Dietary Beliefs of Mormons

by Karen Farnen

Mormons believe that they should care for their bodies through beneficial health practices. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, sometimes called the Mormon Church, prescribes healthful exercise, sufficient sleep, cleanliness, dental hygiene and proper medical care. Mormon health beliefs also include specific teachings on diet.

Purpose

Mormons believe that following the church's dietary and other health laws shows respect for the body as the temple of God. The church considers its health teachings as commandments that benefit the physical, emotional and spiritual health of members. For example, avoiding harmful substances and eating a healthy diet increases members' energy and their ability to serve. A member should observe the health teachings to go into a Mormon temple.

Beverages and Drugs

Mormon writings called the Words of Wisdom forbid the use of tea, coffee and alcohol. Church writings specifically forbid hot beverages and also recommend avoiding other stimulant-containing drinks. For example, energy drinks and many types of soda contain caffeine. Church members must also avoid other harmful or illegal drugs and tobacco. Prescription drugs are permitted, but the church cautions members against abusing them.

Foods

According to Mormon health teachings, grains are the foundation of a wholesome diet. Vegetables, fruits, milk products, beans and oils also contribute to good nutrition. Mormons are allowed to eat meat and poultry, but the church advises them to eat these foods in smaller portions. According to Mormon beliefs, eating unwholesome foods defiles the body.

Portions and Fasting

The church teaches that members should eat the proper quantity of food for growth and good health. It advises members to avoid the extremes of malnutrition or anorexia on the one hand and overeating or obesity on the other. A properly-balanced diet, according to the church, usually provides proper nutrition without a need for dietary supplements. The church also expects observant Mormons to fast, or abstain from food, one day per month, donating the money saved to the poor.

Possible Benefits

Mormons who practice the health laws enjoy an increased lifespan of up to 10 years, according to the church. In fact, a study of California Mormons by James Enstrom and Lester Breslow of UCLA reported unusually low death rates compared to other populations. A study by Intermountain Health Care discovered that the Mormon practice of monthly fasting reduces the clogging of the arteries by 40 percent. However, not all Mormon dietary restrictions receive universal approval. In moderation, coffee and tea have health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. The clinic reports that even alcoholic beverages have possible benefits for the heart if you avoid excess.

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