Many experts have said that the Seventh Day Adventist food beliefs and diet approach are one of the healthiest diet options available. Those who follow this faith aim to follow an overall healthy lifestyle, which includes a good diet, exercise, pure water, adequate sunlight, temperance, fresh air, rest, and spirituality. A good diet according to Seventh-Day Adventists involves eating a mainly plant-based diet, which incorporates, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes. It is also not uncommon for some Seventh-Day Adventists to follow a vegan diet.
They abstain from tobacco, tea, and any other caffeinated beverages. Alcoholic beverages and other mind-altering substances are also avoided. As it pertains to meat eating, it is generally discouraged especially due to the health risks that it poses. However, for those who eat animal foods, it is restricted to clean meats as prescribed in the scriptures. Unclean foods outlined in the Bible do not form any part of the Seventh-Day Adventist diet.
The main reasons for the Seventh-Day Adventist diet and food beliefs can be encapsulated in these two scriptural texts.
- “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29
- “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1st Corinthians 10:31
The Seventh-Day Adventist Diet & Food Beliefs In More Detail
The Religious Perspective
The Seventh Day Adventist church views the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore it is vital to take care of one’s body so as to glorify God. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” 1st Corinthians 6:19. Seventh-Day Adventists believe that taking care of the physical body is a matter of stewardship. It is believed that God can best be glorified and honored when the physical as well as the mental faculties are kept healthy. It is equally important to obey the laws that govern the physical nature as it is important to obey the moral laws. It is from this perspective that Seventh-Day Adventist food beliefs stem.
What foods do Adventists eat?
The Main Food Sources: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds make up the crux of the diet.
Studies have shown nonsmoking Adventists who ate 2 or more servings of fruit per day had about 70 percent fewer lung cancers than nonsmokers who ate fruit once or twice a week. Adventists who ate legumes such as peas and beans 3 times a week had a 30 to 40 percent reduction in colon cancer. Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From The People Who’ve Lived The Longest by Dan Buettner, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.
What food restrictions do Seventh-Day Adventists have?
Although the Seventh Day Adventist Church promotes a plant-based diet, for those who choose to eat meat, their selections are based on two categories. Meats that are categorized as either ‘clean’ or ‘unclean.’ These determinations are taken from the scripture, more specifically Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
Clean animals according to the scripture are:
- Mammals with divided or split hoofs and chew cud ( e.g. oxen, sheep, goats, deer, gazelles, roebuck, wild goats, ibex, antelopes, and mountain sheep)
- Fish with fins and scales ( e.g. tuna, salmon, codfish, mahi mahi, sardines, etc.)
- Most birds except birds of prey and scavengers (e.g. chicken, turkey)
- Insects with four jointed jumping legs that leap (e.g. such as crickets and grasshoppers)
Unclean animals according to the scripture are:
- Mammals with divided hoof but does not chew cud (e.g. pig-pork in all its forms)
- Mammals that chew cud but hooves are not divided (e.g. camels, rabbits, rock badgers, etc.)
- Marine animals without fins and scales ( These include all shellfish, all sea mammals, all soft body water animals, caviar, etc.)
- Specific unclean birds especially birds of prey and scavengers (e.g. eagles, vultures, falcons, crows, owls, hawks)
- All other insects without jointed jumping legs
The above food beliefs so far begin to unravel many questions that people have concerning the Seventh day Adventist diet, especially that of clean and unclean meats. Some of the frequently asked questions include:
- What fish can Adventists eat?
- Do Seventh Day Adventists eat goat?
- How does religious belief affect food choices?
- What diet does God want us to eat?
What about dairy products?
Because their diet promotes a less rich diet with limited fat, sugar and salt, dairy products are not considered the healthiest options even for a vegetarian diet. Milk and other dairy products are the primary sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. Diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers according to research. When it comes to dairy, ideally low-fat options should be consumed. If possible it should be avoided altogether. Alternatives to dairy include almond, rice, cashew, oat or soy milk. These can easily be made at home into beverages as well as vegan cheese.
The issue of temperance
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” 1st Corinthians 9:25. Seventh Day Adventists believe that being temperate is paramount to optimal functioning. By definition, temperance encourages us to use wisely those things that are healthful and good, and to dispense entirely with all things harmful. Temperance is encouraged not only in eating but all aspects of life, including work, exercise and sleep. As it pertains to overeating, scientific studies link overeating with weight gain which can eventually lead to obesity, the imbalance of hormones that stimulate or suppress appetite, the malfunction of digestive organs, and both mental and physical lethargy. As a result, eating to feel full is discouraged. Taking time to eat while thoroughly chewing your food can help you sense feelings of satiation that help to regulate how much you actually eat.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1. Seventh Day Adventists, in keeping with their belief that the body is the temple of the holy ghost, strongly discourage and abstain from the consumption of any alcoholic beverages. In a global integrated metadata analysis on alcohol, these major findings were revealed:
- Alcohol is a major factor in global mortality and disease burden and the highest risk factor for those aged 19-45.
- Risk of many types of cancers increased with any level of alcohol use.
- The authors confirmed that there was no safe level of alcohol use. The level of alcohol intake that most reduces mortality risks is zero intake.
- Even half a glass of alcohol beverage a day has a measurable impact on increased mortality.
- Any cardiac health benefits from low-level alcohol use is far outweighed by increased cancer risks and many specific types of cardiac risks.
Marchand, Alain, Andree Demers, Pierre Durand, and Marcel Simard, “The moderating effect of alcohol intake on the relationship between work strains and psychological distress.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol 64, no. 3 (2003), 419-427.
Fekjaer, Hans Olav. “Alcohol—a universal preventive agent? A critical analysis.” Addiction 108, no. 12 (December 2013), 2051-2057.
Coffee, caffeinated beverages and tea
The information below explains the stand that the Seventh Day Adventist church takes on the use of coffee, caffeinated beverages and tea.
Tea is an aromatic beverage derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Like coffee, its caffeine content makes it a stimulant, and as a result, they both excite the nerves.
“Tea acts as a stimulant, and, to a certain extent, produces intoxication. The action of coffee and many other popular drinks is similar. The first effect is exhilarating. The nerves of the stomach are excited; these convey irritation to the brain, and this in turn is aroused to impart increased action to the heart, and short-lived energy to the entire system. Fatigue is forgotten, the strength seems to be increased. The intellect is aroused, the imagination becomes more vivid.” CD 424.1
“Because of these results, many suppose that their tea or coffee is doing them great good. But this is a mistake. Tea and coffee do not nourish the system. Their effect is produced before there has been time for digestion and assimilation, and what seems to be strength is only nervous excitement. When the influence of the stimulant is gone, the unnatural force abates, and the result is a corresponding degree of languor and debility.” CD 424.2
“The continued use of these nerve irritants is followed by headache, wakefulness, palpitation of the heart, indigestion, trembling, and many other evils, for they wear away the life forces. Tired nerves need rest and quiet instead of stimulation and overwork. Nature needs time to recuperate her exhausted energies. When her forces are goaded on by the use of stimulants, more will be accomplished for a time; but as the system becomes debilitated by their constant use, it gradually becomes more difficult to rouse the energies to the desired point. The demand for stimulants becomes more difficult to control, until the will is overborne, and there seems to be no power to deny the unnatural craving. Stronger and still stronger stimulants are called for, until exhausted nature can no longer respond.” CD 424.3
Tobacco and mind-altering substances
The SDA church also strongly discourages the use of tobacco and any other mind-altering substances. “Tobacco is a slow, insidious, but most malignant poison. In whatever form it is used, it tells upon the constitution; it is all the more dangerous because its effects are slow and at first hardly perceptible. It excites and then paralyzes the nerves. It weakens and clouds the brain. Often it affects the nerves in a more powerful manner than does intoxicating drink. It is more subtle, and its effects are difficult to eradicate from the system. Its use excites a thirst for strong drink and in many cases lays the foundation for the liquor habit.” Ministry of healing, p.328.
In the early 1950s Alton Oschner, M.D., professor of thoracic surgery at Tulane University’s medical school, New Orleans, was among the earliest to demonstrate an undeniable link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
Health benefits of the SDA diet
One of the most telling indications that the SDA diet is beneficial and positively impacts health is found in the town of Loma Linda California, one of the established Blue Zones in the world. According to Insider, “Residents of Loma Linda live, on average, 10 years longer than normal US residents. Their longevity is attributed to the fact many residents of Loma Linda, about 9,000 of them, adhere to the Seventh-day Adventists faith.” “The Adventist experience is only 20% or 30% healthier than the average American,” Buettner told the Los Angeles Times. These health benefits are attributed to all the above foods beliefs and diet they ascribe to, along with the other health practices such as exercise, pure water, adequate sunlight, fresh air, rest, and spirituality, that they faithfully adhere to.