Some of the twentieth century’s many diet fads were ludicrous inventions of quack doctors, food companies, ministers, and even in some cases, cigarette brands, but despite being crazy and absurd, these diets shouldn’t be viewed with disdain; rather they should be interpreted as badges of society’s dogged, if often misguided, pursuit of a healthier existence.
Each decade has dealt with different circumstances that have shaped the diet advice of the era. Tobacco smoke has been firmly established as a source of lung cancer and is responsible for many premature deaths, but in the 1920s, cigarettes were seen as a reasonable, responsible, and reliable way to suppress appetite and lose weight. But only one decade later, Americans weren’t concerned with weight loss at all; they were preoccupied with the rampant starvation ushered in by the Great Depression.
The 1920s and ‘30s are just two examples of how a constantly shifting cultural, political, and scientific climate shapes and dictates the diet trends of the decade. As more concrete scientific evidence continues to trickle out of research labs and classrooms, there will be a greater understanding of what foods are better for our longevity. That being said, popular nutritional science hasn’t changed much in the past few decades, and a diet with a foundation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is still the consensus recommendation of health professionals.
Here are the most popular diets of every decade since the 1900.