Bircher-Benner changed the eating habits of the late 19th century: Instead of much meat and white bread, he postulated eating fruit, vegetables and nuts. His ideas included not only controlled nutrition, but also spartan physical discipline. At his Zurich sanatorium off Bircher-Benner-Platz, the patients had to follow a somewhat monastic daily schedule including early bedtime (21:00), physical training and active gardening work. His theory of life was based on harmony between the human being and nature. Some of his ideas originate from observing the daily life of shepherds in the Swiss Alps, who lived a notably simple, but healthy life.
In the late 20th century, after closure of the sanatorium, it was briefly a student hostel. It has since been bought up by Zurich Financial Services, and is now known as the Zurich Development Center, and is used for various executive training purposes. The Center also houses an extensive private art collection.
In parallel to Bircher-Benner in Europe, John Harvey Kellogg worked in the U.S. and followed another, but somehow similar theory of the healthy diet.