The Dietary Principles of the Word of Wisdom

By Jane Birch

In addition to the well-known prohibitions, Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Word of Wisdom, contains three important dietary principles. This are some of my thoughts on those principles. I encourage you to seek the Lord’s guidance for your own interpretations.

  1. All wholesome plants “in the season thereof” should be used with “prudence and thanksgiving.” (D&C 89:10–11)

The Word of Wisdom supports “wholesome” plant foods eaten with “prudence.” Wholesome plant foods would of course include whole vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Since processed plant foods, refined carbs, and junk foods are nutritionally poor and highly concentrated, these don’t appear to meet the standard of being either wholesome or prudent to eat. Whole plant foods are packed with nutrition, fiber, and water, which creates bulk and satiety. They are high in nutrients that prevent disease and sustain good health, low in calories, and largely devoid of harmful substances found in animal foods and processed foods.

  1. Animal flesh is ordained for human use, but it should be eaten sparingly, and it is pleasing to the Lord if it is not used, except in times of need (“times of winter . . . cold, or famine” and “excess of hunger”) (D&C 89:12–13, 15)

Unlike whole plant foods, the flesh of animals contains substances that are not healthful to our bodies (e.g. saturated fat, cholesterol, animal protein, and animal hormones). This is true even of the low fat and/or organic options. Study after study show a correlation between animal food consumption, obesity, and chronic disease. Since, animal foods are not needed for nutritional purposes and unavoidably contain harmful substances, these foods should be kept to a minimum, if eaten at all, for weight loss and optimal health. Better to save them for times of need.

  1. “All grain is good” and is ordained to be the “staff of life.” (D&C 89:14, 16)

Whole grains, beans, and other starchy plant foods are the cleanest source of abundant calories on earth. They provide maximum energy with none of the negative features of other calorie dense foods like animal foods and processed foods. They are delicious, satisfying, and (despite the current rhetoric) key to weight loss. The bulk of our calories should come from whole starchy plants, which are primarily the whole grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, corn, and millet. These grains (along with other starchy foods like potatoes, corn, and beans) are the foods that have provided the bulk of calories to God’s children throughout history. They are the only sustainable source of calories to feed a world full of God’s children in these last days.

Relationship Between the Word of Wisdom and a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet

Here are the three main principles of a whole food, plant-based diet. In my opinion, there is a beautiful correlation between these principles and the counsel of the Lord in the Word of Wisdom:

  1. Whole, relatively non-processed plants are the foundation of good health. They are the powerhouses of nutrition, beautifully designed to fuel our bodies.

  1. Animal foods are not needed for nutritional purposes and unavoidably contain substances that can be harmful. They should be kept to a minimum, if eaten at all, for optimal health.
  1. The bulk of our calories should come from starchy plants, which are primarily grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, and millet. These are the foods that have fueled large, healthy populations throughout history.[i]

“Plant-based” means foods from plants rather than animals. “Whole foods” are plants as they are when they are harvested from the ground or the trees, before they are transformed in factories into highly processed substances never seen on a farm. If this diet sounds dramatic, consider that eating this way can eliminate up to 80-90 percent of all chronic disease. Is suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or a stroke any less “dramatic”? Would eating a diet that helps us achieve optimal health and our ideal weight, and that protects us from most chronic disease, not be worth some effort?

For information on a whole food, plant-based diet, see Whole Food, Plant-based Guidelines and also Whole Food, Plant-based Resources.

More on the Word of Wisdom and a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet

About the Word of Wisdom

Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film

Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch

Discovering the Word of Wisdom series of articles on the Word of Wisdom in Meridian Magazine by Jane Birch

Word of Wisdom Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

If your question is not addressed (or addressed insufficiently), please contact Jane Birch.

[i] For two good books on a whole food, plant-based diet, see T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health (Dallas: Benbella, 2006) & John A. McDougall, The Starch Solution (New York: Rodale, 2012).

Last updated December 22, 2015

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