What was the Original Diet?
We can learn from the Bible what God's plan was for the diet of man.
Diet in Eden
We find this answer in Genesis:
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food...”
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.”
How amazing was that? God even planted the food forest for them and gave them permission to freely eat.
The Eden diet was originally given to humans was a fruitarian* diet, if it is a tree or herb "bearing seed" it would appear this was part of the original diet. Common examples of fruit include Pome such as apple or pear, Drupe or "stone" fruit such as cherries and peaches, Citrus like oranges or limes, Melons such as watermelon or cantaloupe, Berries such as blackberries or strawberries (also note that technically tomatoes, bell peppers and avocados are a berry so also a fruit... Exotic like bananas or mangos, then we get into Dehiscent fruits falling into the Legumes category (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas) ...botanically a type of Indehiscent fruit (or more specifically the seed of the fruit) include hazelnuts, wheat and rice...
Note: The term fruitarian has different meanings to different groups of people, as do the rest of the meanings discussed, so for the purpose of this page these definitions of diets are based on their Biblical association.
So God intended that humans eat fruits, grains, legumes and nuts.
Diet Restriction in Eden
The First Test of Loyalty
While God provided a diverse abundance of food for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, God also provided a mechanism of free will to test their loyalty.
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
This was a test of loyalty to trust that God knows what is best for us. However...
“...she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
How did the diet change?
Death of Plants
After the fall of humanity, Adam and Eve lost access to the food forest that God had planted for them and needed to grow their own food.
“Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”
Before this time, Adam and Eve as fruitarians could eat freely without killing any plants. From this time forward however the vegetation formed protective mechanisms (such as thorns) and started to die. God then allowed humanity to eat the entire plant, not just the fruit.
“Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.”
So before sin, we were to eat only the fruit of the plant and it was not until after sin when the plants started to die that we were given the plant (roots, stalks and leaves) itself to eat.
Adam and Eve now ate a Vegan diet, consisting of the fruit that grew outside of the garden of eden but now also relied on the rest of the plant for their food. This included Brassica like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, Stalky greens or any plant with edible stems like asparagus and celery, Squash like pumpkins and also marrow such as cucumbers and zucchini, Root including carrots, beets, radishes, Tuber including potato, sweet potato and yams, Bulbous such as onion, garlic and shallots.
So with the death of plants, God allowed the diet to include roots, stalks and leaves.
Use of Animals
Later, sometime after the first murder by Cain, we find that dairy was introduced (maybe during a nomadic period when they could not grow gardens?).
“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.”
“And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.”
Humanity now ate a Vegetarian diet, supplementing the plant-based diet with animal byproducts. We learn that Cows, Goats and Sheep were used for milk and made butter and curds out of it. While there are not any obvious references about Eggs (Luke 11:12) we can presume eggs were also eaten. One surprising ingredient comes from after bees gather nectar from flowers, partially digest it and then regurgitate back out which is covered in wax and we then extract as Honey.
So man moved further from the diet God had intended...
Shortening Man's Life
Death of Animals
It was contrary to God's plan to have the life of any creature taken. It was not until after the flood that God gave man permission to eat animals for food.
“The diet appointed man in the beginning did not include animal food. Not till after the Flood, when every green thing on the earth had been destroyed, did man receive permission to eat flesh.”
The Ministry of Healing (MH 311.1)
“Everything had been destroyed upon which man could subsist, and therefore the Lord in their necessity gave Noah permission to eat of the clean animals which he had taken with him into the ark. But animal food was not the most healthful article of food for man.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 373.1)
“Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing. These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the Sheep, and the goat, The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois. And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat. Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase. These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.”
So man moved even further from the diet God had intended... but the effects were immediately shown...
Side note: Some people will take Peter's vision in Acts 10:9-16 to say that God now allows us to eat any type of meat we want. However if we read the entire chapter in context, in the dream the unclean foods symbolized the gentiles and even more obvious is the next verse reads that immediately after the dream a knock on the door brought a request to go speak at a gentiles house. No one who reads the entire chapter thinks God made it ok to eat unclean foods...
Shortening Man's Life (continued)
“God gave the people that which was not for their highest good, because they persisted in desiring it; they would not be satisfied with those things that would prove a benefit to them. Their rebellious desires were gratified, but they were left to suffer the result. They feasted without restraint, and their excesses were speedily punished. ‘The Lord smote the people with a very great plague.’ Large numbers were cut down by burning fevers, while the most guilty among them were smitten as soon as they tasted the food for which they had lusted.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 373.1)
“After the flood the people ate largely of animal food. God saw that the ways of man were corrupt, and that he was disposed to exalt himself proudly against his Creator and to follow the inclinations of his own heart. And He permitted that long-lived race to eat animal food to shorten their sinful lives. Soon after the flood the race began to rapidly decrease in size, and in length of years.”
Spiritual Gifts 4a:120, 121, 1864
So flesh meats were given knowing that they would drastically decrease the lifespan of humanity. Any guess looking at the chart below when God permitted man to starting eating meat?
A Salvational Issue
“There are those who ought to be awake to the danger of meat eating, who are still eating the flesh of animals, thus endangering the physical, mental, and spiritual health. Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God's people to walk no more with them.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 382.1)
A Salvational Issue
“The subject of health reform has been presented in the churches; but the light has not been heartily received. The selfish, health-destroying indulgences of men and women have counteracted the influence of the message that is to prepare a people for the great day of God. If the churches expect strength, they must live the truth which God has given them. If the members of our churches disregard the light on this subject, they will reap the sure result in both spiritual and physical degeneracy. And the influence of these older church members will leaven those newly come to the faith.”
Testimonies for the Church (6T 370.3)
“A diet of flesh meat tends to develop animalism. A development of animalism lessens spirituality, rendering the mind incapable of understanding truth.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 382.3)
Time to Take a Stand
“Is it not time that all should aim to dispense with flesh foods? How can those who are seeking to become pure, refined, and holy, that they may have the companionship of heavenly angels, continue to use as food anything that has so harmful an effect on soul and body? How can they take the life of God's creatures that they may consume the flesh as a luxury? Let them, rather, return to the wholesome and delicious food given to man in the beginning, and themselves practice, and teach their children to practice, mercy toward the dumb creatures that God has made and has placed under our dominion.”
The Ministry of Healing, 317, 1905
“It has been clearly presented to me that God's people are to take a firm stand against meat eating.”
Letter 48, 1902
“Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet.”
Letter 48, 1902
“Sabbathkeepers who are looking for the soon appearing of their Saviour should be the last to manifest a lack of interest in this great work of reform...”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 51.2)
“Those who have received instruction regarding the evils of the use of flesh foods, tea, and coffee, and rich and unhealthful food preparations, and who are determined to make a covenant with God by sacrifice, will not continue to indulge their appetite for food that they know to be unhealthful. God demands that the appetite be cleansed, and that self-denial be practiced in regard to those things which are not good. This is a work that will have to be done before His people can stand before Him a perfected people.”
Testimonies for the Church 9:153, 154, 1909
“At this stage of the earth’s history, meat eating is dishonoring to God.”
17LtMs, Lt 49, 1902, par. 41
We must remember that we are not our own (Jeremiah 10:23), we belong to Christ (Romans 8:9) and must not defile God's temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)...
Out of Egypt
When God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, He wanted to reset their diet and fed them with manna on their way to a country of milk and honey... so God was taking His people from a omnivore diet back to a vegetarian diet.
“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions and the garlick: but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.”
“I have heard the murmur of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God...”
“Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying Why came we forth out of Egypt?”
“And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.”
“Vegetables, fruits, and grains should compose our diet. Not an ounce of flesh meat should enter our stomachs. The eating of flesh is unnatural. We are to return to God's original purpose in the creation of man.”
Letter 48, 1902
A Return to the Eden
“Again and again I have been shown that God is trying to lead us back, step by step, to His original design,—that man should subsist upon the natural products of the earth.”
Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 119
What about Cheese?
“Cheese should never be introduced into the stomach.”
Testimonies for the Church (2T 68.1) 1868
What about Milk and Eggs?
“Let the people be taught how to prepare food without the use of milk or butter. Tell them that the time will soon come when there will be no safety in using eggs, milk, cream, or butter, because disease in animals is increasing in proportion to the increase of wickedness among men. The time is near when, because of the iniquity of the fallen race, the whole animal creation will groan under the diseases that curse our earth. God will give His people ability and tact to prepare wholesome food without these things. Let our people discard all unwholesome recipes.”
Testimonies for the Church (7T 135.1) 1902
“...provision will be made to supply the place of milk and eggs.”
Testimonies for the Church (2T 68.1) 1868
This has been fulfilled with various nut and grain based milks which do not contain the hormones that dairy milk does.
God wants us to eat healthy because He loves us and will ensure before taking something away there is provision elsewhere.
“God is working in behalf of His people. He does not desire them to be without resources. He is bringing them back to the diet originally given to man. Their diet is to consist of the foods made from the materials He has provided. The materials principally used in these foods will be fruits and grains and nuts, but various roots will also be used.”
Testimonies for the Church 7:125, 126, 1902
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank... Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”
“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.”
Returning to a Natural Diet
“Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods, prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing. They impart a strength, a power of endurance, and a vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet.”
The Ministry of Health and Healing (MHH 166.4)
“The simple grains, fruits of the trees, vegetables, have all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood. This a flesh diet cannot do.”
Letter 72, 1896
“The Lord intends to bring His people back to live upon simple fruits, vegetables, and grains.”
Letter 72, 1896
“The more we depend upon the fresh fruit just as it is plucked from the tree, the greater will be the blessing.” Testimonies for the Church 7:126, 1902
“For a dyspeptic stomach, you may place upon your tables fruits of different kinds, but not too many at one meal.” Testimonies for the Church 2:373, 1870
“But even fruit should not be eaten after a full meal of other foods.” Manuscript 43, 1908
“Nicely prepared vegetables and fruits in their season will be beneficial, if they are of the best quality, not showing the slightest sign of decay, but are sound and unaffected by any disease or decay. More die by eating decayed fruit and decayed vegetables which ferment in the stomach and result in blood poisoning, than we have any idea of.” Letter 12, 1887
“Nuts and nut foods are coming largely into use to take the place of flesh meats... Care should be taken, however, not to use too large a proportion of nuts. Those who realize ill effects from the use of nut foods may find the difficulty removed by attending to this precaution.” The Ministry of Healing, 297-298, 1905
“I have been instructed that the nut foods are often used unwisely, that too large a proportion of nuts is used, that some nuts are not as wholesome as others. Almonds are preferable to peanuts; but peanuts, in limited quantities, may be used in connection with grains to make nourishing and digestible food.” Testimonies for the Church (7T 134) 1902
“If we plan wisely, that which is most conducive to health can be secured in almost every land. The various preparations of rice, wheat, corn, and oats are sent abroad everywhere, also beans, peas, and lentils. These, with native or imported fruits, and the variety of vegetables that grow in each locality, give an opportunity to select a dietary that is complete without the use of flesh meats.” The Ministry of Healing, 299, 1905
“If meat is discarded, if the taste is not educated in that direction, if a liking for fruits and grains is encouraged, it will soon be as God in the beginning designed it should be. No meat will be used by His people.” Letter 3, 1884
“Of corn and peas we have raised enough for ourselves and our neighbors. The sweet corn we dry for winter use; then when we need it we grind it in a mill and cook it. It makes most palatable soups and other dishes.” CD 324.3
“Good baked or boiled potatoes served with cream and a sprinkling of salt are the most healthful. with a little cream and salt and rebaked, and not fried; they are excellent.” Letter 322, 1905
“We also grow a large quantity of tomatoes.” Letter 363, 1907
“It would be well for us to do less cooking and to eat more fruit in its natural state. Let us teach the people to eat freely of the fresh grapes, apples, peaches, pears, berries, and all other kinds of fruit that can be obtained. Let these be prepared for winter use by canning, using glass, as far as possible, instead of tin.” fruits, vegetables, and grains.”
Testimonies for the Church 7:134, 1902
Simplicity is Key
“The more careful you are in your diet, the more simple and unstimulating the food that sustains the body in its harmonious action, the more clear will be your conception of duty.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 52.1)
“If ever there was a time when the diet should be of the most simple kind, it is now.”
Testimonies for the Church (2T 352) 1869
“A plain diet, free from spices, and flesh meats, and grease of all kinds, would prove a blessing to you.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 83.1)
“The dishes are highly seasoned with salt and pepper, creating an almost intolerable thirst.... They would irritate and inflame the delicate coating of the stomach.” CD 339.5
“Spices at first irritate the tender coating of the stomach, but finally destroy the natural sensitiveness of this delicate membrane. The blood becomes fevered, the animal propensities are aroused, while the moral and intellectual powers are weakened, and become servants to the baser passions.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 47
“Food should be prepared in as simple a manner as possible, free from condiments and spices, and even from an undue amount of salt.” The Review and Herald, November 6, 1883
“Butter should not be placed on the table; for if it is, some will use it too freely, and it will obstruct digestion. But for yourself, you should occasionally use a little butter on cold bread, if this will make the food more appetizing. This would do you far less harm than to confine yourself to preparations of food that are not palatable.” Letter 37, 1901
“I have settled the butter question. I do not use it. This question should easily be settled in every place where the purest article cannot be obtained. We have two good milch cows, a Jersey and a Holstein. We use cream, and all are satisfied with this.” Letter 45, 1903
“You should keep grease out of your food. It defiles any preparation of food you may make..” Testimonies for the Church (2T 63) 1868
“The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies; as a consequence, the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulties appear.” Letter 9, 1887
Pickles irritate the stomach and make blood impure.” CD 345
“Do not eat largely of salt, avoid the use of pickles and spiced foods, eat an abundance of fruit, and the irritation that calls for so much drink at mealtime will largely disappear.” The Ministry of Healing, 305, 1905
“Sugar is not good for the stomach. It causes fermentation, and this clouds the brain and brings peevishness into the disposition. And it has been proved that two meals are better than three for the health of the system.” 2MCP 391
“And from the light given me, sugar, when largely used, is more injurious than meat.” Testimonies for the Church (2T 369)
“In this fast age, the less exciting the food, the better. Condiments are injurious in their nature. Mustard, pepper, spices, pickles, and other things of a like character, irritate the stomach and make the blood feverish and impure... Soon ordinary food does not satisfy the appetite. The system feels a want, a craving, for something more stimulating.”
The Ministry of Healing (MH 325.2)
“Persons who have indulged their appetite to eat freely of meat, highly seasoned gravies, and various kinds of rich cakes and preserves, cannot immediately relish a plain, wholesome, nutritious diet. Their taste is so perverted they have not appetite for a wholesome diet of fruits, plain bread, and vegetables. They need not expect to relish at first food so different from that in which they have been indulging.
Spiritual Gifts 4a:130, 1864
Practice what we Preach
We must live up to the light we are given so that our actions become our sermons.
“...if we as Christian reformers educate our own taste, and bring our diet to God's plan, then we may exert an influence upon others in this matter, which will be pleasing to God.”
Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 119, 1890
Caution Against Extremes
If health reform is pushed to quickly or to strictly it will have a negative effect. We must present the health reform message to show how it will improve their life, not burden it.
“Those who desire to be co-workers with God must consider carefully how they teach health reform.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 95.3)
“Those who understand the laws of health, and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restrictions.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 198.2)
“There is danger that in presenting the principles of health reform some will be in favor of bringing in changes that would be for the worse instead of for the better. Health reform must not be urged in a radical manner.”
Letter 98, 1901
Diet Reform should be Progressive
We should do our best to point people to Jesus, warn of the harmfulness of meat and stimulants to our spiritual health and then let the Holy Spirit convict their hearts to go further.
“Should health reform be taught them in its most extreme form, harm would be done. We ask them to leave off eating meat and drinking tea and coffee. This is well. But some say that milk also should be given up. This is a subject that needs to be carefully handled. There are poor families whose diet consists of bread and milk, and, if they can get it, a little fruit. All flesh food should be discarded, but vegetables should be made palatable with a little milk or cream or something equivalent.”
Counsels on Diet and Foods (CD 205.4)
“Let the diet reform be progressive.”
Testimonies for the Church (7T 135.1) 1902
“If our appetites clamor for the flesh of dead animals, it is a necessity to fast and pray for the Lord to give His grace to deny fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
Letter 73, 1896
Maybe today you give up red meat, then next month poultry, then when impressed give up fish, for sure give up cheese as fast as you can (as hard as that sounds), then make the switch from dairy milk to almond/oat/soy milk, start using less spices and grease... it is a journey that may take months or even years...
Just start the journey... Let the Holy Spirit lead you progressively to where you should be.