Why Some Jewish People Keep Kosher

The rules and restrictions of a kosher diet are part of the Torah, the Jewish bible, which is more that 3,300 years old (Being Jewish), and according to MyJewishLearning, keeping kashrut (kosher) is a means of welcoming the holiness of Judaism into a Jew's daily life. The Torah does not offer reason or justification for the keeping of kosher practices, and, like many religious rituals, it's offered simply as a matter of faith.

Approximately 7.5 million Americans are Jewish (via Pew) and around 22% of them, according to Spruce Eats, keep kosher, in varying degrees. The rules about keeping kosher, per Web MD, go beyond just a style of cooking, and while the basic parameters are pretty simple, the practice can be fairly complex.

Although a relatively small number of Americans observe the practice of keeping kosher, which means fit and proper, as in, fit and proper for consumption, between 1/3 and 1/2 of the processed food in this country is labeled Kosher (via The Atlantic). Subway even ventured into the kosher food arena, albeit briefly, and Baskin Robbins has only one flavor that isn't kosher.

The biggest reason Jewish people keep kosher is the same reason that some people make their beds or roll their socks or eat Lasagna on Sunday: It's what they know, it's how they grew up, and it has become a part of the "fabric of their lives" (Spruce Eats). As Tevye proclaimed in the iconic musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," it's all about "tradition!"

Some non-Jews follow a kosher diet for health reasons

Jewish people also may keep kosher, per Spruce Eats, because, while adhering to the practice isn't a part of their particular fabric, it is kept by close friends or family members, and it makes gathering for meals more doable.

While religious conviction is likely the most important reason for eating kosher, it's not the only one. Many people ascribe to the dietary practice for health reasons. Because the practice enforces a strict separation between dairy and meat (Web MD), those with dairy issues may find the labeling practices user-friendly. Kosher foods are labeled with a "K." A "D" after the "K" signifies that the product incorporates dairy, a "U" means that the food is pareve, or does not contain meat or dairy. This distinction includes eggs, fish, pasta, coffee, fruits, and vegetables, so people opting for a vegetarian lifestyle may shop the "U" regardless of their religious affiliation.

The rules of kosher go beyond ingredients to the manner in which it is processed, and concerns about how animals are slaughtered is also a reason that people may go with kosher. As time rolls on, ever-changing mindfulness about the food we eat is becoming more important. And, as the times do keep changing, practicing centuries-old customs may seem comforting, or even grounding.