcohol or caffeine nor tobacco. While plant based diets offer the necessary nutrients the body needs, it is highly recommended to add a supplement to this type of diet to ensure they receive all the nutrients required.
Buddhists diets vary, many follow a vegetarian diet but this usually depends on their personal preference or the sect to which they belong to or where they are from. Rice is a staple for most. Being vegetarian can represent a challenge when it comes to meeting their calorie and protein needs.
Hindus generally avoid meat and eggs, this is based on their belief that these foods represent life. Chicken, pigs are considered scavengers therefore they stay away from them and don’t eat them. Some Hindus eat fish and dairy but they are mostly vegetarian.
Jewish communities are mostly “Kosher”, or to be “pure” and appropriate for consumption. In other words, the food they consume must be compliant with their Jewish dietary laws and meet certain requirements to be considered kosher. According to the tradition there are certain food categories that can never be eaten at the same time as a dairy product. Further more, utensils used to prepare and or serve meals must be kept separate. Having said that, not all Jewish communities have strict kosher rules.
For Christians there are no strict rules or restrictions on the type of foods that can be eaten, however; Orthodox Christianity does observe fasting as part of their spiritual life. Some Christian Monks have adopted vegetarianism.
Catholics practice fasting and abstinence at different times of the year according to different Catholic holidays. For example meat, dairy and oils are avoided on certain days while other days there is no restriction. Meals are also moderate in quantity. Fasting is the reduction of the amount of food while Abstinence is the restriction of meat consumption or some other type of food, they may also abstain from all food in general.
There are underlaying issues that can come from depriving your body from certain types of nutrients found in meats and dairy products. Protein for example, is key to wound healing. Iron deficiency anemia and zinc deficiency are also possible issues caused by the lack of nutrients.
Dietary practices are very different for every religion and if you have a health condition make sure you discuss it with your doctor so he/she can help you with a nutrition plan that fits your life style.