The Kosher Diet…a “mainstream” diet?

Is it possible that the kosher diet, a diet once only followed by Jews for religious reasons, is the latest diet trend for both Jews and non-Jews alike? An article published last spring titled, “Kosher Goes Mainstream…” used the purchase of the United States’ largest producer of Kosher food, Manischewitz, to highlight this trend. The private company, which purchased Manischewitz did so, they report, because they saw the potential for selling their foods to a wider audience.

Is it Kosher?
Is it Kosher? / Matt Olson / CC BY 2.0

According to consumer data, over 12 million Americans bought kosher foods in 2012, with over 55% reporting that they did so for health and safety reasons. More and more people are turning to kosher foods because they have been produced in such a way that may make them seem “cleaner.” As “eating clean” or following a diet limited in processed foods and other unnatural attributes is also a growing trend among US consumers, this connection makes sense. Or does it?

A food is certified kosher when the steps in production have been controlled and inspected to ensure they are following kosher dietary laws, which regulate the way meat and dairy are processed and produce is cleaned to eliminate bugs and other contaminants. Whole and processed foods alike can receive a kosher stamp. While this careful regulation may have a positive impact on the quality (and possibly the taste) of foods, it doesn’t change the composition of foods in terms of fat source, sugar content or whether a food is generally nutritionally balanced, beneficial and “processed.” Similar to what we need to keep in mind with organic or gluten-free foods, the fact that a food is kosher has nothing to with whether a food is good for you.

This begs the question, are there any health benefits to following a kosher diet? For individuals that want to know how an animal was treated may appreciate purchasing kosher meats since this process is tightly regulated and defined by kosher law. Some believe that this process limits the potential for bacteria to develop on food, which may create safer meats. Lastly, since processed foods that are labeled as kosher need to meet certain guidelines (such as being free of shellfish) this may help individuals with allergies.

As with any diet trend, it is best to become educated, decide what is best for you and keep your own goals in mind as you consider changing your diet. In the meantime, if you would like to purchase kosher foods for your home, let the Guiding Stars guide you toward the best choices for you!