After God created Adam and Eve, He said, “ ‘I have given you every herb yielding seed … and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.’ [Genesis 1:29.]” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 81. But when they sinned and were banished from the garden of Eden, the Lord altered their diet making a specific addition: “you shall eat the herb of the field.” Genesis 3:18.
The word translated herb is identified as word number 6212 in the Hebrew-English lexicon contained in Strong’s Concordance of the Scriptures. If you have the New Englishman’s Concordance of the Old Testament by Wigram, you will see that this word is used about 33 times in the Old Testament and one of its most common translations is “grass.” The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by Davidson gives the following translations of this word: “green herb,” and plural, “herb,” and “vegetables.” This same word is translated “green herb” in Genesis 1:30.
The definition of herb is a plant that has a fleshy stem as distinguished from the woody stem of shrubs and trees. Herbs generally die back at the end of the growing season.
An herb then is a green vegetable; and after sin man was given green vegetables—herbs—as part of his diet from then on. Adam and Eve had not been in the habit of eating grasses or green herbs in the garden of Eden; before sin entered the world, herbs were only animal food.
This divine instruction to man has never been rescinded. Therefore, green vegetables, or herbs, such as spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards, alfalfa, dandelion, parsley, lamb’s quarter, kelp, watercress, celery, and many more are to be part of the diet of all who fear God. If the human race had always been careful to observe this divine instruction, great suffering would have been prevented down through the ages, but that is beyond the scope of this study.
In 1960, H. E. Kirschner, M.D., published a book entitled Nature’s Healing Grasses. The book was published by Herbert C. White Publications, and by 1980 had gone through 16 printings. Herbert White was one of Ellen White’s grandsons.
In 1936, N.W. Walker, D. Sci. published a book entitled Raw Vegetable Juices. In the expanded version of this book, published in 1970, there are over 70 vegetable juice formulas with instructions of how these formulas may be used to help treat various disease conditions.
These green foods will probably cease to be a part of the saints’ diet during the time of trouble because then their diet is going to be restricted to only bread and water (see Isaiah 33), but until then if we want to be in harmony with all of the divine instructions about how to live, these foods need to be a part of our daily diet.
A vegetable is defined as the edible part of a plant such as the root, the stem, the leaves and/or the flower. A fruit on the other hand is defined as the ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant together with the surrounding flesh in which the seed or seeds are usually contained.
Human beings evidently like sugar from birth and we can obtain and refine sugar from both fruits and vegetables or herbs. Vegetables that are concentrated sources of sugar include, beets, especially sugar beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams. Fruits as a general class of food are high in sugar, but some fruits are much higher in sugar than others, including pineapple, dates, figs, grapes, pears, bananas, and several other tropical fruits.
Adding a little more sugar to your fruit would not be a problem if you are not a diabetic, and some raw fruits (raspberries come to mind) are better enjoyed by most people if a little sugar is added. But even though some vegetables contain significant amounts of sugar, adding more sugar to vegetables often results in indigestion. Mrs. White makes the following statement on this subject: “It is not well to eat fruit and vegetables at the same meal. If the digestion is feeble, the use of both will often cause distress and inability to put forth mental effort. It is better to have the fruit at one meal and the vegetables at another.” The Ministry of Healing, 299, 300
Notice several details about this statement:
- The subject is not given as a command. For example, it is not well to eat butter, either, but God’s people are not commanded not to eat butter.
- So this is counsel, but not a command, and this counsel is given especially for a certain subset of the general population—those who have weak digestion (dyspeptics).
- And because of the possibility of suffering indigestion as a result of consuming fruits and vegetables at the same meal, it is better for those individuals to eat fruit at one meal and vegetables at another.
Unfortunately, very few statements found in Inspiration concerning diet have caused as many questions to be directed at medical missionary workers as this simple statement with very rational counsel. Since questions about the counsel in the above statement have been asked to me in front of college educators with General Conference personnel present, I am acquainted with the unfortunate controversies that develop over this question and I want to explain a few further points on this subject.
- The counsel in the above statement was intended as a general statement about fruits and vegetables and was not intended to be all inclusive to include all fruits and all vegetables. A general statement cannot be taken and interpreted literally to all varieties of food. I will explain this in a moment.
- Since this statement was written especially for those with weak digestion, if you know that you have strong digestion, there certainly is nothing wrong with eating a piece of fruit at the end of a vegetable meal or eating a stalk of celery with your apple as some people like to do.
- Since the statement is a general statement stating a general rule, we need to understand that there are exceptions to this statement (this general rule) where it does not apply. I will begin to list some exceptions now.
I myself listened to a report by Alma McGibbon who was one of Ellen White’s close associates during her later years, who stated that Ellen White ate cooked greens daily during that period of her life and she did not eat these cooked greens with just salt. She added some lemon juice. This of course is mixing fruits and vegetables. Was Ellen White a hypocrite, not following her own counsel since she had very weak digestion in her later years? No, this is an exception to the rule. In fact, it is two exceptions to the rule. First of all, greens, either cooked or raw, do not cause as much problems with indigestion as most other vegetables—such as potatoes or beets—if fruit is eaten at the same meal. But more importantly lemon juice does not contain sugar, and partly for this reason, lemons can be used freely with any vegetable meal. Secondly, lemons can be used at a vegetable meal because they are high in acid content. Consequently, we could easily formulate another general rule: if a fruit has a high acid and low sugar content, it may be freely used with vegetables. There may be some dyspeptics whose digestions are so feeble that this general rule would not apply, but if your digestion is that feeble, you are either very near death’s door or you should be seeing a physician who specializes in disorders of the digestive system.
Are there other fruits that are high in acid and low in sugar content that can be eaten with vegetables? Yes. Tomatoes should immediately come to mind. Some people have thought that they could not eat tomatoes with their tossed green salad, but such a restriction is not really necessary. If you want to have a tomato and lettuce sandwich, that is not a violation of the counsel any more than adding lemon juice to a salad or cooked greens.
Other questions soon surface such as this one: What if the fruit is high in acid content, but it also contains some sugar, such as oranges? This becomes a guessing game, and if you are a person with weak digestion it is safer to stick with high acid fruits that are low in sugar, but to be honest I have to say that so far I have never met a person who can eat Harvard beets (prepared with lemon juice) who could not eat Yale beets (prepared with orange juice).
What about the fruits which do not have much sugar content, but are not high in acid content? This is definitely a gray area where any person who is not sure that he has a strong digestion should avoid. There are many people who say that they cannot eat cucumbers. Every time a person has told me this I have asked them to try eating part of a cucumber at a meal not containing any vegetables or vegetable derivatives (example—potato flour). So far every person who thought they could not eat cucumbers found that they could eat them just fine. Foods in the melon family cannot be eaten with any other kinds of fruits or vegetables by people with very weak digestion, so you might want to try eating part of a cucumber with no other fruit or vegetable in the meal and see what happens—you probably will be able to eat as much cucumber as you please under those conditions.
Some of the other fruits that are low in sugar that most people can eat with vegetables would include most kinds of squash, green beans, peppers, (however, sweet peppers and potatoes give some people severe indigestion), and eggplant.
If you are troubled with any kind of indigestion problem, it is wise to ask yourself the question: Have I eaten some combination of foods that it would be wiser for me not to eat together at the same meal? Even if you are not combining fruits and vegetables, if the variety of food at one meal is too great, indigestion will result. “There should not be a great variety at any one meal, for this encourages overeating and causes indigestion.” Ibid.
There is still one other general exception to the counsel not to eat fruits and vegetables at the same meal. Mrs. White stated this herself: “Olives may be so prepared as to be eaten with good results at every meal.” Testimonies, Vol. 7, 134. Olives are a fruit, high in fat and low in sugar and acidic content, but they may be eaten with good results at every meal including vegetable meals.
Another fruit that is high in fat and low in sugar and acidic content is the popular avocado. Avocados, just like olives, can be eaten as part of a fruit meal or a vegetable meal “with good results.”
A most important fact to remember is that fruits and vegetables eaten at the same meal are not the only cause of indigestion, but that the same result can be brought about just as readily by any of the points in the table above.
For a more complete discussion of the problem of indigestion see the book Abundant Health by Julius Gilbert White, pages 85–99; or Natural Remedies Encyclopedia, sixth edition, by Vance Ferrell and Harold M. Cherne M.D., pages 348–350
|Causes of Indigestion|
|Eating too fast|
|Meals not spaced far enough apart (less than five hours)|
|Eating between meals|
|Eating late at night|
|Eating when tired|
|Unhealthy state of mind or negative mental attitudes, such as depression|
|Eating unwholesome food such as unripe fruit or spoiled food, or fresh leavened bread, or bread not thoroughly baked, or rich, complicated mixtures of foods, especially combinations of milk and sugar, or simply too much sugar, or too much liquid with meals, and either too much liquid food or too much drinking with meals|
|Use of tea, coffee, cocoa, and soft drinks|
|Use of aluminum utensils for cooking or eating|
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.