Over the last several years, with the increasing interest in eating and living healthier, the question about what Jesus might have eaten has become a popular topic of speculation. In some instances we can discover the foods Jesus ate by reading the Bible. For example, Luke 24:41-43 states “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”
This is one of the rare passages in the Bible actually showing us the types of food and drink Jesus consumed. However, historians and archeologists have made educated guesses based on the foods known to grow in the geographical area and on customs and beliefs during the life of Jesus. The list of foods and beverages below are some of the ones many believe Jesus likely ate in his lifetime.
An early mosaic of Christ from the 4th century features pomegranates flanking Him. The remarkable number of juicy seeds in a pomegranate symbolizes the many believers who make up the church in religious history. The pomegranate is considered a “super fruit” because it is tremendously rich in antioxidants. The pomegranate’s antioxidants are thought to be responsible for the potential health benefits. Research studies suggest that regular consumption of pomegranates or pomegranate juice can support heart health, breast health, prostate health, and skin health. Nutritionally, a single pomegranate provides nearly 50% of our daily fiber and Vitamin C needs.
Christ was cooking fish when first seen by some of His disciples after His Resurrection. Fish is an excellent source of lean protein, an essential part of our regular diet. Additionally, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, lake trout, and herring are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to have anti-inflammatory actions and consumption of adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to support healthy blood lipid levels, reduce blood pressure, and reduce heart disease risk. Fishing was a common occupation during Jesus’ day. Christ asked Simon (also called Peter) and his brother Andrew to follow Him to become “Fishers of Men” at the Sea of Galilee.
Christ’s first cousin, John the Baptist, consumed honey, so Christ and others also likely enjoyed it with oven-baked bread. Honey has a long history of use as both a food and for its natural health benefits. Many of the phytonutrients in raw honey have been reported to have cancer-fighting properties. It has also been suggested that adding honey to one’s diet can support normal blood sugar and cholesterol health. The carbohydrates in honey have been shown to enhance digestive tract health by promoting beneficial bacteria, and would have been a good energy source for the long walking journeys during the time.
Olive Oil and Olives
The “sop” used to dip bread in during the Last Supper may have been or contained olive oil. Olive oil and olives have long been a staple of the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern thought to be much healthier than typical Western diets. Olive oil is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds as well as dietary fat. However, the dietary fat in olive oil is mostly monounsaturated fat, which has been reported to support normal heart health by reducing total and bad cholesterol levels. Additionally, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil have been reported to support normal blood sugar health, ease joint discomfort, and decrease breast cancer risk. Olive oil also nourishes skin health for a glow.Grapes
Jesus called Himself “The True Vine” in John 15:1-6. Many vineyards are still in the Jerusalem area and surrounding hillsides. Grapes are a rich source of many phytonutrients including resveratrol and saponins and many other antioxidant compounds. Research reports have suggested that red grapes or grape juice can support normal heart health by decreasing bad cholesterol and triglycerides, preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol, and supporting an overall improved antioxidant status. New research shows that grape extracts also support healthy skin!
According to the Gospels, a sponge soaked in wine vinegar was offered to Jesus twice while on the cross. Jesus refused the first offering containing a mixture of a pain-killing narcotic herb and vinegar. He accepted the second offering which was likely the common drink of soldiers called “posca.” It would have contained vinegar, water, and eggs. Vinegar, including wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar, has been reported to slow the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive system, helping to support normal blood sugar health. Vinegar has also been shown to increase the absorption of calcium from vegetables, making vinegar a good ingredient for your salad dressing.
Jesus attempted to eat figs from a fruitless fig tree on the road to Jerusalem, so we can assume He enjoyed figs. Figs have long been grown and eaten in the Mediterranean area. Figs are excellent sources of potassium and dietary fiber. Potassium is important for the support of normal blood pressure and dietary fiber has numerous health benefits including weight management, digestive tract health and reduced risk of breast cancer. Figs are also good source of antioxidant phytonutrients like anthocyanins and carotenoids.
Lamb is an important part of the Passover feast. It is an excellent source of dietary protein, an essential nutrient for human health. Additionally, lamb provides high amounts of vitamins B3 and B12 as well as high amounts of selenium, zinc, phosphorous, and iron. Zinc has been reported to be important for healthy immune function and blood sugar health, while vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the normal metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. While lamb is high in saturated fat, it contains less than most other meat products. Of the total fat in lamb, only about 36% is saturated; the rest is mono- and polyunsaturated fat, the healthier varieties of fat.
Jesus called himself “The Bread of Life” in John 6:35. Bread was passed out at the feeding of the 5,000 men (plus families) and 4,000, and consumed at the Last Supper. Many whole grain breads are a rich source of vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. Soluble dietary fiber has been reported to help with weight management, digestive tract health, blood sugar health, purging of bad hormones from the body, and heart health. Eating a diet low in fat and high in grain products, fruits, and vegetables that contain dietary fiber may reduce your risk of some cancers including breast cancer. Additionally, soluble fiber from foods such as oat bran and whole grain barley, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.