December 20, 2010

The Obesity Menace and Kosher Foods

The perception that kosher foods are healthier than other foods has led many Americans to embrace kosher fare. While it is true that kosher products certainly do not use pork and in most cases today are devoid of animal foods, it would be incorrect to say that kosher foods are by and large healthy. The recent national obsession with fighting obesity might also target those who observe kashrus. Many observers of the Shabbos would make the case that their diet was high in saturated fats and perhaps not so healthy only on Shabbos. It was as if they made the spiritual case that Shabbos calories simply don’t count. But then came the fad of eating cholent, kishke and kugel on almost every night, and certainly from Wednesday on, and that tore the one day calorie splurge theory to shreds.

With the Jewish community suffering from high rates of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, there is certainly a new awareness of eating healthier. The kosher community has responded in kind with a broad range of low fat, sugar-free, and gluten-free products that offer the kosher consumer an unprecedented choice of healthier items. A KosherToday reader recently wrote: “As an Orthodox Jew, I feast every seventh day, on numerous Jewish holidays and a seemingly endless stream of organizational dinners, bar mitzvahs, weddings and sheva brachos. It is virtually impossible to control my weight.” Another begged for healthier snacks for his young children from kosher manufacturers. As is the case with every medical or social problem, awareness is the first step towards coming up with a solution. That first step has seemingly been taken by many kosher consumers. It is now time for action. The health of the kosher consumer deserves a serious response!