KEY POINTS

  • Sylvester Graham was a minister in the 1800s who believed that sexual acts such as masturbation make people sick
  • He believed the only way to suppress sexual urges was to follow a strict diet that is free of meat, spices, condiments and fat
  • Graham invented what would later be known as the graham cracker to help prevent people from having carnal urges

Graham crackers are the type of food people don't normally think twice about. They're light, mildly sweet and accessible as they can be found in almost any supermarket in the country.

National Graham Crackers Day 2021 celebrates the flour-filled cracker and the interesting flavor and texture it brings to pies, cakes and a number of other dishes. Many, however, are unaware of the origins of this unassuming snack.

Believe it or not, graham crackers were invented to stop people from masturbating in the 1800s. A man named Sylvester Graham believed that human lust caused a wide number of diseases such as epilepsy and cholera and thus made it his mission to help others suppress sexual desire, HuffPost reported.

Graham, a Presbyterian minister, claimed that masturbation "inflame[s] the brain more than natural arousal" and could result in insanity. According to him, the more immoral the sexual act, the more harm inflicted on the body and that the only way for people to dampen their sexual urges is to follow a strict diet completely free of meat, spices, condiments and fat.

He also promoted having a regular exercise regimen, taking cold baths, sleeping on hard mattresses with the windows open and avoiding alcohol and tobacco as some of the ways to get rid of carnal urges.

In 1837, Graham proposed a new way of making bread. His idea, which he detailed in his "A Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making," was to use coarser, unsifted whole wheat flour to make "Graham bread" as opposed to mass-produced bread, which removed the nutrient-rich layer of bran and was made of white flour. He claimed in the treatise that white flour led to a "lazy colon" and promoted the idea that all bread should be made at home.

The minister believed that the original graham cracker would help his fellow citizens abstain from sex and sexual acts, according to Reader's Digest, which noted that his version was only made of flour and did not have sugar, cinnamon or honey.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence to prove his claim, Graham gained a following who called themselves "Grahamites." These Grahamites reported that eating the bland cracker cured them of their sexual urges, which then prevented them from committing sin.

Several bakers tried to market Graham's bread, which is believed to be the source of the very first "graham cracker." In 1898, the National Biscuit Company (now known as Nabisco), launched its Graham crackers, and the rest is history.

It's likely that Graham would not approve of the modern version of the crackers -- sweet, packed with refined ingredients and filled with sinful flour. Nevertheless, society will most likely continue eating the crackers regardless of whether they want to be cured of their sexual urges or not.

Biscuits Buttermilk biscuits are being pulled from the shelves of Food Lion and other grocers due to possible listeria contamination. Here, a worker is pictured preparing to serve U.S.-style biscuits at a party April 24, 2016, in Santa Barbara d'Oeste, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images