The Newest Diet Trend: What Would Jesus Eat?
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Advising people on what to eat is all well and good, especially if you're advising them to go organic, shun processed foods, and increase their intake of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. But implying that God wants us to finish the job with a bunch of spendy, and to some extent untested, add-ons is entirely another.
"Jordan Rubin is on a mission to transform the health of God's people one life at a time -- a God-inspired and God-sized mission," we read at the BHI Web site. But Rubin's health-coach cred fails to impress critics such as BellaOnline's nutrition editor Moss Greene, who in a seven-part exposé calls the Maker's Diet "the Faker's Diet," lambasting Rubin's "miracle ingredient," homeostatic soil organisms: basically, bacteria found in dirt. Rubin claims that because they couldn't thoroughly scrub the produce they ate, our ancestors ingested these bacteria, which improved their intestinal health. Garden of Life's Primal Defense Ultra, containing these "soil-based probiotics," sells for $49.95 per 90-capsule jar; the recommended dosage is three capsules a day.
Another vocal critic is Stephen Barrett, a doctor who has spent 20-plus years detailing health fraud through his nonprofit, Quackwatch. Barrett cites the Federal Trade Commission's 2006 complaint against Rubin and Garden of Life for what the FTC called "engaging in unfair acts or practices" in its claims about Primal Defense and other products. In 2004, the FDA made a similar complaint.
"He was making illegal claims," Barrett tells me. "I don't think his degree is worth the paper it's printed on."
Barrett notes that Rubin's naturopathic medical doctor degree (NMD) "is from the People's University of the Americas School of Natural Medicine, a non-accredited school with no campus. His Ph.D is from the Academy of Natural Therapies, a non-accredited correspondence school that the State of Hawaii ordered to close in 2003."
But another Christ-diet promoter is Don Colbert, a board-certified family-practice physician with a degree from Oral Roberts University Medical School. Colbert heads the Divine Wellness Center in Longwood, Florida (Rubin's Garden of Life is also Florida-based), and sparked a media storm with his book What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great, and Living Longer (Thomas Nelson, 2002).
"Did Jesus actually teach anything about nutrition or how we should eat? My contention is that He did, not necessarily by what He said, but by what He did," Colbert writes. "The medical and scientific facts confirm it. If we eat as Jesus ate, we will be healthier."
Reasonably enough, he explains that Jesus consumed no "fried chicken, fried country ham, fried potatoes, fried onions," no white bread, no Splenda. Blaming the spread of fast-food chains for a global health catastrophe of which Christ would not approve, Colbert avows: "Let me assure you, Jesus did not eat processed foods, too much sugar, or food additives. ... Ask yourself these two questions about everything you eat today: 1. Why do I eat this? 2. Would Jesus eat this? ... What He did eat was a diet based upon biblical principles that were focused on health and wholeness for the whole body."
As a practicing Jew, Jesus -- if he existed, which Colbert believes he did -- followed the Levitical laws of kashrut: plants, grains, dairy foods, certain birds, only finned-and-scaled fish, and only cud-chewing, cloven-hoofed, four-legged ruminants drained of their blood during ritual slaughter.
Modern scholars say the prohibitions in Leviticus are presciently scientific. In biblical times, when sanitation and medicine were sparse and primitive, sharp observers noticed that eating certain creatures made more people sicker than eating other ones. "Unclean" animals were mainly those that fed on carrion and decaying matter. While these species sported highly specialized digestive tracts containing bacteria to neutralize the toxins, limited biblical-era sanitation would have meant that humans eating carrion-feeders ingested the toxins and got sick. This is no longer an issue in the industrialized world.