Saint Hildegard von Bingen lived from 1098 to 1179 in Germany. She joined a Benedictine convent in Disibodenberg and became the Abbess at the age of 35. St. Hildegard had visions all her life, which helped her see God's wisdom and be seen as a prophet. She wrote down what God told and showed her through these visions and published many volumes on science, medicine, and theology.
She was also very outspoken, going on missionary trips and preaching in other cloisters and in market places. Today, there is a revivalist culture around her teachings, especially her teachings on how to eat to stay healthy and many of her medicinal and herbal remedies.
St. Hildegard's Life Rules
- Strengthen the soul
- through prayer and meditation
- by encouraging talents and virtues
- and working against weakness and vice
- Regular detoxification through special "cures" or treatments, such as bloodletting, wormwood wine cure (and many others), fasting and purging therapies which are supposed to strengthen the body.
- When the soul, body, and mind are equally strong, then the four life juices and elements are balanced. This allows the organism to work optimally and feel healthy. The balance is easily disturbed, however, through incorrect eating and drinking habits and lusts.
- Sharpen the senses
- live purposefully and cheerfully;
- "love life and use your five senses correctly", encouraging optimism and personal responsibility.
In short: Eat healthily, use natural healing methods and live by common sense rules.
Hildegard von Bingen had many ideas on how to eat healthily. Some people have decided to eat by these rules in the modern day and there are whole internet clubs devoted to her nutrition teachings. Hildegard's lessons still influence German cookery to an extent and these rules have helped shape some of the cultural food ideas that you may encounter when in Germany.
Foods Divided According to Their "Healing" Capabilities
- Healthy foods: beans, butter, spelt, sweet chestnuts, fennel, spice cakes, roasted spelt porridge, lettuce salad with dill or garlic or vinegar and oil. honey, carrots, garbanzo beans, squash and its oil, almonds, horseradish, radishes, raw sugar, red beets, cooked celeriac, sunflower seed oil, wine vinegar, cooked onions.
- Healthy meats: poultry, lamb, beef, venison, goat.
- Healthy fish: grayling, trout, bass, cod, pike, wels catfish, pike perch.
- Healthy fruits: apples, cooked pears, blackberries, raspberries, red currants, cornels, cherries, mulberries, medlar, quinces, sloe berries, grapes, citrus, dates.
- Healthy drinks: beer, spelt coffee, fruit juice thinned with mountain spring water, fennel, rose hip or sage teas, wine, goat milk.
- Healthy spices: water mint, mugwort, Spanish chamomile root, nettles, watercress, burning bush root, gentian root, fennel, psyllium, galangal root, raw garlic, spearmint, cubeb, lavender, lovage, fruit of the bay tree, saltbush, poppy, nutmeg, cumin, clove, parsley, polemize, wild thyme, tansy, sage, yarrow, licorice root, rue, hyssop, cinnamon.
- Stay away from "Kitchen Poisons": eel, duck, peas, strawberries, fatty meat, cucumbers, domestic goose, blueberries, elderberries, cabbage, crabs, leeks, lentils, nightshades (like potatoes), olive oil, mushrooms, peaches, plums, refined sugar, millet, raw food, tench (a fish), plaice (a fish), pork, white wheat flour, sausage. In case of a disease such as cancer, no animal protein should be eaten at all.
How and When to Eat
Your first meal should be a warm one, to warm the stomach. This meal helps the stomach function well over the rest of the day. A good meal is toasted spelt bread, spelt coffee or fennel tea, and warm, roasted spelt porridge with dried fruit.
The first meal should be taken late in the morning, shortly before midday or around midday. Only the sick and weak should eat earlier, to gain strength.
Chew fennel seeds before eating to aid the digestion and freshen the breath.
Drink in moderation. Drink with your meals but not too much, or you can thin out the good juices in your body too much. Water alone is not a healthy drink, but water mixed with fruit juice or made into herbal tea can be healthy.
Raw food can hurt the body. Hildegard warns against incorrectly made dishes which are not cooked.
St. Hildegard's highest rated foods are spelt, chestnuts, fennel, and chickpeas (garbanzo beans). "Spelt creates healthy body, good blood and a happy outlook on life," she writes. Meat should be from animals which eat grass and hay and don't have too many offspring. Butter and cream from the cow are good, but milk and cheese are better from the goat. Sunflower seed and pumpkin seed oils are good; olive oil is reserved for medicinal purposes.
Recap: Nutritional Tips from Saint Hildegard
- The first meal should be warm
- Healthy people should eat late
- 2 to 3 meals per day
- Drink at mealtime
- A short nap at midday is healthy
- Do not eat too much and make sure your food and drink is neither too warm or too cold
- Raw foods are hard on the stomach
- Cook your dishes
- Take a walk after the evening meal