The Craziest Diet Trends from Ancient History

Incans Seriously Enjoyed Their Popcorn We may think of popcorn as a modern-day staple, but that isn’t the case! Popcorn was a popular food among the… Alexander Gabriel - April 26, 2023
Serious Eats

Incans Seriously Enjoyed Their Popcorn

We may think of popcorn as a modern-day staple, but that isn’t the case! Popcorn was a popular food among the Incas, who considered it a sacred food that was associated with both fertility and prosperity. The Incas would often offer popcorn to their gods during religious ceremonies. They believed that the sound of popping kernels represented the cracking open of the earth to allow for new growth.

Popcorn was also a staple food for the Inca people, who would roast the kernels over an open flame or grind them into flour to make a variety of dishes, including bread and porridge. The Incas even used popcorn as a form of currency, with the value of a bag of popcorn equivalent to that of a gold nugget.

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Milk Had Many Important Uses in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians were known for their unique and diverse diet, which included a variety of foods ranging from grains and vegetables to meat and fish. One notable aspect of their diet was their use of milk as a dietary supplement. The ancient Egyptians believed that milk was a vital source of nutrition and used it in a variety of ways, including as a drink and as an ingredient in cooking.

The milk was often mixed with honey, spices, or fruit to create a sweet and nutritious beverage. The ancient Egyptians also believed that milk had healing properties and used it as a remedy for a variety of ailments, including digestive problems and burns. Today, the benefits of milk are still widely recognized, and it remains an important part of many people’s diets around the world.


Although Considered Japanese, Tempura May Have Originated in Portugal

Tempura is a popular Japanese dish consisting of battered and deep-fried seafood or vegetables. Its exact origin is unclear, but it is believed to have been introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. The Portuguese were one of the first Europeans to establish trading relationships with Japan, and they brought with them a variety of new ingredients, including batter-fried fish.

Over time, the Japanese adapted this technique to their own cuisine, using locally available ingredients such as shrimp, squid, and sweet potato. Today, tempura is a staple of Japanese cuisine and is enjoyed around the world. Its light and crispy texture, combined with the delicate flavors of the seafood or vegetables, make it a favorite among both locals and tourists alike.

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Romans Would Intentionally Overeat and Induce Vomiting

The ancient Romans were known for their elaborate banquets and feasts, which often featured exotic and lavish dishes. However, they also had some peculiar eating habits that may seem strange to modern audiences. For example, the Romans believed that overeating was a sign of wealth and power, and many would consume large quantities of food in a single sitting, often until they were physically ill.

They also had a habit of vomiting during meals, a practice known as “gorging and purging,” which was thought to allow them to eat even more food. Another unusual habit was the use of a feather to induce vomiting, which was seen as a way to make room for more food.

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Turmeric Has Been Used in India for Thousands of Years

Turmeric is a spice that has been used in Indian cuisine and medicine for thousands of years. It is a key ingredient in many popular Indian dishes, including curries, dals, and biryanis. Turmeric is known for its bright yellow color and earthy flavor. It is also used as a natural dye for clothing and textiles. Turmeric has also been used in traditional Indian medicine to treat a variety of ailments. These include inflammation, digestive issues, and skin problems.

The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been studied extensively for its potential health benefits. Today, turmeric is a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world. Its rich history in Indian culture serves as a reminder of the important role that spices and herbs have played in human health and nutrition for centuries.

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Pancakes Existed in Ancient Times

Tiganites were a popular dish in ancient Greece. They were made by mixing flour, milk, eggs, and honey, and then frying the mixture in olive oil until crispy and golden brown. Tiganites were often served with honey and sesame seeds. Just like today, they were a popular breakfast food. Pancakes were not only a delicious treat, but also had symbolic importance. They were often associated with the goddess Hestia, who was the goddess of the hearth and home. Pancakes were considered a sacred food, and were often offered to Hestia as a way of ensuring good luck and prosperity.


The Mayans Used a Natural Gum for Oral Health

Chicle is a natural gum harvested from the sapodilla tree and has a long history of use in various cultures. One of the most famous uses of chicle was by the ancient Mayans. They chewed it for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Mayans believed that chewing chicle could help alleviate hunger during long periods of work or travel. They believed it could also help freshen breath and clean teeth.

Consequently, the practice of chewing chicle was so widespread that it became a part of Mayan culture, and many other Mesoamerican societies also adopted the practice. Eventually, chicle was exported to Europe and North America, where it was used as a base for chewing gum. Chicle is still harvested in some parts of Central America.

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Bird’s Nest Soup was a Part of Ancient Chinese Cuisine

Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine that has been enjoyed for centuries. The soup is made from the nests of swiftlets. Swiftlets are tiny birds that build their nests using strands of their own saliva. First, the nests are carefully harvested from caves and cliffs. They are then soaked and cleaned before being added to a flavorful broth. Bird’s nest soup is considered a luxury food item. It is highly prized for its unique texture and supposed health benefits. The soup is believed to have restorative properties, improving skin and respiratory health. Bird’s nest soup is often consumed by the wealthy and affluent.


Warriors of Sparta Feasted on Black Soup

Spartan black soup, also known as melas zomos, was a staple dish of the ancient Spartan diet. The soup was made with simple ingredients such as pork, vinegar, and blood. The black soup was named for its distinctive dark color. It was a favorite meal of the Spartan warriors, who believed it provided them with the strength and endurance needed for battle. The soup was also said to be used as a form of hazing for new Spartan soldiers, as it was considered an acquired taste. Despite its humble ingredients, Spartan black soup has become a legendary dish, representing the frugal and disciplined lifestyle of the Spartan people.

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The Pizza of the Sahara, Tabadirt

Tabadirt is a traditional Berber dish from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It is a type of bread made from a mixture of flour, water, and salt. It is then shaped into a flat, circular loaf and baked on a hot griddle. Tabadirt is a staple food in Berber households and is often eaten with tagine or other stews. The bread has a dense texture and a slightly sour taste.

Tabadirt can be stored for several days without spoiling, making it a practical food for nomadic people. Tabadirt has cultural and symbolic significance in Berber culture, representing the importance of communal values and sharing. It is truly a testament to the resourcefulness and creativity of the Berber people in adapting to their environment.


The Oldest Surviving Recipe is 4,000-Year-Old Babylonian Tuh’u

Tuhu was a popular dish in ancient Babylonian cuisine. It was made from soaked, cooked barley that was flavored with herbs and spices. The dish was often served with roasted meat or vegetables and was a staple food of the Babylonian people. Tuhu was a simple yet hearty meal that could be easily prepared and was suitable for all classes of society. It was also a common food offering in religious rituals. Tuhu was believed to be a symbol of life and nourishment. The recipe for Tuhu has been passed down through the ages. It remains a popular dish in modern-day Iraq, where it is often enjoyed with bread and fresh herbs.


Venetian Noble Luigi Cornaro Invented an “Immortality Diet”

Luigi Cornaro was a Venetian nobleman who lived in the 16th century and is famous for his unusual approach to dieting. He was known for his excessive lifestyle in his youth, but after experiencing a serious illness in his 40s, he turned to a strict diet regimen in order to maintain his health. Cornaro limited himself to just 12 ounces of solid food and 14 ounces of wine per day.

He believed this was the optimal amount for his body. Cornaro also followed a specific schedule for his meals and slept for only four hours each night. His methods were highly regarded at the time and became known as the “Cornaro diet.” Cornaro lived to the age of 98 and remained healthy throughout his long life. It is said he exaggerated his age to add legitimacy to his diet.

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Talented Herbalist and Chinese Emperor Wrote a Book on Herbal Medicine

Shennong, also known as the “Divine Farmer,” was a legendary Chinese emperor who lived over 5,000 years ago and is credited with inventing agriculture and traditional Chinese medicine. He was said to have a unique diet, consisting of only herbs and plants. According to legend, Shennong would taste different herbs and plants to determine their medicinal properties, and would consume only those that were beneficial for his health. His diet was a reflection of his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, and his belief in the healing power of nature. Furthermore, Shennong’s legacy lives on in traditional Chinese medicine, where his contributions to the field are still celebrated today.


Humoral Theory Was Used for Centuries to Create Specialized Diets

Hippocrates, often referred to as the father of Western medicine, developed the humoral theory in ancient Greece. According to this theory, the human body is composed of four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These must be kept in balance in order to maintain good health. Each humor is associated with a different element and personality type. Blood is associated with air and a sanguine personality, phlegm with water and a phlegmatic personality, yellow bile with fire and a choleric personality, and black bile with earth and a melancholic personality.

Imbalances in these humors were thought to lead to disease, and treatment involved restoring balance through diet, exercise, and sometimes bloodletting. While the humoral theory may seem outdated by modern medical standards, it had a significant impact on the development of medicine and the understanding of the human body in ancient times.


The Roman Black Banquet Featured Jellyfish

The ancient Romans were known for their extravagant feasts, and one of the most unusual was the infamous “black banquet” hosted by Emperor Vitellius in the 1st century AD. This banquet was characterized by its strange and exotic dishes, including jellyfish, roast ostrich, and flamingo tongue. The color black was also a dominant theme, with many dishes being colored with squid ink or blackened with spices. The banquet was seen as a sign of excess and decadence, and was heavily criticized by the Roman elite. Despite this, it became a symbol of the extravagance and opulence of the Roman Empire.


Fermented Foods Were an Integral Part of Ancient Korean Diets

The Korean diet also included a variety of fermented foods, such as kimchi, which is made from cabbage and spicy chili peppers. Other fermented dishes included soybean paste, soy sauce, and rice wine. Fermented foods have been shown to have numerous health benefits. They are rich in beneficial bacteria and can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and even reduce the risk of certain diseases. The Korean diet was also influenced by Confucianism, which emphasized the importance of moderation and balance in all aspects of life, including diet. The Korean diet was based on the principles of yin and yang. This principle focused on balancing the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.