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Kosher Food

What's the Deal with Kosher Food?

By Jordana Haspel
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

"Is that kosher?"

Circle KIt's a phrase that has more than one meaning. People often use the word "kosher" to mean "right" or "proper." But the word actually comes from a complex set of dietary rules observed by religious Jews around the world. This doesn't mean kosher food is just for Jewish people, however. In fact, more and more non-Jews are buying kosher food.

Why? For one, some kosher foods, like chicken, taste better than their non-kosher counterparts (though organic or free-farmed chicken is even tastier). But many people also perceive kosher food as healthier and cleaner. Some believe eating kosher can help ward off diseases, prevent allergies, and even lower cholesterol! There is little evidence that it actually does these things, but there are advantages to keeping kosher for some people, regardless of their religion.


But first, some kosher basics:

  • You can't eat all kinds of meat. To be kosher, a land animal has to have split hooves and chew its cud. That takes pigs and rabbits out of the picture, but allows cows, bison, goats, and even giraffes!

  • Fish have to have both fins and scales. So any kind of shellfish is out, as are sharks and swordfish.

  • Birds of prey are also not kosher.

  • All fruits and vegetables are kosher.

  • You can't mix milk and meat. Cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizzas are no—nos. Observant Jews keep two sets of plates and silverware—one for each kind of food. Fish, for some reason, aren't considered either dairy or meat, very likely because bagels, cream cheese, and lox are such a great combination. Fruits and veggies are also neutral.

  • Just because a food is allowed under kosher laws doesn't automatically make it kosher. First it has to be certified by a rabbi, who inspects the facility and preparation process to make sure all the rules are being followed. For instance, manufacturers might be using the same equipment they used to prepare a non-kosher food. Certified kosher foods are marked on their packaging, usually either with a "U" with a circle around it, or with a "K." The label will also indicate if the food is meat, dairy, or pareve (can be eaten with both).

What does all this mean for people who aren't observant Jews? A few things:

  • Read LabelsBetter labeling benefits those with allergies. For people with some allergies a kosher label can help stop them from accidentally eating something they're allergic to. Many non-dairy creamers, for example, are marked as a dairy food because they do contain ingredients derived from milk—if you're lactose intolerant, looking out for a "D" next to the kosher label can help you avoid exposure. Plus, no kosher food has any contact with shellfish, which some people are very allergic to.

  • Better labeling helps vegetarians and vegans, too. Like hidden sources of dairy, there are also hidden animal products in some foods. Looking for kosher products can help you avoid them sometimes.

  • Kosher food inspires more trust. Because of the extra oversight kosher products go through, many people feel more confident about the safety and cleanliness of kosher food. Sick animals aren't kosher (until they're better); neither are insects or rats, so there's a lower chance of them ending up in your hot dog.

Still curious about Jewish food? Here's a traditional Jewish recipe—my grandmother used to cook it for us. I updated it slightly by using brown rice instead of white. And while cabbage is hardly the most glamorous of vegetables, it is up there with broccoli and cauliflower in terms of health benefits, and is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. This dish is not only delicious, but it makes for great leftovers!

Cabbage My Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage

1 head green cabbage
1 lb. ground beef, extra-lean (5% fat or less, if possible)
1 onion, pureed or minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar or 4 Tbsp. honey
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock

Boil the eight largest cabbage leaves for 5 minutes (or freeze the cabbage overnight and then thaw before starting). Mix beef, onion, eggs, and sugar. Place two spoonfuls of the meat mixture in the middle of the largest cabbage leaf and wrap the leaf around the meat. Place seam-down in a large skillet. Repeat until all the meat is used. Add chicken stock to skillet. Spread tomatoes on top. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories 214 Protein 18 g Fiber 3 g
Carbs 26 g Fat Total 5 g Saturated Fat 2 g

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