When I was first Orthodox, in college, I didn't worry too much about my health when I was fasting. First of all, I did all sorts of terrible things to my body and was not really balanced enough to think clearly about the effects of fasting vs. feasting. Second, fasting was pretty simple: I just went to the vegan line in the cafeteria. Third, from high school to my baptism as a college sophomore, I was a vegetarian who thought "I really should be a raw vegan" so I was already convinced that xerophagy was an ideal way to eat anyway. (I quit vegetarianism because it just seemed to undercut the whole idea of fasting... I don't think I knew that monks are vegetarians.)
But now I do think about the healthfulness of food, quite a lot. Recently I have been inspired and convinced to follow Sally Fallon's guidelines in Nourishing Traditions. Here are her basic principles:
- Eat local, grassfed meat, especially organs. Make everything with (local, grassfed) bone broth when you can't afford local meat.
- Eat as much raw, cultured grass-fed dairy as you can get your hands on. BUTTER, cheese, yogurt, creme fraiche, kefir, piima cream, buttermilk, drown yourself in it.
- Fish is great too, as well as other seafood, especially when you cook it in BUTTER.
- When you're not cooking everything in BUTTER, cook it in olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, or sesame oil. Never use cheapo new-fangled oils like canola.
- Eggs too, of course.
- Nuts, soaked and dried.
- Gobs of lacto-fermented vegetables (pickled with whey from cultured dairy.)
- Soak all your grains and flours, preferably in cultured dairy, but at least make sourdough.
- Eat lots of vegetables, cooked in butter.
- NO REFINED OR FAKE SUGAR. Honey etc. is okay.
- No meat.
- No dairy.
- Fish on two days of Lent. Spineless seafood is acceptable. Whew.
- Definitely no olive oil except on specially prescribed days. Some say no oil whatsoever, which would cut out the coconut, palm and sesame oil.
- No eggs.
- Nuts are fine.
- Pickles would be fine, but should we fudge with whey?
- Grain soaking we can do. Just not in cultured dairy. Sourdough I slop into everything.
- Vegetables we can do. Just not in butter. Or olive oil.
- There's no explicit rule about sugar, but generally eating dessert doesn't really seem appropriate during Lent, so this works.
Even though Orthodox fasting requires me to give up all these nourishing foods, in a way I don't think I would have seen the value of Nourishing Traditions so clearly if I hadn't spent five years fasting from most of the suggested foods. I've come to love meat and dairy so much more than ever before by giving it to God.
There might be more to say here, but Matt is making upma, and it needs some besan ki roti. I used sourdough starter instead of yogurt, and added flax meal to the dough for added Omega whatevers.