Special diets are big right now. Ask a random sample of people whether they follow any particular diet and I can guarantee a fair number of them will be gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, Paleo, vegan, and anything else with a label. Long gone are the days when we shoved anything into our hungry little mouths.
The plethora of diet options these days probably explains why eating out is so complicated. Rather than a simple choice between the local steak house, your favorite little Italian place and an up-market a la carte restaurant, I bet you log into a find-a-restaurant app, only to be so bewildered by choice that you give up and order in takeout.
Kosher is just one of many lifestyle-food choices. Like low-sodium, gluten free and non-dairy, it is not something you adopt on a weekend when out with friends, in a mistaken attempt to appear super cool. Nor is kosher something only Jews follow, but is kosher really the next big thing and can it transform you into a purer, healthier individual?
What is Kosher?
Photo by Kevin Harber
Kosher is derivative of the Hebrew laws of “Kashrus”, which were a complex series of legislation governing permitted and forbidden foods. Those who know nothing about what Kosher is might assume that it only relates to meat, but in fact kosher covers all aspects of diet, including fish, dairy, grains, fruit and vegetables. Kosher also governs when and how you eat food. For example, you can’t eat dairy at the same time as meat and if you eat meat, you must wait several hours before you consume dairy.
Strictly observant Jewish households follow these rules to the letter, but even less strict Jews and non-Jews can observe the rules of kosher. So are more people now eating kosher food?
Special Diets are a Money Spinner
Kosher food sales have exploded in recent years. There are now 70,000 products certified as kosher in grocery stores and if you head out to a local restaurant for a meal, you are pretty much guaranteed to see kosher certified items on the menu. The truth is, although some of the food manufacturers are producing products for observant households, many more are seeking to fulfill the needs of mainstream consumers who believe that kosher means healthy.
Will Kosher Extend its Reach?
What stops kosher from becoming a mainstream dietary choice is the lack of consistent labeling by food manufacturers. Different organizations use different signs and symbols to alert consumers to the fact their products are kosher. The problem is these labels are not always obvious. The second problem is that kosher is perceived to have a religious affiliation with Judaism, which is a turn-off for many.
Kosher is undoubtedly growing within the United States as people become more aware of what kosher means, but until the food industry removes the obstacles standing in the way of people purchasing kosher products, it is unlikely to be as popular as gluten free, vegan or other mainstream dietary choices. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about kosher certification, check out the information on EarthKosher.