by Jack Hoehn

The Sabbath School Lesson 10 on Origins is not controversial and supports environmental stewardship. This teaching is true no matter what chronology of creation Adventists accept, so study your lesson and practice it.

Part of environmental responsibility is care of the environment of your stomach, so let me share with you some of the practical insights from the world of nutrition. I am writing to you my own interpretations of the data presented as a Family Physician from the 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, sponsored by Loma Linda University School of Health February 24-26, 2013. This is a unique Adventist contribution to world health, and shows the best of Adventism where we serve others as coordinating and emphasizing the good. It was a scientific meeting and not a display of Adventist health teachings, as the benefits of some healthy fish in the diet, benefits of dairy products in some diets, and even health benefits found in coffee beans and small amounts of alcohol were supported by various presentations. But in general the personal and ecological benefits of a vegetarian or a careful vegan diet were clearly supported.


Keynote address by David R. Jacobs from Mayo Clinic Professorship at University of Minnesota reminded us that in general when we try to isolate individual chemicals from foods and supplement with them this either doesn’t work or causes problems. Put into plain English when you get your vitamins from foods they are good for you; when you put them into pills they usually are NOT. Focus on having an interesting and varied diet, eat lots of plants. If you enjoy variety, eat lots of colors, lots of textures, food from lots of cultures, lots of leaves, whole grains. Avoid much food made from white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and pasta. If you are a picky eater and don’t like experimenting with lots of different plant foods, then you had better eat foods from animals who gather the nutrients you need. (This can be from dairy and eggs if you prefer, like many Adventists, to not kill things to eat.) 


Please if you or anyone in your church is vegan take your B12 tablets. It is NOT true that vegans can get enough B12 from plants. It is NOT true. You put yourself and your children at risk, you put your church at risk, if you don’t take your B12.

And you likely need some iron, some iodine, and unless you live in Florida or Southern California and spend 1 hour a day in the sun, almost all of us, vegetarian or not, need Vitamin D supplements. Please ask for a blood test, if you are 60 to 100 you are fine. If your blood level is 30-60 please take 1000 units Vitamin D3 a day if you are a child, 2,000 units a day if you are a small woman or man, 5,000 units a day if you are a large woman or normal sized man or if you are a dark-pigmented adult of any size. If your blood level is below 30, take double these doses till your blood level is in 60-100 range for optimal health.

If you want to do Vitamin D naturally, then move close to the equator, expose all your body to the sun for 45 minutes and if you are fair skinned your body will make 20,000 units in less than 1 hour.


I don’t eat fish; I’m a lifelong vegetarian using some milk and eggs. But if there is a non-polluted source of fish available to you there is much data showing two servings (of salmon or mackerel and even tuna) a week are good for your brain. As my patients age I see many lovely Adventist health reformers with Alzheimer’s Dementia. There is no plant-based food source of adequate DHA/EPA fatty acids (omega 3 fatty acids). Your brain is rich in DHA/EPA. And NO you cannot get enough by eating walnuts and flax seed oil. Walnuts are wonderful foods and reduce heart attacks; eat 1 oz . a day. Or eat a handful of mixed nuts including walnuts. But in addition please consider taking a fish oil supplement, not for your heart, but for your brain. Total DHA/EPA should total 1 gram a day, for me that’s one Costco Fish Oil capsule a day. There are algae-based DHA/EPA omega 3’s available such as those from Nordic Naturals if you can afford it. And you must start taking DHA/EPA long before you have any symptoms of dementia. You children and grandchildren vegetarians should take supplements, and your breast feeding mothers should have DHA/EPA supplements or foods. By the time you have symptoms it is usually far advanced. Starting Fish Oil at 70 won’t hurt, but it is too late.


The Adventist Health Study-2 combines with all the other studies in the world showing that the more red meat Adventists or anyone else eats, the worse mortality. You will die earlier if you eat red meat. You will have more heart attacks and strokes. You will have more colon cancer. If you eat chicken and turkey instead of red meat you will have less, but there is no protective benefit from poultry, except that you eat less red meat. 

So from the evidence go straight to a low fish diet if you are now eating red meat. Please, please don’t ever eat another grilled hamburger or other meat. Grilling meat turns it into carcinogens. No barbeque, no brai, no grill, and processed meats; bologna, hot dogs, sausages, bratwurst, etc., are all carcinogenic. (And now some of them have horse meat in them, as we have seen in the media!)

And surprise, surprise, the blood (heme iron) in meat makes it carcinogenic! So follow the Biblical standards and bleed and wash your meat to free it from hemoglobin, and boil or bake it, do not grill or fry it ever. This data is not presented by Adventist vegans, this is presented by scientists from NIH and worldly universities.


It is good for healthy adults (not children) to have some raw foods (huge salads, blended plant smoothies) but it is not possible to eat only raw foods and have adequate nutrition, so if you have raw enthusiasts in your church help them blend some of their kale and roots with fruits into smoothies, and cook one item each meal, soup, stew, baked items for at least 25% of their diet. And please remember they must take B12 supplements, Vitamin D3, use iodized salt, and perhaps some iron. Children cannot process enough raw foods and must have concentrated foods, and cooked foods.


Tofu and Soy Milk (with B12 added) is a good food for vegetarians and vegans. Use of Tofu is good for everyone, including children. Soy foods or Genestein supplements given to women going through the change of life does reduce hot flashes and does not increase breast cancer. Girls who eat soy protein have less breast cancer later in life. But even though it was a vegetarian congress, convincing evidence from England is that cow’s milk is good for you when added to the usual English diet. This contradicts the teaching of The China Project, so may be controversial in your church. But remember when Ellen White said to make our vegetables palatable “with a little milk or sterilized cream” she was right on as usual.

(This isn’t a picture of a brain, it is picture of brain food! A walnut half!)

Tree nuts are all good for you and you should have a handful every day. Walnuts look like a brain and contain essential fatty acids. Almond, hazel nuts (filberts), cashews, Brazil nuts, and even peanuts are good for you. A little fresh or shredded coconut won’t hurt you, and coconut water is harmless, but don’t believe the hype about coconut oil being a magic or safe food. It is not the best fat, use it sparingly not freely. The best fats are still olive oil, and other vegetable oils high in monosaturates like grape seed oil and canola. Fats still make you fat and should be used in moderation. Enjoy quality fats in seeds and nuts, avocado, olives. We heard Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez Gonzalez, MD, MPH, PhD from the University of Navarra, Spain present his groundbreaking paper on the benefits of adding extra virgin olive oil (1 liter/person/week) and or nuts (1 oz. or 30 grams a day of mixture of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) to the Mediterranean diet (that is a plant foods with some fish and limited red wine diet). The same day the New England Journal of Medicine (top doctor medical magazine) released his article that made the front page of the New York Times as the PREDIMED study showing 30% reduction of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death in those adding to the Mediterranean diet olive oil or daily nuts. This was better than the low fat diet advised by the American Heart Association. Dr. Ornish and McDougal will claim it wasn’t low enough. But frankly, getting my patients to eat more nuts and olive oil is going to help a lot more people than I could ever convince to radically cut back on all fats to 10% of calories as a sustainable life style. My CHIPS graduates last a few months before their bodies demand a higher fat diet. I’m happy to have evidence of what the healthy fats are for them.

Take-home for Adventists? Use olive oil in your diet, instead of corn or sunflower oil. If you live where this is not possible use grape seed or canola. Or instead of extra oil, add 1 oz. a day per person of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and most other nuts are also good for you. Use several kinds of nuts, mixed nuts, if possible.

If your non-Adventist neighbors use alcohol, agree with them that a small amount such as 5-10 ml/ 1-2 tsp. of alcohol a day (such as found in 42 to 84 ml/1 to 2.5 oz. of red wine 12%, or 100 to 200 ml/3 to 7 oz. of Budweiser 5%) has cardiovascular benefit but any more than this is harmful. Few drinkers can stay at his low level, and the social, liver, and brain damage from alcohol means that any consumption of this drug should continue to be discouraged by our church as in the best interest of the majority of humanity. 


Pythagoras, Plato, Ovid, Plutarch, Leonardo de Vinci, Voltaire, Rousseau, Shelly and Adolph Hitler were all vegetarians. Some will be in Heaven and some will be in Hell. Adventists were given vegetarianism as a benefit to us as a people, and for many reasons can be part of our morality and our ecological stewardship as well as part of our “health message.”

Healthy Adventists will eat lots of purple and red berries, lots of walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and Brazil nuts. We will have huge salads with more than lettuce in them, and olive oil on them. We will enjoy vegetables every day especially the broccoli/kale family, but orange things like squash and sweet potatoes will be frequently on our tables. We will prefer brown rice, whole wheat, and add quinoa, spelt, and other exotic grains. Flax seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds will be used. Turmeric that prevents one kind of dementia will be introduced into non-Asian diets. And beans, lentils, garbanzos, dhal will be our staples. Many of us will make them palatable with some dairy and eggs from healthy chickens. Some will continue to use fish, and others will take fish oil supplements. Others will use poultry, and I hope that most of us will avoid the frequent use of red meat even when prepared Kosher, and that all will avoid carcinogenic meats.

Our vegans are following a more difficult but admirable path. If they do it correctly they will weigh less, have less cancers (except prostate and cervical cancers). So far, we don’t know if they will have more or less dementia than fish or dairy using vegetarians. They need to be sure to keep a wide variety of plants in their diet, and please supplement by using iodized salt, some mineral calcium (500 mg a day only, more can be harmful), iron, and vitamin B12 tablets. And consider how they will get enough EPA/DHA fatty acids either by bending their diet to include fish oil capsules, or buy the expensive vegetarian EPA/DHA supplements. They can take vegetable source Vitamin D2 supplements, but will need higher doses than Vitamin D3 that comes from lanolin of sheep. They may need 25,000 to 50,000 units a week or more of Vitamin D2.


Cutting-edge research is showing that many plant spices are excellent anti-inflammatory compounds and have place in fighting all inflammatory diseases, which are the chronic 20-40-year consequence of living in the modern world. Turmeric (the yellow curry spice also known as Circumin) is good for some forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Red chili, cinnamon, fennel, dill, most spices are good for something. We need to put more spices into our diets. The older Adventist teaching on no spices may have to be adjusted.

The Creator has made over 800 plants as foods and spices. The average American uses about 10 plants in their diet. We Adventist Creationists need to use hundreds. Creationists need to become adventuresome plant gourmets. Okra anyone? Yellow Curry tonight? Please help yourself to another handful of nuts. There is always fresh fruit out for you as well.


There were huge issues regarding health in the 18th century that God asked his servants Ellen White and John Harvey Kellogg to address. These had to do with: hygiene and cleanliness—no longer problems within the plumbed world; poisonous and not-understood drugs—this is largely a non-issue today; and the benefits of plant based foods—this remains true today. They had to do with the dangers in pre-antibiotic, pre-pasteurization, pre-microbial dangerous foods like dairy products—this is less of an issue today, and many safer substitutes are widely commercially available, like properly prepared soymilks. Cheese is now fit for food, unlike then, but it still is not a healthy fat and should be limited in our diets, sad to say.

On the other hand Ellen White knew nothing of our present danger foods. Health reform today should include—no soft drinks, including Gator-aid like sports drinks, very little liquid calories of any kind including fruit juices, nothing with corn sweeteners as a major ingredient, no hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated fats. Put another way, Adventist Health Reform today must include avoiding red and processed meat, soda drinks, whole dairy products, commercial bakery goods, and sweets and pastries. Real Adventist vegetarians don’t live on bread, pasta, white rice, and potatoes.


And one last rant from this physician who looks at lots of painful and deformed feet of old ladies. High heels are from the Devil! Girls, young women, and mothers, why are you submitting to male chauvinism and sexual oppression by deforming your lovely feet with those terrible high heels? It’s time to hear a good old Adventist sermon on shoe reform! 

But of course, as on many important topics it would be far better to hear it from some of our ordained women pastors speaking the truth in love to their sisters.

(You are welcome to add comments or questions to Dr. Hoehn below.)