Nutrition for the Jewish Community


Thanks to Chana Rubin, RD for this guest post. Chana is a registered dietitian who lives in Israel with her family. She’s the author of the new book Food for the Soul: Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating (Gefen Publishing House Ltd, Jerusalem, 2007). Chana will be guest posting throughout the week – and keep your eyes open for a chance to win a copy of her book!

I have lived in many different Jewish communities in the U.S. and in Israel and have seen the same patterns in most of them. Obesity and the sedentary lifestyle of our communities mimic that of the community at large, with added issues of kashrut, culture, Shabbat and holidays.

Preventative nutrition and nutrition education have always been my interest. It seems to me that it is easier and more cost effective to prevent illness before it happens rather than treat it after the fact. And there are many diseases – Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, to name a few, that are certainly preventable.

Many books address general nutrition, but none of them address the Jewish community in particular. Food for the Soul – Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating does just that. The nutrition information is universal, but tailored to our specific needs and our own food culture.

More and a recipe for Surprise Cupcakes after the jump

Our sages had a lot to say about health and eating. There are references to food and eating in the Torah and the Talmud. And many commentators wrote about the connection between the physical and the spiritual – the body and the soul.

The Rambam had the most to say about Judaism and food and health.

“Overeating is like poison to the body. It is the main source of all illness. Most illnesses which afflict a man are caused by harmful foods or by his filling his belly and overeating, even of healthful foods.” (Hilchot De’ot 4:15)

A more contemporary scholar, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch had the following to say:

“You may not in any way weaken your health or shorten your life. Only if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for the spirit’s activity…Therefore you should avoid everything which might possibly injure your health…And the law asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding danger to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions.” (Horeb 62:428)

Judaism recognizes the association between proper nutrition and good health. Our tradition emphasizes the connection between physical and spiritual health. While there is still much research to be done, we now have access to a remarkable amount of information on nutrition and health. We know that the risk for many serious diseases can be reduced by following a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Food for the Soul includes practical advice for enjoying relaxed healthy meals. You will find cooking tips, creative menu ideas for Shabbat and holidays and delicious kosher recipes. It combines Jewish wisdom and nutrition science to help answer the question: “What should I eat?”


Surprise Cupcakes (Parve)
Adding carrots, zucchini or beets to these cupcakes add moisture and sweetness.

Yields: 12 cupcakes


2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups raw grated carrots, zucchini or beets


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Beat eggs and sugar in an electric mixer for 1 minute, until smooth. Add melted chocolate, oil and vanilla and mix well.
3. Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together and add to the egg mixture. Stir the grated vegetables into the batter.
4. Spoon into the muffin cups and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack.

Find out more at Chana’s website.

Photo from Delectable Tidbits.

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9 Responses to “Nutrition for the Jewish Community”

  1. Nechama Cohen Says:

    I guess you haven’t heard about the Jewish Diabetes Association or our Silver award winning book EnLITEned Kosher Cooking, which is in it’s 3rd printing

    since we are doing a lot of work in Israel i would be very pleased if you could forward this to Chana and I would love to meet with her—I am now in Israel
    Nechama Cohen
    CEO /JDA

  2. Leah Koenig Says:

    Hi Nechama – thanks for writing in!

    We featured a review of your book last year – you can take a look here:

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