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Five forgotten health foods

Before the food industry figured out how to leech fat from snacks and pump up beverages with added caffeine, eaters who wanted to lose weight or gain energy had to craft their diets from what they found in their pantries. Here, a guide to forgotten health foods from a century ago.

1. Buttermilk

In the years before World War II, almost every menu included a tall glass of cool buttermilk. Buttermilk believers said the drink made them strong, energetic and healthy. Perhaps they were right: Earl Cruze, the celebrated Tennessee buttermilk maker, claims men worried about their virility wouldn't need pills if they drank more buttermilk.



2. Corned beef

Corned beef was a staple of early 20th century diets: Health guru Bernard Macfadden, an outspoken advocate of cold plunge baths, long walks, natural childbirth and carrots, sold a 12-cent corned beef plate at his health food restaurant in 1910. Amelia Summerville, author of "Why be Fat?", published in 1916, urged her readers to breakfast on corned beef hash, a dish she defended as lean and nutritious.



3. Sarsaparilla soft drinks

Sarsaparilla, extracted from a tropical trailing vine, still shows up in some root beers, but the flavored oil was the main attraction back in the nineteenth century. A popular syphilis treatment, sarsaparilla sodas were also promoted as pick-me-ups. "That tired feeling can be totally overcome by taking Hood's Sarsaparilla," an 1885 newspaper ad promised.



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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin

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