Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 21 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Agnes
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

This popular European diet is positively medieval

daisy.images/CC

Daniel Esparza - published on 03/23/17

From the 13th to the 19th centuries, the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum was Europe’s best-known health guide.

Contemporary diets, when they don’t openly contradict one another – oscillating from strict vegetarianism to paleolithic gastronomical recommendations – just tend to repeat themselves, as if they were (as they are) produced en masse: “Eat the fewest possible carbohydrates, include as many vegetables as possible, combine with healthy proteins, eat small portions many times a day, and drink generous amounts of water.”

Medieval diets were quite different, and not only because of the all too common substitution of beer for water.

The most famous diet of them all was the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum (The Salernitan Rule of Health), allegedly originating at the University of Salerno in Italy but most probably written by physicians serving the English crown. Like most contemporary Mediterranean diets, it recommends drinking red wine and eating fresh eggs, figs and grapes. But in more than one way, the Sanitatis Salernitanum is quite contrary to what most health gurus recommend today: it insists on the consumption of bread and meat, and prescribes only two large meals a day.

Based mainly on the physician Galen’s theories, which assume that the human body is ruled by four main humors, or fluids (blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile), the Sanitatis Salernitanum doesn’t talk that much about the benefits of eating vegetables either, although it does point out that both garlic and radishes are antidotes against mild poisons, that cabbage broth has laxative properties, and that turnips are great diuretics. On grains, it simply points out they are “rather good,” with no further details.

Considering that falling ill in those days was almost equivalent to a death sentence, the diet tries to keep the person as healthy as possible, adding accompanying practical advice for daily life: never taking a nap in the afternoon, always diluting wine with some water (to avoid dehydration by alcohol), refraining from tantrums, and getting rid of unnecessary worries. In fact, the text clearly states that “to stay healthy, one needs a cheerful mind, rest and a moderate diet.”

To read the original Latin text of the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, click here.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
Reasons Catholics should read the Bible
4
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Jorge Graña
Did you know Martin Luther King appreciated the Rosary?
5
couple
Anna Gębalska-Berekets
Couple praises Padre Pio's recipe for a happy marriage
6
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
'An American Blessed': A documentary to thank God in 2021
7
ARTIST
Fr. Michael Rennier
What if you think you missed your calling in life?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.