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Proteins Or Meats

Categories: THE COAL FOODS
Sources: A Handbook Of Health

Proteins, the First Foods. There are proteins, or meats, both

animal and vegetable; and no one can support life without protein in

some form. This is because proteins alone contain sufficient amounts of

the great element called nitrogen, which forms a large part of every

portion of our bodies. This is why they are called proteins, meaning

first foods, or most necessary foods. Whatever we may live on in later

life, we a
l began on a diet of liquid meat (milk), and could have

survived and grown up on nothing else.

Composition of Proteins. Nearly all our meats are the muscle of

different sorts of animals, made of a soft, reddish, animal pulp called

myosin; the other principal proteins being white of egg, curd of milk,

and a gummy, whitish-gray substance called gluten, found in wheat

flour. This gluten is the stuff that makes the paste and dough of wheat

flour sticky, so that you can paste things together with it; while that

made from corn meal or oatmeal will fall to pieces when you take it up.

The jelly-like or pulp-like myosin in meat is held together by strings

or threads of tough, fibrous stuff; and the more there is of this

fibrous material in a particular piece or cut, of meat, the tougher

and less juicy it is. The thick, soft muscles, which lie close under the

backbone in the small of the back, in all animals, have less of this

tough and indigestible fibrous stuff in them, and cuts across them give

us the well-known porter-house, sirloin, or tenderloin steaks, and the

best and tenderest mutton and pork chops.

Fuel Value of Meats. Weight for weight, most of the butcher's

meats--beef, pork, mutton, and veal--have about the same food value,

differing chiefly in the amount of fat that is mixed in with their

fibres, and in certain flavoring substances, which give them, when

roasted, or broiled, their special flavors. The different flavors are

not of any practical importance, except in the case of mutton, which

some people dislike and therefore can take only occasionally, and in

small amounts.

The amount of fat in meats, however, is more important; and depends

largely upon how well the animal has been fed. There is usually the least

amount of fat in mutton, more in beef, and by far the greatest amount

in pork. This fat adds to the fuel value of meat, but makes it a little

slower of digestion; and its presence in large amounts in pork, together

with the fact that it lies, not only in layers and streaks, but also

mixed in between the fibres of the lean as well has caused this meat to

be regarded as richer and more difficult of digestion than either beef

or mutton. This, however is not quite fair to the pork, because smaller

amounts of it will satisfy the appetite and furnish the body with

sufficient fuel and nutrition. If it be eaten in moderate amounts and

thoroughly chewed, it is a wholesome and valuable food.

Veal is slightly less digestible than beef or mutton, on account of the

amount of slippery gelatin in and among its fibres; but if well cooked

and well chewed, it is wholesome.

The other meats--chicken, duck, and other poultry, game, etc.--are of

much less nutritive value than either beef, pork, or mutton, partly

because of the large amount of waste in them, in the form of bones,

skin, and tendons, and partly from the greater amount of water in them.

But their flavors make them an agreeable change from the staple meats.

Fish belongs in the same class as poultry and consists of the same

muscle substance, but, as you can readily see by the way that it shrinks

when dried, contains far more water and has less fuel value. Some of the

richer and more solid fishes, like salmon, halibut, and mackerel,

contain, in addition to their protein, considerable amounts of fat and,

when dried or cured, give a rather high fuel value at moderate cost. But

the peculiar flavor of fish, its large percentage of water, and the

special make-up of its protein, give it a very low food value, and

render it, on the whole, undesirable as a permanent staple food. Races

and classes who live on it as their chief meat-food are not so vigorous

or so healthy as those who eat also the flesh of animals. As a rule, it

is not best to use fish as the main dish of a meal oftener than two or

three times a week.

Milk. Milk is an interesting food of great value because it combines

in itself all three of the great classes of food-stuffs,--protein,

starch-sugar, and fat. Its protein is a substance called casein, which

forms the bulk of curds, and which, when dried and salted, is called

cheese. The fat is present in little tiny globules which give milk its

whitish or milky color. When milk is allowed to stand, these globules of

fat, being lighter, float up to the top and form a layer which is called

cream. When this cream is skimmed off and put into a churn, and shaken

or beaten violently so as to break the little film with which each of

these droplets is coated, they run together and form a yellow mass which

we call butter. In addition to the curd and fat, milk contains also

sugar, called milk-sugar (lactose), which gives it its sweetish

taste. And as a considerable part of the casein, or curd, is composed

of another starch-like body, or animal starch, this makes milk quite

rich in the starch-sugar group of food-stuffs.

All these substances, of course, in milk are dissolved in a large amount

of water, so that when milk is evaporated, or dried, it shrinks down to

barely one-sixth of its former bulk. It is, in fact, a liquid meat,

starch-sugar, and fat in one; and that is why babies are able to live

and thrive on it alone for the first six months of their lives. It is

also a very valuable food for older children, though, naturally, it is

not strong enough and needs to be combined with bread, puddings, meat,

and fat.

Soups and Broths. Soups, broths, and beef teas are water in which

meats, bones, and other scraps have been boiled. They are about

ninety-eight per cent water, and contain nothing of the meat or bones

except some of their flavor, and a little gelatin. They have little or

no nutritive or fuel value, and are really Paper foods, useful solely as

stimulants to appetite and digestion, enabling us to swallow with relish

large pieces of bread or crackers, or the potatoes, rice, pea-meal,

cheese, or other real foods with which they are thickened. Their food

value has been greatly exaggerated, and many an unfortunate invalid has

literally starved on them. Ninety-five per cent of the food value of the

meat and bones, out of which soups are made, remains at the bottom of

the pot, after the soup has been poured off. The commercial extracts of

meat are little better than frauds, for they contain practically nothing

but flavoring matters.

Protein in Vegetables. Several vegetable substances contain

considerable amounts of protein. One of these has already been

mentioned,--the gluten or sticky part of bread,--and this is what has

given wheat its well-deserved reputation as the best of all grains out

of which to make flour for human food.

There is also another vegetable protein, called legumin, found in

quite large amounts in dried beans and peas; but this is of limited food

value, first because it is difficult of digestion, and secondly because

with it, in dried peas and beans, are found a pungent oil and a bitter

substance, which give them their peculiar strong flavor, both of which

are quite irritating to the average person's digestion. So distressing

and disturbing are these flavoring substances to the civilized stomach,

that, after thousands of attempts to use them more largely, it has been

found that a full meal of beans once or twice a week is all that the

comfort and health of the body will stand. This is really a great pity,

for beans and peas are both nourishing and cheap. Nuts also contain much

protein, but are both difficult of digestion and expensive.

Virtues and Drawbacks of Meats. Taken all together, the proteins, or

meats, are the most nutritious and wholesome single class of foods.

Their chief drawback is their expense, which, in proportion to their

fuel value, is greater than that of the starches. Then, on account of

their attractiveness, they may be eaten at times in too large amounts.

They are also somewhat more difficult to keep and preserve than are

either the starches or the fats. The old idea that, when burned up in

the body, they give rise to waste products, which are either more

poisonous or more difficult to get rid of than those of vegetable foods,

is now regarded as having no sufficient foundation. Neither is the

common belief that meats cause gout well founded.

The greatest danger connected with meats is that they may become

tainted, or begin to spoil, or decay, before they are used.

Unfortunately, the ingenious cook has invented a great many ways of

smothering, or disguising, the well-marked bad taste of decayed, or

spoiled, meat by spices, onions, and savory herbs. So, as a general

thing, the safest plan, especially when traveling or living away from

home, is to avoid as far as possible hashes, stews, and other made

dishes containing meat. This is one of the ways in which spices and

onions have got such a bad reputation for heating the blood, or

upsetting the stomach, when it is really the decayed meat which they are

used to disguise that causes the trouble. Highly spiced dishes rob you

of the services of your best guide to the wholesomeness of food--your


Risks of Dirty Milk. The risks from tainting or spoiling are

particularly great in the case of milk, partly on account of the dusty

and otherwise uncleanly barns and sheds in which it is often handled and

kept, and from which it is loaded with a heavy crop of bacteria at the

very start; and partly because the same delicateness which makes it so

easily digestible for babies, makes it equally easy for germs and

bacteria to grow in it and spoil, or sour, it. You all know how

disagreeable the taste of spoiled milk is; and it is as dangerous as it

is disagreeable. A very large share of the illnesses of babies and young

children, particularly the diseases of stomach and bowels which are so

common in hot weather, are due to the use of spoiled, dirty milk.

There is one sure preventive for all these dangers, and that is

absolute cleanliness from cow to customer. All the changes that take

place in milk are caused by germs of various sorts, usually floating in

the air, that get into it. If the milk is so handled and protected, from

cow to breakfast table, that these germs cannot get into it, it will

remain sweet for several days.

Boards of Health all over the world now are insisting upon absolutely

clean barns and cleanly methods of handling, shipping, and selling milk.

In most of our large cities, milk-men are not allowed to sell milk

without a license; and this license is granted only after a thorough

examination of their cattle, barns, and milk-houses. These clean methods

of handling milk cost very little; they take only time and pains.

Nowadays, in the best dairies, it is required that the barns or sheds in

which cows are milked shall have tight walls and roofs and good

flooring; that the walls and roofs shall be kept white-washed; and the

floor be cleaned and washed before each milking, so that no germs from

dust or manure can float into the milk. Then the cows are kept in a

clean pasture, or dry, graveled yard, instead of a muddy barnyard; and

are either brushed, or washed down with a hose before each milking, so

that no dust or dirt will fall from them into the milk. The men who are

to milk wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, and put on

clean white canvas or cotton overalls, jackets, and caps. As soon as the

milk has been drawn into the pails, it is carried into the milk-room and

cooled down to a temperature of about forty-two degrees--that is, about

ten degrees above freezing point. This is to prevent the growth of such

few germs as may have got into it, in spite of all the care that has

been taken. Then the milk is drawn into bottles; and the bottles are

tightly capped by a water-proof pasteboard disc, or cover, which is not

removed until the milk is brought into the house and poured into the

glass, or cup, for use.

Milk handled like this costs from two to four cents a quart more to

produce than when drawn from a cow smeared with manure, in a dark,

dirty, strong-smelling barn, by a milker with greasy clothing and dirty

hands; and then ladled out into pitchers in the open street, giving all

the dust and flies that happen to be in the neighborhood a chance to get

into it! But it is doubly worth the extra price, because, besides

escaping stomach and bowel troubles, you get more cream and higher food

value. There is one-third more food value in clean milk than in dirty

milk, because its casein and sugar have not been spoiled and eaten by

swarms of bacteria. How great a difference careful cleanliness of this

sort can make in milk is shown by the difference in the number of

bacteria that the two kinds of milk contain. Ordinary milk bought from

the wagons in the open street, or from the cans in the stores, will

contain anywhere from a million to a million and a half bacteria to

the cubic centimeter (about fifteen drops); and samples have actually

been taken and counted, which showed five and six millions.

This method is used in many large dairies to avoid handling the udders

or the milk. Its chief drawback is that the long tubes are very

difficult to keep clean.]

Such a splendid food for germs is milk, and so rapidly do they grow in

it, that dirty milk will actually contain more of them to the cubic inch

than sewage, as it flows in the sewers. Now see what a difference a

little cleanliness will make! Good, clean, carefully handled milk,

instead of having a million, or a million and a half, bacteria, will

have less than ten thousand; and very clean milk may contain as low as

three or four hundred, and these of harmless sorts. The whole gospel of

the care of milk can be summed up in two sentences: (1) Keep dirt and

germs out of the milk. (2) Keep the milk cool.

The inside of the bottle is thoroughly cleansed by the revolving brush.]

Besides the germs of the summer diseases of children, which kill more

than fifty thousand babies every year in the United States, dirty milk

may also contain typhoid germs and consumption germs. The typhoid germs

do not come from the body of the cow, but get into the milk through its

being handled by people who have, or have just recovered from, typhoid,

or who are nursing patients sick with typhoid, and who have not properly

washed their hands; or from washing the cans, or from watering the milk

with water taken from a well or stream infected with typhoid. It is

estimated that about one-eighth of all the half million cases of

typhoid that occur in the United States every year are carried through

dirty milk.

The milk that spills or spatters over the hand drips back into the can

and may seriously infect the main supply.]

The germs of consumption, or tuberculosis, that are present in milk

may come from a cow that has the disease; or from consumptive human

beings who handle the milk; or from the dust of streets or houses--which

often contains disease germs. The latter sources are far the more

dangerous; for, as is now pretty generally agreed, although the

tuberculosis of cattle can be given to human beings, it is not very

actively dangerous to them; and probably not more than three or four per

cent of all cases of tuberculosis come from this source. The idea,

however, of allowing the milk of cows diseased from any cause to be used

for human food, is not to be tolerated for a moment. All good dairymen

and energetic Boards of Health now insist upon dairy herds being tested

for tuberculosis, and the killing, or weeding out, of all cows that

show they have the disease.

It is well to have the quality and purity of the milk tested just before

it goes to the consumer, but it is far more important that it should be

examined by State Inspectors at the dairy farms.]

Cheese. Cheese is the curd of milk squeezed dry of its liquid

(whey), salted, pressed into a mould, and allowed to ferment slowly,

or ripen, in which process a considerable part of its casein is turned

into fat. It is a cheap, concentrated, and very nutritious food, and in

small amounts is quite appetizing. But unfortunately, the acids and

extracts which have formed in the process of fermentation and ripening

are so irritating to the stomach, that it can usually be eaten only in

small amounts, without upsetting the digestion. Its chief value is as a

relish with bread, crackers, potatoes, or macaroni. In moderate amounts,

it is not only appetizing and digestible, but will assist in the

digestion of other foods; hence the custom of eating a small piece of

ripe cheese at the end of a heavy meal.