Moral Teachings of Islam- Diet: Ingredients

Summary of 6.10 “Diet: Pork (Medical Aspects)”
After covering a broad classification of the different types of fats and oils we looked at the neutral lipids.’ The lipids come in various forms known as monoglycerides (MG), diglycerides, triglycerides and free fatty acids.’ We focused on the triglyceride molecule is composed of glycerol and three fatty acids.’ The distribution of the fatty acids makes the difference in how the fat molecule is composed.’ We said that these fatty acids are either saturated(S) or unsaturated (U).’ Based on this basic structural composition of the fat molecule we tried to show the various distributions of the fatty acids in the fat molecule.

Many studies show that if there is a high concentration of saturated fatty acids in position two in the structure of the fat molecule within the triglyceride it becomes very difficult to digest.’ The reason it is difficult to digest is because the pancreatic paste which comes from the human pancreas which helps digest fat can not break down a fat molecule that has fatty acids in position two.

Studies show that in plant eating animals have a relatively high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids in position two which makes these foods rather easy to digest.’ On the other hand experiments on meat eating animals showed that in general these animals have a high concentration of saturated fatty acids in position two which makes it more difficult to digest.’ Thus the fat of vegetarian animals is re-synthesized in humans where as the fat of meat eating animals the fats are absorbed as is.

Poultry, beef, lamb and venison are meats that were found to be easy to digest.’ On the other hand dogs, cats, rats and pigs have a high concentration of saturated fatty acids in position two and are very difficult to digest.’ This also shows that pigs don’t belong to the edible animal category.

We also discussed the myth that because pork contains a high percentage of poly unsaturated fats that it is easier to digest.’ Even though it is true that pork has high percentage of poly unsaturated fats it still has saturated fatty acids in position two which is the crucial position pertaining to digestion and the fat molecule can not be broken down or hydrolyzed as the chemists say.

We also discussed the medical aspect.’ We discussed trichinae which is a round parasite that infests pigs. ‘Unlike other worms it gets into the stomach, the capsule which houses it is opened the larva is feed which goes into the human intestines where it matures and mates then releases a large number of microscopic larva which get into the blood stream and gradually move out of the blood vessels into the muscles.’ This is very difficult to treat and causes many kinds of ailments.

6.11 ‘ Diet: Ingredients

Host:’ How are other edible animals that can transmit disease different from the pig?

Jamal Badawi:

The round worm that we are talking about can be composed of two basic species whose name starts with taenia.’ One is called Taenia Saginata and the other is called Taenia Soliaum.’ The first species of round worm can also infest cattle, however this species of worm’s complete life cycle is completed in the Gastro Intestinal tract.’ If there is any damage is limited to the GI tract which means that it would be a localized problem which can be treated. ‘The one that infests the pig doesn’t complete its life cycle in the GI tract but it rather goes into the whole body until it reaches the muscle and encapsulates itself in the form of a cyst.’ In this case the damage worst and much more difficult to reach in terms of treatment.

Host:’ How does Trichinosis break out?

Jamal Badawi:

I have a quote from the book Modern Biology which explains it and elaborates on the point of their life cycle ‘The Trichinae or Trichinella is one of the most dangerous of the parasitic round worms.’ This round worm passes its first stage as a cyst in the muscle of a pig, dog, rat or cat.’ If uncooked meat scraps from infested animals are fed to pigs it is likely that the scrap will contain cysts.’ In the intestines of a pig that eats uncooked infected meat scraps the larva develops into adult worms, mate and produce microscopic larva that pass into the blood stream and into the muscles where they again form cysts.’ When a human being eats undercooked infested pork the same thing happens.’ The cysts are released and the larva mature in the intestine and each one discharges in the bloodstream about 1500 young which eventually form cysts in the muscles of the human being.’ This disease is known as Trichinosis.’ One method of preventing it is to feed hogs only cooked meat scraps.’ However, the best way to prevent this disease as well as other parasitic worm infection is to cook all meats as thoroughly as possible and thereby avoid any risk.” In fact the best way, as one student was telling me, is to just avoid it all together.

Host:’ What is the probability of this happening and aren’t there ways that the chances of this happening can be lessened (if meat is properly cooked)?

Jamal Badawi:

I would like to refer to the booklet we referred to before by Dr. Sakr who is a specialist in food technology.’ He quotes the USDA leaflet #34 in which it says ‘in a series of 24 cases of Trichinosis reported recently 22 were said to have resulted from cooked pork.” Elsewhere in the booklet he mentioned that some people believe the myth that if one buys the meat from a classy store with clean outlets that they don’t have this danger because again he refers to cases where Trichinosis is traced to shops in very classy areas.’ There is no question that thorough cooking in itself leaving aside religious aspects and the fat problem may help but there is not guarantee that this will illuminate the chances of infestation.

Host:’ What ingredients in which pork and its products are used?

Jamal Badawi:

When buying fresh meat one should avoid anything that has pork, bacon, and ham.’ One needs to check salami, hot dogs or pastrami to make sure that its contents do not contain pork or lard products.

One has to be carful in restaurants but it is not an impossible task.’ In many restaurants for example that have stakes (make sure it was not marinated in wine) that are marinated and cooked on charcoal cooked on a clean grill etc.’ This is usually the case because most of the places that have steaks usually have beef steaks.’ One can also eat chicken that is not cooked in lard and is fried in 100% vegetable oil.’ Also for French fires one needs to make sure they use pure vegetable oil.’ If one orders breakfast items one needs to make sure it is cooked in butter or vegetable oil and make sure there is no lard content.

Host:’ How can a person distinguish what foods have lard?

Jamal Badawi:

The best way to do this is to carefully read the ingredients before buying anything until one knows which items/brands are safe. ‘The major problem is an ingredient called shortening.’ Shortening is found in most products.’ One has to check if the ingredients say ‘animal fat’ which could mean there is a chance the product includes lard.’ If the ingredients say ‘beef fat’ or ‘beef tallow’ then it’s ok.’ If the term that is used is just shortening in the ingredients then it could be anything, vegetable oil, animal fat or a combination.’ So one needs to make sure to find out what is in it or that it says that it is 100% vegetable oil.’ Carefully reading the ingredients should not be hard.

One should be careful when buying bread.’ It is the practice of many bakeries to brush the loaf of bread with lard or in the dough.’ If someone really wants to avoid this it is very simple as there is always a brand or store that sells bread that is made with pure vegetable oil.’ There are Lebanese, Syrian or diet breads which do not contain shortening.’ The same thing is applicable to pies and cakes especially in the crusts.

Host:’ Are there any other foods that might contain pork ingredients?

Jamal Badawi:

A common ingredient is gelatin which contains the marrow or skin of animals (may be from pork or other animals).’ Some brands have the letter K stamped within a circle on the package which stands for Kosher (have not varafied).’ Sometimes one can write to the manufacturer to find out what the gelatin contains.’ There are also synthetic gelatins that don’t have any animal base and some people told me that this one will have the letter U on it (I am less sure about this than the K).’ There are some stores that only carry Kosher items which would include Kosher jello used by the Jewish community who have the same belief concerning pork.’ Gelatin is definitely something to watch for.

Host:’ What about gelatin in drug capsules?’ What about insulin?’ What about cheese?

Jamal Badawi:

There are some drug capsules which are made with gelatin which again can be made from pork or other animals.’ One can usually open the capsules so I would recommend just opening it and pouring the contents into a cup of orange juice and drinking it that way.

Some claim that insulin has extracts from the pig’s pancreas but it could also be from other edible animals.’ One can check with the pharmacist to find out what ingredients were used to manufacture it.’ There is always a substitute if one really cares to avoid it.’ If one runs into a situation where the only insulin available is extracted from pork then there is a provision in Islam for that because it constitutes saving a life.

The difficulty with cheese is that in addition to the bacterial culture used for making cheese some manufacturers use a little bit of pepsin which acts more of a catalyst to help in the process of making the cheese.’ It is said that pepsin may be derived or is usually derived from lard.” This is an area which lead Muslim jurists to come up with the explanation that first, it is a chemical product not lard in its original form and second, that it is used in a very minute amount.’ Someone was once saying that they use an ounce per 10,000 pounds of cheese and that the chemical is used as a catalyst and doesn’t really enter the cheese itself.’ In my opinion because it is used as a catalyst and is only chemical component that it is permissible.’ However I feel that if a person can find a substitute then there is no excuse to finding a substitute.’ An example I can find cheddar cheese that is made with bacterial culture but not using pepsin.’ There are cheese which have rennet (checked with my wife who has a Masters in education specializing in nutrition) and she said that it is from edible animals not pork.’ Feta cheese that comes from Denmark or the Middle East is usually safe because it uses rennet.

Host:’ Are there other meat eating animals that one should be careful not to eat?

Jamal Badawi:

According to the saying Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in both Bukhari and Muslim (the most authentic sources of Hadith) he said that birds or animals that are meat eaters are forbidden to Muslims (hawks, crows, lions, tigers and so on) which very consistent with the previous discussion we had on meat eating animals and vegetarians.

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