Seventh-day Adventists and Nutrition
By Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, FAND, Associate Director of Health Ministries for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
The Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages a balanced vegetarian diet. “The diet God ordained in the Garden of Eden–the vegetarian diet–is the ideal, but sometimes we cannot have the ideal. In those circumstances, in any given situation or locale, those who wish to stay in optimum health will eat the best food that they can obtain.” — Seventh-day Adventists Believe, p. 286.
There are different types of vegetarian diets including total (animal free), ovo-lacto (the most widely followed in the SDA church), and pesco (vegetarian with a little fish added). For those who live where there is an abundance of fortified food products, a healthy totally vegetarian diet may be the ideal with the following considerations:
- Choose ample whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and berries.
- Avoid replacing animal foods with refined, sweet, fatty commercial products—even if these are from plant sources.
- Take a supplement of vitamin B12 regularly (remember, deficiency symptoms may take 4-6 years to appear).
- Obtain adequate sunlight, and emphasize high-calcium vegetables, and/or supplement your diet with calcium and Vitamin D.
- Consider the use of ground flax and or chia seeds or supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids, especially during reproductive years.
- Assure adequate dietary zinc, especially for young and adolescent boys.
Please remember: one diet does not necessarily fit all. The Seventh-day Adventist church promotes the avoidance of flesh foods wherever possible. The best diet will vary depending on many factors including geographic location, economics, specific health/medical conditions, knowledge, and food availability. We are a global church, and as such leave the decisions of the specific diet to the choice of each member.
Let us heed the words of Paul: “…those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do…let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat…” (Romans 14:1-3).