The world’s major religions came along thousands of years after the Paleolithic era ended. Each religion set forth different dietary laws, guidelines, and restrictions. Today, the Paleo Diet is helping millions of people globally achieve their health goals. These people have reverted to pre-religious era diets, but can the modern Paleo Diet be adapted to harmonize with religious dietary restrictions?
Is Paleo Kosher possible? Can practicing-Muslims, -Catholics, and -Hindus follow the Paleo Diet? For the most part, yes, such adaptations are possible, simple, and straightforward. And for Hindus and devotees of other religions advocating vegetarianism, certain aspects of the Paleo Diet can significantly improve these diets, from a nutritional perspective.
Kosher laws are extremely complex, but generally include restrictions on how animals are slaughtered, which animals/birds/seafood can be eaten, and which animal parts can be eaten. Pork products and shellfish are generally forbidden. There are also restrictions on consuming meat and dairy at the same meal. As the Paleo Diet eliminates dairy, this latter restriction is easily satisfied. In lieu of pork, you can consume kosher cuts of other animals, including beef, lamb, and fowl. Shellfish are off the menu, but you can consume most other marine life. Kosher laws do, however, forbid fish without fins and scales. Most commercially available fish are acceptable, but certain species, including catfish, marlin, eel, stingray, swordfish, and turbot are not permitted.
Organ meats are, of course, a mainstay of the Paleo Diet. Organ meats can be kosher, but must come from kosher animals and must be properly prepared. For example, kosher laws prohibit the consumption of blood. Removing blood from muscle meats is accomplished by soaking the meat in water, salting it, then re-soaking. Liver and other organs, however, contain larger amounts of blood and thus must be made kosher by special broiling techniques. To be sure, buy meat and organ meats from kosher butchers or buy kosher-labeled products from your supermarket, marked with the OK or OU Kosher Certification symbols.
Additionally, we recommend the consumption of grass-fed/pastured animals as opposed to grain-fed animals. Grass-fed beef generally isn’t kosher, but there are some progressive companies raising pastured animals and slaughtering them in accordance with kosher principles.
Eating Paleo should pose no problems for Muslims. As with Judaism, pork products are off the menu, but other animal foods, including beef, lamb, and fowl, can easily compensate. Islam requires all animal foods to be halal. This is a set of guidelines similar to kosher guidelines, including restrictions on blood. For halal products, visit a halal butcher or look for halal-labeled products, marked with the IFANCA halal symbol.
Catholics will have no trouble following the Paleo Diet. The only restrictions would be during Lent when meat is forbidden on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays. On these days, you’ll simply want to consume eggs or fish instead of the meat you might have otherwise consumed.
Vegetarianism is required under most interpretations of Hinduism, as well as several other religions, including Buddhism (sometimes, but not always), Seventh Day Adventism, and Jainism. When meat, fish, and eggs are removed from the menu, dairy and legumes become more or less essential. These religions, therefore, are not particularly well suited to the Paleo Diet. Nevertheless, the Paleo Diet offers important insights, which can dramatically improve vegetarian diets, from a nutritional perspective.
The Paleo Diet, for example, discourages the use of industrial seed oils and oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids. These include corn, soybean, canola, grapeseed, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and canola oils. Vegetarians could greatly improve their health by eliminating these oils and instead opting for Paleo-approved oils, including olive, coconut, avocado, and macadamia.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.