Does granola have special healing properties?
It once was marketed that way. A colleague recently showed me an advertisement hed come upon from the late 1800s touting the wide-ranging health benefits of eating granola from the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan.
The advertisement conjured up happy memories from earlier in my career.
Having grown up not far from Battle Creek, I am very familiar with this cereal city where Dr. John Harvey Kellogg directed the sanitarium, a health resort that was also the epicenter of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The church was an early proponent of good nutrition. From todays perspective, the Adventists were way ahead of their time.
They advocated a vegetarian diet, free of alcohol and caffeine, with plenty of whole grains. They shunned tobacco and promoted exercise, fresh air and sunshine.
Its a formula for good health that is as relevant today as it was in the 1800s.
Ive had the experience of living the prescription. For a number of years, I was a nutrition adviser for a community health intervention program that transformed the diets and lifestyles of people living in Kalamazoo, not far from Battle Creek.
For one week twice a year, I stayed in Kalamazoo with a local Adventist family and taught in the program. In the dead of winter, while participants lost weight and lowered their cholesterol levels, I slept in a bedroom with the windows cracked open, following Adventist practice, and woke each morning to a bowl of piping hot seven-grain cereal topped with chopped nuts and dried fruits.
Somehow I was even able to give up my morning coffee temporarily for a cup of Postum, a hot instant drink made from roasted wheat germ and molasses.
The Adventists helped pioneer the meat substitute food market, with canned meatless hotdogs, veggie burgers and fake chicken being produced for sale in their churches. The foods, although high in sodium and nearly devoid of fiber, were forerunners of the much-improved meatless burgers and other meat substitutes sold in mainstream supermarkets today.
Granola isnt necessarily a wonder food. But when it came to healthy eating, the Adventists had it mostly right. They still do.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.