With historical interpretation, experts can go back and assess how people lived during Jesus' time. What did He most likely eat? Could we follow His example for better health?
AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically, and Dr. Don Colbert both studied the bible for nutritional clues about Jesus’ diet.
How Was His Food Different?
People back in Jesus’ time ate a mostly plant-based, clean diet. In that region of the world, lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dates, nuts and fish were all quite popular. For snacks, some even ate grasshoppers and crickets! All these foods provided proper and satisfying nutrition without excess fats or cholesterol.
Many ate most of their food raw, which also bestows additional health benefits. The additional chewing that raw food requires burns additional calories. Plus, cooking certain foods puts its nutritional value at risk.
Also, without refrigerators, it was harder to eat huge steaks, slabs of ribs, or massive amounts of meat at every single meal. Hence, it’s likely that Jesus and his followers ate little red meat or poultry.
Furthermore, Jacobs and Colbert believe not only that the people of Jesus’ time ate a more plant-based diet, they also think that our bodies were designed to eat a mostly plant-based diet – similar to what Jesus ate.
How Does Science Show This?
To assess how our bodies are potentially designed to eat, scientists have studied our dental records and concluded that humans are more suited for a plant-based diet with little meat – especially red meat.
In our mouths, we have four canine teeth, eight frontal teeth and many molars, depending on your dental history.
- Our four canine teeth are designed to tear meat apart. More of this type of teeth is prevalent in the mouths of carnivores like alligators, wolves or sharks.
- Our eight frontal teeth, also known as incisors, are used to bite fruits and vegetables.
- The majority of our teeth, however, are molars, which are located toward the back of the mouth. They are used to grind and crush plants and seeds.
Because the majority of our teeth are molars, Dr. Colbert believes that our bodies are mostly designed for a plant-based diet. Carnivores, on the other hand, have much more than four canine teeth and have jaws that are designed to bite off chunks of meat.
Furthermore, our saliva is alkaline and full of enzymes, like amylase, that are designed to process plants and carbohydrates. After analyzing this and comparing it with other animals, Dr. Colbert postulates that this means we are more suited to digest plants instead of meat. Carnivores, on the other hand, have mostly acidic saliva without amylase.
Also, after comparing the length of our intestines with that of carnivores, Dr. Colbert has also postulated that we are designed to eat mostly plants. Our intestines are four times longer than we are tall. In carnivores, on average, their intestines are only twice as long as their height. This allows for meat to pass through the digestive tract quickly before it starts to rot.
Our longer tract, however, allows for more time to process the complex carbohydrates within plants. However, as we eat meat with little fiber, especially red meat, it has a higher chance of getting stuck within our intestines – causing constipation or bloating. In fact, because Jesus and people around Him ate a mostly plant-based diet with little red meat, there’s little mention of “constipation” in the bible.
How Can I Eat More Like Jesus?
Based on the Bible and historical records, Jesus most likely ate a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, which includes foods like kale, pine nuts, dates, olive oil, lentils and soups. They also baked fish.
AJ Jacobs and Dr. Colbert have both teamed up with The Dr. Oz Show to develop a set of guidelines for eating more like Jesus:
1. Calculate Your Breakfast Time and "Break Your Fast" Accordingly: Jesus ate breakfast very early so he could have the energy and fuel for a full day’s work. You should be breaking your fast every morning 12 hours after your last meal the previous day. If you had you dinner at 6 p.m., you should break your fast the next morning at 6 a.m.
2. Linger Over Lunch: Many people rush through lunch, eat at their desks at work, and wolf down their food. The key to eating like Jesus is making lunch your biggest meal and eat in as much of a relaxed atmosphere as possible.
3. Eat a Light Dinner at 4 p.m.: Your digestive system should not have to work on overdrive when you should be sleeping. Eat dinner as early in the evening as possible.
4. Wine and Walk: This should not be confused with wining and dining. Wine played an important role in Jesus’ life and health. They drank red wine with meals. It’s good for the heart. But don't overdo it!