The Word of Wisdom

by Dr. Stan Brewer
An essential part of healthy living is diet.  The benefits of healthy eating have been established over and over.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we have been blessed with the Word of Wisdom revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833 as a guide to a healthy diet.  The benefits of not smoking or drinking alcohol have been thoroughly established through extensive scientific research.  However, there is more to the Word of Wisdom that are also being validated by current research and recommendations.
One of the first recommendations is to eat “every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof” (Doctrine and Covenant 89:11).  The new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid places added emphasis on eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that eating the right amounts of fruits and vegetables can deacrease the risk of cancer and other chronic illness.  It is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight disease.  If you want to see how much you should be eating each day try this tool here.  For example I should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables.
Another recommendation regards grains – “All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life” (Doctrine and Covenant 89:16). Grains are a staple that provide carbohydrates, one of our main sources of energy.  Currently the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and USDA recommend increasing our whole grains consumption (to at least half of the grains we eat).  Whole grains include brown or wild rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, triticale, cracked wheat, and popcorn in addition to whole-grain wheat, barley, corn, rye, and oats.  Whole grains provide “good carbs” which are more complex and nutricious sources of carbohydrates.  They also have fiber and other essential nutrients.
Finally, the Word of Wisdom encourages us to eat meat “sparingly”.  Studies have shown too much meat (especially red meats or meats with lots of fat) can be detrimental to our health.  Diets with lots of red and fatty meats have been associated with various cancers, high cholesterol, and obestiy.  However, there are also important nutrients in animal products.  Eating meat sparingly will provide these nutrients without the detrimental effects of excess meat.  Diets that use meat sparingly and focus on white meat or fish (such as the Mediterranean diet) have repeatedly been shown to have significant health benefit.  One food pyramid that I really like from the Universty of Michigan suggests eating meat only a few times a week, click here to visit the site, as well as eating losts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
In summary, the scientific research in nutrition validates the diet encouraged in the Word of Wisdom – eat lots of fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, and minimize our meat consumption.  It is also important to remember to drink plenty of water, eat healthy fats, and get regular exercise.  Doing these things will help us to reap the health benefits outlined in the Word of Wisdom and established by modern science.
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