Healthy Dieting, Medieval Style

It was a lot harder to start a fad diet before the printing press, but there was a trade in ideas. One was the Regimen Sanitatus Salernitanum.
The Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum was created, allegedly, by famous doctors for English royalty and disseminated in the form of a poem. It recommends, very specifically, red wine, fresh eggs, figs and grapes. It has little to say about vegetables. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of today’s health fads—it celebrates wheat, emphasizes meat, and involves two significant meals, with no mention of snacking. Water is looked on with suspicion, and juice is nowhere to be found.

But from the 1200s through the 1800s, the Regimen was one of the most well known guides to health in Europe, at a time when the stakes of staying healthy were much higher than they are now. Getting sick could be a death sentence; this regimen promised to keep people well.
The author tried it out to see how it worked. The wine, in the ancient way, was diluted -- drinking raw water made it more likely you would get sick from things in the water, but diluting wine with it meant that the harmful effects of the wine were largely eliminated, while the beneficial effects remained.

There are some aesthetic differences:
One giant difference between diet advice of 1200s and diet advice now is that Salerno never mentions losing weight or keeping skinny. In fact, all the foods Salerno smiles on, the poem describes as “fattening.” When you’re liable as not to face a famine, or at least a food shortage, at basically any time, fattening is good.
In the end, the author consulted a modern specialist for advice.
How did it stack up from a modern point of view? I asked Andrea Grandson, a nutritional therapist who specializes in metabolic health, to go over the Salerno prescriptions with me. “It sounds very healthy, with eggs, wine, and broth,” she says. Eggs are a complete protein and one of the easiest to digest. Red wine is valuable for its resveratrol and antioxidants. Broths and stews extract the nutrients from the bones and organs of animals. “They were on the right track in terms of looking for nutrient density,” she says.

But, most importantly, she said, how did I feel? Was I sleeping ok? Did I feel an afternoon slump?

The truth is, I felt great eating this food. It was simple, hearty, and filling, but I never stuffed myself.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am reading Taleb's Antifragile, which sings the praises of trial-and-error and empiricism over theory and narrative. This sounds like a good example. After it has been shown to keep people healthy we can see some reasons why.

BTW, I am finding the book stunningly good - or rather, the concepts in it stunningly good, the book so-so - and will be writing about it soon. I wish the book had existed when I was 18.

Ymar Sakar said...

I've been checking out the secret survival garden created by some guy who created a two person retreat up on a mountain and ended up creating a garden forest that produced more food than normal farms, without using fertilizer or pesticides. The link might still be good for a few days, on the free online webinar.

But even if it goes offline later, Rick Austin's book on Amazon is still there. His concepts feel very flexible and creative, even genius, in terms of pulling humanity ahead. GM crops and seeds have done similar work in feeding humanity, but it may not be necessary to modify the DNA of these crops to be resistant to pesticides or poisons or insects or weather changes, if it is our farming methods which are outdated.

It is very similar to the Aquaponics idea I've heard before, where fish fertilize plants grown in a column, without the need for water or maintenance.

For anyone with any kind of property that they can use to grow a garden of food or small trees, those two ideas are something they might wish to look into from a defensive/survivalist perspective. Self reliance and independence from the government will do far more to fight the evil of DC and the Leftist alliance, than a million elections will or have done.

Grim said...

AVI, I look forward to hearing more about that book. Taleb is a very interesting thinker.