People have written about health related topics for thousands of years, but you might wonder, “Did any ancient authors understand the benefits of a plant-based diet?”. Though plant-based diets in our meat laden Western world seem to be quite recent, people around the world have eaten plants for thousands of years!It was particularly interesting to me to discover that one of the oldest recommendations for a plant-based diet is actually in the Bible, in the writings of the ancient prophet, Moses.
The Perfect Diet- A Plant Based Diet
Moses was the first to write down what had been oral history up until that time related to the creation of the world and the first humans. In the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis Chapter one, Moses wrote about the creation of the earth, living creatures, and the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. Here we find an account of God himself instructing them in regards to their diet. In Genesis Chapter 1, verse 29 they were told that the “herb bearing seed” and the trees and their fruit were to be their food. Herb bearing seed refers to all the grains, which are grassy plants with seeds. Fruit and nuts are what trees bear. In Chapter 3, verse 18 the “herb of the field”, understood to be vegetables, were added to their diet. Nowhere in this early narrative are animals, fish or birds mentioned as part of the diet.
So here we see a great example of the fact that when humans were created and everything about the world was in a state of perfection, the perfect diet given to them was the same diet that we recognize today as best suited for health and longevity. In fact, it was over a thousand years before we see any mention of meat as part of the human diet.
When was Meat Introduced Into the Diet?
When did humans start eating meat? According to the Bible, the first mention of meat as food occured after the famous world-wide flood of Noah’s day. As you can imagine, with a flood wiping out most of life on earth and washing away gardens, orchards, and fields, plant-based food was limited supply. And so we find in Genesis Chapter 9, verse 3 that animals were added to the diet. However in a very fascinating side note, we see that God’s permission to eat meat is immediately followed by a strong prohibition against consuming the blood with the meat. In Leviticus Chapter 3, verse 17 a little more detail is included which indicates that consuming the fat of animals was also prohibited. According to modern science, the animal products most closely associated with the development of disease in humans are the fat and the blood of animals. These are the sources of artery-clogging cholesterol and where the majority of animal waste products and disease is transported. In order to eliminate these 2 items from the meat, those who followed these prohibitions in the time of Moses and probably even before, always slaughtered their animals by cutting the jugular and hanging the animal upside down to drain out as much blood as possible. After the animals were butchered, the meat was boiled in water to further remove the blood and fat. What was left was mostly protein and to most meat eaters today, it would be almost flavorless; what gives meat its flavor is mainly the blood and the fat. It could hardly be argued given the historical context that meat was part of the ideal diet – it was more likely a necessity in a time of food scarcity.
Health Consequences of Eating Meat
It is extremely interesting to note that the lifespan of humans was dramatically impacted by the addition of meat to the diet. The Genesis account of patriarchal lifespans before the flood is found in Genesis Chapter 5 and upon reading this, one will find that most people lived at least 800 years and a number over 900 years, including Methuseleh who lived 969 years. Immediately after the flood,lifespans dropped into the 400s and soon into the 200s. By the time David wrote the Psalms, he wrote “The days of our years are threescore years and ten , and if by reason of strength they be fourscore  years…” So we see that the expected lifespan was only 70-80 years by then. That is not so different than today’s lifespan
Health Consequences of Eating Plant-Based Diets
Another interesting story is found in the Bible in Daniel Chapter 1. Here we see the well-known story of Daniel and his 3 friends who made the request to be fed only plant foods, when all the other captives were being fed the rich fare that came from the Babylonian king’s table. Although the steward in charge of their care was afraid to follow their request, he agreed to do so for a trial period of 10 days. Amazingly enough, in that short period of time, the dramatic and positive difference in the appearance of Daniel and his friends convinced the steward to keep them on that diet for the rest of the time they were in his care. The New England Journal of Medicine referred to this story as “the first clinical trial on record”.
The Return to Perfection and Universal Plant-Based Diets
Last, but not the least, at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, the description of the human diet when perfection has been restored to the earth, is once again, completely plant based. Clearly, according to the description given there, nothing, animals, plants or humans, will ever die. The Tree of Life is described as having fruit and leaves which provide health for all.
So we see here, in the Bible, the bestselling book of all time, evidence for a plant-based diet that goes right back to the creation of man. That certainly makes me want to enjoy all its benefits for myself, now!