What is a kosher diet and are there any health benefits?

Kosher foods may be a staple of Jewish diets, but they are not the only ones who eat these foods. More than 12 million people in the United States choose kosher foods when they shop at the grocery store, according to the Orthodox Union, a kosher certification agency. It’s a huge industry—these products generate over $12 billion in annual sales.

These numbers are surprising when you consider that fewer than five million American adults identify as Jewish, according to a Brandeis University report (PDF). And even fewer are observant and keep a hive.

What gives? “Some consumers think the products are cleaner or healthier,” says Mindy Haar, PhD, RD, chair of interdisciplinary health sciences at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York.

But are they? Here, explore what it means to keep kosher, how to determine which foods are kosher, and whether eating this way has health benefits.

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