Human health has been and will continue to be a topic of concern as well as one of controversy. There’s some buzz that an Adventist community in Loma Linda California forms the core of North America’s blue zone region. (aka: they live longer) Therefore, naturally one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What do Adventists eat? or What is the Seventh Day Adventist diet?”. The better question though is, “How do Adventists live?”, since health is much broader than just food.
Generally, the Seventh Day Adventist diet is a vegetarian or vegan/whole plant-based diet. While each member eats a little differently, the advocated food choices are plant-based, more specifically, whole plant foods. It is a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes which include a variety of peas and beans, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Most Seventh-day Adventists try to maintain this healthy diet and make it a practice to stay away from processed foods, high-sugar, sugar substitutes, high-fat, and food additives. To put simply, the focus is on whole foods that are plant based and that would secure the best health.
Adventists who follow the Bible principles and the lifestyle and dietary guidelines advocated by the Church also follow the eight health principles outlined below, which is why they live longer as a community.
The eight health principles are as follows:
- Nutrition Principles
- Divine Power Principle
- Exercise Principle
- Rest Principle
- Abstemiousness Principle
- Fresh Air Principle
- Water Principle
- Sunlight Principle
One distinction worth noting is that the studies that show longer lifespans and better overall health apply to communities of members who actually practice what the church promotes and teaches. Liberty of conscience is a foundational understanding of the Seventh Day Adventist church, meaning that no one should be forced to adopt practices that they do not personally understand or believe. As such, members do not all eat the same things or follow the exact same lifestyle. However, many Adventists are vegetarians as opposed to non-vegetarians.
Why Are Adventists Primarily Vegetarians?
The “health message” runs in the blood of the Adventist church and has been around nearly as long as the church itself. While its development and promotion was greatly contributed to by the work of one of the founding members, Ellen White, it is a system of understanding rooted solely in the Bible.
As Bible-believing Christians, Adventists understand that the human body was designed to function optimally under certain conditions and fueled by a certain diet. Clean lifestyle, clean diet. Scripture teaches that this original dietary design was a whole plant-based sustenance. “God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.” Gen 1:29.
This ‘design approach’ to the human body led to a revolutionary system of health education and health care, evidenced by many decades of restorative health institutions, health food industries that have impacted the world, and longer healthier lives among practitioners.
Ellen White had various revelations in the 1860s showing her that followers of Christ should follow eight basic principles for a healthy lifestyle, all of which are supported by the scriptures.
This also resulted in the establishment of the Western Health Reform Institute devoted to health reform, health education, and caring for the sick in a new way. Seventeen other SDA health institutes followed in the United States and nine were opened overseas. Today, Seventh-day Adventists continue to lead the way in healthcare with many healthcare and education facilities including Loma Linda University, which is one of the top Universities for public health. They also continue to stand by vegetarianism and have been the subjects in many vegetarian studies which have continued to show that a vegetarian lifestyle contributes to a longer and healthier life with a lower risk for disease.
A Few Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
The benefits of eating a vegetarian and or vegan diet range from reducing water usage, to preventing deforestation of rainforests, to preventing animal cruelty, to reducing our carbon footprint, and to the prevention of diseases.
A preventative vegetarian diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk for chronic disease and other lifestyle diseases, and prolong longevity. These include:
What does research show?
An Adventist health study, The Biology of Veganism, published 8 February 2022, revealed the following. “Compared to non-vegetarians, vegans have more favorable fatty acid profiles, including lower saturated fatty acids, and higher total omega-3, along with higher levels of phytochemicals such as carotenoids, enterolactone, and isoflavones in plasma or urine, but lower inflammatory cytokines. Importantly, vegetarians have shown significantly reduced risks of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, select cancers, and all-cause mortality relative to non-vegetarians.”
In this study, they reported “marked differences in metabolic profiles between vegans and non-vegetarians. The results suggest that multiple potentially bioactive metabolites are increased by consumption of plant-based foods, and may lower the risk of metabolic diseases through anti-inflammatory mechanisms. On the other hand, diets high in animal products may lead to increases in various amino acids and lipid species (acylcarnitines, saturated fatty acids, ceramides, branched-chain amino acids) that promote chronic diseases by increasing inflammation and insulin dysregulation, so disrupting metabolic homeostasis.”
What Is The Seventh-day Adventist Diet Plan?
Seventh-day Adventists typically follow a healthy vegetarian, vegan or whole plant-based lifestyle. So, there really isn’t a single set diet plan. However, there are several great programs you can use to learn if you’re interested in becoming a vegetarian or vegan. In fact, I had a nutritionist put together a detox-type program and a weight-loss lifestyle program for my readers that follow Adventist principles. You can learn more by clicking here.
What about Meat?
While some SDA Members do eat clean meats including chicken, turkey, beef, fish, venison, lamb, and goat among others, this is not promoted as the ideal diet. Avoiding all animal products is what is advocated. Unclean meats are not consumed by Seventh-day Adventists as members follow the health laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The Adventist church as an organization, however, promotes a whole plant-based diet for optimal health or a vegetarian diet where this is not possible.
Do Adventists consume alcohol?
Alcohol is not consumed by the SDA community. There is a general consensus that it is an addictive and destructive drug that not only alters the mental state bringing about almost immediate behavioral changes, but that it is also responsible for many of the diseases that affect the wider population today including liver disease, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and digestive issues among many others.
They believe that their bodies are the temple of God and that he should be honored by how they treat their bodies. This principle is taken from 1st Corinthian 6:19-20. “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? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Coffee, caffeinated energy drinks, soda, and tea are avoided in the Seventh Day Adventist diet. These are considered as stimulants that excite the nervous system and cause irritability among other unpleasant effects. Instead, this is replaced by lots of water, herbal teas that are caffeine-free, fruit juices, and smoothies among other healthier drink options.
According to the Drug and Alcohol Foundation, June 20, 2023, “The following effects may be experienced within 30 minutes after consuming caffeine, and may continue for up to 6 hours: feeling more alert and active, restlessness, excitability, and dizziness, anxiety, and irritability, dehydration and needing to urinate more often, higher body temperature, faster breathing and heart rate, headache and lack of concentration and stomach pains.”
No. They strongly discourage the use of drugs.
Use Tobacco In Other Forms?
“Tobacco is a slow, insidious, but most malignant poison. In whatever form it is used, it affects one’s constitution adversely. 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.” Ministry of Health and Healing, p. 183.3.
Why Don’t Adventists Eat “Unclean” Foods?
Unlike ceremonial or civil laws, the Seventh Day Adventist church understands the health laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus as being “natural laws” that are applicable for all ages and times. This is because Scriptural evidence points to them predating the time of Moses or the Israelites. In other words, God told mankind not to eat particular foods for their own health and well-being, and they believe those foods are still unhealthy for us today. The fact that most Christian denominations do not follow this same principle, makes the Adventist diet unique among Christendom.
So What About the the Seventh Seventh Day Adventist community in one of only five blue zones in the world; Loma Linda California?
The SDA community of Loma Linda thrives on a holistic approach to health. They live by following the eight principles of health as mentioned above. Studies show that they live longer than the average American. According to research, they live ten years longer than the average American resident. The following contribute to their longer life span:
- They do not smoke or drink alcohol, nor do they drink coffee or any other caffeinated drinks, but they do drink a lot of water.
- The Seventh Day diet that they follow includes abstaining from foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and other refined products.
- Fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables constitute their eating.
- They get regular exercise including daily walks in nature, thus exposing them to fresh air and sufficient sunlight.
- They practice moderation in eating.
- They make time to rest, especially on Saturdays, their official day of worship, when they abstain from secular work.
- They place importance on community and healthy socialization. Potlucks, where they share plant-based meals are especially common.
What might a typical breakfast and lunch look like in this community of Adventists?
A typical breakfast may consist of a serving of fruits such as mangoes, bananas, and oranges; a warm oat cereal with plant-based milk e.g. soy milk sprinkled with chia seeds and a slice of whole-grain bread with a vegan spread such as hummus or all-natural peanut butter.
A sample lunch can be of sweet roasted potatoes, a serving of fresh salad with the “colors of the rainbow” ( e.g. beets, carrots, red bell peppers, arugula, and cucumbers, with a vegan dressing) along with a hearty bean stew.
So what makes it easier for this community to maintain this lifestyle?
According to an April 3, 2019, NBC article, researcher, author, and explorer, Dan Buettner revealed the following:
“The adherent Seventh-day Adventist doesn’t drink alcohol or caffeine, including caffeinated sodas,” says Westerdahl. “We’ll have tomato juice or sparkling water at a party [hosted by fellow Seventh-day Adventists]. Alcohol isn’t an option. Instead of coffee, it’s common to offer a coffee substitute such as “The adherent Seventh-day Adventist doesn’t drink alcohol or caffeine, including caffeinated sodas,” says Westerdahl. “We’ll have tomato juice or sparkling water at a party [hosted by fellow Seventh-day Adventists]. Alcohol isn’t an option. Instead of coffee, it’s common to offer a coffee substitute such as Kaffree Roma, which looks and tastes like coffee but has no caffeine.
Because the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda have a “very strong social network connected to the Church,” as both Westerdahl and Buettner emphasize, there’s little pressure or even option to stray from your dietary practice.”
Furthermore, “The environment is one where healthy choice is often the only choice in their social settings.”