Eating for Arteries Where the Blood Leaps

Magazine article heading that says, "To Raise a Family in Whose Arteries the Blood Leaps"
Source: American Cookery (January, 1920)

Some things never change. People have always wanted to live healthier lives, and eating appropriate foods is considered a key part of healthy living. Both now and a hundred-years-ago, people worried that they were getting soft, and living lives not as conducive to health as their ancestors. Here are some excerpts from an article in a 1920 magazine on how to be healthier:

To Raise a Family in Whose Arteries the Blood Leaps

It is a matter of comment among many soldiers that the old men of Europe kept things going while the young men were at war. Women and graybeards kept the state alive, and took care of the nation’s affairs.

It was no rarity to see men seventy years of age in the morning look after the stock, and then go into the fields for real hard work.

What makes these people so hardy?

They live differently than we do.

It must be the simple life which provides these people with the panacea for a healthy old age. They do not know anything about dietetics. But neither do they know anything of high living. Their fare is of the simplest.

Can it be the fact that they eat meat but once a week that keeps them in such excellent condition? An excessive meat diet, while producing in life’s first half extraordinary energy and restless activity, leaves the body a used-up, empty shell after forty-five.

Can it be that on account of eating denatured grains (white flour bread) our children are suffering from eczema and eruptions?

Vegetables cooked in steam, and prepared with only butter, a little salt and pepper, will soon build up a run-down constitution.

Wild growing foods are bitter and full of fiber; they act in the stomach vigorously, like a brush. The bitter principles activate a copious flow of bile. The harness of the substance and the fibrosity required strong chewing. The vigorous exercise of the organs brought about a being with strength and muscular development.

Simple fare and correctly prepared foods will imbue the person with the chaste health of the country lassie. It will not develop excessive fat or obnoxious pugnacity.

American Cookery (January, 1920)

59 thoughts on “Eating for Arteries Where the Blood Leaps

        1. What a lovely poem! I wasn’t familiar with it prior to clicking on the link you shared. It’s fun to see how Wordsworth uses the term “heart leaps” to convey a sense of wonder and awe.

  1. Wow Sheryl, this article could have been written today, and yet it was written at a time when so many other books were encouraging consumption of animal products for its perceived iron-rich, blood building properties! Another amazing find in your excellent research.

    1. I only included small portions of the article in this post. Another section talked about how historically people were hunter/gatherers, and that it was hard work to successfully hunt, so most of the time people primarily ate plant-based foods – and that our bodies are best adapted to that type of diet.

        1. Thanks for sharing the link. It’s really interesting to read about the research that has been done to learn more about meat-eating by primitive peoples.

  2. Take away – simple vegetable rich diets high in fiber and low in fats keeps you healthy. This has been the mantra for many years now but we still have McDonald’s raking in billions of dollars…

  3. People have laughed at me, my entire life. NOW, I’m getting the Last Laugh!
    I was raised on a dairy farm by Scandinavian immigrants. EVERYTHING recommended in the above article was our normal way of life! Fish, steamed veggies with butter, only; NO cream sauces or rice or pasta; NOTHING FRIED, EVER; and dessert was applesauce or berries in cream.

    THAT was our normal! Every relative lived into their 90’s and NEVER thought of retiring, because that was for “old people”. LOL

    Until I was in my 20’s and moved from Rural Minnesota to Chicago, I had NEVER eaten bagels, fried food, gyros, fast food (there were no places where I lived), or grilled anything such as hot dogs or burgers. NO ONE believed that I hadn’t had this stuff before my 20’s. Too bad. That was life on a farm on the prairie.

    Each Spring Grandma would make a tonic of wild herbs that we drank as soon as the green stuff began to emerge. Green onions were omnipresent on the table because they “thinned the blood”. We did a tremendous amount of Wild Harvesting from elderberries, wild asparagus, crab apples, wild plums, and mulberries. NO ONE had a weight problem, heart disease or cancer.

    I’m 67 years young, now, and to this day, I follow how I was taught by my elders. Had fish and sauteed tomatoes with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Will have soup for lunch, and supper is yet to be determined. 🙂

    1. The diet you grew up eating sounds wonderful. It’s too bad that it’s become more and more difficult to follow that diet. Your comment about the tonic your grandmother made, made me think about my mother. She loved to eat dandelion in the early spring. She called it her spring tonic.

  4. I keep saying that progress has its down side. Apparently progress in 1920 was no different, especially regarding healthful eating. I noted the pitfalls of white bread that did not make the blood leap.

  5. I love the language in this article. “They act in the stomach vigorously, like a brush.” “It will not develop excessive fat, or obnoxious pugnacity.” Just beautiful.

  6. This article is amazingly current in its advice. It’s like things haven’t changed one bit since 1920– well, except for the language which is more direct today. Cool beans, eh?

    1. I was really surprised how similar the author’s perspectives on nutrition aligned with beliefs today. I might have guessed that there would have been more differences.

  7. If they thought their diet back then was not the greatest and were encouraged to eat simpler.. they would be horrified at the diet of today! Great read!

  8. A very interesting article, Sheryl. You remind me of a quote (paraphrasing) ‘everything old is new again.’ Like you said at the beginning, some things never change.
    The takeaway for me is how movement and exercise plays a large role. Likely a combination of factors keep us healthy. A great read!

    1. Some things really haven’t changed much. When I first read this article in the hundred-year-old magazine, I was surprised how similar the advice was back then to what we hear now.

  9. Oh, my! That’s us told 🙂 🙂 I didn’t much fancy your sausage recipe so I popped back to see what this one was about. I’m happy with fish and vegetables. My husband, not so much!

  10. Sheryl I had to double check the date f the article. It certainly could have been written recently boasting the benefits of a plant based diet. Fascinating to read 100 years later.

    1. I also found it amazing how many similarities there are between many diet recommendations today and the recommendations in this hundred-year-old article. Similarly to today, there were a range of opinions regarding some aspects of healthy eating, and I’m sure that if I searched I could also find other articles which would have somewhat different advice.

  11. I went to post on this earlier, and managed to mess up my entry. So here goes again.

    On this, I was struck by this comment:

    “It is a matter of comment among many soldiers that the old men of Europe kept things going while the young men were at war. Women and graybeards kept the state alive, and took care of the nation’s affairs.”

    It may have been a matter of comment, but those comments probably lacked a real understanding of what the diet in Europe had been among common people at the time. They likely did, in southern Europe, eat less meat that later or perhaps today, but the European diet of the time actually also contained a high level of alcohol consumption. This was particularly notable in France where a substantial amount of the average person’s caloric content of the WWI period (and WWII period) was in that form for a variety of reasons. This was true right down to children. This was also, I’d note, true of Germany during WWI, to the point where grain for breweries became an issue during the war.

    Europeans, for their part, were shocked at how well developed and healthy young Americans were. So while some soldiers may have been looking at old vigorous folks, Europeans were looking at doughboys and coming to the opposite conclusion.

    For everybody, everywhere, daily work was simply harder in every way. Even most office workers hiked a fair distance to work if they lived in a city. That fact may well have more to do with what the observation was here than anything else, although it should also be noted that the number of people who worked and lived with chronic injuries was quite high as well. That latter fact is part of the reason that we look at photos of people in their 40s from a century ago and find them looking old.

    1. Thank you for the insights into the diets of people a hundred years ago. It’s interesting how U.S. soldiers admired the health of the elderly in Europe – and how the Europeans admired the health of the doughboys. The amount of exercise people got back then contributed to health – but you’re absolutely right that many had to deal with chronic injuries and disabilities.

  12. My guess is that they were healthier because they were hard workers – manual work. Interesting article, though, particularly the similarities of opinions to now.

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