The halal diet is one that follows the dietary principals of Islam. These principals prohibit a number of different foods, as well as provide guidelines for how other foods should be prepared. The rules are taken from the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book. While Muslims are expected to follow these rules, non-Muslims may also find it valuable to eat Halal foods as well.
There is still some debate about several of the laws, and there are foods which some Muslims would consider halal, while other Muslims consider them haraam (forbidden). Only a religious leader can advise on which foods are truly halal. There are some certification processes and shops available that are dedicated to halal foods, and if in doubt, you should shop from these stores. Also, bear in mind that while some people think that “halal” and “kosher” are interchangeable, there are some important differences (as well as similarities).
The Qur’an forbids a Muslim to eat pork, or any other product that comes from a pig. This includes products like gelatin, which can be found as an additive in many products. It is possible, however to find gelatin made from fish, and this is halal. MSG (a common food additive) may also be made from pig products and should be avoided in the halal diet (unless it is certified halal).
Blood and carrion are also forbidden. Blood is supposed to be removed as much as possible from the animal when it is slaughtered, and should not be consumed, for example in blood soup, or blood sausage. Often, Muslim recipes call for the meat to be marinated in vinegar to remove excess blood before cooking. Carrion is any animal that was not slaughtered in the prescribed way.
Halal laws also prohibit eating any animal that is a predator (such as alligator). Some Muslims believe this includes chickens, however the majority of Muslims do not. Alcohol is also prohibited, including any food that is cooked or prepared with alcohol, such as red wine sauce, or that contains alcohol as an additive, such as baking products made with imitation vanilla essence. All forms of seafood are permitted.
Other Halal Laws
An important aspect of halal practice is the proper slaughter of animals and the preparation of meat. Meat should be certified halal to ensure these practices were followed. If no halal meat can be found, some Muslims consider kosher certified meat to be a suitable substitute. Halal meat should not be contaminated with non-halal meat, which may be difficult if eating in a restaurant that offers both.
Halal law also states that if there is no choice but to eat non-halal food, that Muslims should do so. Muslims are encouraged to have a healthy diet, and some scholars consider over-indulgence to be a sin.