A Kosher diet is one that follows the Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut) that are found in various religious texts and interpreted by religious leaders. These laws are followed to a greater or lesser extent depending on the denomination and personal views of each person, and also have some varied interpretation. However, generally they forbid eating pig products, any fish without scales and fins, most insects, hare or rabbit, predatory birds and blood. In addition, they also forbid eating meat that comes from an animal that has not been slaughtered correctly, eating meat and milk together, drinking wine or grape juice that wasn’t properly supervised during production, and eating fish and meat together. Any non-Kosher food that comes into contact with Kosher food will render it non-Kosher, so kitchen utensils and plates need to be kept separate, or cleaned in a special process.
The Benefits of Kosher Food
While the dietary laws are followed primarily for religious reasons, there are health benefits to eating Kosher food. Pigs are similar enough to humans that many of their parasites and diseases can be transmitted between the species. While cooking pork thoroughly will usually eliminate most of the risk, many people also have an allergy to pork that cannot be controlled without forgoing the meat entirely. The prohibition against mixing meat and milk might also be healthful, as some claim that eating meat and milk together slows digestion. Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables to rid them of insects is also a good practice for anyone to follow.
Additionally, the laws surrounding the slaughter of animals are much stricter than FDA laws concerning the health of the animal. Any sign of disease, before or after slaughter will result in the meat being rendered non-Kosher.
Who Should Follow a Kosher Diet?
While following Kashrut might be overly restrictive for people who aren’t doing it for religious reasons, there are many who could benefit, particularly from the Kosher certification system. The practice of labeling products as containing meat or milk, or being pavre (containing neither) is handy for vegetarians, vegans and those who are allergic to milk products.
While Kosher slaughter practices are sometimes contested as being inhumane, in fact they are supposed to take into account the animal’s stress levels and well-being, and are considered by some to be cruelty-free. Chickens, for example, are not supposed to show signs of being pecked, which would be difficult to accomplish in battery-reared hens. So, those looking for more ethical sources of meat could try Kosher products. Other people who might try Kosher certified products are those of other religions with similar restrictions, and those who prefer a more rigorous inspection standard of meats for safety reasons.
A full Kosher diet following all the dietary laws is generally not for non-Jewish people, however products that have been certified Kosher do have many benefits outside their religious significance. People on restricted diets, or who wish to take advantage of the health benefits of Kosher products can find more information through websites pertaining to Kosher foods.