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 Diets: Cultural Diets  

However, problems of malnourishment, obesity, loss of teeth, diabetes, and other diseases have increased since the islanders have adopted a more Westernized diet, consuming more refined, canned, and fried foods, sodas and other sugar products. This trend, occurring within native cultures around the world, must be addressed and changed for the peoples of this Earth to be healthier.

Let us look at the Jewish diet, not just as an example of a special cultural diet that exists within the state of Israel, but also as an ancient ancestral diet that has been passed down through generations and across national boundaries. The Jewish people are very involved with food, and can be classic overeaters, often associating food with love and safety. Italians, other Europeans, and Mexican people also seem to share these attitudes toward food. Often, these are people who have known poverty or starvation, for whom eating to satiation represents security, contentment, and even wealth.

Most of the food eaten is cooked, often involving complex preparations. More flour products than whole grains are eaten, though buckwheat may be more common than in other cultural diets. Vegetables are eaten either in soups or with meats. Tomato soup, beet borscht, and the famous chicken noodle soup are common. Fruits are often eaten cooked, such as baked apples, stewed prunes, compotes (mixed stewed fruit), or fruit soups.

The Jewish diet usually includes only one animal protein at a meal, and, for religious reasons, the traditional menu does not include meat and milk foods at the same meal. Of the red meats, only those of cud-chewing animals, such as cattle, goats, or lambs, are eaten; pork is avoided. Roasts and beef brisket are popular cuts of beef. Chicken is eaten regularly, most often baked, broiled, or boiled for soup. Fish, usually whitefish, is consumed fairly often. Gefilte fish—balls of grain meal and whitefish—are a Kosher classic. Shellfish are usually avoided. Other common foods are potato flour pancakes (latkes), matzoh balls, kreplach, blintzes, and flour pastries, such as apple streudel.

The Jewish diet may cause weight problems. Including more natural foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grain products, would increase fiber, decrease calories and sweet cravings, and help to prevent some chronic disease problems. Learning not to overeat and avoiding too many sweets are important habits to develop not just for this diet, but for any diet.

Enough Food?
Many cultures of the Western world have plenty of available food and have a tendency to excesses and the many congestive and degenerative problems that this creates. But such as the African countries, India, and China, do not have advanced agricultural technology, and still count on manual labor. Many do not have enough resources or enough usable agricultural land to feed their ever-growing populations. Even if they can grow enough food (which is often not the case), slow or nonexistent transportation may not be available to distribute food, and thus, many people are underfed. Often, they do not get enough nutritious food to support normal growth and development in young people or maintenance for adults. Malnourishment and starvation are among the greatest diseases we confront on a global basis. The high consumption of animals, who eat half of the world’s grain before they themselves are eaten, is considered a poor use of energy, poor economics, and poor sense. We need to change this focus from the excessive amounts of meat we eat to a more healthy, vegetarian-based diet; this will help reduce the destruction of our Earth, the only home we have.

Keeping people healthy enough to recultivate the earth and teaching and inspiring them to do so will go a long way toward solving one of humanity’s greatest challenges—malnourishment and starvation. Feeding the hungry babies, adults, and elderly of the world is a growing and vital concern of everyone.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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