What Would a Biblical Diet Look Like?
Written by Erica Golden
Many books have been written claiming to teach biblical principles for healthy eating. But does God really care what or how we eat?
As a registered dietitian, I have seen various books and brands claiming biblical authority for their meal plans, dietary restrictions or the ingredients in their product. These books often take individual Bible passages far beyond their original context to make sweeping recommendations.
On the other hand, there are some diet plans (that have nothing to do with the Bible) that can be so tedious and life-altering that the diet itself may start to feel almost like a religion.
Do the Scriptures have anything to say about what or how we should eat?
Clean and unclean meats
There are two chapters that directly address our food choices and tell us what animals, birds, fish and insects God did and did not design to be eaten (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). Other scriptures address certain parts of an animal that shouldn’t be eaten (Leviticus 17:14; 7:23-27).
(See our “Clean & Unclean Meats Infographic.”)
God told the Israelites that if they obeyed Him, “I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). This promised health is clearly a gift from God in response to obedience. It wasn’t framed as a direct result of their dietary choices, though He certainly expected them to obey His food laws and to make good dietary choices.
There is disagreement about whether there are health benefits that come with avoiding biblically unclean meats. If the biblical health laws were embraced only from a health perspective, many today would argue those restrictions are no longer necessary. Some of the foods God declares unclean are considered healthy and sustainable protein choices by scientists and nutritionists today.
But Bible believers don’t make the decision to avoid unclean meats based on the opinions of health professionals.
The Bible shows there’s a bigger reason to follow its laws in this area. At the end of Leviticus 11, after listing those animals that may be eaten and those that may not, God says, “For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (verse 44).
In the Bible, avoiding unclean meats is an issue of holiness.
Christians should avoid biblically unclean meats primarily out of obedience to God, not simply because of the health benefits—and there are undoubtedly health benefits (both known and unknown) to avoiding unclean meats.
To learn more about this topic, read “Clean and Unclean Animals: Does God Care What Meats We Eat?”
Other biblical principles
Aside from the very specific biblical principles on clean and unclean meats and avoiding blood and fat, most of the other dietary instructions in the Bible are very general. For example, a frequently quoted verse in Proverbs tells us, “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16).
Several Bible passages tell us to be temperate, or moderate, in all things (Proverbs 23:19-21; 1 Corinthians 9:25). Christians should avoid gluttonous eating.
However, other verses tell us to enjoy and be thankful for the things that God has given us, including good (and biblically clean) food and drink (1 Timothy 4:4; Proverbs 24:13; Ecclesiastes 8:15). And, perhaps most importantly, we are instructed to generously share those good things with others (Deuteronomy 14:26-27; 16:13-15; Nehemiah 8:12).
Your body as a temple
The passage in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is often quoted in discussions about physical health. It says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [which] is in you . . . and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
While it’s important to know that the original context of these verses is within a passage about avoiding sexual sins, recognizing that our bodies are not our own is crucial to just about every decision we make as humans.
If my body were my own, then it would be completely my own decision whether I chose to take care of it. But God, our Creator, cares about our physical health, and when we commit our lives to Him, we realize that we are not our own. We have been bought at a great cost—the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7).
Taking care of our health can help us better glorify God. Keeping ourselves healthy gives us the ability to serve Him and others more effectively.
Building a diet that pleases God
Diets today frequently come with lists of “good” and “bad” foods. Labeling foods this way is often too general and not always helpful to the average consumer. But if we come at it from a biblical perspective, what we end up with is not lists of good and bad foods, but attitudes and character traits.
Here are some of the most important ingredients in a diet that pleases God:
- Obedience to His commands.
And here are some of the most important restrictions in a diet that pleases God:
- Discerning between the clean and the unclean.
- Avoiding greed.
- Avoiding excess and gluttony.
- Avoiding making food an idol (by focusing more on diet or food than on God).
For more on the subject of a healthy diet, read “Healthy Diet and the Bible.”