From the time immemorial, dietary practices have been incorporated into religious practices of people around the world. Some religious sects abstain or forbid from consuming certain foods and drinks, restrict foods and drinks during their holy days. While, others associate dietary and food preparation practices with rituals of their faith. The early biblical writings outline the dietary practices for certain groups. For example, Christians and Jews. Many of these practices may still be found among these same groups today. Practices such as fasting are described as tenets of faith by numerous religions.
To understand the reasons for nutrition and dietary customs in any religion requires a brief orientation of the rationale of such practices and laws. Many religious customs and laws may also be traced to early concerns for health and safety in consuming foods or liquids. The lack of mechanisms to refrigerate or preserve food led to certain rituals while restricting on the eating of foods known to spoil easily such as eggs, diary products and meat were devised for safety reasons.
In the past, owing to the limited preservation techniques for food along with the ignorance of the scholars of the day on health promotion, disease prevention and illness lead to the development of rules about the consumption of foods and drinks. Gradually, religious practices, restrictions and laws evolved. Specific laws about what can be consumed remain in most religions today.
Attention to specific eating practices such as overeating, use of strong drink or oral stimulants and vegetarian diets were also incorporated into the doctrine of religious practice. In addition to laws, the practice of fasting became prevalent and still practiced by many religions today.
When we go through eating practices and rituals of different religions, we can find out plenty of contradictions and similarities among them. Jews regard grapes as a fruit of idolatry and therefore, forbid the use of wine or products made from grapes; Christian religions believe and consider wine as a sacramental product in communion services. Mormonism envisages the abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, illegal drugs and even chocolate but surprisingly, in Rastafarianism an addictive drug like marijuana is considered as weed of wisdom and is used extensively for religious and medicinal purposes. Christian religion sect usually allows water or non stimulant liquids during the fast but Islam on the other hand, abides by stringent fasting rules during their holy month even without taking any liquid even their saliva.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in ‘Karma’ doctrine and avoid foods that may have caused pain to animals during manufacture. Certain sects in Hinduism shun meat especially beef. The Jewish term ‘Kosher’ means that a food is permitted or ‘clean’. In Islam the Arabic term ‘Halal’ holds the same meaning that of ‘Kosher’.
All these varying rituals or religious practices ultimately lead to two objectives: spiritual enhancement and promoting a health well being of the individual despite of which religion he or she follows. “Despite all disparities among religious diets and rituals, all of them lead to one God” says 72 year old P.M. Yuseph, a retired government employee. “I fast during Ramadan every year. It enriches my spiritual well being and also fortifies my faith in God”
Latest researchers point out that live foods are best suited for the human body. Live foods are those which are created through the natural interaction of the sun, air, soil, and water. Our nature is blessed with fruits and vegetables which are sufficient enough to satisfy the nutritional needs of our body. It is alive, vital and supremely healthy. Vegetarian diet is a diet that the nature intended. The most powerful animals on the planet, ranging from gorillas to elephants wear the badge of proud vegetarians. Non vegetarian diet is hard to digest and since our digestive system is one of the most energy consuming processes of our entire body, valuable energy resources are needlessly depleted by this food stuff. There are also ethical issues that involve the killing of animals for food and environmental issues regarding the raising of livestock and the safety of food supply. “Vegetarian diet is the best” claims P.Unnikrishnan, a gold smith who became a vegetarian 14 years ago. “Vegetarian foods energizes, revitalizes and refreshes us both mentally and physically” he added.