History and Benefits of Diets Rubinstein's Food for Beauty

About the history and benefits of Helena Rubinstein's food for beauty diet plan.

A BANQUET OF FAMOUS DIETS

Rubinstein's Food for Beauty

The Head Woman: "The ladylike `vapors' of Victorian days are no longer fashionable," wrote Helena Rubinstein, the Polish-born cosmetics queen who, after W.W. I, became concerned with the effects of diet on health and beauty. Head of an international business built on the cold cream she used to maintain her flawless, milky-white complexion, she also presided over a string of salons offering massages, milk baths, facials, and scalp treatments as well as makeup and coiffures. The search for prolonged youth and heightened beauty led her to the Bircher-Benner Sanatorium in Zurich, which offered a vegetarian diet of matiere vivante ("living matter," or uncooked fruits and vegetables). Back in New York Rubinstein added a "Zurich Room" to her Fifth Avenue salon; there she experimented with fruit and vegetable combinations attractively arranged for color and pattern on crystal plates. Adding some meat, eggs, and a greater variety of fruit to make the Bircher-Benner diet more palatable to Americans, she presented the revised diet in Food for Beauty (1938), such a staple of diet literature that it was reissued in paperback in 1977.

Overview: "The perfect diet for the beauty-hungry woman," Mme. Rubinstein wrote after extensive research, "is composed of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole cereals." She recommended beginning with a few days of "clearance and revitalization," a curative regime in which Bircher-muesli, a raw cereal and fruit mixture moistened with cream, is eaten for breakfast and supper. The main, or "sunlight," meal during the curative phase consists of three types of fresh vegetables and fruit. On the regular maintenance diet, calculated at 2,200 to 2,500 calories daily, the formula is to "select one half of your food from the things your body needs, then select the other half from the things you feel you want terribly." In other words, one half of your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables--up to five or more types per meal. Some meat and even sweets are allowed. Sample meals include a boiled egg, bacon, and buttered toast for breakfast; broiled lamb chops and fruit with whipped cream for dinner. Puddings, pies, and pastries are forbidden, however, and coffee and tea are permitted only reluctantly.

Rubinstein advises returning to the curative diet at least twice a year for one to three weeks at a time, and devoting one day weekly to the maintenance diet of "sunlight" nutrition (i.e., fresh vegetables and fruit). The net effect of such a lifelong regime, she claims, will be renewed health, hope, and vitality.

Pro: Rubinstein's maintenance diet provides a generous balance of most vitamins and minerals. It is aesthetically pleasing, and it emphasizes a positive attitude toward diet and respect for the body. An appealing variety of foods makes concessions to American tastes.

Con: The curative diet, though temporary, is nutritionally inadequate. It claims to enable one to shed 2 to 3 lb. per week, but a very sedentary person may not lose any weight at all, given the caloric intake. The maintenance diet, which allows 2,200 to 2,500 calories per day, may not promote weight loss either. Both diets are deficient in calcium, an especially necessary element for growing teenage girls. Eating raw food is beneficial, but the claim that only raw fiber can properly stimulate and clean the digestive tract is false; cooked fiber is perfectly suitable.

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