10 Everyday Foods and Drinks With Surprising Medical Origins

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The foods we eat and see everyday at the grocery stores all have a history attached to them. Despite our best efforts to eat healthy and keep a close eye on the ingredients added to each item, there is a large chance that you may not know about these interesting food facts. Some of the foods and drinks we consume everyday were once thought to have some medical benefits. While not all of them were true, the idea helped boost sales as well as make the manufacturers become billion dollar industries.

Today, graham crackers are part of s’mores, but did you know that its inventor actually created the food in the hopes to reduce desire within people? Well, here, we have collected 10 such facts about foods and drinks we consume everyday and their surprising medical origins.

1. Corn Flakes

Kellogs, foods, medical, facts
Image: Kellogs/Wikimedia

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of pleasuring oneself was considered immoral. Many religious as well as non-religious people marched, condemning the act. One of the loudest voices among this particular group was a Michigan physician named John Harvey Kellogg. The doctor believed that the act of self-pleasuring was detrimental to a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. He personally abstained from it and records show that he and his wife even slept in different rooms because of his beliefs. The couple (obviously) never had children, and so they opted to adopt all of them.

Kellogg once wrote: “self-pollution is a crime doubly abominable”. His solution to the people who suffered from this “condition”, was a healthy diet. He believed that meat and seasoned foods increased the desire, so something plain would help curb it. One of his dietary innovations was the “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes”, which became breakfast a staple all across the world. (source)

2. Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper, drink, foods, facts
Image: Wikimedia

Dr Pepper was developed by pharmacist Charles Alderton in 1885, and was first available for purchase at a store in Waco, Texas. While working at the store, Alderton found that carbonated soft drinks were gaining popularity. So, he went on to invent his own recipes for soft drinks and found one of his drinks was becoming very popular among the customers. In fact, the customers loved his drink so much that they would ask him for a “Waco”; which was the name given by the public.

Later on, Alderton named the drink, “Dr Pepper”, after a friend of his, Dr. Charles Pepper. Like many early sodas, the drink was marketed as a brain tonic and energizing pick-me-up. The period after “Dr” was left off for stylistic and legibility reasons in the 1950’s. (source)

3. Goo Goo Clusters

Goo Goo clusters, Great Depression, food
Image: Robert Raines/Evan Amos

Goo Goo Clusters were created in October of 1912, by Howell Campbell and the Standard Candy Company. The chocolate, caramel, marshmallow and peanut patty became extremely popular in Nashville, TN, and soon, the rest of the country as well as Canada. During the Great Depression, Goo Goos were advertised as “A Nourishing Lunch for a Nickel”. Undernourishment was a common issue during the time, especially among the working-class people.

Goo Goos helped combat some of this during the era, acting as a valuable and inexpensive source of food and energy. One of the most interesting facts about the Goo Goo Cluster is its association with Nashville. People visit Nashville, try a Goo Goo Cluster and are suddenly in love with the Southern treat.

In the past, the clusters unusual shape, which strayed from the regular rectangular chocolate bar, proved difficult to wrap. The candies had to be individually wrapped in tin foil by hand. Thankfully those tedious days are long gone and now the factory is capable of producing more than 20,000 Goo Goos in an hour. (source)

4. Digestive Biscuits

Digestive biscuits, foods, facts, medical
Image: LearningLark/Wikimedia

Digestive biscuits are another source of food that “supposedly” helps with digestion. First developed in 1839 by 2 Scottish doctors, the biscuits contained a high amount of sodium bicarbonate. According to its inventors, the biscuits were supposed to help with digestion after a large meal. It was also advertised as a healthy meal. Today, millions around the world consume the food every day, as a snack or with their tea. However, a closer look at the food’s packaging shows a disclaimer that says: “The ingredients in this biscuit do not contain any substances that assist digestion.”

The name “Digestive” comes from the baking soda that was used in the production of the biscuits.It was presumed that it settled stomachs (though this wasn’t exactly proven). The name and the recipe has not been changed over the years, and it remains a top secret. (source)

5. 7UP

7Up, drink, soda, facts, medical
Image: Lynette/Jerry

Charles Leiper Grigg, who was born in 1868 in Price’s Branch, Missouri, invented 7UP. In 1919, he was working for a manufacturing company owned by Vess Jones, where he experimented and came up with an orange-flavored drink called Whistle. Things turned ugly when Vess cut Grigg off the profits from his creation. The dispute between them caused Grigg to leave the company and join the Warner Jenkinson Company. There, he developed flavoring agents for soft drinks and also invented a drink called Howdy.

When Grigg left the company, he took his creation with him. Then, he approached financier Edmund G. Ridgway, who helped him create the Howdy Company. However, his orange drink was losing the market because it was being dominated by Orange Crush at the time. By 1929, Grigg decided to switch strategies and focus on lime flavored drinks, thus creating a new drink called “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda”. The name was changed to 7UP Lithiated Lemon Soda, and then shortened to just plain 7UP in 1936.

At the time, lithium citrate was used in various patent medicines for improving moods. Although Grigg never explained why he names his drink “7UP”, he did promote 7UP as having effects on mood. During the onset of the Great Depression, people turned towards things that would help them lift their moods. So, 7UP and its reference to Lithium helped boost sales. In 1948, the government banned soft drinks from having Lithium citrate, so 7UP removed any reference to Lithium. (source)

6. Graham Crackers

Graham Crackers, food, facts, medical
Image: Internet Archives

Invented in 1829 by Reverend Sylvester Graham, Graham Crackers have been part of our lives for more than a century. The Presbyterian minister was a supporter of vegetarianism and a sober lifestyle. He also encouraged health and demoted people from having desires or pleasuring themselves.

Graham supported the movement that any form of pleasure was wrong and it should be forbidden at all costs. That is why he went on to invent the graham cracker; to help out his fellow citizens. Unlike the Graham Crackers today, the original one was extremely bland and had no brown sugar, cinnamon, or honey. It was basically a hard brown square of flour.

Nevertheless, Graham amassed a large number of supporters who called themselves “Grahamites”. According to the  “Grahamites”, eating a bland diet had cured them of the evil that was having unnecessary urges. In 1851, Graham passed away and his followers went their own ways. (source)

7. Coca-Cola

Coca Cola, food, drinks, medical
Image: Wikimedia/Pixabay

Coca-Cola is one of the most famous examples of patented medicine – turned snack food ever. Originally, Coca-Cola was sold as a health drink. The world famous drink was invented in 1886 by Doctor John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia. According to the Coca-Cola Company, Pemberton developed the syrup for the famed beverage, which was sampled at the local Jacob’s Pharmacy and deemed to be “excellent”.

Later, the syrup was combined with carbonated water to create a new “Delicious and Refreshing” drink. Records show that Pemberton developed the formula in a three-legged brass kettle in his backyard. Frank Robinson, Pemberton’s bookkeeper, suggested the name “Coca-Cola”. The soft drink was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886. While the Coca-Cola Company denies this claim, historical evidence shows that until 1905, the soft drink, which was marketed as a tonic, contained extracts of “coke” as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.

Live Science reports that although it wasn’t illegal to use “coke” back in the days, when word got out, the company started removing “coke” from the recipe in the early 1900’s. Traces of it was found in the beverage until 1929, until scientists were able to perfect the removal of all psychoactive elements from the coca-leaf extract. (source)

8. Fig Newtons

Fig Newtons, food, medical
Image: Evan Amos/Wikimedia

Although Fig Newtons are marketed as “fruit and cake” these days, back in 1892, they were originally promoted as a digestive aid. The field of medicine was not nearly as advanced as it is today, and so there were many misconceptions about the unknown. During this time period, many doctors believed that digestion problems were the root of all kinds of other illnesses. Armed with this information, many marketers created foods and drinks which suggested they would keep them healthy.

During the 1890’s, the cookie made its debut and it was thought that the daily snack of fruit and biscuits was what really kept the doctor away. Even today, Fig Newtons are promoted as a healthier snack option since they supposedly contain “real fruit”. Studies however show that each cookie has only one gram of fiber, which is a half gram less than what you’ll get from a single, unprocessed fig. (source)

9. Moxie

Moxie, drink, foods, facts
Image: Flickr/Wikimedia

Moxie is a carbonated drink, mainly enjoyed by people of New England. Just like any other drink, Moxie is high in fructose corn syrup, but it was one of the first mass-produced soft drinks commercially available. It was created sometime around 1876 by a doctor, whose friend, Lieutenant Moxie, was using the extract of a South American plant to prevent paralysis, nervousness and insomnia. The doctor decided to take the extract and add some carbonated water, calling it “Beverage Moxie Nerve Food”. (source)

10. Heath Bar

Heath Bar, chocolate, food, facts
Image: Evan Amos/Wikimedia

Energy bars can be found in groceries, pharmacies, health-food stores, sporting-goods outlets, corner stores, even gas stations. They’re everywhere. There was a time though, when they were only eaten by athletes. Today, almost everyone eats them. Invented in 1928, Heath bars were considered to be extremely healthy since the use of the best milk chocolate, almonds, butter, and pure cane sugar was thought to pep a person up.

Bayard and Everett Heath perfected the Heath toffee bar recipe in 1928 but it only reached the market in 1932. Since its creation, Heath Bars were made completely by hand for ten long years before the introduction of machines. In order to boost sales, the Heath brothers came up with the perfect sales pitch. They marketed the bar as healthy: “Heath for better health!”. (source)

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