Dr. Don Colbert’s book What Would Jesus Eat? has inspired what is arguably the most popular faith-based diet around, but are the nutritional aspects of Dr. Colbert’s advice sound? I’ve been personally fascinated by nutrition, health, exercise and wellness for many years, and I’ve spent a great deal of time not only educating myself about basic scientific dietary and fitness principles but also rigorously and consistently applying those principles to my life. You could say that diet and nutrition are a hobby of mine now and though I like to consider myself an informed layperson, I always try to keep abreast of the latest news and upcoming trends in dietary advice.
Not long ago, I came across the work of Don Colbert M.D. And perhaps to my shame, I found myself a bit incredulous and dismissive at the outset. I’d had some experience with religious and faith-based dietary advice in the past, and I’ve been willing to examine just about anything and apply any principles to my personal diet so long as I feel they are sound and healthy. I’ve examined Eastern herbalism and Ayurvedic advice and found myself a bit disappointed. Sometimes it can be difficult to incorporate spirituality into your dietary choices when you’re overwhelmed by tangled rationalizations and conflicting advice.
To my pleasant surprise (really, I was surprised), Dr. Colbert’s advice is not only sound, reasonable and healthy, I personally believe that his general guidelines could be followed by non-Christians as well. Aside from the title of his book, a clever play on the popular phrase “What would Jesus do?”, and infusion of scripture throughout, you might find yourself as pleasantly surprised as I was to know that the core of Dr. Colbert’s diet is essentially an adaptation of the Mediterranean Diet. This particular diet is one which is getting wide respect from nutritionists and health experts all over the world due to accumulating scientific research backing up its benefits daily.
That Colbert advocates fundamentally an adaptation of the Mediterranean diet is no surprise since, as he points out, Jesus’ own diet would have been restricted to foods that were available in the Mediterranean and Middle East at the time. As with the Mediterranean Diet, there is a focus on whole grains, fish, and whole fruits such as olives, and prudent consumption of red wine. Interestingly, red meat is to be consumed only minimally, and this again is in complete agreement with Mediterranean Dietary guidelines that have been well established scientifically.
Indeed, Colbert’s advice is perfectly compatible with the advice of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. Whole grains, fish, fruits and red wine have all been associated with reduced risk of disease and improved health. Even though I don’t consider myself a religious man, Colbert’s infusion of spirituality is not unwelcome. Dan Buettner, author of the popular book Blue Zones has affirmed that spirituality is a strong predictor of healthy aging and lifespan.
Remember, Colbert asks the question “What Would Jesus Eat?” in a literal sense, and obviously since Jesus would not have had access to modern processed foods and refined sugars, they are to be avoided. You’re starting to get the gist of Colbert’s advice, right? Stick with whole grains, fish, and natural, whole foods, consume wine (though not excessively) and eat limited amounts of red meat.