The Kosher diet is primarily a spiritual one, as it encompasses the dietary laws of the Jewish people. There may be health benefits for following these laws, however they are considered a bonus, rather than a reason for following them. Ultimately, people follow a full Kosher diet because they believe God told them to do so in the Torah.
Health Benefits and Detriments of a Kosher Diet
There are, in fact, few modern ingredients that are completely prohibited by Kashrut, the main ones being pigs and fish without scales or fins. Unfortunately, many processed foods contain things like gelatin which are made from pig products, and render the whole food non-Kosher. However, this is less of an issue in the modern world, where a wide variety of items are now labelled and certified Kosher. So modern Kosher recipes can be just as healthy as non-Kosher recipes and in fact many of them, in the attempt to be parve (neither meat nor milk) revolve around fish and vegetables, making them very healthy.
The Kosher laws surrounding the slaughter of animals also contribute to health, as they can help prevent the spread of diseases like mad cow, and may also cut down on possible bacterial contamination.
However, there are some hidden dangers in Kosher food products. Because many Kosher bakeries try to keep their products pavre, they tend to use partially hydrogenated fats, such as margarine, or saturated fats like coconut oil, in place of butter. These can have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels. Many traditional Kosher recipes are also laden with fats. However, these problems can be mitigated with moderation.
Spirituality and the Kosher Diet
For real insight into the spiritual depths of Kashrut, you should consult a rabbi, or other appropriate religious leader. However, the main consensus is that the Kosher diet is followed not because of any particular benefits, but because God told the Jews to do it in the Torah. Whether or not it seems logical in a modern world, the argument goes, it should be followed to the letter, out of respect for God. There are, however, some speculations on what spiritual benefits the diet can have.
The diet has undoubtedly contributed to the endurance of Jewish culture over the years in many different countries. Recipes and the traditions surrounding them were kept and passed down with little modification, because of the difficulty in keeping them strictly Kosher. Personal discipline is also enhanced, particularly in a modern world where so many tempting non-Kosher foods are so easily obtained. Animal cruelty is also prohibited by Kashrut, which leads to a respect for all life.
Those following Kashrut are expected to be grateful for and aware of every bite, to eat in moderation and to maintain health. The Kosher diet is a holy diet and keeping it will remind a person of their faith every time they prepare or eat a meal.
So, while there are many benefits in following a Kosher diet, the main reason for following will always be a spiritual one, because it says to do it in the Torah, and therefore they believe, it is what God wants.