First of all I should say that I was once upon a time accepted onto the 5 year course for a Medical Degree in Phytotherapy.
At the time my age group fell through a funding gap - I could get support if I travelled to the college, but not (with pre-school children, as I had then) for the home study version.
I guess this information means nothing except to underline the serious interest I had in the effects of natural foods on the human system. Phytotherapy is the posh word for herbalism, which is growing in importance in this country - staid old NHS doctors will now routinely recommend certain non-prescription supplements such as cod liver oil or probiotics, even echinacea.
The desire, for me, grew out of my eldest son's health issues. Back in the mists of time when ADHD was a new and confusing diagnosis, 'helpful ideas' abounded, such as eliminating sugar from the diet. As it happens, a total elimination diet was suggested by our GP for other reasons and all in all it was a baptism of fire. Kelloggs cornflakes, for example, and any tin of regular baked beans contain sugar, as do most brands of peanut butter. Reintroducing pure food types one at a time meant a lot of hanging round in supermarkets reading small print and one or two habits stuck, such as restricting breakfast cereals to porridge oats and Weetabix.
Then I met my husband, who has an all consuming interest in religion, modern and ancient, specifically tracking the movement of society through the transmission of ideas.
The Celts, like the Essenes, had specific foods they ate religiously. When it says in Isaiah "I have prepared the ends of the Earth" we have a pet suspicion that this specifically means Cornwall, already referred to as the ends of the earth in other material, and the shore you apparently land on if you let your boat get carried along by the trade winds from the Middle East; unless you time it wrong, skim past the bottom of England and hit France instead.
With or without that rather tenuous connection, historically worshippers of a single deity can often be found incorporating strict dietary rules into their lifestyle. I don't want to argue whether this was to induce cleanliness or longevity - I mean, what's the difference between the two? If your diet avoids various nasty but common diseases, you achieve both; you also then stand out as God's chosen, or blessed, to the uninitiated.
For example, tapeworm, trichonosis and schistosomiasis were rife in ancient Egypt - two caught from pork, the last, which causes fatal cirrhosis, from water snails. I bet the abstaining Jews seemed Divinely protected. Perhaps they were. I imagine asthma was a beastly condition in those days without modern treatments - unless you promptly burned everything carrying mildew.
I digress. The point of this wasn't to list things you should avoid, but foods you should embrace. Monotheistic religions do seem to encourage heavy consumption of certain foodstuffs as much as they discourage others. All that munching on unleavened bread, for example - plain whole grains full of prebiotics (which produce probiotics in the body and are anathema to yeast infections and plenty more) - bye bye all sorts of problems, as evidenced by studies into a single probiotic - here.
No I am not being sacreligious - if you know your God at all (if you happen to believe in one) then you believe he blesses those who obey him. I don't think its like he smites the other guys, just that if you go for a hug;..... you get a hug. And a warm fuzzy feeling and a better day. Its called parenting. On the other hand if you think I am a total loony for saying that - well lets save the 'how did they know to do these things then' argument for another day.
The funny thing is, the point of this post was originally something else entirely. Zilla asked whether we argue over what to eat, at home; but thats another story.