What the Baha’i teachings say about food somehow makes perfect sense to me, even without knowing enough about the science of nutrition.

When studying the wise counsel about what to eat in the Baha’i writings, my “gut” feeling says, Yes, this is the way to eat! When an early Baha’i asked Abdu’l-Baha: “What will be the food of the future?” he said:

Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food. – quoted by Julia Grundy, Ten Days in the Light of Akka, pp. 8-9.

This is the time of year that we typically review our habits and resolve to make changes for the good, so I researched statistics about the most popular New Year’s Resolution. Guess what’s number one, again? Yes, that’s right: “Losing weight and healthier eating.”

Food certainly does not seem to be a very spiritual subject; in fact, it seems to be the opposite. Our diets today seem mostly related to our physical appearance, and how we look is often largely related to how we feel and how attractive we may be to others. I for one don’t think often enough about nourishing my body in such a way that will help me serve, work and meet responsibilities more efficiently. The Baha’i teachings inspire us to change that dynamic:

Looking after one’s health is done with two intentions. Man may take good care of his body for the purpose of satisfying his personal wishes. Or, he may look after his health with the good intention of serving humanity and of living long enough to perform his duty toward mankind. The latter is most commendable. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 231.

Hippocrates

Hippocrates

In 400 B.C. Hippocrates wrote about the relationship between health and food when he said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth (…oops, he found Florida instead). Food and its relationship to our health is an age-old subject, and still a primary concern for everyone. As foragers of food we may have eaten more organically in the past, before processed and fast foods became so easily available. But today, new guidance from the Baha’i writings suggests that there is a link between food and our spiritual potential:

Between material things and spiritual things there is a connection. The more healthful his body the greater will be the power of the spirit of man. – Ibid.

How can we approach food from a spiritual vantage point, and reap the physical benefits of productivity at the same time?

Many of us intellectually understand that moving towards healthier eating will not only help us individually, collectively, environmentally, and economically—but will also move us and our societies into a healthier future on all accounts. Yet we still find it very onerous to discipline ourselves when it comes to food.

Some of the first thoughts I wake up to in the morning are, “Oh, why did I eat that last night, I feel so lethargic now.” In searching for spiritual motivations and leaving the “appearance” incentive behind, I wanted to offer this concept of “eating for our souls” as a supreme encouragement for making better food choices this year. Feeding our bodies with mostly naturally grown food from the soil will bolster our souls as well as our bodies, so we can do better at the things we were created to accomplish in this world.

How’s that for a higher motivation over simply aspiring for a more slender, fetching frame?

Yet if these points don’t rouse enough determination to bring about a change in our food fare, here’s one more ingredient to chew over—Abdu’l-Baha wrote about foods curing diseases in the future:

At whatever time highly-skilled physicians shall have developed the healing of illnesses by means of foods, and shall make provision for simple foods, and shall prohibit humankind from living as slaves to their lustful appetites, it is certain that the incidence of chronic and diversified illnesses will abate, and the general health of all mankind will be much improved. This is destined to come about. In the same way, in the character, the conduct and the manners of men, universal modifications will be made. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 153.

Need additional compelling tips for this new soulful diet? Baha’u’llah explains how health links directly to our mental, moral and spiritual health, as well as the life of the plants and animals, and says that we’re not yet aware of the full impact of these connections. Abdu’l-Baha suggests consuming fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, oils, and vegetables; and goes on to say that human digestive tracts are different from carnivores because our longer tracts cause us to break down and absorb plant-based food more readily. Overall, the Baha’i teachings describe a simpler, more moderate style of eating, and ask us to be satisfied with one dish over complex combinations and lavish multi-course meals.

If you want to look after your health “with the good intention of serving humanity,” as Abdu’l-Baha suggests, join me in trying this new Baha’i diet—we’ll feel a new energy in body and soul.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

32 Comments

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  • Deanne LaRue
    Mar 08, 2017
    Hi Joe, you make a valuable point and agree completely; thank you for sharing. The main point of the article was to inspire based on soulful motivations over physical ones. (The Baha'i quotes here mostly refer to the foods of the future.)
  • Mar 05, 2017
    With reference to what you wrote 'Feeding our bodies with mostly naturally grown food from the soil will bolster our souls as well as our bodies, so we can do better at the things we were created to accomplish in this world.' I would be interested to read quotations from the Baha'i writings to substantiate this claim.
    There may be people out there living in poverty who eat whatever they can get and are good souls and there are people who eat the best organic diet who are not particularly spiritual.
    I agree that people should make efforts ...t be fit and healthy to better serve humanity but I don't see how eating nutritious natural foods will 'bolster our souls'.
    Read more...
  • Feb 26, 2017
    Happy Fasting to all the Bahai Friends around the World! lets make of this days the best time for Reflection in order to improve our inner Life and our social interactions! Regards Fereshteh, From Honduras CA.
    • Deanne LaRue
      Mar 08, 2017
      Hi Fereshteh from Honduras...I've just returned from Belize. Thank you for your comment, and did you see the BT article this week on Fasting called, "The Neuroscience of Fasting"? http://bahaiteachings.org/neuroscience-fasting
      It's a wonderful article...check it out!
  • Robert Moldenhauer
    Feb 25, 2017
    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s recipe for pilau:
    Lamb-cut in very small pieces-cutting away all fat, bone, gristle. Put butter in frying pan and when it bubbles, stir in the meat and continue to stir constantly until the meat is done. Season with salt. Raisins-look them over and wash them. Cook with equal amount of Syrian pine nuts-in another frying pan in same manner as lamb-in butter-stir nuts and raisins constantly. When ready to serve, mix most of nuts and raisins with the meat, using more meat than nuts and raisins. Place this mixture in the center of a serving platter and arrange ...a border of cooked rice around it, using the remaining nuts and raisins as decoration, according to taste.
    (Julia M Grundy, Ten Days in the Light of Akka)
    Read more...
  • Gail Blackford Humpston
    Feb 24, 2017
    I have problems with the grain part. Both my daughter and I have a "non-celiac gluten disease". And I have recovered from all sorts of physical difficulties just by being gluten free. I feel 10 years younger. So then all that rice in my gluten free diet was causing my blood sugar issues. It's low carb for me.
  • Susan Hakiman
    Feb 23, 2017
    Eating meat is not forbidden in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and both the Guardian and Universal House of Justice say this. Yes, Abdu'l-Baha says meat will be eaten less in the future but He also clearly says it is not forbidden. Therefore it has nothing to do with ones spirituality. Do we really need one more way to judge one another? Why all this bother about something that is not a law at this time? Some people are healthy on a vegan/vegetarian diet but not everyone. Every person is free to eat in a way they choose.
  • Irina Volochkovskaya
    Feb 22, 2017
    The one more thing that must be written uo here it's about human being relation with animals - it is not kind way to eat them, separeting cows from its child and grow them without sun and walking just for food...
    • Deanne LaRue
      Feb 22, 2017
      Hi Irina,
      Yes! We need to include kindness to animals in this discussion..."To blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God’s heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind."
      (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 160).
  • Jim Dennis
    Feb 22, 2017
    Awesome article
    Our Bahai friends struggle coming to grip with this subject.
    • Feb 24, 2017
      Deanne, I love your reply to Jim! Yes, let's lead and not follow! The future is now!
    • Deanne LaRue
      Feb 22, 2017
      Jim,
      We all struggle with this, and the pivot of the struggle might be in the use of the word 'future' or phrase 'the time will come'. When is the future, and do we want to try to get a head start?
    • Deanne LaRue
      Feb 22, 2017
      Jim,
      We all struggle with this, and the pivot of the struggle might be in the use of the word 'future' or phrase 'the time will come'. When is the future, and do we want to try to get a head start?
  • L Cole
    Feb 22, 2017
    Such a positive perspective on food choice and well being - health for mind, body and spirit. I appreciate the quotations you selected.
  • Feb 22, 2017
    Thanks, Deanne, you sure got a rise out of your readership! Whether we eat meat / insects or not, we drink more water than food; and breathe more air than water; and take in more ideas than all of them put together. Thanks for your ideas!
    • Deanne LaRue
      Feb 22, 2017
      Samuel...ha ha so true!