Seventh Day Adventist Food Pyramid

The Seventh-day Adventist Church promotes a vegetarian diet for members.

Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) are known for their traditional beliefs and practices, such as their adherence to a vegetarian lifestyle. SDAs believe that any eating or drinking should honor God and the holistic nature of humanity, and, as a result of this belief, the majority of Adventists are lacto-ovo vegetarians (meaning they do not consume meat but do consume dairy products). The health interests of the SDA church, though, are broader than just the vegetarian lifestyle they promote. The church supports plans to help people quit smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating unhealthy foods and it also has many food bank programs and other social agendas.

Being a vegetarian is not mandatory in the Seventh-day Adventist church; however, it is recommended. The diet of choice is the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which promotes the ample use of whole-grains, vegetables, and fruits. Incidentally, the founder of Kellogg's cereal was a prominent member of the church. Additionally, the SDA vegetarian diet recommends some legumes, nuts, and low-fat diary products in moderation. Examples of recommended dairy products would be milk, yogurt, light cheeses, with eggs used sparingly.

If an Adventist does not practice a vegetarian diet, he is still expected to live in a healthy manner, with much exercise, sunshine, and rest in his daily life. Self-control is also a basic tenant, meaning that SDAs do not partake in alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or other addictive drugs. If an Adventist does consume meat, it should be lean meat with optimum health benefits.

Religious beliefs aside, the majority of Seventh-day Adventists are basic vegetarians. A small percentage of SDAs are vegans, a type of vegetarian that do not eat any animal derived products. Because this community practices the same diet of either lacto-ovo or vegan vegetarianism, the Seventh-day Adventists have a strong interest in new research and health guidelines for vegetarians. As a result of this interest, health experts from the church created the "Total Plant Food Guide," a pyramid aimed at total vegetarians or vegans.

Even though the majority of SDAs are not vegans (only about 2%), those who are have a higher risk of not consuming the vitamins and minerals they need. Also, any sort of vegetarian-based guidelines are of interest to the community as a whole. As a result, SDAs are highly encouraged to use these guidelines to consume a healthy diet.

Some concerns that prompted this recommendation were that vegans are not getting enough calcium and B12 because of their exclusion of dairy products - the primary source of both nutrients. The Total Plant Food Guide recommends two to three servings of low-fat dairy fortified alternatives, like supplements, each day to compensate for the absence of dairy products. Sometimes vegetables and certain foods have a part of the recommended calcium and B12, but the amount is generally not enough to ensure a healthy diet. Lacto-ovo vegetarians should give special attention to their intake of protein, iron, and zinc. Concurrently, U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for vegetarians suggests a consumption of 11-20 servings daily from breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables.

Because this entire community has such a predominantly nutritional lifestyle, it is the subject of many health studies. As a result of these studies, the National Institute for Health reports that Adventists are less at risk for heart disease, some types of cancers, strokes, and diabetes. Additionally, life expectancies for SDAs are some of the highest in formally studied cultures in the world, with the men living an average of 78.5 years and women living 82.3 years.

All of these positive results, however, should not be attributed to being a member of a certain religion but, instead, the result of the diet that the religion promotes. Although other studies could analyze the importance of spirituality in daily life, it is the vegetarian diet that is linked to the afore-mentioned health benefits. Seventh-day Adventists are an ideal population to study, as they all have the same diet share many lifestyle factors. The diet itself, though, is not unique to the religion; vegetarianism is practiced throughout the world.

© High Speed Ventures 2011