The Mormon Diet: 14 Days to New Vigor and Health by Earl F. Updike (1991)

From Books in Word of Wisdom Literature by Jane Birch

See also the article on Earl F. Updike: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: Whole Food, Plant-based Champion” in Meridian Magazine.

Updike_14 Days, 1991


Earl F. Updike, The Mormon Diet—A Word of Wisdom: 14 Days to New Vigor and Health (Bayfield, Colorado: Best Possible Health, 1991)

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©1991 by Earl F. Updike
Cover design copyright ©1991 by Earl F. Updike
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information
storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher.
For information address:

Best Possible Health
2204 CR 500
Bayfield, CO 81122

ISBN 1-55517-076-0 Softback edition

Distributed by
Cedar Fort, Incorporated


To all of God’s children who want “the best possible health,” and especially to my wife, Ethel, who has been my best friend and love for 47 years.

I give thanks to the Lord of Heaven, and to revelation as found in holy scriptures, especially Genesis 1:29, D & C 89:10-16, and Daniel 1:1-16.


I gratefully give thanks to my editor, Kathy Frandsen, who believes in good health for everyone. I appreciate so much my friend and medical advisor, Kenneth E. Johnson Sr., M.D., who guided me all the way. My wife, Ethel Updike, came up with many of the recipes and spent numerous hours advising, proofreading, and cheering me to the completion of this book. Many thanks to Dorothy E. Smith, our constant friend and inspiration. Thanks to my son, Alan, who encouraged me to write this book to share this information and revelation with everyone.

I give special thanks to author and researcher, John McDougall, M.D., who has been my inspiration for a number of years. He has given me good advice in the formulation of this book. Dr. McDougall’s three books, audio tapes, video tapes, TV programs, and lectures have had a major impact on the health attitudes of health professionals and laymen in America and the world. Nathan Pritikin started a health revolution in the 1970’s, and many scientific experts and writers are now espousing the eating of plant foods in place of animal foods.

Thank you Dr. Neal Barnard and the National Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. The (1991) NEW FOUR FOOD GROUPS (Whole Grains, Vegetables, Legumes, Fruit) is a major break-through for better health for everyone.



FOREWORD………………………………………………………………………………………………. xi

INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………….. xiii

CHAPTER ONE: What Happened to Us During the First Half of the Century………. 1

CHAPTER TWO: The Word of Wisdom Diet Program………………………………………. 7

CHAPTER THREE: Cholesterol Kills……………………………………………………………… 21

CHAPTER FOUR: Fats—The Dreaded Enemy…………………………………………………. 31

CHAPTER FIVE: Milk and Dairy Products—Hardly the Innocents …………………… 38

CHAPTER SIX: High Blood Pressure—An Epidemic in America……………………….. 46

CHAPTER SEVEN: Diabetes and Diet……………………………………………………………. 52

CHAPTER EIGHT: Cancer Prevention—the Best Cure…………………………………….. 60

CHAPTER NINE: Are We Our Brother’s Keeper?……………………………………………. 75

CHAPTER TEN: Change: Making It All Work with Diet and Exercise……………….. 83

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Two Weeks of Easy Menus……………………………………………. 94

CHAPTER TWELVE: Shopping Hints and Suggestions………………………………….. 100

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Menus and Recipes for People Who Like to Cook………… 112

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Recipes for the Best Possible Health…………………………. 128

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Eating Out: Vacations, Travel, Friends …………………………. 183

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Wise Consumers Know Their Numbers ……………………….. 189

APPENDIX ONE: Hundreds of Common Foods—%of Fat—Protein—
Carbohydrate and Cholesterol Milligram Content …………………………………………. 193

APPENDIX TWO: Major Fast Foods—Fat % and grams,
Cholesterol—Sodium—Calorie Content ………………………………………………………. 204

REFERENCES—Scientific Medical Literature

Protein………………………………………………………………………………………………. 208

Carbohydrate……………………………………………………………………………………… 211

Heart Disease…………………………………………………………………………………….. 213

Atherosclerosis…………………………………………………………………………………… 219

Cholesterol………………………………………………………………………………………… 223

Fat……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 225

High Blood Pressure…………………………………………………………………………… 228

Salt…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 231

Diabetes……………………………………………………………………………………………. 232

Cancer………………………………………………………………………………………………. 236

REFERENCES—General…………………………………………………………………………… 241

GENERAL INDEX…………………………………………………………………………………… 245

RECIPE INDEX……………………………………………………………………………………….. 253

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…………………………………………………………………………….. 255



By eating plants (grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits), heart disease can be reversed without drugs or surgery. In his new book, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, published by Random House in September 1990, Dr. Dean Ornish proves that heart disease can be reversed by basically eating foods from plants. No foods from animals were used in this lengthy study except for one cup of skim milk per day and a few egg whites in cooking.

The Word of Wisdom, Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants (Mormon latter day revelation), reveals that foods from plants are the “staff of life,” whereas foods from animals are to be used “sparingly.” What Dr. Ornish has discovered by scientific means is but one more evidence that the Word of Wisdom is truly the word of God to man.

In April 1991 the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine * announced the New Four Food Groups. The New groups are (1) Whole Grains, (2) Legumes, (3) Vegetables, and (4) Fruits. Meat, dairy products and added oils are only considered to be options and not essential to an optimal diet.

The old outdated “Basic Four Food Groups” is high in animal fat (mostly saturated), cholesterol and protein and lacking in essential fiber. Therefore the old food groups are associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine says that “Current food guides do not address these problems. Americans and all Western animal eating cultures need guidelines for planning meals that will help them meet nutrient needs and lower the risk of chronic degenerative diseases. The best evidence is that people who eat a diet centered on plant foods have the lowest risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. A number of government reports released over the past decade support the need for this dietary shift. These include the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health, the National Research Council’s Report on Diet and Health, and the USDA’s revised Dietary Guidelines.”

Earl Updike, the author of this book, has believed and taught for twelve years that eating mostly foods from plants is the way to reverse heart disease and prevent many degenerative diseases. He says, “we must address the cause of disease.”

Nathan Pritikin’s pioneer book concerning the causation of heart disease and other degenerative diseases has now been substantiated by vast scientific medical research during the last two decades.

From a personal standpoint I should tell the reader of this book that I underwent quadruple by-pass open heart surgery ten years ago because of severe coronary artery disease. After two unsuccessful attempts to eat a vegetarian diet and after the need a second by-pass operation, the author of this book gave me some practical suggestions for a successful plant-centered diet.

This book’s title “The Mormon Diet” “A Word of Wisdom” is appropriate and understandable for everyone who carefully reads the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th verses of the 89th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants written by Joseph Smith over 150 years ago. This book may well save your life. I believe the diet has saved mine. I will be motivated to a healthier and happier lifestyle, and this k will provide you a step-by-step guide to cooking and preparing tasty, nutritious foods from plants that you and your family will learn to relish.

Kenneth E. Johnson, Sr., M.D.
Certified American Board of Internal Medicine

* The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a National, non-profit organization of physicians and consumers. PCRM promotes optimal diet for prevention of disease.




At age five I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a medical doctor so that I could help sick people and find the cause of disease. Although my interest in a medical career continued as I grew, I eventually followed my father in business instead. But I never lost the desire to find out what causes people to suffer from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and other degenerative diseases. By 1962 at age forty, I had decided that diet must have a great deal of effect on the cause of the major diseases. I began reading everything I could find about health and nutrition.

In 1973 Dr. Denis Burkitt, a world-renowned medical researcher and scientist, proclaimed that Americans and other Westerners needed to increase dietary fiber many times.1 Dr. Burkitt said recently that “Our ancestors ate over 100 grams of fiber per day. Our ancestors ate 1 1/4 pounds of whole grain (brown) bread per head, per day, but today we eat less than 1/4 pound of bread (mostly white) per head, per day.” He said we need to greatly increase our intake of whole grain bread.2

In 1979 Nathan Pritikin, an electronics genius, wrote The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise. Over two decades earlier doctors had told Pritikin that he had incurable heart disease. He immediately began looking for the types of food that would prevent, and even cure, heart disease—as well as many other diseases. His book revealed that a diet of plant food without any added fat (vegetable or animal) enables the arteries to heal themselves of atherosclerosis.

Since 1979 there has been an avalanche of information on the direct relationship between the types of food we eat and degenerative diseases from which we suffer and die. These conditions include coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and many other modern-day scourges.

Over the past twelve years it has become increasingly clear that the consumption of animal products (chicken, fish, red meat, dairy products, and eggs) causes disease, while the eating of plant foods creates health, strength, and well-being. This corresponds exactly with the revealed diet of the Lord.

Very few LDS (Mormon) Church books have been written over past century regarding the positive (food) portion of the Word of Wisdom. It’s been more than forty-one years since Dr. John A. Widtsoe and his wife Leah wrote a comprehensive book discussing in detail the food portion (D&C 89:10-16) of the Word of Wisdom.3 Today we are continually told to cut down on cholesterol and fats and to boost the amount of fiber in our diet. That’s not as easy it sounds. Virtually no one knows the exact amount of cholesterol, fat, and fiber in the foods we eat! You’ll find that information in this book.

That is only part of what you will find in these pages. You’ll also learn the impact of animal foods and fats on your health, quality of life, and your “wallet”.

Consider as an example what is happening to our nation’s children. In the past twenty years the mean weight of American children and adolescents has increased dramatically; so have fat take and cholesterol levels. This marked weight increase and rising cholesterol level is basically caused by high-fat foods and cholesterol-laden animal products that many parents teach their children to eat early in life. Our children are now at much greater risk of developing, early in adult life heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other degenerative diseases.4

Consider, too, the powerful advertising industry. The purveyors popular food products do not want you to know their health consequences. We are given only half truths in advertising, news, id medical advice, and we continue to eat tons of animal foods and her high-fat foods.

These industrial giants know that if the whole truth were known, the human outcry would shake this nation’s food and medical complex. As the Lord warned us, “Behold, verily thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and ill exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation…” (D & C 89:4).

Revolutionary things have been learned during the past few decades about food and health. We have discovered fantastic breakthroughs in human nutrition. Scientific literature is now full of irrefutable evidence proving that plant foods create health, while animal foods and added fat create disease and suffering.5

Plant food is generally very low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates, high in fiber, and contains absolutely no cholesterol. There are only five commonly used, high-fat plant foods: olives (98 percent fat), avocados (88 percent fat), coconuts (92 percent fat), most nuts and seeds (75 to 87 percent fat), and chocolate (milk chocolate is 56 percent fat).

On the other hand, animal foods, such as chicken, fish, red meat, dairy products and eggs, are all loaded with cholesterol. Most animal foods are laden with huge amounts of saturated fat. Red meats (beef, pork, mutton), egg yolks and dairy products account for three-fourths of the saturated fats Americans eat. Hamburger is the single major contributor, and cheese holds the number two position. One cheeseburger can be equivalent to eating 13 pats of butter. This leads to hundreds of thousands of heart attack deaths each year. And there is absolutely no fiber in any animal product.

The “NEW Four Food Groups” (Whole Grains, Legumes, Vegetables and Fruits) announced in April 1991 by the National Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine promotes optimum health. Animal foods and fats, promoted in the old “Basic Four” food groups are not needed and have been proven to be harmful.6

Scientific literature now indicates that plant foods constitute a “truly balanced diet.” Contrast that to previous claims that a balanced diet contains mostly meats, cheeses, eggs, and dairy products—in other words, animal foods, fats, and cholesterol. The animal and dairy industry promoted that belief for 75 years. Now we know that such “balance” is responsible for a virtual epidemic of coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and more. In the pages that follow, you’ll read the scientific documentation that proves this fact.7

But that’s not all; you’ll also read how to protect yourself against these diseases. You’ll read how to free your body from cholesterol, excess fat, excessive pesticides, artificial hormones, and the other harmful elements of that so-called “balanced diet.”

The book you hold in your hands can change your life if you let it. It can change the lives of your loved ones. As you learn the truth about the foods you eat, you’ll find that your diet holds great power and you’ll learn how to harness that power.

Old habits are difficult to break, and you might worry that giving up your old diet will make you feel deprived. Don’t worry. You’ll savor foods that are healthy, easy to prepare, nourishing, and—best of all—delicious! You will discover that the real privation comes from feeding your body the foods that cause disease.

So go ahead. Turn the page. Read the Lord’s revealed word about diet and health. And then read the chapters that follow. You will be healthier, happier, and more loving than you ever dreamed possible!

Earl F. Updike—

1Burkitt, D., “Some Diseases Characteristic of Modern Western Civilization,” BR MED J1:274, 1973.

2 McDougall Video Tape 1990.

3 John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, “The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation”, 2nd ed(Salt Lake City:Deseret Book, 1950.

4 Kevin P. Byrne, M.D., Understanding and Managing Cholesterol, A Guide for Wellness Professionals (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetic Books, 1991), 287-89; Denver Post, Front Page, Lead Story, April; 9, 1991, report released by the National Cholesterol Education Program, Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sponsor of the education program.

5 Published Medical Literature: “The Mormon Diet, A Word of Wisdom”, References.

6 Neal D. Barnard, M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 7-10, Chapters 1, 2, 6; Kevin P. Byrne, M.D., Understanding and Managing Cholesterol, A Guide for Wellness Professionals (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books,1991), 167

7 Denver Post, Front Page, Lead Story, April 9, 1991; The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr, Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee, Virginia Messina, nutritionist editor of the bimonthly magazine “Guide To Healthy Eating”, 5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. Suite 404, Washington, D.C., 20016, Phone: 202-686-2210.



Chapter One

What Happened to Us
During the First Half
of the Century?*

Elder John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe reviewed the health of the LDS people and people of America in the first half of this century in The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation. This book was a milestone in setting forth the principles and laws contained in the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, especially the positive aspects.

“While science has conquered many a dread disease, the death rates from others are rising,” the Widtsoes wrote. “Before them, at present, humanity seems to stand powerless. Infectious diseases are diminishing; chronic or degenerative diseases are increasing. Cancer, heart disease, stomach ulcers, and diabetes are increasing in civilized countries at an alarming rate. The rich and educated are as susceptible as those whose finances demand a low output for food.”

As proof, the Widtsoes offered this table:

Average Death Rates from Five Causes
in the United States of America per 100,000 of Population— 


Year 1900 1914 1924 1934 1946
Typhoid 26.7 14.0 4.2 1.7 0.3
Tuberculosis 162.2 127.5 80.5 53.6 38.6
Cancer 67.5 86.2 103.6 118.5 131.1
Diabetes 12.2 18.2 21.4 25.5 25.6
Heart Diseases 147.4 182.9 207.5 244.5 311.1

Bureau of the Census USA
Cancer UP 94%, Diabetes UP 110%, Heart Diseases UP 111%

Using figures from the table, the Widtsoes pointed out, “In the United States from 1900 to 1946, the deaths from typhoid and tuberculosis have been steadily decreasing, while deaths from cancer, diabetes and heart diseases have been as steadily increasing. That is, germ diseases are being conquered while the degenerative diseases are rapidly increasing. This is one of the most serious problems confronting the civilized world.”2

Other charts in the book show that trends of degenerative diseases increased as follows:


Diabetes UP 65% in 14 years
Cancer UP 52% in 14 years
Diseases of Heart, Arteries, Kidneys UP 34% in 14 years

During the same fourteen years germ diseases decreased as follows:


Diptheria down 100% in 14 years
Measles down 95% in 14 years
Pneumonia down 60% in 14 years
Tuberculosis down 36% in 14 years

Dr. Widtsoe attributed the increase in degenerative disease to poor nutrition. One of the most potent causes, he wrote, “is the failure to observe the recent findings of science in the field of nutrition; for as we eat so is the composition of the blood stream, the nature-provided healing agent of the body. The world could with much profit consider its dietary habits and mistakes.

“While the science of foods in its relation to health and disease may be said to be in its infancy, yet, in laboratories over the world, it is advancing, and enough truth has been discovered to make everyone conscious of the relation which exists between daily food and the health enjoyed or the ill health that follows broken laws.”3

The Widtsoes then pointed out the status of Church members’ health, obtained from records in the Office of the Presiding Bishopric:

Average Death Rate from Five Causes
Among the Latter-day Saints, per 100,000 of Population

Diseases: 1914-16 1924-26 1932-34 1945
Typhoid 13.4 6.4 2.2
Tuberculosis 11.6 9.1 7.0 4.9
Cancer 31.3 40.9 49.9 69.9
Diabetes 11.6 9.2 8.2 17.0
Heart-Artery 82.4 80.6 113.3 208.6

Cancer UP 123%, Diabetes UP 47%, Heart-Artery UP 153 %

Dr. Widtsoe asked, “Why not better Latter-day Saint health? The environment of the majority of the Latter-day Saints is favorable. Many live in mountain valleys where the climate is invigorating, the water pure, and in the larger centers the care of conscientious medical personnel and Boards of Health is available. In addition they possess a religion or life philosophy which not only answers the deep questions of life and keeps them spiritually active, but which also tends to make them socially equal and economically secure—all of which make for contentment in life and peace with fellow humans and God. Such a condition of mind is always conducive to physical health and well-being. It may be asked, however, why, under such a healthful environment, the percentage of deaths from the diseases enumerated should be even as high as shown in the above table. The answer is obvious. It is evident that people of the Church are not observing fully all the factors of health as given in the Word of Wisdom, else they would have an even greater immunity from all diseases.

“Since the diseases which take most lives among the Latter-day Saints have distinct nutritional relationships, it is safe to conclude that the dietary life habits of the people are at fault. One can not say that to refrain from smoking and from drinking tea, coffee or alcohol is to keep fully the Word of Wisdom. That is a big step toward maintaining health but it is not full obedience to the law. The many ‘do’s’ in the inspired document are as important as the ‘don’ts.’ Unquestionably, the Word of Wisdom is not lived completely or the people would receive a greater fullness of the promised reward—a long life of physical health, while the destroying angel of sickness and death would pass by and not slay them.

Cumulative effects. It must not be overlooked that the mistakes of living have a cumulative effect. Daily errors may not be noticed at the time they are committed but they finally break down the resistance of the body and allow disease to take possession. The errors of youth must often be paid for in later years. Therefore, those who have disobeyed the laws of health in childhood and youth, whether ignorantly or willfully, must seek with redoubled care, to preserve their health during maturity. Likewise, to make most certain of a joyous life, obedience to the laws of health must begin with the mother before the child is born and continue throughout life. Men may break the laws of health for years yet seem to feel no ill effects, but sooner or later the penalty must be paid by them and too often by their progeny. Nature has no favorites.

“It is understood that human appetites are tyrants and difficult to vanquish. That to which the taste is accustomed often creates an imperative desire. Therefore, many fail to observe any substantial portion of the Word of Wisdom, and others observe it only in part. There can be no progress except as the will is directed towards obedience to law. The results already attained, as shown in the preceding tables indicate that greater health may be secured by observing this divine law.”5

Does what the Widtsoes said half a century ago really apply to us today?

For an answer, let’s take a closer look at the Word of Wisdom—the Lord’s revelation concerning our diets, our health, and our longevity.

Full Text of the Word of Wisdom,
Section 89 Doctrine & Covenants**

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833.

1 A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion

2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.

4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation

5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

7 And, again strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground

17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

* References: Chapter One
What Happened to Us During the
First Half of the Century?

2 John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City:Deseret Book, 1950),4.

3 Ibid., 5-6.

4 John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City:Deseret Book, 1950), 11. Compiled from records in The Office of The Presiding Bishopric.

5 John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City:Deseret Book, 1950), 11-13

**Doctrine and Covenants is often referred to as the D & C. LDS (Mormon) members accept this book as latter-day scripture along with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.


Chapter Two

The Word of Wisdom
Diet Program*

Paul the apostle said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16.)

The Word of Wisdom was originally given as a revelation and not a commandment on February 27, 1833. But in 1851 President Brigham Young proposed to the General Conference of the Church that all Saints formally covenant to keep the Word of Wisdom. This proposal was unanimously upheld by the membership of the Church. “Since that day, the revelation has been a binding commandment on all Church members,” according to President Ezra Taft Benson. (Lesson 15, 1989 Relief Society study manual, “Follow Me.”)

In the September 1988 Ensign, LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson cautioned us, “There is no question that the health of the body affects the spirit, or the Lord would never have revealed the Word of Wisdom…That which affects our bodies also affects our souls.. .Disease, fevers, and unexpected deaths are some of the consequences directly related to disobedience.”

President Benson went on to say that “to a great extent, we are physically what we eat…Most of us are acquainted with some of the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, such as no tea, coffee, tobacco, or alcohol. But what needs additional emphasis are the positive aspects.., the need for vegetables, fruits, and grain, particularly wheat… We need a generation of people who eat in a healthier manner.” (Emphasis added.)1

“Your physical body is a magnificent creation of God,” said Elder Russell M. Nelson in an October 1985 general conference address. “It is His temple as well as yours, and must be treated with reverence.. .Remarkable as your body is, its prime purpose is of even greater importance—to serve as tenement for your spirit.. .As you prayerfully develop self-mastery, desires of the flesh may be subdued.”2

Unfortunately, too many of us are complacent about the positive aspects of the Word of Wisdom. Too many focus only on the “don’ts”: tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee. President Benson gives us the unmistakable challenge to focus on the “do’s”: vegetables, fruits, and grains.

What can happen as a result? Plenty! You’ll lose excess weight. You’ll enjoy boundless energy. You’ll be free of degenerative diseases. You’ll look young well into old age. Simply stated, you’ll enjoy the best possible health!

That’s not all. You’ll do it without spending lots of money on diet plans, liposuction, plastic surgery, expensive cosmetics, or diet supplements. Instead you’ll do it with an inexpensive, reliable, enjoyable program sent to us by the Lord through the prophets, a program that can make you look and feel your physical best. What more could you possibly ask for? The price is certainly right. You can use lots of the items in your year’s supply, and you’ll save up to 50 percent on your grocery bills each week.

Obesity Nearly Unknown?

In Asian countries, obesity is nearly unknown. Why? In those countries the average diet consists of exactly what the Lord has revealed in the Word of Wisdom. The Asians who remain slim for an entire lifetime live on a diet consisting mostly of rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, and other starchy vegetables. They shun greasy, fatty flesh and animal milk products. What happens when they move to America and adopt our eating habits? They get fat like many native Americans.3

If you want to lose weight, do what billions of people throughout the world do: eat the diet described in the Word of Wisdom, a diet consisting mainly of plant foods.

Remember, a medium potato is only 80 calories; a large potato is only 150 calories; and a cup of brown rice is only about 200 calories. They don’t make you fat. What makes you fat is the animal food you ladle on: the butter, the sour cream, or the 100% fat (margarine) that has been squeezed from plants.

Standard American Diet—Hazardous to Health

The standard American diet is made up mainly of animal food loaded with cholesterol and fats, as well as too many salts, sugars, super-refined foods, food additives, added vegetable fats, concentrated chemical poisons, and drugs from animal products.

A large proportion of American adults are overweight and suffering from unnecessary degenerative diseases. As a result, medical costs, (12% of GNP 1991 and rising rapidly) even for those who are healthy, are astronomical and burdensome because of rising insurance rates and taxes.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A growing number of health professionals are proclaiming the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, or the “Word of Wisdom Diet,” as the best for promoting health. Science reporters are beginning to talk about “the Mormon diet.” However, in spite of this exploding scientific knowledge, most Church members continue to get most of their calories from rich animal foods like chicken, fish, milk, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, meats, and other products derived from animals.

For many years now the Church has vigorously taught the “don’ts,” or the negative aspects of the Word of Wisdom (found in verses 5-9). This part of the revelation is certainly of great value and must be followed closely, not only for the sake of good health but for the moral issues involved.

The Lord plainly tells us that we are not to use “wine and strong drink” (verses 5-7). Verse 8 explains that “tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man.” Verse 9, referring to tea and coffee, says “hot drinks are not for the body or belly.”

Obviously, the negative portion—the “don’ts”—has great value. But the positive portion of the Word of Wisdom found in verses 10-16 needs to be followed just as closely if we hope to enjoy the best possible health.

The Best Possible Health

What is the Lord’s diet program for the best possible health? We find it in Doctrine and Covenants 89:10-16 (emphasis added):

“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs [plants] God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—every herb [plant] in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

“Yea, FLESH also of BEASTS [animals] and of the FOWLS of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless THEY [animals and fowls] are to be used SPARINGLY; and it is pleasing unto me that they should NOT be used, ONLY in times of WINTER, or of COLD, or FAMINE.

ALL GRAIN is ordained for the use of MAN and of beasts, to be the STAFF OF LIFE, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on earth; and these [beasts, fowls, and wild animals] hath GOD made for the use of man ONLY in times of FAMINE and EXCESS OF HUNGER.

ALL GRAIN is good for the FOOD of MAN; as also the FRUIT of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—”

“All Grain the Staff of Life”

Let’s look at the Word of Wisdom a little more closely. The Lord tells us, “All grain is ordained for the use of man and beasts, to be the staff of life.” “Staff of life” is defined in the dictionary as a “staple of diet.” The noun “staple” is defined as “the sustaining or principal element” and “something having widespread and constant use or appeal.” As an adjective, staple means “principal, chief’ and “used, needed, or enjoyed constantly.” It refers to crops such as wheat and rice. 4

The Lord said, “Beasts [animals] and fowls are to be used SPARINGLY. The dictionary definition of “sparingly” is “meagerly, barely, slightly, or sparsely.”

After careful study of the Word of Wisdom, the only possible conclusion is that we must get the majority of our calories from PLANTS (grains, vegetables, and fruits). Animal foods are not forbidden, but are LIMITED SEVERELY to times of “famine and excess hunger.” Obviously the Lord expects us to get only a minor part of our calories, if any, from flesh, animals, and fowls. This would include fish which is defined in the dictionary as an aquatic animal. But what about protein?

Animal food is not the best source of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in the right proportions for energy and health. The best possible food sources for protein are grains, vegetables, and fruits in an unrefined, minimally processed form. 5 As stated in the Word of Wisdom, that’s what the Lord intended.

While we’re at it, let’s explode another myth. Accurate estimates of adult human protein needs show that as little as 2.5 percent of our daily calorie intake is a safe protein level. This small amount of protein equals about 20 grams—two-thirds of an ounce—for an adult man.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a higher minimum daily requirement for protein, at about five percent of the daily caloric intake. Studies show that many populations have lived in excellent health on less than 5 percent protein. The WHO has set pregnancy protein requirements at 6 percent, and lactation requirements at 6.7 percent of daily calorie intake.

What does that mean in real terms? A working man eating 3,000 calories a day at 5 percent protein needs only 150 of those calories as protein. With each gram of protein amounting to 4 calories, this would represent only 37 grams of protein. The average woman who consumes 2,300 calories daily needs only 29 grams of protein, according to WHO.

These minimum requirements provide a large margin of safety in the event some people might have greater protein needs. This small quantity of protein is almost impossible to avoid if you eat enough food to satisfy your hunger.6

Dr. John McDougall says, “Excess amounts of proteins (especially of animal proteins) cause change in kidney activity, resulting in large losses of calcium from the body. Experimental studies show that protein levels commonly consumed by Americans (90 grams and more—over 15 percent of the calories) will cause more calcium to be lost from the body than can be absorbed from the gut, even when the person is consuming very high levels of calcium. This is why populations around the world that eat rich diets loaded with animal proteins (as in the United States, England, Israel, Finland, Sweden, etc.) have high rates of osteoporosis, while people in countries that consume small amounts of animal proteins (including dairy foods), such as those living in Asian and African countries, have strong bones and little osteoporosis.”7

Can you get enough protein from plants? Yes! Plant food supplies plenty of protein. For example, 3,000 calories of white potatoes alone provide 80 grams of excellent protein; the same amount of rice would supply 60 grams of quality protein.8

How good is the protein provided by plants? The building blocks of proteins are the amino acids. Varied combinations among the twenty or so amino acids form the proteins found in humans and all other living creatures. All sources of unprocessed foods, including animal flesh, meat, fish, chicken, and all plants, contain all twenty or so amino acids. However, the amount of each amino acid that is present varies in different foods. Humans and animals can synthesize some of the needed amino acids, but others must be obtained from food. The amino acids that cannot be synthesized and which must be obtained from food are known as essential amino acids; humans require only eight, or possibly nine essential amino acids. Plants provide all twenty or so amino acids, including the eight or nine essential ones we need.

Scientific studies over the past forty years clearly demonstrate that a starch-centered diet supplemented with additional vegetables and fruits supplies humans with an excellent protein source and the foundation for the best possible nutrition.9

Some believe that plants provide only incomplete protein. This misconception dates back to 1914, when Osborn and Mendel studied the protein requirements of rats. This early study was later proved dead wrong. Nearly forty years have gone by since this early study was proved false, and yet this gross error is still being perpetuated. As a result, people continue to eat huge amounts of animal flesh and animal by-products, defending themselves on a false premise.

Our nutritional needs are a lot different from rats. If they were the same as rats, then human mother’s milk should never be given to babies. The protein of rat’s milk is “ten times more concentrated than that of milk intended for human babies.”11 Human mother’s milk contains roughly 5 percent protein.

Many mothers bottle-feed their babies with cow’s milk. Whole cow’s milk contains 21 percent protein, while 2 percent (low-fat) milk contains 26 percent protein—over five times more than needed. Many scientists now agree that this excessive protein intake throughout life is responsible for epidemic osteoporosis in countries where dairy products and animals are the major source of calories. 12

Experimenting on humans to determine the amino acid requirements of man, William Rose in 1952 proved that even single vegetable foods contain more than enough of all the amino acids essential for humans. Many other researchers have measured the capacity of plant foods to satisfy protein needs. The results of these studies show that strong, healthy children and adults thrive on diets based on single or combined starches.

It is important to know that any single starch, such as potatoes, brown rice, corn, beans, or grains, in its unprocessed form can supply all the needed energy and essential amino acid requirements. 13

According to many scientific authorities who are heeding an ever-increasing amount of scientific evidence, if we as a people had followed the Word of Wisdom in its entirety for the past 158 years, very few of us would suffer from major diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, diet-related cancers, osteoporosis, urinary disease, arthritis, or obesity. Few of us would be bothered by minor, yet painful, diseases such as diverticulitis, hiatus hernia, appendicitis, gallstones, hemorrhoids, kidney stones, varicose veins, and constipation, which are associated with the low-fiber, high-fat, cholesterol-laden animal food we eat .14

In countries where people follow the principles of the Word of Wisdom, there are virtually none of those diseases. The Chinese are a prime example. In China, people eat approximately 80 percent complex carbohydrates, 10 percent fat, and 10 percent protein, the very combination contained in a variety of grains, vegetables, and fruits. The Chinese people eat very little flesh or animal food of any kind, and dairy products are virtually unknown. The main source of calories in most of China is starches—rice, potatoes, beans, corn, wheat, barley, oats, and other grains, supplemented with vegetables and fruits.15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

In stark contrast is sick America eating approximately 45 percent of total calories in fat, 15 to 20 percent in protein, and 40 to 45 percent in (mostly refined) carbohydrates, probably only 15 percent complex carbohydrates. In addition we eat from 300 to 1000 milligrams of cholesterol a day, all of which comes from animal flesh and other animal products.

The majority of our calories come from animal flesh (meat, fish, and fowl), other animal foods (milk, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter, eggs, and so on), and added vegetable fats.

Fat content isn’t the only problem. Animal foods contain no fiber, which is absolutely necessary to maintain proper health. Animal foods are the only foods that contain cholesterol, which is the basic cause of atherosclerosis, the destruction of the inner lining of the arteries and blood vessels. Atherosclerosis leads to heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, kidney diseases, and many other degenerative conditions.

Is it any wonder why so few of us are within the ideal weight range? The answer is obvious. We are eating the wrong food—rich animal food and added fats, both vegetable and animal. Too many people blame sugar. The average American eats 135 pounds of sugar each year. But sugar isn’t the major cause of obesity. Sugar should be limited because it is only empty calories that take the place of complex carbohydrates. The real cause of obesity is excessive fat, which comes from animal products and added vegetable fats. Fats taste sweet. Perhaps that’s why we consume nearly 50 percent of our total calories as fat. 21

Happiness Is Our Goal

The Prophet Joseph Smith and others have taught us that happiness is our goal in this world and the world to come. It is much more difficult to be happy when we or our loved ones are sick and broken down with disease, much of which could be prevented if we lived by the total Word of Wisdom, which is “the will of God in the temporal salvation of all Saints in the last days.” (D & C 89:2.)

Today medical science is proving the need for more and more plant food in our diet if we want to enjoy optimal health. Good health is synonymous with happiness in this world. Changing for the better is a basic teaching of the LDS Church.

Lord’s Law : Examples of Plants, Starches, Vegetables, Fruit

Food Percent of Calories: % Protein % Fat Cholesterol mg.
AppleBeans (pinto)Beans (lima)







Corn (ear)




Peas (green, frozen)


Rice (brown)

Spaghetti (white, cooked)

Sweet Potatoes

Whole wheat flour trace23%25%

















































Plant foods are the Lord’s food for man (D & C 89:10-16). Plant food contains lots of fiber needed for good health, no cholesterol, and very little fat.

Animal Foods Severely Limited by the Lord

Food Percent of Calories: % Protein % Fat Cholesterol mg.
Beef (chuck roast) 3 oz.
Butter, 1/2 cup
Cheddar Cheese, 1 oz.
Chicken (breast, baked, no skin) 3 oz Cottage Cheese (regular 4%) 1 cup Cottage Cheese (low-fat 2%) 1 cup Egg, one
Lamb Loin (broiled) 2.8 oz.
Milk (whole 3.3%) 1 cup
Milk (low-fat 2%) 1 cup
Pork loin (broiled) 3.1 oz.
Salmon (baked) 3 oz.
Tuna (canned in oil) 3 oz.
Tuna (canned in water) 3 oz.
Turkey (roasted) 3 oz
87 mg.
247 mg.
30 mg.
73 mg.
34 mg.
19 mg.
274 mg.
78 mg.
33 mg.
18 mg.
84 mg.
60 mg.
55 mg.
48 mg.
45 mg.

Only animal food has cholesterol. Animal foods contain no fiber, and most are high in fat, which is mostly saturated fat.22

Ideal Weight

This weight chart indicates Dr. Walter Kempner’s evaluation of reasonable adult weight in proportion to height. (Bulletin of the Kempner Foundation, Durham, N.C. 4:47, 1972.)

Women (fully dressed)
Height Weight in Pounds


Men (fully dressed)
Height Weight in Pounds

Compared to average weights in the Western world, these numbers seem low. But if you live by the Lord’s law of health, you will find they are a real possibility.23

*References: Chapter Two
The Word of Wisdom Diet Program

1 Ezra Taft Benson, “In His Steps,” Ensign 18 (September 1988):5. President Benson gave similar counsel to the students at BYU in 1979 and to the students at Ricks College in 1983, which this First Presidency Message is based on.

2 Russell M. Nelson, “Self-Mastery,” Ensign 15 (November 1985): 30,32

3 Diabetes Forecast, December 1990, A Publication of the American Diabetes Association, Inc. “Who Gets Diabetes?: pages 40-41; EastWest, September 1990. Volume 20, Number 9, The Champion Diet, by Nathaniel Mead, page 3. Tufts University Diet Nutrition Letter, Volume 8, No. 7, September 1990, Special Report, page 3. Nutrition Action Health Letter, Lessons from China, by Bonnie Liebman, page 1, 5-7.

4 Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

5 Neal D. Barnard M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 7-10, 25-28; New Four Food Groups, Whole Grains, Vegetables, Legumes, Fruits, April 8, 1991. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. Suite 404, Washington D.C., Ph. 202-686-2210; Arizona Republic April 9, 1991, Front Page and page four, T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University.

6 John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983) 95; Neal D. Barnard M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 183.

7 John A. McDougall, The McDougall Program, Twelve Days to Dynamic Health (New York:NAL Books, 1990), 383-384; John A. McDougall, McDougall’s Medicine:A Challenging Second Opinion (Piscataway NJ:New Century Publishers, 1985), 72-77.

8 Adapted from John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983), 95.

9 “The Mormon Diet” Scientific Literature on Protein, references. Guide to Healthy Eating, September-October 1990,”Protein: Exploding The Myths, pages 2-3; Neal D. Barnard M.D., “The Power of Your Plate” (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 61-62, 81-82, 128- 133, 183.

10 T.B. Osborn and L.B. Mendel, “Amino acids in nutrition and growth”, Journal of Biological Chemistry 17 (1914):325ff; John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983), 96-99.

11 John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983), 100-101. Determined by grams per milliliter not as percentage of calories.

12 John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983), 55, 105. Determined as percentage of calories; Neal D. Barnard M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 128-132.

13 William Rose, “The Amino Acid Requirements of Adult Man, “Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews 27:631,1957. For a brief summary of some of Rose’s studies see John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983) 97-99.

14 H. Trowel], “Definition of Dietary Fiber and Hypothesis That It Is a Protective Factor in Certain Diseases, “Am J Clin Nutr 29:417, 1976; D. Burkitt, “Some Diseases Characteristic of Modern Western Civilization,” Br Med J1:274, 1973: D. Burkitt, “Dietary Fiber and Disease,” JAMA 229:1068,1974. Nathan Pritikin, The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise (New York: Bantam Books, 1979) 364-386; Neal D. Barnard M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 7-10, 13-18, 51-55, 69, 73-96, 117-127, 128-139.

15 Dr. T. Colin Campbell, The Cornell-China-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Health and Environment. Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Ithaca, N.Y. 14853. Ph. 607-255-1033.

16 Research News Science, Vol. 1 248, by Anne Simon Moffit, May 4, Century Publishers, 1983), 34, 63, 116-122: Newsweek, July 30, 1990, Page 59, last paragraph. American Health, The Worlds Healthiest Diet, by Susan S. Lang, September 1989, pages 105-107, 110, 112; Neal D. Barnard M.D., The Power of Your Plate (Summertown, TN:Book Publishing Company, 1990), 73-96.

22 A sampling from the extensive listing in Appendix One in this book.

23 Reprinted from Bulletin of The Walter Kempner Foundation (Durham, N.C.) Vol. 4, No. 1, June 1972. This weight chart shows what Dr. Kempner considers reasonable weight for people of different heights, who do not have diabetes mellitis, heart, kidney or blood vessel disease, or disturbances in fat metabolism, etc. Patients with such complications should, of course, have weights 10-15% lower.
John A. McDougall and Mary A. McDougall, The McDougall Plan (Piscataway, NJ:New Century Publishers, 1983), 27-28.


No tags for this post.

Leave a Reply