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Before popular superfoods like pomegranates, kale, and acaí, hit the shelves of supermarkets one doctor proclaimed this now common fruit a “superfood.” In this article for Slate.com, author Alan Levinovitz explains why pediatrician and celiac researcher Sidney Haas prescribed a diet of bananas to patients in his celiac disease study. Interesting read especially for gluten free folks.
At the turn of the 20th century, the United Fruit Co. mounted an aggressive advertising campaign to complement its increased capacity to grow and import bananas. With the fruit no longer an exotic luxury, United Fruit took advantage of testimonials by doctors and nutritionists to reimagine bananas as a superfood—the acai or goji berries of the early 20th century. A 1917 industry publication, Food Value of the Banana, included a glowing endorsement from the Journal of the American Medical Association: “This fruit is sealed by nature in practically germ-free and germ-proof packages.” Numerous dietitians testified to their curative powers.
It was only logical for physicians to try these superfruits with patients whose conditions had no viable treatment options. At the time, one such condition was celiac disease, and a prominent pediatrician and celiac researcher named Sidney Haas started a few of his own patients on a strict diet of bananas and milk, supplemented with broth, gelatin, and a little meat.
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This article is an excerpt from “The Gluten Lie and Other Myths About What You Eat” by Alan Levinovitz.