Following a kosher diet is a tradition based on the Jewish law of Kashrut and entails knowledge of foods that can be eaten by those who follow the Orthodox Jewish faith. Kosher foods must be selected, eaten and prepared in a certain way in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. The kosher diet is eaten throughout the year, although it becomes particularly significant during certain religious holidays. Food products can be kosher certified, meaning that they are guaranteed to follow the many rules of Kashrut.
The majority of rules regarding food preparation and consumption refer to meat products. There are a number of animals that may not be consumed in any form, and only particular parts of allowed animals may be eaten. Land mammals must have cloven hooves and chew cud to be eligible, while oceanic species must possess both scales and fins. All insects, amphibians, rodents and reptiles are excluded from a kosher diet. If any animal is prepared, all of the blood from that animal must be completely drained before it can be certified as kosher.
Another rule concerning meat consumption relates to dairy products. Dairy, such as cheese and milk, cannot be eaten at the same time as any meat product. This rule is based on the traditional belief that combining these two food groups causes digestive problems. Furthermore, any cooking equipment that has been used to prepare meat cannot be used with dairy items. This law also applies to non-kosher food preparation equipment and utensils.
Any products made with grapes, including wine, must be made by Jews. If they are not, they are not permitted to be consumed as part of a kosher diet. Traditionally, families had far more involvement in their food preparation than they do today. For this reason, the kosher certification process is very important in helping Jewish families ensure that they are consuming allowed foods.
The word kosher refers more to the way in which food is prepared, rather than the food itself. Many traditional Jewish foods may not be kosher if they are not prepared in accordance with the dietary guidelines. Conversely, many foods that are traditionally from different religious and ethnic groups could be considered kosher if handled correctly. A lot of the rules surrounding a kosher diet originated from the need to create safe food preparation and cooking practices. While most of these issues are irrelevant as of 2011 due to modern hygiene and healthcare habits, kosher food is still considered to have numerous health benefits.