Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Eat Healthy" - According to the Medieval Wisdom of the RAMBAM


Almost two months ago, I participated in a seminar on the Rambam’s (Maimonides, 1135 – 1204) teachings on nutrition. The seminar was held at the Chabad hostel “Ascent” in Zfat / northern Israel. The lecturer was Gil Shachar from Haifa and according to him, the Rambam was almost accurate in his writings on health.
Already the Rambam stated that a man should eat in order to satisfy himself. Eat until the desire disappears and the stomach is filled but don’t overeat. When the stomach is too full, the acids cannot spread and digest the food. 

B12 is being digested last. Eating enough meat is not a guarantee for the body absorbing all the B12. 

Leave your stomach ¼ empty. Too much food, no quality food, inappropriate eating order and time of consumption is not healthy. Overeating or eating the wrong food can cause diseases. Doctors agree that eating a small quantity of bad food is less dangerous than an enormous amount of good healthy food. The body can handle small amounts of toxic substances. 

Photo: Gil Shachar

Always remain a little hungry and take your mind off food. How can you avoid too much food ? By only having one dish for a meal. Lots of tasty food leads people to excessive eating because the complexity of flavours increases desire. Each dish is digested on its own and when you eat them at the same time, it is bad for the stomach. Each dish requires a different condition in the stomach, different levels of acids in the stomach. If something is not totally digested, it reaches the intestines with its poison. It can also happen that the stomach is too busy to digest all the vitamins. 

Start with the lighter meal. 

Never mix fruit and other foods ! Pears, grapes or figs must be eaten before the meal. Wait 15 – 20 minutes after eating a light meal (e.g. fruit) in order to empty out the stomach. 

It takes about six hours to digest beef and about three hours to digest chicken. In case the fruit is eaten after the meat, then everything is stuck in the intestines. If the sugar of the fruits ferments inside the intestines, all the vitamins are lost and only calories remain. Nevertheless, there are fruits we may eat during a meal or even afterwards: Avocado, coconut, olives, almonds and nuts. Melon should always be eaten alone.
Do not eat yoghurt with fruit ! Dried fruit are also not too healthy but very fattening.

Don’t drink too much during a meal. Have a hot tea or a soup before the meal.
When you are truly hungry your stomach is empty and clean. Eat with joy because food can also heal the body. “Happiness heals the soul (Shnei Luchot HaBrit). The Shulchan Aruch suggests that we shouldn’t eat while we are fearful, worried or angry. When you eat, sit down and eat slowly.

The Rambam teaches that one should wait 3 – 4 hours before he goes to sleep. The intestines don’t work at night, don’t digest and the stuck food with its toxins go into the blood. The stomach should be empty when we go to sleep. Drink tea without sugar.
Harm when you eat before sleep: Constipation, heartburn, damage the immune system (the immune system especially works while we are asleep), gaining weight, being tired.

Talmud Bava Metziah teaches that a man should have breakfast but not immediately after getting up. Instead, one should move his body (exercises) and eat about an hour later.

The Rambam said that eating white bread is not healthy. Whole wheat is much healthier and has 100% more vitamins and minerals than white flour. Oats, on the other hand, reduce cholesterol in the blood.

Whole wheat bread has to be 100% whole wheat. Watch the ingredients ! Avoid oil in breads ! One may use coconut oil or olive oil but not soya oil or canola.

The Talmud Tractate Eruvin 55 teaches that one should not live in a town where there is no vegetable garden. Healthy nutrition means eating salads and raw vegetables. Add green leaves into a salad !

According to the Rambam, milk is not good for everybody. Only when one digests it properly and is not allergic. However, add honey to you milk. Today, milk is being pasteurized and thus not healthy anymore and we are just left with the cholesterol. The best milk is goat milk (Rambam) !

Cheeses are not good but only very fresh cheese. 

The calcium of the bones keeps away dangerous acids ! Milk contains an acid protein which causes to break down calcium from the bones. Only a small amount of calcium is being absorbed by the body. Consumption of dairy products causes osteoporosis. Your bones and muscles remain strong when you have lots of physical activities.
Avoid animal protein and sodium but consume fruits, vegetables, plant foods, greens, vegetables and beans. This way you avoid osteoporosis.

According to medical research, high amounts of dairy products can exceed the enzymes’ capacity and cause prostate cancer. Meat and dairy may cause a higher prostate cancer risk. 

Don’t involve yourself in dairy diets. High calcium intake may increase prostate cancer.
Not enough vitamin D means a higher risk of cancer ! Vitamin D only from the sun but not on cloudy days. If not, take a supplement.

Milk and cholesterol: Milk is even more hypercholesterolemic than meat fat because it contains more acids.

Milk, yoghurt and ice cream contain a high amount of insulin comparable with the unhealthy white bread.

Milk adds to the human weight.

Don’t consume too much soya milk and don’t consume tofu on a daily basis. Coconut and rice milk is better than soya.

Eat beans and almonds, as they contain calcium.

Ten things cause a recent illness to reoccur: ox meat, eggs, fatty meat, grilled meat (the body is still weak and now needs to digest heavy foods).

Already the Rambam said that eating a small amount of a sweet (e.g. chocolate) after the meal would be good for us.

The Rambam on meat: 

Chicken is easier to digest than meat. Chicken has less cholesterol and fat than meat.
Animal fat is bad. 

Liver has cholesterol and contains toxins. 

There are good fats and bad fats. Avocado and pure olive oil contain good fat.
Eat meat from free animals which grow in nature and not from mass production but avoid fat in meat. Eating meat once a week is enough !

Animal meat is the main reason for breaking down the bones and osteoporosis.
Don’t consume soy products on a daily basis but coconut, almond or rice milk.

The Rambam on fish: 

Fish is bad food. Especially for the elderly. In particular big fish and those fish coming out of bad water. Big fish live longer than small fish and thus have more time to swallow more mercury. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid eating big fish. Eat small fish with white meat from rivers. But don’t eat too much. Today, most rivers and seas are polluted and the fish contain mercury, nickel and other heavy metals. Mercury also gets through air pollution into the rivers. Fish absorb the methyl mercury. Moreover, volcanoes release mercury. 


Despite all the facts, huge and powerful food industrieskeep on trying to convince us in their commercials to buy their products. Dairy products are healthy and so is fish consumption. This is what most people think and believe. Nevertheless, the opposite is true. What you should at least do is reducing your dairy product consumption and only have meat and fish once a week.

Photos: Miriam Woelke


  1. I spent some time at Ohr Sameach, and as I became more religious I naturally started spending more time in religious environments. The one thing that always got me, especially in the yeshivos, was that there were never any drinks on the table during the meals. So finally I asked someone, and he said it was on the advice of the Rambam, as you have written above. Still bugs me a little though.

  2. Forgot to mention, very informative article. Thanks for posting.

  3. B"H

    I think that there should be still water on the table.

  4. This article is very helpful and the Rambam's way of eating is very much in sync with macrobiotics. I wish all the religious people would actually follow his advice because it is unfortunate how so many spiritually minded righteous people intellectually are obese and pay no attention to their health. I hope this will be corrected.

  5. Excellent article and the Rambam's advice is the best and very much in sync with macrobiotics.