Diet and “Clean” vs “Unclean” Food

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud–that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.”                                                                                                                                                           – Leviticus 11: 1 – 8

1.  In the Pentateuch (i.e., the first five books of the Old testament), there were fairly explicit dietary laws given to the Children of Israel

  • To be sure, part of the incentive behind this was symbolic and to encourage the Israelites to be separate from other peoples
  • Still, much of the instruction does carry with it good practical advice from the standpoint of diet
  • A key reason given by the Lord for so many of the customs was for the general benefit and well-being of the people (see Deuteronomy 5: 29)

2.  The passage in Leviticus (similar one is found in Deuteronomy 14) identifies animals that were to be considered “clean” and others that were to be considered “unclean”

  • The key requirement for a clean land animal was that it had to have both cloven hooves and also chew the cud
  • If the animal only had one of these two traits it was not to be eaten

3.  The “clean” land animals are the kind that graze – this would include cattle, sheep, deer, and elk for example

  • Such animals are known as ruminants – creatures possessing digestive tracts that turn grass / vegetation that humans have a more difficult time digesting into meat that we can more easily digest

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4.  Meat from “clean” animals contains “high-quality” proteins and other nutrients

  • Such protein can supply all of the amino acid needs that your requires to support critical bodily functions
  • Key minerals are also found in such meat, including iron, zinc, and magnesium
  • Important vitamins are also sourced from such meat – such as Vitamin E and B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12)

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5.  Alternatively, the “unclean” animals are carnivores or scavengers – this would include pigs, camels, dogs, and cats for example

  • The difficulty with consuming these type of creatures is that are far more likely to be carriers of disease that can be transmitted to humans when consumed

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“These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers–that you may eat. But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales–that shall be an abomination to you.”                                                   – Leviticus 11: 9 – 12

6.  The passage in Leviticus also identifies sea life considered “clean” and unclean as well

  • The key requirement for a clean sea creature was that it had to have both fins and scales

7.  The “clean” aquatic life includes fish such as bass, bluefish, carp, cod, and tuna are just a few examples

8.  We know that such fish (those with fins and scales) can serve as a key part to a balanced diet

  • Fish come in lots of varieties of texture and taste
  • They are typically low in saturated fat and in calories

9.  Oily types of fish contain important Omega 3 fatty acids – at type of polyunsaturated fat that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels

  • Omega 3 fatty acids improve blood circulation and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and particular types of cancer
  • Omega 3 oils also aid in brain health / development

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10.  There are many other benefits to fish consumption as well

  • Fish often contain an abundance of essential minerals that should be part of a healthy diet, such as iron, zinc, iodine, and selenium
  • Fish are rich in vitamins and contribute to healthy nerve tissues and strong bones
  • Fish consumption has been shown to be beneficial to your skin
  • Due to its being a good source of low fat and proteins, it is beneficial for the building of muscle

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11.  The “unclean” type of aquatic life would include shellfish, sea mammals, and soft bodied creatures without fins (like jelly fish or squid)

12.  Aquatic life such as clams and oysters are filter feeders that purify water

  • As a result, they are often house poisonous chemicals and pathologic bacteria and viruses in their tissues

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13.  Crabs and lobsters are scavengers that clean up the dead things that fall to the bottom of the seas and oceans

  • Studies in recent decades have pointed out the dangers of mercury consumption as it relates to all sorts of aquatic sea life, but particularly shell fish
  • Shell fish absorb methyl-mercury from water as they feed on dead and decaying sea creatures

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“And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you.”                                                                                                         – Leviticus 11: 13 – 23

14.  Specific birds and insects are warned against as well

15.  As is the case with the land animals and sea life, God forbids the eating of His so-called “clean-up crews”

  • Those creatures (birds and insects) that consume dead things and are scavengers are warned against
  • The toxicity levels in such creatures could be harmful for consumption

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16.  Birds that are not on the list of “abominations” and therefore can be eaten would include chicken, turkey, pheasants and other tasty winged critters