Popular Diets
The Graham Diet

Sylvester Graham was an American dietary reformer who died about 150 years ago...

Sylvester Graham

Sylvester Graham in popular diets

Sylvester Graham inventor of the Graham diet and the Graham cracker.

This church minister was an advocate of vegetarianism and temperance. His name lives on in one of his inventions, the Graham cracker. In 1829 he invented Graham bread, made from unsifted flour and free of chemical additives. In those days, like today, many bakeries used additives such as alum and chlorine to whiten the bread. Store bought white bread was felt to be the food of finer folk, whereas the homemade brown bread was the food of country bumpkins and the lower classes. Graham promoted the more nutritious (and if you ask me, tastier) brown bread.

On the other hand, Graham was a fan of the temperance movement. He proposed a vegetarian diet to cure alcoholism and sexual desire. He conceded the medicinal use of alcohol, but was against social drinking, even in moderation. Graham preached that an unhealthy diet stimulated excessive sexual desire. He was one controversial figure with lots of followers and detractors. The story has it that when he lectured on sexual relations and wearing corsets many women in the audience fainted.

The Graham Diet consisted mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat and high fiber foods, and excluded meat or spices altogether. They did get to eat a lot of Graham crackers. Let me guess that símores (Graham crackers filled with chocolate and melted marshmallows) were definitely out.

Smores Graham crackers plus in popular diets

Sylvester would not have approved.

This diet had an objective unlike any other diet that we have described; strict adherence was said to prevent dieters from having impure thoughts. According to Graham his diet would stop masturbation, and consequently eliminate a major cause of blindness and insanity. A certain David Campbell imposed Grahamís ideology on students at Oberlin College in Ohio. He actually fired a professor who refused to stop bringing pepper to season his own meals. Talk about academic freedom.

Grahamís best known works include Lectures on the Science of Human Life and Lectures to Young Men on Chastity. In 1850, one year before his death, he was a founder of the American Vegetarian Society, based on a British vegetarian group. He was a major influence on another well-known vegetarian, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg the co-inventor of Corn Flakes. He died at the relatively young age of fifty-seven. Some would say that he never knew how to live.

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