Rudolf Steiner defined anthroposophy, the spiritual movement he established in the late 19th century, as “a scientific exploration of the spiritual world.” This movement focuses on the development of humankind’s physical, etheric (pertaining to life forces), astral (pertaining to soul), and spiritual capacities and serves as a foundation for many areas of study, such as Waldorf schools, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophic medicine, that are practiced around the world today.
Here are 10 aspects of an anthroposophic diet that Rudolf Steiner discussed in his lectures and written works.
1. Your diet is unique to you.
Steiner emphasized that individuals must come to their own spiritual knowledge through their own inner work. This also applies to his nutrition-related directives. Individuals have specific genetic predispositions, live in diverse areas of the world with varied food choices, and have unique intentions for their lives. Therefore, as everyone has different dietary needs, there is not one anthroposophic diet per se.
Steiner stated specific elements of one’s diet that could help or hinder health and spiritual development, but did not prescribe what foods to eat or avoid. We must decide what to eat based on our own inner work and free will.
2. A plant-based diet can help you develop inner strength.
Steiner himself was a vegetarian. As he discussed in his lecture “Problem of Nutrition,” the additional effort involved in sustaining ourselves with plant-based foods initiates the “unfolding of the actual inner life” that empowers us to become free “lords” over our bodies, whereas eating meat and animal fats can cause us to become a “passive spectator” and slaves to our dietary habits.
3. Milk provides strength.
Milk has a very different influence on spiritual development than meat does. Steiner described milk as “a perfect food,” one containing all the nutrients we need to live and providing the inner and physical strength necessary to thrive on an otherwise vegetarian diet.
4. Build your diet around whole grains.
Whole grains that grow in your region of the world serve as an ideal staple for the anthroposophic diet. Anthroposophy emphasizes the importance of carbohydrates, in particular, cooked whole grains or coarse bread, to help support the strength of your body and mind.
5. Eat roots, stems, leaves, and fruits daily.
Including all types of vegetables and fruits in your daily diet helps support the functioning of your body’s specific systems and your mind. According to anthroposophy, eating root vegetables supports cognitive health, eating leafy greens supports cardiovascular health, and eating fruits helps strengthen the digestive system and metabolism. Whenever possible, choose locally grown, fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables for the greatest benefits.
6. Eat potatoes in moderation.
Amidst the growing prevalence of potatoes as a dietary staple, Steiner cautioned that potatoes, being tubers rather than true root vegetables, should be eaten only in moderation. According to anthroposophical texts, eating an overabundance of potatoes may lead to cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating and poor memory.
7. The environment in which food is grown plays an important role.
Anthroposophy’s agriculture application, biodynamics, views the farm as a single organism. The farm produces the most beneficial food as a closed system, one not influenced by outside forces. For example, rather than bringing in manure from another farm to fertilize the garden beds, a biodynamic farm uses manure from its own cows.
8. Be mindful of how your food is processed, prepared, and presented.
In the anthroposophic diet, how food is prepared and processed plays a major role in how it nourishes us. The overuse of mechanical processes in harvesting, storing, shipping, and cooking (particularly microwaving) foods robs it of nourishing properties. Using simple methods to cook food is essential, as Steiner warned that eating solely raw foods is too physically and spiritually exhausting to sustain.
Presenting meals in an intentional, aesthetically pleasing manner can help elevate the food’s nourishing qualities. “Where strength fails, rhythm carries” is an oft-repeated refrain in anthroposophy. Rhythm is crucial for our wellbeing and development. Establishing regular meal times, gently structured with rituals such as beginning with a blessing and ending by giving thanks, helps establish our inner rhythms to build physical and spiritual strength.
9. Consume carbohydrates, fat, and protein in proper amounts.
According to principles of anthroposophy, carbohydrates are vital to one’s strength and form the foundation of a proper diet for spiritual development. In order to avoid becoming inwardly lazy, we must not overconsume dietary fats. While proteins, particularly plant-derived proteins, give one strength, excessive amounts of protein can be damaging.
10. Consider the effects of coffee, tea, and alcohol.
According to anthroposophical texts, coffee helps promote the flow of logical thinking and writing. Tea encourages diplomacy and light conversation. Steiner cautions those on a path of inner development to avoid alcohol; it takes over the role of one’s self-awareness and ability to discern wrong from right.
Steiner discussed nutrition’s effect on humanity’s spiritual development at length in several lectures. If you’re interested in learning more about the anthroposophic diet, “Nutrition and Health (Lectures I and II)” and “Problems of Nutrition” are great places to start.
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