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Fruits And Vegetables

Categories: COOKING
Sources: A Handbook Of Health

The Special Uses of Fruits and Vegetables. We come now to the very

much larger but much less important class of foods--the Kindling foods,

which help the Coal foods to burn, and supply certain stuffs and

elements which the body needs and which the coal foods do not contain.

These are the vegetables--other than potatoes and dried peas and

beans--and fruits.

Fruits and vegetables contain certain mineral ele
ents, which are not

present in sufficient proportions in the meats, starches, and fats.

Furthermore, the products of their digestion and burning in the body

help to neutralize, or render harmless, the waste products from meats,

starches, and fats. Thirdly, they have a very beneficial effect upon the

blood, the kidneys, and the skin. In fact, the reputation of fruits and

fresh vegetables for purifying the blood and clearing the complexion

is really well deserved. The keenness of our liking for fruit at all

times, and our special longing for greens and sour things in the spring,

after their scarcity in our diet all winter, is a true sign of their


Not the least of their advantages is that they contain a very large

proportion of water; and this, though diminishing their fuel value,

supplies the body with a naturally filtered and often distilled supply

of this necessary element of life. One of the best ways of avoiding that

burning summer thirst, which leads you to flood your unfortunate stomach

with melted icebergs, in the form of ice water, ice cold lemonade, or

soda water, is to take an abundance of fresh fruits and green


Many of the vegetables contain small amounts of starch, but few of them

enough to count upon as fuel, except potatoes, which we have already

classed with the Coal foods. Most fruits contain a certain amount of

sugar--how much can usually be estimated from their taste, and how

little can be gathered from the statement that even the sweetest of

fruits, like ripe pears or ripe peaches, contain only about eight per

cent of sugar. They are all chiefly useful as flavors for the less

interesting staple foods, particularly the starches. In fact, our

instinctive use of them to help down bread and butter, or rice, or

puddings of various sorts, is a natural and proper one. Like the

vegetables, they contain various salts which are useful in neutralizing

certain acid substances formed in the body. Soldiers in war, or sailors

upon long voyages, who are fed upon a diet consisting chiefly of salted

or preserved meat, with bread or hard biscuit and sugar, but without

either fruits or fresh vegetables, are likely to develop a disease

called scurvy. Little more than a century ago, hundreds of deaths

occurred every year in the British and French navies from this disease,

and the crews of many a long exploring voyage--like Captain Cook's--or

of searchers for the North Pole, have been completely disabled or even

destroyed entirely by scurvy. It was discovered that by adding to the

diet fruit, or fresh vegetables like cabbage or potatoes, scurvy could

be entirely prevented, or cured.[10]

Their Low Fuel Value. How little real fuel value fruits and

vegetables have, may be easily seen from the following table. In order

to get the nourishment contained in a pound loaf of bread, or a pound of

roast beef, you would have to eat: 12 large apples or pears (5 lbs.);

4-1/2 qts. of strawberries; a dozen bananas (3-1/2 lbs.); 7 lbs. of

onions; 2 doz. large cucumbers (18 lbs.); 10 lbs. of cabbage; 1/2 bushel

of lettuce or celery.

Apples, the most Wholesome Fruit. Head and shoulders above all the

other fruits stands that delight of our childhood days, apples. Well

ripened, or properly cooked, they are readily digested by the average

stomach; though some delicate digestions have difficulty with them. They

contain a fair amount of acids, and from five to seven per cent of

sugar. Their general wholesomeness and permanent usefulness may be

gathered from the fact that they are one of the few fruits which you can

eat almost daily the year round, or at very frequent intervals, without

getting tired of them. Food that you don't get tired of is usually food

which is good for you.

Dried apples are much inferior to the fresh fruit, because they become

toughened in drying, and because growers sometimes smoke them with fumes

of sulphur in the process, in order to bleach or whiten them; and this

turns them into a sort of vegetable leather.

Other Fruits--their Advantages and Drawbacks. Next in usefulness

probably come pears, though these have the disadvantage of containing a

woody fibre, which is rather hard to digest, and they are, of course,

poorer keepers than apples. Then come peaches, which have one of the

most delicious flavors of all fruits, but which tend to set up

fermentation and irritation in delicate stomachs, though in the average

stomach, when eaten in moderation, they are wholesome and good. Then

come the berries--strawberries, raspberries, blackberries,--all

excellent and wholesome, when fresh in their season, or canned or


One warning, however, should be given about these most delicious,

fragrant berries; and as it happens to apply also to several of our most

attractive foods, it is well to mention it here. While perfectly

wholesome and good for the majority of people, strawberries, for

instance, are to a few--perhaps one in twenty--so irritating and

indigestible as to be mildly poisonous. The other foods which may play

this kind of trick with the stomachs of certain persons are oranges,

bananas, melons, clams, lobsters, oysters, cheese, sage, and parsley,

and occasionally, but very rarely, eggs and mutton. This is a matter

which each of you can readily find out by experiment. If strawberries,

melons, and other fruits agree with you, then eat freely of them, in due

moderation. But if, after three or four trials, you find that they do

not agree with you, but make your stomach burn, and perhaps give you an

attack of nettle-rash or hives, or a headache, then let them alone.

The banana is of some food value because it contains not only sugar, but

considerable quantities of starch--about the same amount as potatoes.

But, if bananas are not fully ripe, both their starch and sugar are

highly indigestible; while, if over-ripe, they have developed in them

irritating substances, which are likely to upset the digestion and cause

hives or eczema, especially in children. Bananas should therefore be

regarded rather as a luxury and an agreeable variety than as a

substantial part of the diet.

Food Values of the Different Vegetables. The vegetables depend for

their value almost solely upon the alkaline salts and the water in them,

and upon their flavor, which gives an agreeable variety to the diet.

Parsnips, beets, and carrots are among the most nutritious, as they

contain some starch and sugar; but they so quickly pall upon the taste

that they can be used only in small amounts.

Turnips and cabbages possess the merit of being cheap and very easily

grown. They contain valuable earthy salts, plenty of pure water, and a

trace of starch. But these advantages are offset by their large amount

of tough, woody vegetable fibre; this is incapable of digestion, and

though in moderate amounts it is valuable in helping to regulate the

movements of the bowels, in excess it soon becomes irritating. Both of

them, particularly cabbages, contain, also, certain flavoring extracts,

very rich in sulphur and exceedingly irritating to the stomach, which

cause them to disagree with some persons. If these are got rid of by

brisk boiling in at least two waters, then cabbage is a fairly wholesome

and digestible dish for the average stomach. And because of its

cheapness and keeping power, it is often the only vegetable that can

be secured at a reasonable cost at certain seasons of the year.

Onions, especially the milder and larger ones, are an excellent and

wholesome vegetable, containing small amounts of starch, although their

pungent flavor, due to an aromatic oil, makes them so irritating to some

stomachs as to be quite indigestible.

Sweet corn, whether fresh or dried, is wholesome, and has a fair degree

of nutritive value, as it contains fair amounts of both starch and

sugar. It should, however, be very thoroughly chewed and eaten

moderately, on account of the thick, firm indigestible husk which

surrounds the kernel.

Tomatoes are an exceedingly valuable, though rather recent addition to

our dietary. Their fresh, pungent acid is, like the fruit acids,

wholesome and beneficial; and they can be preserved or canned without

losing any of their flavor. They were at one time denounced as being

indigestible, and even as the cause of cancer; but these charges were

due to ignorance and distrust of anything new.

Lighter Vegetables, or Paper Foods. The lighter vegetables such as

lettuce, celery, spinach, cucumbers, and parsley have, in a previous

chapter, been classed with the paper foods. They are all agreeable

additions to the diet on account of their fresh taste and pleasant

flavor, though they contain little or no nutritive matter.

The Advantages of a Vegetable Garden. Notwithstanding their slight

fuel value, there are few more valuable and wholesome elements in the

diet than an abundant supply of fresh green vegetables. Everyone who is

so situated that he can possibly arrange for it, should have a garden,

if only the tiniest patch, and grow them for his own use, both on

account of their greater wholesomeness and freshness when so grown, and

because of the valuable exercise in the open air, and the enjoyment and

interest afforded by their care.