Americans have been trying to make sense of food, nutrition and what a healthy diet is for at least 100 years. And throughout, health professionals (and others) have given advice liberally. How has that advice changed?
Certainly, we know much more about diet and cancer prevention. Even just 30 years ago most people did not believe the idea that what we eat would affect our risk for cancer. But now AICR has specific, evidence-based recommendations for cancer prevention.
We also have more powerful information and evidence for how foods and nutrients affect our health in other ways, both short-term and long-term. We understand how to treat diseases related to diet much better – like celiac disease and diabetes. We also know more about nutrition in illness recovery. And as we learn more about genomics, metabolomics and other omics, we can address individual needs and improve personalized diets for disease prevention.
Yet, even with all the research and new discoveries, we still struggle with helping people take nutrition knowledge and put it into practice on their plates. Today’s barriers to healthful eating include supersized and ever abundant overly processed foods. We advise getting back to basics – eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes.
So what might we have seen for nutrition advice 100 years ago?
One book that may give us a glimpse, published in 1924 book, is called “Physical Culture Food Directory.” The author, Milo Hastings, was an American inventor, author, and nutritionist. He also invented a snack for children, called Weeniwinks, based on natural grains and no sugar. I don’t know how typical this book was for the time, but it’s interesting to see parallels to today’s popular nutrition books through his words.
On making nutrition more understandable:
“It has been my job to translate scientific facts and theories concerning human food and its relation to health and disease into a form…most understandable…and useful to the general public.” (A job description recognizable to the modern dietitian.) Continue reading