"All kinds of stimulating and heating substances; high-seasoned food; rich dishes; the free use of flesh; and even the excess of aliment; all, more or less -- and some to a very great degree -- increase the concupiscent excitability and sensibility of the genital organs..." -- Sylvester Graham

1794-1851, American reformer and Presbyterian minister, b. West Suffield, Conn. He advocated a vegetable diet as a cure for intemperance and the use of coarsely ground whole-wheat flour. Graham flour was named for him.

Sylvester Graham had a lot of puritanical notions about seuxality, although he believed that the wrath for offense came not only in the next world as divine retribution but also in this one, in the form of degrading health.

Specifically, Graham felt that men damaged their health every time they ejaculated, going so far as to claim that 40oz.(!) of blood is lost to the body every time a man blows his load. He suggested that the maximum healthy number of ejaculations was 12 per year.

To this end, Graham suggested dietary controls, not only to affect health directly, but to affect it through the restraint of sexuality. In other words, he felt that certain foods excited the limbic and hormonal system, and others suppressed it.

Here is some info about Graham's dietary work, quoted from the Straight Dope:


To control lust, Graham prescribed a special vegetarian diet, the centerpiece of which was "Graham bread," made from whole wheat flour. Graham crackers, which Graham invented in 1829, were another manifestation of the same idea.

His saving grace was that in many important respects he was right. Although he was a little goofy on the question of sex, many of his ideas about health were sound. He advocated daily toothbrushing, once considered a revolutionary idea, as well as fresh air, regular bathing, exercise, and seven hours of sleep. During an era of recurring cholera epidemics he urged people to drink pure water.

Most important, we now know the diet he recommended to be vastly more healthy than the one Americans were eating at the time, or for that matter eat today. He railed against commercial bakers who used refined flour devoid of dietary fiber. He urged the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds. Strictly verboten were fat, salt, sugar, tobacco, alcohol, and stimulants. Modern dieticians aren't as strongly opposed to meat as he was (although they'd certainly advise fish and poultry rather than red meat), and they'd go easy on the fat- and cholesterol-laden milk, cheese, and eggs he recommended. But by and large "the prophet of bran bread and pumpkins" was right on the money. One more thing: if you were starting to feel virtuous because you eat graham crackers, don't. Despite the name, most brands of "graham cracker" today use refined white flour. If you want the real thing (more or less), try the Health Valley or New Morning brands, which can be found in health food stores. They use whole wheat flour, soy oil, unsulfured molasses, and no preservatives.


Oh yes. And, from what I hear, Sylvester Graham is also now fodder for most standard Human Sexuality college courses.

So Graham wasn't entirely wrong after all, about some health-related things, anyway. Does this mean I shouldn't call them graham quackers?

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