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Food In Health
Source: Papers On Health
As will be seen from many of these articles, the
question of diet is one of the greatest importance, in health as well
as in disease. The onset of disease is, in fact, often due to
long-continued abuse of the whole digestive system through the use of
unsuitable food. By unsuitable food, we mean not so much food that is
bad in itself, but rather that which is not suited to the temperament
or work of the eater, or to the climate and circumstances in which he
finds himself. A ploughman or fisherman, for example, may thrive on
diet which will inevitably produce disease in the system of one whose
work confines him to the house for the most of his time. One condition
of a healthy life is, therefore, careful consideration of our work and
circumstances before deciding on our diet. Also, a man of excitable and
irritable temperament will need different diet from one of a slow and
quiet nature. The food which will only stimulate the latter will
over-excite the former, and may even make him quite ill. What is
commonly called bad temper is often only the result of wrong diet, and
will disappear under a milder course of food. It will, of course, be
seen at once from this, that the case of every man must be considered
by itself. A decision as to proper diet can therefore only be made when
all the facts about a case are known, and in this matter the man
himself must decide a good deal for himself; nevertheless some general
directions can be given which will help our readers to a decision in
their own case.
In the first place, we would guard against a very common error--viz.,
that a smaller quantity of food, chemically of a less nutritive kind,
means less nourishment to the body. On this head we refer to the
articles on Digestion and Assimilation. It may only be remarked here
that what the body actually uses, and what is taken into the
stomach, are two very different things. It is often the case that food
containing less actual nourishment will give greater nourishment to the
body than chemically richer food, because the former fits the state of
the digestive system better. What each one must consider is, not what
food has most of the chemical elements needed by the body, but what
food will give up to his own body the most of these elements.
Another error is that the use of medicine can for long assist the body
to use heavier food. In a case of disease, medicine often is of the
greatest value as a temporary aid to digestion, but its continual use
is the parent of great evils, and at last defeats the very end for
which it was given. If a person needs continually to use medicine,
there is probably either some organic disease present, or, more
commonly, great errors in the diet taken. Avoiding medicine, then,
except as a very temporary resource, and remembering that food is to be
judged more by the way it agrees with us than by its chemical
constitution, what rules can we give for diet in certain common cases?
First, diet should vary in summer and winter as the season varies.
Foods rich in fat, such as ham and bacon, should be for winter use
only, and should even then be more or less used as the weather is cold
or mild. For summer diet, milk foods, such as milk puddings, etc., ripe
fruits, and green vegetables should predominate, being varied also with
the heat or coolness of the weather. In very hot summer weather, animal
food should be very sparingly partaken of. It must also be borne in
mind that warm clothing or heated rooms may convert a winter climate
into a summer one.
Second, diet should vary according to the occupation of the eater. The
writer and brain-worker will do best, as a rule, on little butcher
meat, taking chiefly fish, eggs, and light milk foods, with vegetables
and fruits. Alcohol in any form is especially fatal to brain-workers,
and must be avoided, if there is to be really good health.
Third, food must vary according to temperament, age, etc. To give rules
under this head is almost impossible. The growing boy will need
proportionately more food than the adult, the man more than the woman.
It is indeed true here that what is one man's food is another man's
poison, and that every man must find out for himself what he needs. It
may be generally said that the food which digests without the eater
being aware in any way of the process is the best for him.
It may safely be affirmed in relation to this question of food in
health, that the middle and upper classes eat quite too much. Hence the
stomach trouble and goutiness (often in a disguised form) that they
suffer from. Too much carbonaceous food will produce corpulency, and
too much animal food URIC ACID (see). On the other hand, the poor,
for want of knowledge of really economical nourishing foods, suffer
from want of nutrition.
An opportunity is always present, in case of sickness among the poor,
by philanthropic persons to inculcate the value of good food. Instead
of bringing a basket of beef tea, tea, and jelly, take oatmeal, fruit,
milk, and vegetables.
What we have said should be sufficient as a hint to those who wish to
regulate their diet on common-sense principles. A little careful
thought should enable any one to work out a satisfactory scheme of diet
for his own particular case. Regularity in meals is of great
importance. There should be fixed hours for meals, with which nothing
should be allowed to interfere, no matter how pressing the business may
be. Do not assume, however, that it is necessary to eat at meal times,
no matter whether appetite for food be present or not. To eat without
appetite is an infringement of natural law, and it is far better to go
without the meal if nature does not demand it than to yield to custom,
or to imagine it necessary to eat because the dinner bell has rung. If
not hungry do not eat at all, wait till the next meal time; do not take
a "snack" in an hour or two. Three meals are, as a rule, better than
more, and many have found two suit them best. Probably one-half the
human race (the inhabitants of China and Hindostan) live on two meals a
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