Father of Nutrition: Who Was Maimonides?
Maimonides (1135-1204), also known as Rambam, was a Jewish philosopher and physician who changed the game for holistic nutritionists today. Despite existing in a completely different time period, his works about nutrition are still taken into account in 2018. He was born in Spain and died in Egypt, where there was a three day mourning period for the loss of his life. He wrote many books about law, philosophy, Judaism, and medicine. At one point in his life, he was considered to be the greatest physician in the world. He was widely revered by both members of Judaism and Islam for his work in philosophy and science.
Maimonides and Nutrition
(Photo source: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/194459.Maimonides)
A lot of Maimonides’ work revolutionized how we eat and the relationship between food and our bodies. He discovered that fruit should be consumed at the beginning of the meal, as it is more easily digestible than meat or carbohydrates like potatoes. Additionally, he recommended drinking cold water two hours before eating, to kick off digestion.
He stated that whole grains were easier to digest than white flour, and not to eat too much “thick meat”. Instead, he recommended eating poultry and fish. He also recommended eating dairy products, lots of fruits and vegetables, and keeping sodium intake low. Maimonides also wrote that one should not exercise in hot or cold air immediately after eating. And he wrote about getting up from the table when one was almost fully satisfied, to avoid overeating.
Furthermore, Rambam suggests waiting 3-4 hours after eating to go to sleep, as digestion slows. He also claimed that eating a small amount of sweet food after a meal is beneficial.
A key principle of his nutritional philosophy is to eat only when full, and stop eating just before you’ve had enough, to keep from overeating. Eating is not necessarily for pleasure, according to Maimonides, it is for replenishing the body, however enjoyment of food can be further used to feel grateful and mentally healthy. Taking out some of the details, the simplicity of Rambam’s diet philosophy is something that holistic nutritionists have taken with them into the 21st century.
His Impact in 2018
There is currently a Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Maimonides’ teachings are still useful and relevant in the holistic nutrition world today. Many nutritionists corroborate the health benefits of Maimonides’ diet, and encourage others to follow them. While no one diet plan works for everyone on the planet, Maimonides’ emphasis on whole, healthy foods is a good starting point.