The nutritional quality of the diet of 18th century Moravians (1775-1800) in Salem, North Carolina: a comparison of present dietary trends

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Virginia Tech


History can be used as a way of studying the nutritional adequacy of past diets. The Moravians of Salem, North Carolina, were the focus of this study. Various documents were examined to gather information on the crops grown, foods eaten and daily lifestyle. Seasonal diets (spring, summer, fall, winter) were reconstructed and computer analyzed for nutritional content. The results were compared to the twentieth century data for Southern U.S. residents from the 1987-88 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS) provided by the Human Nutrition Information Service of the USDA. Both data sets were compared to the RDA for females ages 19 - 24 years old.

Overall, the Moravian diets contained high amounts of animal products, bread, fruits and vegetables. Significant differences between the diet of 1775 and 1987 data were indicated for the following nutrients: kilocalories, carbohydrate, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and iron. The Moravian diet was below 100 percent of the RDA for: vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. Carbohydrates, cholesterol, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc were the nutrients below 100 percent of the RDA for the 1987 data. The Moravian diet seemed more balanced than the 1987 data. Perhaps the Moravians practiced a few of the guidelines taught in current nutrition education. Fresh fruits and vegetables and moderate alcohol consumption were common to the diet. In addition, activity levels were higher due to the lifestyle of early America. The results indicate that history can be a learning tool for nutritionists in predicting trends for the future.