10 Snack Foods Originally Sold as Medicines

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There was a time when you could have subsisted on graham crackers, Moxie, and Goo-Goo Clusters and called it a healthy diet. In fact, a lot of foods and beverages we consider snack items today were once marketed as medicines or tonics to a gullible public.


The original intent of Coca-Cola, as you probably know, was a health drink. Created by John Pemberton, it was sold for 5 cents at soda fountains because people thought carbonated beverages would increase their wellness. Pemberton's company also sold Pemberton's Indian Queen Hair Dye and Pemberton's Globe Flower Cough Syrup.


These snacks were invented in 1829 by Reverend Sylvester Graham, who felt the bland food was a perfect prescription for those prone to excessive amounts of "self-abuse." Apparently dry crackers would bore the sexual appetite right out of you.


OK, it might be a stretch to call corn flakes a snack food, but I'm sure I'm not alone in downing a bowl of cereal when I want a little something. John Harvey Kellogg was looking for something to improve the diet of hospital patients and decided that corn flakes were a great bread substitute that helped digestion (and curbed masturbation). His brother, William Keith Kellogg, later added sugar to the flakes and started a company to sell them.


During the Great Depression, these treats were marketed to consumers as a "nourishing lunch for a nickel." Sure, I employ that theory on candy all of the time: peanuts are protein, chocolate has calcium, marshmallow has ... marshmallow.


Although Fig Newtons are marketed as "fruit and cake" these days, back in 1892 they were considered digestive aids. A lot of doctors thought that digestion problems were the root of all kinds of other illnesses, so you see a lot of digestive aids from that era. They were originally fig rolls instead of the square pastry we're familiar with now.


Moxie was one of the first mass-produced soft drinks commercially available. It was created sometime around 1876 by a doctor whose friend, Lieutenant Moxie, was using the extract of a South American plant to prevent paralysis, "softening of the brain," nervousness and insomnia. The good doctor took Moxie's plant extract and stuck it in soda water, calling it "Beverage Moxie Nerve Food."


Heath bars could just as well have been called Health Bars—the use of the best milk chocolate, almonds, butter, and pure cane sugar was thought to pep a person up.

8. 7-UP

This is probably not a big shocker for you, since many of us still use the miracle tonic to soothe an upset stomach. Originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda," it contained lithium citrate, so it really was a mood-stabilizing drink. The drink was introduced in 1929; lithium wouldn't be removed from the product until 1948.


This soda has a similar story. Like Coke and 7-Up, it was sold as a brain tonic and pick-me-up and was available at drugstores to cure what ails ya.


Calling cookies "digestives" started with McVitie's back in 1892. Because the biscuit contained a high amount of sodium bicarbonate, the inventor theorized that eating the biscuits after a large meal would be beneficial to one's health. They're still called digestives, but McVitie's now prints a disclaimer on them that says, "The ingredients in this biscuit do not contain any substances that assist digestion."

This piece originally appeared in 2010.

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