Since the passage of new healthcare legislation, many Americans are becoming more sensitive toward the need to better safeguard our freedoms. I want to address an eroding freedom that can be restored as you become free of erroneous self-defeating concepts and dietary misinformation and unsound dietary habits? To be free you must become aware of disease promoting dietary trends which now affect each of us. Then, to earn complete dietary health freedom, you must deliberately and intelligently align yourself with the dietary counsel given in the Word of Wisdom.

In 1909, just one in 150 Americans was overweight; in 2009, two in three were overweight; moreover, America had the highest rate of diet-induced disability and degenerative disease in the world. The health freedom enjoyed in 1909 has been lost as agribusiness and the food industry has successfully pointed America away from whole organic fruits, vegetables, and grains toward more animal-based foods and process and refined foods. In fact, in the last 100 years intake of whole garden foods has dwindled from 70 percent of our daily intake to just seven percent. By comparison, intake of animal-based foods and processed and refined foods has risen to 93 percent of our daily intake.

Today, thousands of scientific investigators labor to bring forth new knowledge regarding cellular biology and the effects of diet upon the body. The understanding and knowledge concerning life processes at the cellular level is exploding at unprecedented rates. Our knowledge base in this area is doubling less than every five years. For example, there are over eleven thousand nutrients known today that were unknown just five years ago.


In a world where it is possible to deliver new information instantaneously, too often information is presented in unhelpful ways by those vested in outcomes. A prolific dietary writer recently published an article on the dangers of fructose. He implied that recommending fruit intake is passé and those who do so are out-of-touch with modern science. His article seemed authoritative to the average reader and left many confused. It caused some to believe things that are simply untrue. This same author published a new article about fructose just a month later that was tempered by greater truth. Although still flawed through erroneous extrapolation of research data, his second article was closer to the truth. Unlike his first article on the subject, the newer article made allowance for the use of fruit in a healthful diet.


Apostle Widstoe recommended that we be patient with science, as it pursues truth. It is not uncommon for flawed extrapolations to be made such as those described above. A similar debate rages regarding grains, suggesting total abstinence from grains. Specific anti-nutrients exist in grains that cause some to shun it completely. By applying similar logic we would have to shun every food on the planet, given each possesses at least some anti-nutrients. However, as the science of anti-nutrients unfolds, we are learning that often the very properties assumed to be bad, create important balances when consumed as a part of a greater whole.


Elder Widstoe recommended that amidst the debate we should lean on the Lord’s handbook of health, even the Word of Wisdom, and that given sufficient time science will align itself more perfectly with the Lord’s teachings. As new information continues to come forth, it is important to remain grounded and to avoid being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.


What is the Nature and Constitution Spoken of in the Word of Wisdom? The first foods recommended to us in the Word of Wisdom are fruits and herbs (vegetables). God’s suggestion that they are for our nature and constitution begs a question. What is the nature and constitution of the body and exactly why are fruits and vegetables so important? To better understand this question, we need to understand the basics regarding how the body survives and thrives.


Tissue cultures survive and thrive in laboratories today that were harvested from individuals who died and decomposed more than 50 years ago. What an amazing fact; think about it and let’s say it another way. People who did not know how to properly safeguard their health and vitality died over 50 years ago; yet, part of their bodies survive and thrive today. How is this possible?


Life begins at the cellular level; each cell possesses the intelligence necessary to maintain its form and function indefinitely, provided it has access to the raw materials needed for metabolism, and provided it is not burdened in a manner that leads to irreparable damage. What is metabolism? It is all chemical reactions that take place at the cellular level which enable cells to cleanse, repair, heal, build, and to maintain form and function. As you eat in the manner that most naturally supplies the raw materials needed in metabolism, you become endowed with vitality. The Word of Wisdom is an inspired document which provides a blueprint for the very manner of eating that safeguards vitality.


Brigham Young taught that the Lord does not send health afflictions upon us to try and to refine us; rather, He desires that we become the healthiest people on earth—for ours is the greatest of all work to do—to prepare the world for the second coming of the Savior. He further taught that the Word of Wisdom was written specifically to enable exceptional health and vitality and to avoid disease.


The American Cancer Institute teaches that up to 98 percent of all cancers today are environmentally induced—the leading cause being from dietary choices. Disease is nearly always the body’s response to conditions imposed upon it that render the body unable to cleanse, heal, repair, build, and to maintain its proper form and function. Dietary choices have a great impact for good or evil upon the body.


The U.S. Constitution contains checks and balances that are designed to preserve the power to govern within sovereign hands, or the collective will of the people. Similarly, the Word of Wisdom hints that your body has a constitution that is interwoven into its nature which provides checks and balances, each of which is designed to protect the individual cells ability to survive and thrive. How does this work?  


The 30 trillion cells that form you began to differentiate from one another in the womb. Some cells made up your heart, others your kidneys or liver; every cell was ultimately incorporated into one of the 12 systems of your body, such as the skeletal system, the muscular system, the cardiovascular system, and so forth; each cell knows how to function within the system in which it resides.


Even though this differentiation has occurred, the raw intelligence still exists within the nucleus of each cell, to form a new and perfect you. Each cell knows exactly how to heal and repair you when things go amiss. There are multiple checks and balances, and even redundancies built into your nature and constitution which enable your body to endure and function properly over time. For example, if for some reason you do not supply your body with adequate glucose to fuel energy production; your body will use a backup energy source by converting protein to glucose. This only occurs in the absence of carbohydrates. This backup system safeguards energy production; without energy metabolism and your life would cease. 


Are there other checks and balances? Yes, your body continually monitors levels of various nutrients within the bloodstream, insuring that the right mix of nutrients is flowing to the tissues and cells. When specific nutrient levels are either too high or too low, nutrient receptors that line the walls of the bloodstream send a signal to the brain to inform the brain of what is needed. The brain then sends a specific signal to the endocrine system. If a particular nutrient level is too high, a specific hormone is released from the endocrine system into the bloodstream to carry the excesses out of the bloodstream to vital storage sites. For example, high calcium content in the bloodstream will trigger the release of a hormone that will store excess calcium in your bones and teeth. If the calcium level falls too low in the bloodstream, the endocrine system produces a specific hormone that releases calcium back into the bloodstream. Similarly, if blood sugars are too high, the pancreas produces insulin which attaches to blood sugar molecules and carries them out of the bloodstream to vital storage sites; if blood sugars drop too low, glucagon, another hormone releases these stored sugars back into the bloodstream. This dynamic and intricate communication system also triggers hunger as more nutrients are needed.


By eating in a manner that sustains your vital reserves, your body best maintains appropriate nutrient levels both in the bloodstream and within vital storage sites. Countless backup systems exist within you and each serves a single purpose—to protect the cell’s innate ability to survive and to thrive by insuring that your cells receive the raw materials they need.


How much better could you function if you mastered a diet that enables your cells to most efficiently receive what they need—without excess? Would your spiritual capacity to contribute increase? Would you more easily fulfill your mission on earth? Could you more easily help prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ? A lot has changed since the great and mighty patriarchs roamed the earth for nearly a thousand years. Hyrum Smith taught that the Word of Wisdom is an important part of the great wheel that will one day return man to that noble and mighty state which once existed and which will exist again.


In summary, the nature of your body is composed of trillions of cells that make up 12 body systems. Each system is interrelated and functions best when the simple raw materials required for successful metabolism are included in your daily diet. When your diet is poor, the body will use backup systems which cannibalize certain parts of the body in order to keep the whole body alive. Also when diet is poor, undue burdens tend to disrupt and cause damage to the cells and systems of the body.


Foods for Your Nature and Constitution


The Lord specifies just four food groups within the Word of Wisdom. Of these he suggests fruits and vegetables are best suited for the nature and constitution of your body. From a scientific standpoint, raw fruits and vegetables most efficiently and powerfully meet the chemical needs of metabolism. Fruits are highest in vitamins of all foods and second highest in minerals. Vegetables are highest in minerals and second highest in vitamins. Together they offer the widest array of vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and possess the greatest anti-oxidant potential of all foods; in addition, they provide a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, and essential fats. They are adapted and created perfectly for our true nature and constitution and are intended to be the primary source of nutrition in our diets. On a practical level, raw fruits and vegetables provide more volume and are the most easily digested of all foods—and most easily help us to become satisfied without exceeding a stay-slim caloric budget.


Meat and Animal-Based Foods


By comparison, the Lord counsels to use meat sparingly and suggests that it pleases Him when we don’t use meat at all—except in times of winter, cold, or famine. Hmm…, why do you suppose the Lord would invite you to abstain and encourage you to never exceed a sparing use of meat? Meat is the most difficult of all foods to digest. Because of specific properties associated with meat, when it is over consumed it leads to 4000+ degenerative conditions—including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.


Although the Lord warned us of those who would forbid others to eat meat (see D&C 49:18); scientifically and scripturally there is no need to worry about accepting the Lord’s own invitation to abstain. From Adam to the future millennium, including our dispensation, at various times prophets have extended the invitation to live without meat and have taught that the millennium will not begin until we live in accordance with every law that governs heaven. Celestial law forbids the shedding of blood for food.


The only warning concerning abstinence is a warning against those who would constrain others to abstain. God never said His prophets or others could not invite us to abstain. Those who use constraint rather than invitation are not ordained of God. Constraint disallows true conversion to any truth. By comparison, agency is required to master any new truth.


For further reading on this subject, review Health and The Path of Holiness; also review the Jewish and LDS writings on diet found under the Daniel's Challenge drop-down menu above.


The Staff of Life


Let’s talk about grain or the staff of life for just a moment. A very well-funded and persuasive anti-grain movement exists today which teaches abstinence from grain. This argument is bolstered by the fact that 20% of today’s population experiences grain-related disorders. Latter-day Saints are included among those who suffer from grain-related disorders.


How then, do we reconcile the teachings of the Word of Wisdom concerning grain? First, consider your personal interpretation of the Lord’s counsel regarding grain to see if it is accurate. What is your interpretation regarding “The Staff of Life?” What is a staff; what were staffs used for anciently, and what are they used for today? Picture a hiker walking a mountain trail using walking poles that look very much like ski poles. Now picture Moses walking with his staff as he climbs the mountain to speak to the Lord. Does the staff provide the primary support to those who walk today, as well as those who walked anciently? Or, is it an instrument that is leaned on as needed, which merely displaces some of the burden from the individual?


The Lord does not choose words lightly and it is not in our best interest to create meanings with His words that are inconsistent with His meaning. Therefore, to better understand a healthful usage of grain, first seek to understand the true nature and use of a staff. If you do not understand what a staff is, it is doubtful you will ever understand how to best use the staff of life. Even though fruits and vegetables were ordained for your constitution, you may choose to use grain for that purpose, which would be a mistake. 


Next, ask yourself if the Lord’s counsel regarding grains was limited to man, or if He also included grain usage for animals in His discussion about grain. If you conclude rightly, that His discussion was for man and animals, then you might be able to more easily understand proper grain usage by studying the animal kingdom and how grain has been used both as a benefit and as a detriment among animals. It is likely that God included a discussion about animals as an invitation to consider the parallels which exist between best and worst uses of grain for man.


Grain does not offer a nutrient profile that best supports metabolic needs—as do fruits and vegetables. It can no more fulfill the wide array of needs filled by fruits and vegetables than a staff can provide you with the primary power to propel you up a mountain. While grain does not provide a broad array of metabolic support, it does provide 1500 calories per pound. Grain is a whole food which is easily adapted to meet overt energy needs. Compared with energy-dense non-whole foods such as sugar and oils—which quickly lead to degeneration—grain is by far a more healthful option when overt energy needs exist.


What do we mean by overt energy needs? Let’s consider animals for a moment; a ranging horse can easily maintain body weight by eating grasses alone; however, if the same horse is subject to intense work or extreme cold, a portion of grain is also required to maintain ideal body weight in the horse. Grasses are still primary and must also be consumed either fresh or as hay (dried grasses) to meet the wider array of nutritional needs of the horse; however, overt energy needs cannot be sufficiently met by grasses alone. Whenever overt or extreme energy is required due to cold or increased physical activity both animals and man are to lean on grain (as a staff) to meet these needs.


What happens if we use grains when we do not need the extra energy? The same grain fed to a horse when it is not exposed to hard work or extreme cold, will lead to arthritic and allergic symptoms. A similar parallel exists with people who consume grain when it is unneeded. The over-consumption of grain leads to arthritic, allergic, and other grain-related disorders among humans and animals, supporting the mistaken notion among anti-grain enthusiasts that grain is always bad for you.


In summary, a staff is an instrument that provides added support. Grain provides such support but does not replace the need to meet the wider array of nutritional needs provided for by fruits and vegetables. They are primary to the sustaining of your nature and constitution while grain is complimentary. LDS people too often look at these food groups in reverse order and suffer the consequences derived from an inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables and from consuming too much grain. Consider LDS members who suffer from severe arthritis and ask if they are a part of the generation who believes they ought to consume an abundance of whole-grain bread at each and every meal? Now consider what happens to a horse that eats too much grain. So too are the horses joints destroyed in like manner.


Let’s summarize the four foods spoken of in the Word of Wisdom and their best uses; naturally ripened fruits and vegetables are our primary food (see Genesis 1:29). Animal-based foods should be limited and may even be entirely excluded, if desired. Finally, grains should be leaned upon as a staff, to meet energy needs that go unmet by your intake of fruits and vegetables.  


Promised Blessings


What benefits might be achieved if we gave credence to invitations from the Lord’s anointed to abstain from meat or to use it sparingly? For one, the average IQ score is significantly higher for vegetarians; vegetarians are also slimmer, more disease-free, and live several years longer on average. In addition to longevity, vegetarians enjoy greater productivity throughout a lifetime, even into old age. Finally, we would move in a more millennial direction by adhering to one of the laws that governs heaven.


What would happen if you ate fresh fruits and vegetables freely and abundantly and limited grain to a complimentary usage, as discussed above? Your average digestive requirement would cut in half, allowing for far greater usage of vital nutritional reserves and resources. This would lead to a mind that is not clouded or sluggish and to the discovering of hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You would also experience far greater endurance and strength.


By Invitation not Constraint


In 1988, President Ezra Taft Benson invited members of the church to learn to eat like Daniel of the Old Testament. He encouraged Latter-day Saints to follow Daniel’s example to refuse the King’s meat and wine and to learn to more closely follow the dietary counsel provided in the Word of Wisdom. President Hinkley also encouraged members of the church to discover the blessings than can only be realized by adhering to the dietary aspects of the Word of Wisdom that are too often ignored.


The Laws of Holiness suggest that in order to achieve each of the characteristics of Christ in perfection, we must first accept an invitation to obey a true principle while at the same sacrificing all that we do that opposes that principle (law of Obedience and Sacrifice). I testify that Christ is the master of dietary health and that as you accept the prophetic invitation to learn to eat as Daniel and to discover the health benefits associated with following the dietary counsel given in the Word of Wisdom, you will experience benefits that will lead you to conclude that these principles are of God.


To help you get started, we invite you to download a free and fully supported eBook at LDS Health Today ( entitled Daniel’s Challenge. Registration to the website, videos, Daniel’s Challenge eBook, the weekly Live Call-in Show, and participation in support forums is free to all members of the LDS church and their friends. When you sign-in at LDS Health Today you will be able to access each of these resources from the menu bar near the top of the page. Although content is free, we recommend that you also purchase the book Original Fast Foods ($24.95) from the website. Its recommendations are the glue that best tie the site and its supportive resources together.


Finally, Daniel’s Challenge invites you to eat like the prophet Daniel for a minimum of just six to twelve weeks and to determine if you fair better by doing so. As you eat like Daniel, you will also be keeping your baptismal covenant to live the dietary aspects of the Word of Wisdom. By so doing, you will preserve the Spirit of the Lord unto yourself in these matters, and God will send the Holy Ghost to you to teach you more perfectly how to adapt these truths more perfectly to your unique circumstances and life.

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What a great article! Thanks so much for sharing your insights and the results of all your research and study. It is very helpful. :)
This is just what I needed to hear! I know all these things to be true, but I needed one more reminder. Thank you for all of your efforts to educate and inspire!
You are a gifted writer. This answers so many arguments that my very logically thinking son has with me right now. May I reprint this on my blog?
Thank you. You may use this on your blog; I've also included a pdf downloadable version of the file on the main page of the site, right below the Daniel's Challenge download, if you think it might be useful.
Great article!
I really needed to hear this! I have studied the word of wisdom resently more deep than ever before, but you share things that I still had not seen. I struggle to give up old habits and I think this will help. We try very hard at our house to eat healthy, but have a way to go. Our 5 kids all find their own way to fight it and each is different. Thanks again for the boost!
I was wondering if we don't eat meat at all where do we get our B-12 from.
You can eat nutritional yeast not to be confused with brewer's yeast, which definitely contains B 12. It tastes sort of like parmesan cheese, which was very hard for me to give up. Also some fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, shoyu, and tamari), seaweeds, and textured vegetable protein are known to contain B 12. I especially love miso.

Here's my newest use of miso. It's a little strange but very tasty.

Miso Vinegrette

1 T. miso (I like red.)
2 T. water or pineapple juice
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil (optional: sometimes I do; sometimes I don't)

Mix together and use to dress baby salad greens with lots of crunchy veggies and flax seeds.
I hear you Melinda! My family is not totally on board either-I have adult kids and one teenager left at home. My son complained that I had nothing to eat in the fridg except "leaves." (it was actually very funny) I'm learning I have to do a little at a time, change for me has taken years~ After visiting with Jim & reading the stuff on the web site I've decided I'm not going to "constrain" anyone to my way of thinking. Just be a good example and provide the good foods~maybe try one or two new things per week. That's why this web site is such a blessing-it keeps me motivated when I'm discouraged.
We are a family of 2 and sometimes 3 - when my nephew chooses to eat with us (he's 18, working a job, and very independent.) My husband has not been all that excited about a diet that doesn't include cheese, eggs, meat and fried foods. Because of this, I don't cook everything as per the diet. I have been known to add small amounts of low-fat hamburger to a bean soup, a little canned chicken breast meat to a recipe here and there. I keep a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs, sandwich fixings and cheese in the fridge, ice cream in the freezer. He often fends for himself and fixes his own food. However, I believe that my example and the delicious meals I fix based on a healthier diet have helped him as well as me. He eats more veggies than he used to, as well as less than he used to of the other stuff. He likes the changes in me - more energy, less overweight - so whether he ultimately chooses to follow my example or not, it's still good for both of us; and I share what I learn about it whenever I can.
To enable the promises of the Word of Wisdom it is not required that you or family members have to give up meat. The counsel to use it sparingly and the invitation to not eat it except in times of winter, cold, and famine are both tied to the promises. The blessings are bound to the Word of Wisdom as it stands. If you or any member of your family chooses to use meat sparingly, read the section in Original Fast Foods to better understand how much animal protein can be consumed without causing problems. It's important when you are transitioning to a more healthful diet to stay within a doable and healthful mode. Perhaps as you learn to make and enjoy more of the recipes that are filling and satisfying with or without animal-based foods added, you can sometimes leave them out and sometimes leave them in. We've used this approach and now I can leave them out for days and even weeks at a time with no one caring a bit; however, part of the transition was taking the time to master a variety of recipes that my family truly enjoys. Now that we've done that, it's a piece of cake. Jim

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