The kosher diet is one of the most popular across the world. In fact, about 86 percent of the 11.2 million American consumers who buy kosher goods aren’t religious Jews! Of course, it does help that everyday foods like Heinz Ketchup and Cheerios are certified kosher, and those who buy these products may not even consider this fact.
Kosher food is everywhere, whether you realize it or not. But keeping a kosher diet is much different than eating kosher food every now and again. Those who choose to fully adopt a kosher lifestyle may do so for religious or ethical reasons, but more likely do so because of its dietary benefits.
If you’ve been trying to decide whether a kosher diet is right for you, it’s important to be aware of the common misconceptions surrounding it, and what you are and aren’t permitted to eat.
The History of the Kosher Diet
The kosher diet stems from the Jewish Torah, which is also the first five books of the Bible. The Torah lays out a variety of rules and laws about what can’t and can’t be eaten, as some foods (especially certain proteins) were considered “unclean.” In addition, kosher law (also known as kashrut) dictated how food must be prepared in order to be clean. Many of these rules were in place for sanitary reasons, while others were a test of faith and loyalty to God.
In more recent times, the first Kosher Food Law was passed in New York in 1915, which forbade selling non-kosher food as kosher. Over the years, kosher certification boards were founded, including Organized Kashrut Laboratories (O.K.) in 1935, which is one of the largest certification boards in the US.
Many large food companies have committed to selling kosher goods and have received their certification, including Heinz, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Kraft and others. In tandem with these large corporations, smaller companies selling kosher goods like Broadway Basketeers gift baskets have turned a once-niche market into a massive industry.
Common Myths About the Kosher Diet
When something has been around for thousands of years, there are bound to be misconceptions and myths that crop up. The kosher diet is no different. There are a lot of myths out there about the kosher lifestyle, but some of the most common include:
Only Jews follow the kosher diet
Actually, the majority of Jews, either by culture or faith, follow only some kosher laws, or none at all. People of all religions, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds have found the kosher diet to be a fulfilling one!
Foods are made kosher by the blessing of a rabbi
This may be part of the process in some cases, but generally, a blessing from a rabbi doesn’t make food kosher. Instead, its preparation and serving make food kosher.
Mixing kosher and non-kosher foods can still be considered kosher
The kosher diet revolves around cleanliness, in terms of the foods allowed, how it’s prepared and how it’s served. If non-kosher foods touch kosher foods, everything is made non-kosher by default. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on why you’re eating kosher. But if you want to follow strict kashrut, this practice is forbidden.
Kosher-style foods are the same as kosher foods
There are plenty of traditional Jewish foods and ingredients, like matzo and latkes, that are associated with the kosher diet. But if it’s not prepared and served according to kashrut, it’s not kosher!
Kosher foods are more expensive and harder to find
A few decades ago, this may have definitely been the case. But nowadays, you can easily find a lot of kosher ingredients and foods in restaurants and supermarkets. It’s true that some kosher meats may be more expensive than their non-kosher counterparts, but even so, it’s by a small margin.
Keeping kashrut is complicated
It’s true when you first start eating kosher, it may be confusing to keep all the rules straight. But once you understand what foods have to be separated and how food has to be prepared, and you’re in a kosher mindset, it can actually become difficult to mess things up! And even if you do mess up a little, that’s ok — if you are serious about keeping kosher, you can call a rabbi to see if the mistake can be fixed. If you aren’t so serious but are more focused on the health benefits of being kosher, you can just keep on making your meal.