The Pastor and Health

Five questions to challenge your nutrition savvy

From the pastor and his health regarding nutrition.

Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is an associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

As pastors, you are expected to know information on a wide variety of topics. That is not always fair, but it is true!

The beauty of health is that it is not just head knowledge; it preserves ministry and saves lives. So, let us see how you fare on these five important areas of basic nutrition:

1. T or F: Whole grains provide significant amounts of the B vitamins, including vitamin B12.

False. Whole grains are excellent sources of important B vitamins, but they do not contain any vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin). This vitamin is found only in animal products and some fortified foods. Pernicious anemia and serious neurological disorders may occur if you do not get enough. Those who choose to be total vegetarians (animal free diets) must eat sufficient foods fortified with vitamin B12 and/or take a supplement (recommended for everyone over 65 years, no matter what their diet).

2. T or F: Complex carbohydrates, such as whole meal flour and brown rice, are more nutritious than white flour or white rice.

True. Yet, a quick trip to the grocery store (see also restaurant menus and school lunches) will show we are still in love with white bread, white rice, white pancakes, and white pastries, and other refined grain products. Refining grains increases shelf life and mouth appeal but unfortunately removes a large percentage of the health- promoting dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember, whole grains are a “complete package” of good things, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of many valuable nutrients.1

3. T or F: Cholesterol is found only in animal products.

True. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that is found in every cell of the body. We need cholesterol to make hormones and many enzymes. However, your body can manufacture all the cholesterol you need. It is also found in some of the foods from animals we eat—like milk, eggs, and flesh foods. The cholesterol your doctor measures in your blood may or may not have originated from the food you consume! Minimizing dietary cholesterol can help control your serum cholesterol.2

4. T or F: A plant-based diet may include beef, chicken, or fish.

True. A plant-based diet literally means that the foundation foods come from plants. Some people use this phrase to mean a vegetarian diet. Others use it to describe a diet that includes meat, fish, or dairy products in a supporting rather than a starring role. A plant-based diet, whether vegetarian or not, is at the heart of positive nutrition recommendations that promote overall health and reduce the risk of cancer. For the best nutrition, fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit!

5. T or F: Raw foods best provide all the nutrients needed by humans to support health.

False. While eating raw foods is becoming very popular today, remember Jacob cooked lentils (Gen. 25:29) and a recipe for baking bread was given to Ezekiel (Ezek. 4:9). So cooking is biblical, too! It is also beneficial. Heat breaks apart plant cells, releasing nutrient-rich fluids. It also kills pathological bacteria, making the food safer. Raw foods have high nutrient content, are rich in dietary fiber, and tend to be low in calories, promoting weight loss. Healthy meals should include both cooked and raw food.

Healthy eating for pastors is not difficult—unless we make it so! The ingredients necessary for good health and peace of mind are (1) a willingness of spirit; (2) a basic understanding of nutrition, and (3) an absence of worry. Ellen White states, “Some are continually anxious lest their food, however simple and healthful, may hurt them. To these let me say, Do not think that your food will injure you; do not think about it at all. Eat according to your best judgment; and when you have asked the Lord to bless the food for the strengthening of your body, believe that He hears your prayer, and be at rest.”3 Bon appétit!

1 “The Nutrition Source: Whole Grains,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, accessed Aug. 15, 2017, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource /whole-grains/.

2 “Cholesterol 101: A Basic Introduction to Cholesterol,” American Heart Association, accessed Aug. 15, 2017, www.heart .org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol /AboutCholesterol/About -Cholesterol_UCM_001220_Article.jsp# .WWP41MaZNoM.

3 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 321.


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Fred Hardinge, DrPH, RD, is an associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries department, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

September 2017

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