Major Religions with Food Proscriptions

Although no two religions hold exactly the same ideology about diet, health, and spiritual wellness, many do embrace similar practices.

Buddhism. Many Buddhists are vegetarians, though some include fish in their diet. Most do not eat meat and abstain from all beef products. The birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha are the three most commonly recognized festivals for feasting, resting from work, or fasting. Buddhist monks fast completely on certain days of the moon, and they routinely avoid eating any solid foods after the noon hour.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity. An essential element of practicing an Orthodox life includes fasting, since its intrinsic value is part of the development of a spiritual life. To practicing Orthodox believers, fasting teaches self-restraint, which is the source of all good.

Hinduism. Hindus do not consume any foods that might slow down spiritual or physical growth. The eating of meat is not prohibited, but pork, fowl, ducks, snails, crabs, and camels are avoided. The cow is sacred to Hindus,

Many Hindus are strict vegetarians. Those who do eat meat are forbidden from eating beef, because cows occupy a sacred place in the Hindu religion.

[Photograph by Craig Lovell. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

Many Hindus are strict vegetarians. Those who do eat meat are forbidden from eating beef, because cows occupy a sacred place in the Hindu religion.

[Photograph by Craig Lovell. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

and therefore no beef is consumed. Other products from the cow, however, such as milk, yogurt, and butter are considered innately pure and are thought to promote purity of the mind, spirit, and body.

Many devout Hindus fast on the eighteen major Hindu holidays, as well as on numerous personal days, such as birthdays and anniversaries of deaths and marriages. They also fast on Sundays and on days associated with various positions of the moon and the planets.

  1. To the Muslims, eating is a matter of faith for those who follow the dietary laws called Halal, a term for all permitted foods. Those foods that are prohibited, such as pork and birds of prey, are known as Haram, while the foods that are questionable for consumption are known as Mashbooh. Muslims eat to preserve their good health, and overindulgence or the use of stimulants such as tea, coffee, or alcohol are discouraged. Fasting is practiced regularly on Mondays and Thursdays, and more often for six days during Shawwal (the tenth month of the Islamic year) and for the entire month of Ramadan (the ninth month). Fasting on these occasions includes abstention from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
  2. The Jewish dietary law is called Kashrut, meaning "proper" or "correct." The term kosher refers to the methods of processing foods according to the Jewish laws. The processing laws and other restrictions regarding to the preparation of food and drink were devised for their effects on health. For example, rules about the use of pans, plates, utensils, and separation of meat from dairy products are intended to reduce contamination. Other rules include:
  3. A Jewish person must prepare grape products, otherwise they are forbidden.
  4. Jewish laws dictate the slaughter and removal of blood from meat before it can be eaten.
  5. Animals such as pigs and rabbits and creatures of the sea, such as lobster, shrimp, and clams, may not be eaten.
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