Salisbury Steak Diet

Okay, I love Salisbury steak. It was one of the all time best frozen TV-dinners. What I never know is that it was considered a fad diet. “You just cannot make this s@#t up”. I came across this diet the other day and was stunned that it was a diet made famous by Dr. James H. Salisbury back in 1888. He was the inventor and promoted it until he died, and yes, it’s still around today.

Dr. James H. Salisbury lived from 1823 to 1905 and died at the age of 82. Born born in Scott, New York, he was an educated man with a Bachelors of Natural Sciences in 1844. Dr. Salisbury became an assistant chemist for the New York Geological Institute, then was fast promoted to a principal chemist in 1849. He continued his education and obtained his medical degree from Albany Medical College in 1850, then went on to get his Masters degree from Schenectady College in 1852. Then in 1862 he became a member of the American Antiquarian Society.  

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Dr. James H. Salisbury served as a physician and witnessed a large number of dysentery cases; and the medical community advised a diet of chopped raw beef. Dr. Salisbury’s approach was to prescribe slightly cooked beef, smashed free of connective tissues for easier digestion. During this time he was also convinced that solders with diarrhea could be managed with a diet of coffee and lean chopped beefsteak. He also believed that vegetables and starchy foods produced a poisonous substance in the digestive system, and were responsible for heart disease, tumors, tuberculosis, and mental illness. He thought that humans were meant to eat meat due to our teeth. Suggesting that 1/3 of our primary diet contain a limited amount of vegetables, fruit, starches and fat. Claiming that vegetables, fruit, starches, and fat would sit in the stomach producing vinegar, acid, alcohol and yeast which would ferment and make a body sick. By the time World War I, his practices were cemented in American History. There was a movement in the Army limiting the use of the German sounding word and Voilà the Salisbury Steak was crowned as a better term than Hamburg Steak, or Liberty Sandwiches.

In 1888, Dr. Salisbury introduced Salisbury steak to the world. This wonderful food contained ground beef, onion and seasonings and was either deep fried or boiled, and considered complete when covered in brown gravy and plated. He recommended eating this at least three times a day, along with hot water to cleanse the digestive system. He became an early adaptor of a low-carbohydrate diet for losing weight, and his method became known as the “Salisbury Diet”. He went on to author a book titled, “The Relation of Alimentation and Disease” in 1888, if you’d like to read his book click HERE. The book caused a stir with people for about two decades. His theory of chopped-up meat being fashionable, unlike other fad diets.

Later, his idea was promoted in a book titled, “What Must I do to get Well and How Can I Keep So?” by Elma Stuart. Her book was the Snake Oil of diets. She echoed Dr. Salisbury’s claims to heal everything from asthma, diabetes, colitis, epilepsy, rheumatism, gout, tumors, migraines, insomnia, and even cancer. Elma Stuart was bedridden for 9 years with Fibromyalgia, better known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She worked with 43 doctors in efforts to regain her health. All 43 doctor’s recommendations failed to work, until she learned about Dr. Salisbury’s diet through an ad in the local newspaper, and decided to order his book.

She enlisted a neighbor’s help to get the diet going, by having them go out and purchase the ingredients, grinding the meat and cooking her meals each dat for 7 months until she became strong enough todo it herself. The meat eaten each day was purchased on the same day and ground fresh prior to cooking. She went on to to write that it took her about one year on Dr. Salisbury’s diet to regain her health. It was 11 years of eating only lean beef and drinking hot water before she authored her publication that you can read HERE. After publication she made the claim that she had witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of people recovering very serious illnesses from this diet.

So while the popularity of this diet has faded over the years, it is served for dinner all over the world. Eventually this diet will make it’s rounds around the world again, but has never taken off with the popularity it had back in the 1800s.

My wife would beat me if I tried to give her recipe out, but feel free to share yours, and tell me do you think you could eat it three times a day for 7 months and feel good?

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