By Gary F. Zeolla
1st Books Library, 2000
This book could save your life! Any book that helps Christians to find a healthy lifestyle should be welcomed. Here is one such book, which explores Biblical principles on food, rest and exercise, and their relevance today. As such, it is a useful springboard for debate.
Gary Zeolla has a degree in nutritional science, and his initial rationale was to respond to the Paleolithic diet movement (of which he provides a useful critique). He argues that the dietary instructions given to Adam and Eve were the most original and basic, and applied to the universal human race. Subsequent directives were less basic and therefore less likely to be of universal applicability. Although this is a simple assertion without much reasoning, he capably goes on to explore the kind of diet Adam and Eve might have been exposed to: one high in fruits, seeds and nuts. Zeolla then reviews the scientific literature, which shows that such a diet is associated with reduced mortality from ischaemic heart disease, strokes, colo-rectal cancer, etc.
One might not agree with his notion that humans would only have learnt to control fire after the fall, and thus only then have learnt to cook food. Couldn’t God – in His close walk with them – have shown them? We do not know either way. And angelic culinary practice dispensed with the need for fire, using hot stones instead (1Ki 196)! Stones can be heated not only by fire, but by the sun and geothermal sources.
A more important question I found myself asking is how best to judge the scientific literature on diet, with its conflicting findings? Zeolla is helpful here, in demonstrating that, at the very least, the benefits of the diet advocated in Eden are overwhelming and conclusive.
So what about the progressive permissions given in later Biblical history? Zeolla comments extensively on this. He concludes that, although it is now lawful to eat the so-called “unclean” meats, it might not be beneficial to one’s health. Most of the unclean animals listed in Scriptures are carnivores or scavengers which, according to contemporary research findings, have higher toxin levels in their flesh. His arguments on the pros and cons of flesh foods versus a vegan diet, and the problems with a restrictive diet (such as the Hallelujah diet) are well-balanced. On the issue of vitamin B12 deficiency, which may face a long-term vegan, he speculates on how Adam and Eve obtained this vitamin if they were to survive and for Eve to bear normal offspring (vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnancy causes congenital abnormalities).
He deals with milk products and the Bible, and looks at the issues for and against dairy food consumption. Whilst this is not argued rigorously, he is right at least to highlight problems with the dairy industry. The high fat content selected for the milk of today is far removed from those of Biblical times. At least 60 growth hormones, administered to increase farming yields, have been detected in milk. Such hormones have been implicated in the growth of breast, prostate and lung cancer. Zeolla also castigates the over-milking of cows, leading to their premature exhaustion, illness and death. Even organic milk production is culpable in this. He also discusses osteoporosis and over-consumption of protein, which can flush out bone calcium (milk and dairy products are traditionally recommended sources of high calcium). He notes that if pure herbivores such as the strong-boned elephant obtain calcium chiefly from greens, so could we!
He should be particularly praised for waiving the flag against hydrogenated fats, not found in nature, and strongly linked to cardio-vascular disease. He concludes rightly that these foods are not “God-given”.
Concerning diet plans, he advocates lifestyle changes for maintaining body fat loss. He abhors the phrase “going on a diet”, which implies that in the future, dieters will return to their old eating habits that made them overweight in the first place! He suggests the principle “Eat less. Exercise more. Do it forever!” He gives ideas on diet reform, especially on how to reduce calorific intake whilst improving the satiety of the food, listing foods with a high satiety index. He mentions the importance of exercise during dieting, to prevent the loss of skeletal muscle. He asserts that only exercise and proper dietary reform together can lose and maintain body fat loss.
On exercise, he describes exercise programmes, and of particular benefit to athletes he considers the type of carbohydrate intake (high versus low glycogen, etc) for optimum performance.
On supplements, he judges that Adam and Eve and the majority of the human race have got their vitamins and minerals without pills: an argument against their use! However, he advocates them in some instances, perhaps more than I would.
His surveys of the nutrition literature range from academic journals down to web sites of partisan pressure groups. Sometimes he fails to distinguish between reliable research and more speculative fringe group ideas based more on assertions than evidence. Other errors would include his failure to include eggs in the Mosaic diet, and his advocacy of raisins for sweetening cereals. In the latter case, the sugar content of raisins, unlike fresh fruit, is very high. Unfortunately they will rot teeth, so they should only be used occasionally.
Creationist Diet is persuasive in showing that in the Scriptures we do have dietary pointers of great wisdom to us, and we live in a culture that is far removed from God’s design of healthy nutrition. As with so many issues, the Church has left it to New Agers, yoga and mystic types to colonise the high ground of a wholesome diet. And although most of us would consider our diet to be well-balanced and junk food free, compared with the original diet of Eden we are probably all impoverished. And there are obsessive, extreme and bizarre diet practices too. No wonder that some Christians react against all this and retreat back into the apparently safe territory of junk/refined food.
A particularly sobering statistic Zeolla brings is this: that two thirds of all US deaths are attributed to bad diet. It is likely to be similar in Britain. We cannot avoid death, but we can avert diet-assisted suicide. This book can help the Church to have fit, healthy bodies that truly reflect God’s created design. That’s good food for thought.
For further details of this book, visit the web site www.dtl.org