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The diet that helped Crusaders stay fit

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Émile Signol | Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/18/22

Scientists specialized in identifying remains of protein from historical objects claim Crusaders kept a keto-ish diet.

The Crusaders fighting the troops of Saladin may have had the upper hand thanks to their diet. A group of scientists specialized in extracting traces of protein from archaeological and historical objects in general found significant differences between the pottery used by the Crusader forces led by Richard the Lionheart, and those used by soldiers loyal to the sultan Saladin during the Third Crusade (1189-1192). In short, Crusaders kept fit by sticking to a relatively keto-ish diet.

According to the scientific article, published in Heritage Science Journal, the analysis of food remnants “confirmed that the Crusaders’ diet consisted mostly of pig and sheep meat (together with cheese), with a minimum of carbohydrates (what today would be termed a “ketone” diet) whereas the Muslim army consumed mostly carbohydrates (wheat, triticum durum, hordeum vulgare), together with fruits and vegetables, with minimal levels of sheep meat and cheese.” The scholars then suggest that this difference in dietary habits meant that the Crusaders were slimmer (more “cardio”) than their Muslim counterparts, which might help explain why some historical accounts of the famous battle of Arsuf claim that Saladin’s army lost 10 times as many soldiers as Richard the Lionheart’s did.

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