Muslim Dietary Consideration

1) Halal vs. Haram

Islam is the world’s 2nd largest religion, with more than 1.8 billion followers. Muslims are not a homogenous group, and thus one will find diverse practices among them.

The Muslim holy book – the Quran – specifies which foods are halāl (“lawful”) and which are harām (“unlawful”). Jewish and Muslim dietary laws are very similar, and most kosher foods are considered halāl. Pork, alcohol, improperly-slaughtered meat, and some seafoods are forbidden. Almost all non-meat and non-alcoholic foods are halal. All vegetarian and vegan foods are permissible except if they contain alcohol, even if the alcohol is boiled out.

In contrast to some religions, modern Christianity has few if any set dietary restrictions.

Christianity is the world’s #1 most-practiced religion. With roughly 2.2 billion Christians, the religion has more followers than any other. Thus, various denominations and churches have diverse beliefs.

For example, some denominations observe meat-free days, especially during Lent, a period of about six weeks preceding Easter. Some denominations – including Seventh-Day Adventists and some Orthodox Churches – follow some Jewish dietary guidelines and, for example, forbid pork.

2) No Pork or Pork-Derived Ingredients

Islam forbids the consumption of pork. This includes food items that might contain pork-derived ingredients. For example, gelatin – found frequently in candies and desserts – is often made is often made from pork. Foods containing pork-derived gelatin are prohibited. In contrast, gelatin from halal sources – such as fish – is permitted.

3) Alcohol and Ingredients Containing Alcohol

Restrictions on alcohol vary between countries and sects. However, Islam values the preservation of mental clarity and sanity. Thus, alcohol and wine are usually prohibited, including cooking with alcohol or wine. Observant Muslims also refrain from foods containing ingredients such as vanilla extract or soy sauce, which might contain alcohol.

4) Food Ingredients

Processed foods with multiple ingredients must be checked. Seemly innocuous ingredients – such as emulsifiers, enzymes and gelatins – might contain alcohol or pork ingredients, making the food forbidden. It’s best to choose only foods or brands that are certified halal.

5) Other Meats

Islam permits the consumption of poultry and meats other than pork. However, meat must be slaughtered according to Muslim guidelines. Islam dictates that all life, including that of animals, is sacred and must be treated humanely. In brief, an animal must be killed quickly with a sharpened blade, and while mentioning God (Allah in Arabic).

6) Fish and Other Seafoods

Islam permits the consumption of fish. Sunni Muslims permit most other seafoods, while Shia have restrictions. For Shia Muslims, prohibited seafoods include shellfish, eel and most crustaceans. Thus, prohibited seafoods include clams, crabs, lobster, octopus, oysters, scallops and squid. Also prohibited are exotic delicacies such as alligator, crocodile, and frog. Muslim scholars disagree whether shrimp and prawns are halāl or harām. If in doubt, it’s best to ask.

7) Fasting During Ramadan

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Muslim year, the date varies from year to year. During this month, Muslims must fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from any food or beverage, including water. Chewing gum, smoking, and taking medication are also prohibited. During Ramadan, the two main meals are directly before sunrise and after sunset.

8) Appreciated Foods

Foods mentioned in the Quran are of great spiritual value. These include dates, figs, grapes, honey, olives, pomegranate, yogurt, as well as legumes such as beans, lentils and peas. These foods have spiritual appeal to Muslims, and their nutrition is also a plus.