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Source: Papers On Health
The composition of different articles of food varies. A turnip
is not the same as a piece of cheese. It is more watery, and has more
fibre in it, and we speak of it as less nutritious. There are, however,
in almost all foods certain chemical substances present which have
different duties to perform in the body, and which are present in
widely different proportions in the various articles we use for food.
Water is the most common of these substances. Soups, vegetables,
fruits, puddings, are largely water. Some foods contain less of it than
others, but on the whole a very large, if not the largest, part of all
food consists of water. This large amount is needed. Water makes up
two-thirds of the body, and nearly two quarts are given off daily in
the various excretions and secretions. If enough be not taken the
tissues get dry, and Nature indicates her want in thirst.
Another of these substances is starch, or its equivalent, sugar.
Rice, bread, and vegetables in general, are largely made up of this
starchy or sugary substance, which, as it contains a considerable
quantity of carbon, we speak of as the carbonaceous element in food.
This is the substance which goes to feed the muscles, replacing the
waste from work done, just as fuel is required for the fires of an
Yet another substance in food is fat. It may be animal, such as beef
or mutton fat, and butter, or vegetable, as the oils in nuts, in the
olive, etc. Fat, like carbonaceous food, also goes to feed the muscles,
but both are required in a healthy diet.
Of the first importance, however, is the proteid element in food.
Meat, milk, cheese, eggs, peas, etc., contain proteid in considerable
quantities. Its use is to repair the exhausted tissues themselves. The
muscles and nerves get worn out in their daily work, and require
rebuilding. This is what proteid goes to do, and from this, its high
import in animal economy, is called Proteid (protos--first). Finally,
in all natural foods there are certain salts, which also build up,
e.g., lime, which goes to make up bone. These salts may be seen in
the ash of any common vegetable after being burnt.
These four kinds of food substance make up our daily food, and a
certain amount of each substance is required to replace the daily
expenditure, a proportion which varies, however, under different
circumstances. See Food in Health.
As the relative amount of proteid, carbonaceous matter, water, and
salts, may vary considerably in different articles, we rightly have
combinations of food at our meals. A pudding of corn-flour and water
contains no building material, hence we add milk and eggs, which do. A
meal of meat and cheese requires bread and potatoes, etc., etc.
Appetite is a good test of the amount and also of the particular kind
of food required, provided the appetite is in a healthy condition. If a
healthy man refrain from carbonaceous foods for a day or so, he feels a
great longing for them, a sign that the body really needs them. It is
of immense importance, then, that the appetite should not be accustomed
to over-indulgence, for then it is no guide in our selection of foods
(see Appetite). If disease indicates such over-indulgence, food
should be restricted till the appetite is accustomed to a smaller diet.
Bilious people, for example, may have accustomed their appetite to
desire more carbonaceous and fatty foods than necessary. On the
contrary, badly-fed people often require a coaxing of the appetite to
eat strengthening foods, such as oatmeal, cheese, and brown bread.
In order to regulate our diet, it is of importance to have some idea of
the composition of common articles of food. We get our food, as
everybody knows, from the vegetable and animal kingdoms. The majority
of the Anglo-Saxon race live on a diet of animal and vegetable
combined, but many exclude flesh from their diet. In Southern Asia, for
example, the vast bulk of the people rarely, or never, touch meat. The
vegetable kingdom supplies us largely with the carbonaceous or
muscle-forming food, whereas the animal kingdom is rich in proteid, or
tissue-forming food. Much proteid, however, can be obtained from the
vegetable kingdom--peas, beans, lentils, dried fruits, and nuts being
particularly rich in it. We should endeavour to cultivate an appetite
for these vegetables containing proteid, as it is a great mistake to
rely entirely for this element on meat, as so many of our race do. The
animal products--such as cheese, milk, and eggs--will also form an
efficient substitute for much flesh-food. This simple diet suits both
the brain-worker and the athlete, though each will have to make a
selection of those foods most required by him. Certainly much animal
food is liable to produce kidney disease, gout, and kindred troubles.
If we have a tendency to corpulence (and many have this in advancing
years), to resort to an exclusive meat diet will produce these
troubles. Far better abstain from vegetables, such as potatoes, and
from sweet dishes, pastry, etc., and eat largely of the green-leaf
vegetables and fruits with the articles of a simple diet which build
but do not fatten the body. (See Diet and Corpulence; Diet for Middle
Age, and the Aged.)
Fruit is a very useful article of food. The acid helps to keep the
blood alkaline (which alkalinity is necessary for the normal
performance of its functions). It prevents acidity of the stomach. The
dried fruits, such as dates, figs, raisins, are very rich in proteid.
Nuts also are rich in proteid and in fat; they require, however,
careful mastication. Mills can be purchased cheaply for grinding nuts;
the ground meal, either alone or made into a cream, forms a delicious
adjunct to stewed fruit.
Green vegetables are a much neglected food. The salts they contain are
very useful. They require careful cooking. A cabbage boiled in the
ordinary way loses in the water its valuable salts. In case of
flatulence arising from indigestion, the use of vegetables may,
however, require to be restricted, at least for a time. Some vegetables
are palatable raw, such as salads and celery. Indeed, raw vegetables
have a tonic effect on the bowels.
Bread should never be too fresh, and should be thoroughly chewed.
Zwieback (twice baked) can be recommended, especially for those who
suffer from indigestion. It is made by cutting bread, preferably
wheaten, in thin slices, and putting these in a slow oven till
thoroughly dry and lightly browned. Wholemeal bread should always be
present on the table, as its use prevents constipation. Indian corn can
be made into a number of palatable cakes, and is a very nutritious
food. Home-made jam and honey are digestible forms of sugar, but like
all sugar foods should be consumed in moderation, especially by
sedentary individuals. Condiments should be avoided, the healthy
appetite is better without them, and they irritate the stomach.
Regarding animal foods, they are often spoilt by over-cooking, and it
should be remembered that when lightly done they are easiest to digest.
White fish, tender steak, or juicy joint and cutlet are superior to the
oily fish, and kidney, liver, and heart. These internal organs should
be avoided, as they contain even more than the rest of the animal
certain extracts liable to produce URIC ACID (see). Milk, cheese,
eggs, and butter are not open to these objections. Cheese is a food
very rich in proteid. It requires careful chewing, and may with
advantage be grated before use. Buttermilk is a valuable and
strengthening food. A generation or so ago the Scotch peasants lived
almost exclusively on buttermilk and oatmeal, and were a magnificent
type of men in every respect. Whey is a pleasant drink, and may be made
a substitute for tea where the latter is prohibited. It is also
beneficial for the kidneys. Jellies are a pleasant addition to the diet
of convalescents, but have little nutritive value.
We would strongly urge upon our readers the advantages of simple diet.
We mean by this the avoidance of all those rich and spiced dishes which
are made up in so many ways to tempt the appetite, of alcohol in every
form, of meat to the extent often consumed by the well-to-do, of pastry
and such indigestible food as heavy cakes, of fried food in general;
and, on the other hand, the adoption of a diet largely consisting of
milk, cheese, eggs, butter, cereals, root and green vegetables, fruits,
and nuts. It will not be found an expensive diet; on the contrary, it
is remarkably cheap; it will give little trouble, for but little
cooking will be needed. It may require some little effort at first, and
some breakings with social customs, but far less of both than will be
imagined. Seeing that a large part of disease is ultimately traceable
to a rich and stimulating diet, and to too much food in general,
simplicity is imperative on all who seek for the preservation of
health. Eat less, eat better (or more slowly, with perfect
mastication), eat simpler foods at your meals, eat at these meals only
when you require it, and never between your meals. Such eating will
ensure good digestion, good assimilation, good blood, and good health.
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