Tag Archives: snacks

Sylvester Graham – Health pioneer and crackpot

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Graham crackers were invented to cure what? Source: Wikipedia

The leadership of the various healthy eating and vegetarian movements over the past few centuries includes a lot of quacks, charlatans, and wackos. However, even some of the wackiest had some helpful ideas. A good, and early example of this type of health pioneer isĀ Sylvester Graham(1794 – 1851). He was an American dietary reformer who advocated vegetarianism and eating only whole-grains rather than refined grains. He was the inventor of the graham cracker, which in its original form was made from whole-grain flour and free of sugar, spices, flavorings and preservatives.

Sounds like a real innovator, right? However, his primary motivation for pushing his strict diet wasn’t due to health concerns but rather due to his religious fanaticism. He may have been ahead of his time, but he believed his diet could cure people of having “impure” thoughts. He was a big believer in sexual abstinence and believed his graham crackers could magically cure the desire to masturbate. Graham similarly believed that meat-eating lead to sin, and so advocated a diet of mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.

He eventually had a large following and in his final years helped found the American Vegetarian Society. Many health reformers in the late 19th century were influenced by him. Next time you see graham crackers at the store, remember that they were originally invented to cure masturbation, although in their current form they have little in common with what Sylvester Graham envisioned.

So what are we to make of such a character? I find it fascinating how Graham was right about the negative health effects of refined grain well before science finally figured it out. On the other hand, his belief that a vegetarian diet could cure alcoholism was laughably wrong.

Of course, there are still many wackos in the vegetarian movement, and of course among meat-eaters. But this says nothing about the virtues of either diet.

There are no longer any “Grahamites”(as his followers were called), but some Christian denominations like the Seventh Day Adventists continue to practice vegetarianism.

Graham may be long gone, but there are health gurus out there still making ridiculous, pseudo-scientific claims, often mixed promiscuously with good health advice. Don’t take anything on faith and do your own research to uncover the facts.

My visit to Whole Foods

Many health-conscious people simply can’t live without Whole Foods. Or rather, make that rich, health-conscious people. Even though I seldom ever shop there, it can be fun to look around, especially since much of the store is a wild carnival of vegan products. And gluten-free products. So it’s a great place to shop if you’re a vegan and/or have celiac disease. Or rather, I should say, rich vegans, and rich people with celiac disease.

The selection they have is simply amazing. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as sprouted almond butter until last night. Look at that price!

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And it’s not even organic, sprouted, raw, whole, gourmet almond butter. Don’t forget Fair Trade! It looks yummy alright, but I prefer my peanut butter and only the occasional unsprouted, poor man’s almond butter. To be honest, I’m not sure if the sprouting process does anything to improve the almond’s overall nutritional status, but it probably improves profit margins. I say this as someone who used to sprout nuts and seeds on a regular basis. I think they are best fresh and unprocessed, so homemade is best.

It seems sIMG_0530ome people may mistakenly believe if something is sold at Whole Foods, it’s gotta be healthy. Or healthier than what is sold at plebeian supermarkets. I don’t buy into this. It seems a large part of Whole Foods appeal is you can buy “healthy”, more expensive junk food there.

Calories are calories, organic or non-organic.

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Look at this section devoted to that healthiest of healthy ingredients – sugar. Of course, as we all know, if sugar is organic, or vegan, or fair-trade, it’s healthier than regular sugar. Or at least some people might want you to believe this. I can’t say I am one of them. As a vegetarian though, I can understand the point of vegan sugar, since bone-char is added to regular sugar as an anti-caking agent by some sugar manufacturers.
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When it comes to organics, I am ambivalent, though I believe we should minimize pesticide use as much as possible(both organic pesticides and conventional pesticides). I eat mostly conventional produce and food, I simply try to avoid the foods with the highest pesticide(like strawberries or peaches) content or I wash them thoroughly. It’s also best to eat locally grown when possible, organic or not.

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The part of Whole Foods that has some of the truly healthiest and most reasonably priced items is the bulk grains/seeds/nuts section.

IMG_0533Although I see better prices elsewhere, this isn’t too crazy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Live organic vegan euphoria” – I’ve thought I’ve heard everything.

I can’t eat this though, due to a nasty chocolate allergy, and the price.
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It is interesting how this tiny health food store manages to stay in business just a few blocks away from Whole Foods.  
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Just about everything you need to eat healthy can be found at your local grocery, supermarket, or farmer’s market. You don’t have to eat expensive foods to be optimally healthy. If you know how to identify edible wild plants, you can even get vegetables for free if you have a large park or wilderness area near you.