Adventist and Healthy Living
One of the things that Seventh-day Adventists are known for is their high regard for healthful living. A health ministry department is even an integral part of the world church’s organizational structure.
We believe our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and should be well cared for (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We also trust that it’s God’s will for them to be in good health. That as Christians, we shouldn’t only strive toward spiritual wellness, but also toward physical and mental wellbeing (3 John 1:2). In many ways, all three types of health can go hand in hand.
As an introduction to the way Adventists look at complete wellness, this post will go over eight primary principles that form a foundation for healthful living. These principles fueled the Adventist Church’s major health endeavors, such as the establishment of sanitariums, several wellness centers, and the development of our global hospital system.
To make these principles easy to remember and apply, Weimar Institute came up with the NEWSTART acronym, which stands for:
N – Nutrition
E – Exercise
S – Sunlight
T – Temperance (or self-control)
A – Air
R – Rest
T – Trust in Divine Power
Let’s take a look at each of these principles, and how we can apply them practically in daily life. We’ll also see the benefits many have gained as they’ve applied them.
Nutrition that supports complete wellness
Adventists strive to maintain a simple diet, taken in its most natural form. Their diet is mainly plant-based, restricting or moderating animal products. You’ll likely find that most Adventists you meet are vegetarian or vegan.
In addition to reducing the amount of animal products in the diet, the focus also has to be on complete nutrition. It’s not only about what foods are avoided, but what foods are included. Our bodies need the right amount of nutrients from healthy food sources, and in the right combinations.
So, why do Adventists stick to a mainly plant-based or vegetarian diet? For one, we’ve found the diet that God gave to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before the Fall is the ideal source of nutrition for man.
God gave Adam and Eve “every herb that yields seed (nuts and grains) which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed (fruits). He told them that’s what was meant to “be for food” for them (Genesis 1:29, NKJV).
And after the fall, He also gave them “the herb of the field” (vegetables) in addition to the previous diet (Genesis 3:18, NKJV).
It’s only after the flood that God gave men the go ahead to use animal products as food. And even then, He clearly instructed them not to eat flesh with the blood or animal fat still in it (Genesis 7:3,4; 9:4; Leviticus 7:22-27).
He also outlined which animals were considered clean and could be eaten. And they were forbidden from eating other animals that were outlined as unclean ( Leviticus 11).
And this same principle applies even today. Modern research is now showing that those who stick to the original diet without animal products live longer. This is what informs our choices when it comes to diet.
We believe a diet made of mainly whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables is sufficient to provide the body with all the necessary nutrients and keep it healthy.
Avoiding animal products completely is considered a vegan diet. Others choose to eat a few animal products, such as dairy and eggs, but still avoid eating the meat of animals. This is considered a vegetarian diet.
And as mentioned earlier, research has shown that following this diet has paid off toward long-term health.
Loma Linda Adventists Are One of the Longest Living People in the World
Dan Buettner, together with the National Geographic Society, located 5 places in the world that had high concentrations of people over 100 years old. People who have grown old without health issues like heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
He called these places the Blue Zones.
One of these places was Loma Linda, California—a community with the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the United States. These Adventists live up to 10 more healthy years than the average American!
They mainly live on a Biblical diet made of nuts, fruits, grains, and vegetables.
The other Blue Zones include:
- Okinawa, Japan
- Ikaria, Greece
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The study shows that 95% of all people who lived to be at 100 ate a plant-based diet that was rich in beans, legumes, and whole grains.
The Adventist Health Study (AHS)
This is an ongoing long-term medical research conducted to determine the links between diet, disease, and lifestyle. The study’s participants were more than 96,000 Adventists from every state in the United States and Canada.
The AHS-2 found that Adventists who maintained a vegetarian diet recorded lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and high blood sugar compared to non-vegetarians.
And all these chronic diseases are known to be huge risk factors for heart disease and early death.
That explains why on average, vegetarian Adventists lived 1.5–2.4 years longer than non-vegetarian Adventists.
Also, among the over 60,000 adults who took part in the study, those who maintained a vegan diet had the lowest body mass index (BMI), compared with vegetarians and those who ate meat.
Another review of a dozen studies in which 1,151 people participated found that vegetarians lost much more weight than non-vegetarians. And those taking a vegan diet lost even more weight.
So as you can tell from these studies, there was more to the diet that God gave to man than just food. And the good news is that you and I can access it and take full advantage of the benefits it offers.
Balance is the watch word
As long as it’s taken in the right proportions and combinations, the Adventist diet provides even nutrients that have been said to be lacking in plant-based diets—specifically, vitamins D and B12, omega-3 fats, iron, iodine, zinc, and calcium.
And Adventists have found ways to achieve this balance in terms of what they eat, when they eat it, and in what proportions and combinations.
Adventists also put together creative ways to prepare these meals so that they taste great. And they share these kitchen secrets in cookbooks, cooking classes, and various online platforms.
Exercise—we were born to move
We believe that physical exercise is an absolute necessity for strength and development. We were created to move! And 1 Corinthians 6:20 even tells us, “honor God with your bodies.”
This principle is also found in the first few pages of the Bible. As soon as God created man, He gave him some physical work to do.
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, NKJV).
This tending and keeping the garden was meant to be a daily, full-time responsibility. God ensured that humans got their daily workouts from the very beginning! And we still need it even today.
In fact, yardwork or gardening is one of the most well-rounded, non-strenuous physical activities we can do. And it comes with a perk of getting things done while exercising your body at the same time.
But of course we are free to exercise whichever way works best for our individual needs.
It could be:
- Brisk walking
- A gym session
As long as it’s done regularly, any of these will keep you healthy.
There’s always considerations taken for those who have specific fitness goals, or those who have to make accommodations for various health conditions.
But in typical situations, a good recommendation is 75-150 minutes per week of moderate-to-intense exercise, preferably spread out over each 7-day period.
During these workouts, simply make sure to:
- Breathe deeply
- Keep track of your heartbeat
- Have water available
The scientific community also tells us that beyond weight loss and muscle building, physical exercise has lots of benefits for your body that go beyond physical strength and endurance. Our minds benefit, too.
Ever noticed that sense of wellbeing that you feel right after a good amount of exercise?
Those are endorphins. This group of hormones can uplift your mood and help your body during the recovery period after a workout.
Exercise also helps improve mental focus. It even helps to prevent disease and aids in recovery from sickness.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Normalizes blood sugar levels
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Increases muscle strength
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves appetite
Water can do more than you might think
Water has always been a large part of our existence.
The Bible tells us that it was here even before the world was created. And the whole place was covered by it (Genesis 1:2).
So when God started creating, the second and third things He did had to do with water. First, He separated the waters on the earth’s surface from the one in the atmosphere like clouds and vapour. Then with whatever was left on the surface, He made water bodies so that it was all collected in designated places (Genesis 1:6-10).
Eventually, about 70% of the earth’s surface was covered in water, and the remaining 30% was for us and other creatures that live on land.
He must have thought we’ll need a lot of water, right?
It’s no wonder water happens to be the one consumable thing needed in the largest quantity by the human body.
Because our bodies are mostly made of water—up to 60%.
And all body organs are composed of significant amounts of water:
- The brain and heart are composed of 73% water
- The lungs are about 83% water
- The skin contains 64% water
- Muscles and kidneys are 79%
- And bones are also watery—31%
Also, all biological processes in the body need water to run. So to survive and stay healthy, we need to drink water. Generally, adult men need about 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day while women need about 2.2 liters (2.3 quarts). Children need less depending on their age.
And we use water for more than just drinking, cleaning up, or personal hygiene. Many Adventist wellness centers use it for treatment of common diseases and conditions through hydrotherapy.
Even today, Adventist wellness centers use water treatments. But most of the procedures are simple and can be combined with other natural remedies for home treatments.
And one major advantage of water is that it leaves no adverse side effects after treatment. It’s as all-natural as you can get.
Getting the optimal amount of Sunlight
The very first thing God made was light (Genesis 1:3). And when He saw it, He said it was good (Genesis 1:4). Then on the fourth day, He made the sun (Genesis 1:14-19).
And, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said:
“Truly the light is sweet, And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun” (Ecclesiates 11:7, NKJV).
Sunlight is a powerful healing and cleansing agent. It helps us produce vitamin D, keeps us warm, and lifts our spirits. It also has many other health benefits that tend to regulate body function in an effort to bring it to a healthy normal.
It’s interesting that when God wanted to reveal Himself to us as the Savior and Healer of our souls, He used the sun as His illustration. He said:
“But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2, NKJV).
From that, we understand that sun exposure is very beneficial to health. Though we must be careful to avoid over exposure since too much of it can damage our eyes and skin.
You want to get your sunshine in daily, but in small doses depending on how your skin reacts. And in hot climates or during summer, avoid being out for too long at a time between 10am to 3pm. But if you have to, wear protective clothes that cover your skin and a wide brimmed hat. And remember your sunscreen.
Self-control is a biblical principle
The Bible teaches that self control is one of the traits that should characterize a Christian. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s working in a believer’s life.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV).
Also, in describing the growth of a believer to become godly, Peter mentions self control as a necessary ingredient (2 Peter 1:2-11).
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NKJV).
Another word for self control is temperance. It means being able to be accountable to one’s self, to know when to say “yes” or “no” to our human whims and desires.
As Solomon observed in his great wisdom, “whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, NKJV).
This principle can be applied in a very practical sense by exercising restraint in terms of:
- What and how we eat
- What and how we drink
- How we dress
- How much we work or study
- How we deal with our emotional lives and interpersonal relationships etc.
Because of the direct ways it affects overall health, practicing temperance often starts with refraining from alcohol, tobacco products, other mind altering drugs, even caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea, etc. These are tangible things that are easier to control and greatly affect our health. It’s a great place to start in developing more self-control.
While many of the above-mentioned consumables are common, we often avoid these things because of the principle Paul describes: “all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NKJV).
While some things should be avoided completely, with most things the goal is moderation. Seek out what is good for the body and the mind, and stay away from things that are harmful to our health.
Fresh air—a simple yet necessary ingredient of wellness
After God had fashioned man from dust, the man still lay lifeless. But when “[God] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” the man came alive (Genesis 2:7).
Since then, humanity needs to breathe in order to stay alive.
In fact, breathing is the one thing that man can’t live long without. We can survive 5-6 weeks without food, a few days without water, but we can only survive a few minutes without air.
That’s why Job said “the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4, NKJV).
So, what’s in the air?
Oxygen, for one. About one-fifth of the air we breathe in is made up of a gas called oxygen. This is what our bodies use to generate all the energy that we use to get around. And every little function in us needs energy.
So, we’ll be wise to make sure the air around us is clean and fresh and able to circulate. If it’s polluted, you can be sure there is less oxygen. And that affects how efficiently our bodies run.
And the first place to look for fresh air would be outdoors. The more time we spend outside the better, rather than cooped up in recycled air and artificial light.
Those of us who live in big cities might find it rejuvenating to take a trip to the country, away from the effects of traffic and heavy industry. A breath of truly fresh air does more than we might realize.
For times we have to stay indoors, it’s important to keep the air circulating and allow fresh air to be coming in. And if possible, it helps to have plants indoors to facilitate the air exchange.
Fresh air has many revitalizing benefits for both body and mind that we don’t always think about.
Fresh, pure air…
- Gives composure and serenity by soothing the nerves.
- Promotes good blood circulation.
- Helps with digestion.
- Affords a good night’s sleep.
The importance of rest
Taking time to rest is an absolute necessity for both our physical and mental health.
Just think of a machine. It gets worn out after running for a while. Then it needs to be serviced or have parts replaced.
In the same way, our bodies need a break after working to keep us going for a while. Breaks help us recharge our energy and replace cells and tissues that were used up.
And this rest can be summarized in three main levels:
Every day between tasks
We need periodic rest now and then during the day. At times, all we need is a change between tasks. For example from using our muscles in physical work to using our brains in mental effort.
Every night as we sleep
Then in a day, we need about 8 hours of sleep—some need a little more and others a little less. That’s why He made the night for us, so that we can shut down and recharge (Genesis 1:4-5).
Every week on Saturdays
After He made us, God took a full day to rest. In fact, the very first full day that man lived was made a day for Him to enjoy communing with His maker.
And from then on, one out of the seven days of the week was dedicated to rest and worship, for us to get enough rest at night, and to have a pause from the normal things we work on the rest of the week.
God instituted it right after creation on the seventh day, and even rested on it Himself as an example for us.
Then He commanded us to do the same because He knew we needed a Sabbath.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.”
In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV).
Seventh-day Adventists take full advantage of this rest day. We consider it a much-loved day off.
Anyone who integrates these three levels of rest into their routines are likely to see improvements in the health of their minds and bodies.
Trusting in Divine Power
Each of the seven laws that we’ve looked at so far deal directly with health of mind and body, but faith and trust in God is the one principle that secures health for the soul. And this kind of health ties all the others together.
We can do everything we know to keep physically healthy, but we know that actually being healthy on all levels takes more than just our own efforts.
And that’s where God comes in.
It takes cooperation between us and God to care for our bodies. We can eat nutritious food, but God ensures it gets assimilated in our systems.
Same with sleeping. We can go to bed early, but we must trust that it’s God who “gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2, NKJV).
And even still, we can take care of our physical needs, but if we’re depressed or harassed by guilt and shame, there’ll still be a problem. That’s why we function so much better when our hearts are filled with love, hope, and joy in the Lord.
We can let go of much of what burdens us when we seek peace in God (John 14:27). He welcomes us to come to Him for relief just as we are. He says:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NKJV).
After drawing near to God, we can truly have perfect health.
And having such a relationship with God, we enjoy the privilege of being settled in our identity as His children.
John calls us to “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1, NKJV).
As children of God, we see other people as children of God, too. We learn to treat them with love and dignity, and as a result, we get to enjoy sweet fellowship in our families and fellow believers in church.
And when we’re in good health, we will have what it takes to bless humanity.
We can glorify God through service to those we love, in church, our communities, our countries, and the world at large.
These Principles Work Best if Implemented Together
Each of these eight principles are great on their own, but they are at their best when implemented all together. They are eight puzzle pieces of the big picture of health.
Going back to the Blue Zones populations, the study observed that those with long lifespans attributed their health not only to diet—though that is a huge factor.
The secret to these people’s longevity had to do with their lifestyle as a whole.
They lead active lives, make time to be out of doors, rest regularly, eat a nutritious diet, and maintain close family and community ties as much as possible.
This translates into healthy bodies and people who are more emotionally stable, often part of rich social networks and support systems. Ultimately, we see people who are set up to thrive in their world—people who live long and have the capacity to enjoy quality of life.
As we’ve seen, Adventist lifestyle choices are inspired by the Bible. And science and modern research is showing that though these guidelines were given long ago, they are still relevant today.
We don’t see these choices as restrictions. Instead, we treasure them as priceless guidelines for living a longer and healthier life. And while we believe that this is the ideal lifestyle for mankind, we don’t try to impose it on anyone. It’s not a requirement for new members who may want to fellowship with us or visit a Seventh-day Adventist church.
Instead, we simply live it and enjoy the benefits on the body, mind, and soul. We live our best lives in gratitude to God for His love toward us.
If you’re interested in learning more about the health principles you just learned, we are more than willing to share more or provide resources, and to encourage others who are on the journey to a healthy lifestyle.
Interested? Head over to find out more on how you can live a happier and healthier life!
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