Spirituality and Nutrition/Low fat diet


I have several new friends from south asia. Most eat a diet high in carbs and low in saturated fat. They are all trim and healthy.
I decided to give up my 'low carb diet', which has not really worked like its supposed to. Eating all that meat and dairy never made me feel 'comfortable' anyway, and now I eat a diet of very little fat from meats.
To my surprise, I am losing weight, have more energy, and feel great. My digestion is better, and I am not hungry all the time. In fact when I am hungry I eat to my fill with no after effects.
Is it possible that, for some people like me anyway, fats, especially from meats, are not good for the body, and a low fat/high carb is the way to go?

Hi Bud. I think we had contact before? The best rule is to follow your intuition and experience. The reason is that everyone's needs are different, and, in fact, they may change over time. Some people seem to do well on high fat diets, others not. Ultimately you have to go by what works for you. From a spiritual point of view, there are both advantages and disadvantages to animal foods and fats. Limiting them can stimulate inner activity because the body has to create its own fat, and such increased activity is beneficial to spiritual practice. On the other hand, some people are not able to create all the fat they need, and animal foods also help us to engage with the world, which is also important. But again, everyone is different, and so generalizations are of questionable validity.

Many traditional diets are high carbohydrate/low fat diets, but some are high fat/low carbohydrate. Both usually lead to good health. The reason is that carbohydrates and fats mixed together cause problems. The body digests and utilizes carbohydrate (and protein) before fat. If too many calories are ingested, fats are more likely to get stored. And ounce for ounce, fats have more calories than carbohydrates or proteins, so they quickly add up and lead to weight gain in a high carbohydrate diet. But in a low carbohydrate diet, fats get burned as fuel instead of getting stored. Thus high fat/low carbohydrate diets work too.

However, the evolutionary trend is towards high carbohydrate diets (like traditional south Asian diets), and as a result, fats have become more of a problem. But the issue is not necessarily saturated fat, but total fat, because excess calories get stored, and in mixed diets, that usually means fat, whether it is saturated or not. The issue of fats is complex. I recommend the article by Cherie Calbom (available on the web) "The Truth about Fats." As she indicates, saturated fats have gotten a bum rap; what's more important are "damaged fats," like hydrogenated oils and refined vegetable cooking oils that break down easily through heat. Saturated fats fare better, including traditional ones like butter and lard. I use a very small quantity of extra virgin olive oil myself for cooking, which is what many experts recommend.

Traditional diets like the south Asian diet, which are high in carbohydrate, usually include just small quantities of animal foods and fats, and there is much wisdom in this. Research indicates that just a small quantity of animal food added to vegetable foods synergistically boasts the protein content to a higher level than what the foods themselves contain. And so such diets are generally to be recommended. But the question remains as to how much animal food one needs, and again, the need is different. If you need more animal food, then you should decrease carbohydrates, especially complex ones like grains.

I hope I haven't made it too complicated, Bud. Think it all over, but in the end, follow your intuition.


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James Morgante


I can answer questions about the relationship between spiritual and religious teachings and nutrition -- why some advocate vegetarianism (yet most don't require it), why some have an ambivalent attitude, and why some pay no attention to the subject or even reject it. Based on my research, I would generally recommend to everyone that they include some form of animal food in the diet (dairy at a minimum) because of the nutritional importance of animal foods. There is no religious tradition that requires adherents to exclude all animal foods. I cannot answer personal questions about diet as individual diet must be based on individual needs. Personal questions should be addressed to a qualified dietary or medical practitioner.


I have been studying the relationship between spirituality and nutrition for over 30 years and wrote an academic thesis on the subject. I have now completed a manuscript and am seeking a publisher.

Health Progress, "Toward a Theology of Wellness," November-December 2002, http://www.chausa.org/2002_Annual_Index.aspx

M.Div. (Master of Divinity) and BA and MA in psychology

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