Lord, Please Bless This Poison

I’m hoping to live to be 100. So far, so good! At 55, I’m more than half-way there—although statistics indicate that my chances of reaching my goal decrease annually. Since I’ve learned that there are currently 53,000 people in the United States who are over age 100, however, I know my dream is possible.

Why do I want to live to be 100? First, more years mean potentially more fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. Since God entrusts those who are faithful with more, then more years mean more opportunity to earn His trust, in hopes that He might grant more opportunities, responsibilities and spiritual gifts. More years also means more Bible study, prayer, experiences and mistakes, all of which means more wisdom. I could then help 55-year-olds avoid mid-life folly!

Beyond these things, I’ve got one grandchild and more to come. I want to be a part of their lives. If I reach 100, I could play Legos with my great, great grandchildren!

Obviously, the key to reaching my goal is to remain healthy. And there is no doubt in my mind that, beyond the factor of God’s blessing, my health has a lot to do with my lifestyle decisions, including my decisions regarding what I eat. When God’s people justify their poor diets and subsequent health and weight problems with the line, “Everyone has to go sometime, and when the Lord calls your number, there is nothing you can do about it,” they are only fooling themselves. The diseases that end the lives of most Americans—cancer, heart disease and diabetes—have all been proven to often be diet related.

And it just makes sense that those who consume what God meant for humans to consume will likely be healthier. Not only does it make sense, it is also biblical. You may recall what Daniel and his friends said to a Babylonian commander when they were offered the best cuisine Babylon had to offer:

“Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days (Dan. 1:12-14).

Ten days later, the benefits of the better diet were evident:

At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables (Dan. 1:15-16).

Wow! I wonder how Daniel and his friends compared to those on the king’s diet after 100 days?

Daniel, Nutritionist

It is often thought that Daniel’s conviction was a reflection of his devotion to the dietary laws of the Mosaic Law. That may be at least partially correct. I suspect that, during the Babylonian captivity, Daniel and every devoted Jew did their best to keep the old covenant dietary laws. Take note, however, that Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with “the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank” (Dan. 1:8, emphasis added). Wine was certainly not forbidden under the Mosaic Law. That makes me question if Daniel’s opposition to the king’s diet was based purely on his devotion to the Mosaic dietary laws.

Beyond that, it seems clear that Daniel believed that a diet of vegetables and water would be better for his health. That was revealed by his proposed test. The difference between the appearance of Daniel and his three friends and those on the king’s choice diet was so apparent after ten days that the commander, who could have lost his head over the matter (see Dan. 1:10), let them continue on vegetables—foods that most everyone today knows are full of good nutrients.

Knowing the Creator, Daniel and his friends perhaps assumed that food is best when it is consumed in the form, or close to the form, in which He gave it. Unbiased nutritional science certainly seems to affirm that. Generally speaking, the more that food is processed, the less nutritive value it contains. If processed enough, it can even become a deadly poison rather than a nutritious food.

Strychnine, for example, consists of God-created molecules, a combination of nothing more than hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. Sounds pretty healthy, right? 78% of your own body consists of those same three elements. Yet just 30 milligrams of strychnine can be a lethal dose for humans.

Cocaine, derived from cocoa leaves, is a combination of four elements that make up 96% of the human body—oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Those who chew on cocoa leaves (as people do in South America), ingest some valuable nutrients and also experience a mild stimulant. By processing those leaves and extracting the cocaine, however, one has a much different substance. A relatively small amount can be lethal. (Did you know that cocaine was an ingredient in Coca-Cola from 1886 to 1906?)

Simply stated, our bodies were not designed by God to absorb very much strychnine or cocaine, which are two examples of processed foods that can kill you in a rather short time. But is it possible that other processed foods, by virtue of their being altered or stripped of some nutritive value, are killing many of us over longer periods of time? Unbiased nutritional research indicates that the answer is yes, and the evidence is overwhelming. We’re eating foods that God never intended to enter our bodies, especially in such large quantities. And we may well be undernourished. Just about everyone knows that a Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, and an Iodine deficiency can cause goiters. It stands to reason that the lack of any nutrient needed by our bodies will affect us adversely.

Wonder Bread

Consider flour, a staple in European, North American, Middle Eastern, Indian and North African cultures. Everyone knows it comes from grains of wheat, something that Jesus’ disciples ate raw and fresh right from the stalks (see Luke 6:1) as well as ground into whole-grain flour in bread. But to make white flour—an ingredient in so much of what we eat—from wheat grain is quite a process.

First, the outer shell (the bran) is removed. It is either discarded or sold in the health food department of your grocery store—and for good reason, since it contains fiber, protein, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6. But remember, all of the bran has been removed from what is ground into white flour.

Next the germ is removed, which is the reproductive part that germinates and grows into wheat grass. Wheat germ is also sold in the health food department of your grocery store—and for good reason (again), because it contains twenty-three nutrients, including protein, more potassium and iron than any other food source, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, Omega 3, and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), B12 and E. But remember, the germ has been removed from what is ground into white flour.

At this point in the process, 76% of the vitamins and 97% of the fiber have been removed. What is left—the endosperm—is ground into fine powder.

Of course, white flour is not a poison like strychnine. It has some nutritional value. But there is still more to the story, as there is still more processing after the bran and germ have been removed and the remaining endosperm has been ground into flour. That flour is bleached to make it white (something that is illegal to do in Europe and many other places in the world), using chemicals such as acetone peroxide, benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, or chlorine. I’m not so sure how that chemical residue in flour can be good for us.

But that is still not the end of the processing! Bleached wheat flour is so nutrient-poor that by law (since 1941) minute amounts of synthentic nutrients are added so it can be advertised as “enriched” or “fortified” to consumers. Most don’t know that the synthetic B-vitamins added back to the white flour are derived from coal tar.

What is the final product really good for? White wheat flour is the traditional base for wallpaper paste.

But why is white flour so popular? Here’s Wikipedia’s answer:

An important problem of the industrial revolution was the preservation of flour. Transportation distances and a relatively slow distribution system collided with natural shelf life. The reason for the limited shelf life is the fatty acids of the germ, which react from the moment they are exposed to oxygen. This occurs when grain is milled; the fatty acids oxidize and flour starts to become rancid. Depending on climate and grain quality, this process takes six to nine months.

In the late 19th century, this process was too short for an industrial production and distribution cycle. As vitamins, micro nutrients and amino acids were completely or relatively unknown in the late 19th century, removing the germ was a brilliant solution. Without the germ, flour cannot become rancid. Degermed flour became standard. Degermation started in densely populated areas and took approximately one generation to reach the countryside.

They sure weren’t thinking about your body’s God-given need for nutrients! They were thinking about making money off of you! And that is the underlying problem with so much of what is offered as food these days.

But there is still more to the story. Your body absorbs wheat differently when the bran and the germ have been removed. Instead of a slow process that provides you with steady energy, your body breaks down white flour quickly, causing your blood sugar to spike. Your body then has to work to absorb the excess and stores it as fat. The result is quick highs and lows in your blood-sugar level which can lead to weight gain and adult-onset diabetes.

Whole grain breads, on the other hand, are indeed “the staff of life,” full of God-designed vitamins, minerals and fiber. God once commanded Ezekiel to make bread of “wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt” and eat it for three-hundred and ninety days (see Ezek. 4:9)! You can likely find a product made from those same ingredients in your local grocery store called Ezekiel Bread. You might want to purchase some to taste what God considers bread! Let me warn you, however, it tastes very little like white bread. If you ever start eating whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, you’ll begin to wonder if the makers of Wonder Bread came up with the name of their brand because they wondered if it was bread!

And speaking of wonder, I wonder what the Lord might be thinking when, before our meals, we ask Him to bless our white bread, pasta, pizza, pie crust, pancakes, crackers, cake, cookies, pretzels, breakfast cereals, donuts and so on—all usually made from “enriched” white flour. The average American consumes 200 pounds of it per year.

And what might the Lord be thinking when we pray for Him to heal us of sicknesses and diseases that are the result of our dietary choices? As I’ve already said, it is a proven fact that the three biggest killers of Americans—heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—are often diet related. I wonder if the Lord is saying, “Why are you asking Me to heal you when you keep trying to kill yourself, digging your grave with your fork?”

Just the Beginning…

In this very brief and basic nutrition primer (for which I hope to receive lots of encouragement and little persecution), I have not delved into the fact that much of our wheat that is processed into flour—both whole-wheat and white—is grown using chemical pesticides, fungicides and synthetic hormones, and may also be genetically modified. The quest for profits too often trumps the Golden Rule, because “the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Lest we put all the blame on the food industry, however, let us not forget that consumers fuel the market. If no one purchased potentially harmful food, no such food would be available for purchase. These days, the great demand for healthy and organic food has created a big market with abundant supply.

Of course, there are many ingredients in modern processed foods that are much more potentially harmful than white flour, and if you have never studied anything about nutrition, I encourage you to avail yourself to the information that is available. Of course, some of it conflicts, but you can’t go wrong with a diet that includes a balance of healthy (unprocessed) protein, fats and carbohydrates. Gravitate to whole grains and whole-wheat flour over white flour. If the foods you consume are organic, all the better (although it will cost you more).

Although I’ve read, studied, and tried following a lot of nutritional paths over the past three decades, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert. Having made that disclaimer, I don’t advocate eating only raw foods (cooking, baking, grilling and even frying with unprocessed fats is not unnatural processing), or eating a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet. I also recommend food shopping around the outer edges of your grocery store, as that is where you will find foods in their most natural and least processed state. Lots of the items in the aisles should hardly be considered food, but just stuff to put in your mouth if you hate yourself!

Anticipating an Objection

In anticipation of receiving some emails that inform me of Paul’s words found in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, let me quote his words first and then comment:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

When Paul wrote regarding food, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude,” was he recommending the consumption of the known deadly poisons of his day, all derived from some God-created substance? Surely not. And so I have to think that Paul, if he were alive today, would recommend abstaining from any food that has been proven to be harmful, especially those concocted in labs and manufactured in factories rather than prepared in kitchens! You may recall that in the very same letter where the above quote is found, Paul recommended to Timothy that he abstain from drinking water that was making him sick (obviously water that was impure), and to drink wine instead (see 1 Tim. 5:23). Sounds like dietary advice!

For Additional Information…

In closing, a very informative, entertaining, and inspiring video for anyone looking for some motivation to improve their diet is titled Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It documents the dietary changes of an overweight and very likable Australian man who subsequently regains his health and loses lots of weight. (I don’t believe, however, that his vegetable/fruit juice, no-meat diet would be good to maintain for a long time.) Beyond that video, two books I think are worth reading are Eat to Live and Fasting and Eating for Health, both by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whom the Australian man in the Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead video visits at the start of his journey.

OK, thanks for reading! Next month I’m going to reveal a simple exercise for weight loss that requires very little effort and only requires seconds each day! Don’t miss it! — David