Diet is the most normal important factor of life over which one has direct control. One may or may not exercise; one may bathe, or ignore the needs of skin; one may think constructive or destructive thoughts or let the mind degenerate. This is true of all factors under one’s control – one may accept or ignore them. But except for a few days or a few weeks at a time, one cannot go without food.
It is beyond comprehension why the subject of diet has been ignored to such a great extent by the leading schools of healing throughout the past generations and centuries. It must be self-evident to any one of rational mind that our body cells are sustained by materials supplied by food. It must be as self-evident that the chemistry of the body must be controlled to a very large extent by the foods consumed. It seems only rational to expect that vital foods, foods containing the elements built into them by nature, will construct better cells and better organs and provide a better chemistry than foods that have been deprived of many of these elements.
There are various expressions to denote the chief factor in making us what we are. Thus according to one idea we are what we are pretty much according to the condition of our internal secretion glands. According to another we are what we are according to the way we think. According to still another our own personalities and characteristics are performed through inheritance and we have little to say or do about them. But one cannot get around the fact that we are largely what we are, physically and chemically, according to what we eat and how we eat. There is no one factor that has to do with our life, in the making or in the maintenance, that can be wholly ignored; and there is none that can be accepted as the “one and only”. While all other factors should be understood and applied to the extent necessary for our best health, strict attention to our diet is the measure most essential to maintain health.
This does not mean that one should become unwarrantably food-conscious. Some enthusiasts become such faddists upon the subject of food that food is rarely taken into the system without attempt at analysis of its composition, and of its effects as well. This course is not warranted. One should understand the subject of diet so completely that it becomes second nature merely to accept only healthful foods and in proper combination and to ignore those that are detrimental. One should know when a food or a meal is consumed that it is wholesome and that it will have a good effect in one or more of the various ways in which food affects the body, and as soon as that food is taken it should be forgotten, or at least it should receive no mental attention. The body will take natural foods or wholesome foods and give them all the attention required from the physical standpoint, and they will become serviceable to the body according to their elements and the effects for which they are particularly adapted. No attention whatever is required upon the part of the mind after food has been consumed. To think of food after it enters the stomach, particularly to doubt the ability of the body to handle it properly or to doubt the wholesomeness of the food is to invite trouble.
One should understand what constitutes a food. A food may be considered as any substance which when taken into the body will provide material for building or repair of tissue, for heat or energy, or the subtle elements that are protective in nature – and that will have no detrimental effect. A food may supply only part of the elements the body requires and yet be a natural and wholesome food, but nothing which supplies elements unneeded by the body can be a perfect food.
The only purpose of food is to keep the body machine going. The body cannot work unless it is properly built and kept in proper repair, unless it is provided with proper fueling foods, or unless the subtle chemicals are present to perform their delicate protective duties. The needs of the body for food are definite: There is a certain amount of each and every element possible for the maintenance of the body and its functions. Fortunately, however, the body is capable of surviving for a time on less than it requires, as well as of handling more than it requires. Also it is capable of functioning for some time with a deficiency of some elements and an excess of others.
But sooner or later, unless all elements are provided in proper balance some part of the body machinery will break down. On the other hand if an excess of food – even if it contain necessary elements – is provided, the body machinery will become clogged and some part will give way. Practically without exception, humans have considered the pleasing of the palate the chief factor of importance in selecting diet. Little or no attention is paid to actual body requirements, hence the average diet is woefully unbalanced and often wholly lacking in some important elements. Most of our diseases are due to this one factor – an unbalanced diet, with a great excess of some elements and a great deficiency or total absence of some others. This produces an encumbering surplus on the one hand and starvation on the other. As consequences, the chemistry of the blood and body fluids is unbalanced, the cells are bathed in unnatural fluids, organs are overworked, with an insufficiency of certain elements necessary for their best work, and it is only natural that detrimental results will be produced.
Only within the past few decades have we known anything about vitamins. For forty years or more I have been advocating a natural diet – a diet of foods as they were produced by Nature. I did not know anything of vitamins nor of mineral elements when I began advocating such a diet. It seemed only the simplest common sense that Nature knew what she was about when she prepared foods from the soil and from the tree and vine and plant; it seemed as common sense to me that no altering of those foods could improve upon their content of whatever it was that the body utilized from them for its own good. But science, though tardy, finally has found why foods in natural form are superior to man-processed foods.
Until a few years ago the mineral elements in food were listed merely as “ash”. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates (starches and sugars) were considered the important and all-important constituents of food. No effort was made to find the content of the “ash,” or to give it importance if it were found. Calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, chlorine and such elements were passed up as of little or no importance. Today, practically all of our common foods have been thoroughly analyzed and the content in each of the elements the body requires has been determined. In addition, practically all foods have been experimentally fed to animals and fowl and the proportionate content of the various mineral salts and vitamins in each of them has been determined. These experiments and findings have proved of vast importance and the advanced members of the medical profession today are advocating just such a diet as I always have advocated. But many physicians in the rank and file of the medical profession still ignore the importance of diet in maintaining health or in aiding to recover health.
In primitive life, man’s diet was predominately vegetarian with a small proportion of foods of animal origin. Civilized man has made two great changes in his diet, neither of which has been to his physical advantages – larger quantities of meat and large quantities of grains or cereals. In primitive life the cereals and the larger animals as a source of meat were not available. Neither of these forms of food is detrimental if taken in proper quantities and if other natural foods are used in abundance. Once objection to flesh foods and grains is the large quantities consumed. Another objection is to the denaturing of the grains by milling processes which deprive them of much of their important minerals and all of their vitamins. Another detriment is that meats frequently are used after weeks or months of cold storage and the loss of important minerals and vitamins present in the blood and tissues of animals at the time of slaughter.
Let us acknowledge that the forms of foods under discussion provide considerable palatability. The fact that such foods are often capable of being prepared in different ways often leads to the daily consumption beyond the amounts required. This utilizes space in the digestive system and so decreases capacity for other foods that more effectively provide protective elements and substances. In my many years of experience with diets in which meat has formed small part and cereals a decidedly minor part; I have been even more completely convinced that these two forms of food are required by the human machine in only limited quantities.
One advantage of using grains in mankind’s diet is that they can be stored for months or years in their natural forms and still retain all of their elements. This has permitted man to move from vicinity to vicinity and thus spread over the face of the world, carrying foodstuffs with him. The fact that the larger animals also were widely distributed or could be transported was favourable likewise for the spread of mankind over the globe. In modern life, in most locations, a wider range of foods can be procured, so man is not definitely limited to meat or cereals or to a combination of these, as his chief articles of diet. It was only during certain phases of man’s migration to ever “greener pastures” that grains and the meat of wild or domesticated beasts necessarily completed the major portion of human diet.
Today it still is necessary to use a fair percentage of the grains in the diet, and this will be necessary until there is some revolutionary change in our agriculture, food-producing and food-distributing methods. The chief objection to cereals today is due to the methods of the manufacturers of grain products, whereby many of the vital elements are removed, thus making these foods lose many of their beneficial constituents. Our modern diet could be practically entirely free from most of the cereals as they are provided on the market, not only without detriment but with advantage so far as nutrition is concerned.
Although many persons today know the names of the divisions of foods as they are classified by science, these classifications may be enumerated here for ready reference.
Proteins – foods serving to build or repair the body – include nuts, milk, cheese, eggs, the legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils) fowl, fish and meat.
Immature meat from calf, lamb and pig, although favoured by many people, should not be used except, rarely. The waste products of metabolism are much greater in these than in mature meats. Beef is the best meat for regular use, though mutton is a satisfactory second choice. The organs of animals, especially the liver, kidneys, pancreas (sweetbread) and heart all are better than the muscle meat for really valuable elements aside from the muscle protein.
It should be remembered that there are no essential food values that cannot be derived more cheaply from other sources than are provided by meat. In no other protein are waste products of metabolism found in such large proportions as in meat, fowl and fish.
Carbohydrates consist of starches and sugars. In the starch-foods are included all the grain products, including macaroni and spaghetti, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and bananas. Among the sugar-foods are honey, brown sugars, maple sugar, and various forms of white sugar. The sweet fruits also may be listed, examples being dates, figs raisins, dried currants and some sorts of prunes.
The carbohydrates are required by the laboring man and the active child in considerable abundance, for they are fuel providers. These are the foods which provide heat and energy. But an adult requires very little protein, because the wear and tear upon his protein tissues is comparatively slight. The growing child, however, does require proportionately considerable quantities of protein, because construction is taking place and this building element must be provided or normal body growth will be checked and the body stunted in consequence.
Many of these are considered as “meat substitutes”. It is more truthful to reverse the statement and say that meats are really substitutes – incomplete as they are – for other sources of protein. If meats in the main were excluded from the diet and these other proteins instead, supplied, the body would be better off in most instances. Yet there is no objection to using meats in very moderate amounts. The body requires only something like three ounces of protein a day. Some persons might look askance at a serving of meat of no more than three ounces to the meal, and the majority perhaps uses meat more than once a day.
Cereals are important sources of starch, having also from eight to fifteen per cent of vegetable protein. But in the cereals the life potion or germ, and the protective covering or bran should be used and not discarded, for this covering is protective to the human organism as well as the grain itself. The use of whole wheat or whole grain cereals has been derided and even condemned by reputed authorities on diet until quite recent years, on the baseless assumption that such foods are “too coarse” for the human intestinal tract.
On the other hand, some persons, through information received by over-enthusiastic natural dietitians, have gotten the impression that denatured cereal products are more or less poisonous, some of them looking upon the use of such products with almost the same horror that they look upon drinking alcoholic beverages. There is nothing at all poisonous in such products. Taken in very limited quantities, there will be no detrimental effect, provided the elements taken from them are supplied in other foods. But the point is that there is no advantage whatsoever and no reason for taking devitalized foods when foods (even same food) may be provided which supplies every element needed in the building, functioning and chemistry of the body.
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As for sugar, far too much of this now forms a part of the human diet. Much less objection would be made if the sugars predominating in the diet were honey and maple sugar, and less expensive sugars that remain in the natural dark forms, or the sugars contained in the sweet fruits. Yet practically all of the sugar that civilization consumes is in the form of the wholly devitalized, demineralized and devitaminized white sugar and its products. This sugar provides nothing but sweetening, and is highly acid-forming in its ultimate effect in the body. It is one of the greatest causative factors and feeders of catarrh, colds and similar troubles. We need starch or sugar or both, but in addition to the sweet which seems to be required, and regardless of its energizing value there are so many other important elements and so much delicious flavour provided in the sweet fruits and natural sugars that it is surprising that the white sugar should have such a hold upon thousands of people who are mainly interested in pleasing their palates.
Fats are heat and energy foods also. They are butter, cream, the various oils and nuts. We do not need a great deal of fat in our diet. Many people get along well without any, and many others could get along better if they reduced the amount they use. In the matter of milk, for instance, a great many people seem to think that it is the richness of the milk in cream that is the nourishing feature, and a great many add cream to whole milk in order to increase the fat content.
There have been numerous patients in my sanitariums that have made better progress in curing troubles, and even in gaining weight, on wholly skimmed milk than on even normally whole milk. Many people use butter in excessive amounts, without realizing that they are likely to be interfering with digestion and assimilation. Fat meats and lard used in cooking should never be used by anyone under any circumstances, though there is no objection to using moderate amounts of other fats and also oils for similar purposes.
Emulsified fat of milk (cream) and egg yolks, also butter and cream cheeses are very rich in the highly important fat-soluble vitamin, which is wholly lacking in lard, oleomargarine and cotton seed oil.
What are of great importance in the diet are foods rich in the mineral elements and in the vitamins. These foods are chiefly the leafy and tuberous vegetables and fruits of all kinds, and milk. Until comparatively recent years the conventional diet consisted of meat, potatoes, bread, butter, cake, pie and coffee or tea with sugar. With a great many people today this remains the diet used regularly. If one has a small garden or orchard or a few fruit trees they may use protective vegetables and fruits during the season of their growth. But for the greater part of the year these will be excluded from the diet in great measure. When there is a surplus of these foods during the season they may be preserved for winter use. Often, and more unwisely, the vegetables will be made into some sort of vinegared product, and the fruit will be made into jellies, jams and preserves.
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These conventional forms of food are extremely acid-forming in the body, and this is one reason for the prevalence of disease and for a constantly-increasing number of cases of organic and destructive diseases.
There is no objection to having meat and other proteins and starches as a part of the regular diet, but we require a comparatively small amount of these. They should be more than balanced by the alkalinizing, mineralizing protective fruits, vegetables and milk. These protective foods are absolutely necessary if we wish to escape toxemia and acidosis, the underlying diseas3e which gives rise to the many symptoms and groups of symptoms erroneously called disease.
The leafy vegetables have a great many attributes to recommend them. Present scientific knowledge rates them as the most essential foods known, with the exception of milk. This does not mean that one could live on a diet wholly of leafy vegetables. Man could not handle such bulk satisfactorily. But they supplement other foods and prevent deficiencies of conventional foods, hence their regular daily use cannot be too highly recommended.
The essential qualities of leafy foods are: first, the vitamins, all of which seem to be present in leaves; second, the minerals, in which the leaves are very rich; and third, the presence of cellulose, which gives bulk to the food in the same way that wheat bran does. Leaves are also rich in protein, and this protein is quite readily available. However, one could not possibly consume enough of the leafy vegetables to provide the body’s requirement of protein. The leafy foods outrank in their proportion of mineral ingredients any of the grain, fruit, nut, and meat foods. They are equaled only by milk, cheese and eggs.
In the matter of vitamins it is not necessary that one know which vitamins are present in certain foods. If one includes in the diet natural foods in abundance, there will be enough of the vitamins to supply the body’s need for these subtle elements. Without a doubt many of our vague disorders as well as some of our definite disease manifestations are due to a constant deficiency in the diet of one or more of the vitamins. All of the vitamins have much to do with growth. Children who do not receive enough of these protective elements may be stunted in one manner or another, either structurally or vitally, and their vitality is certain to suffer. They become more susceptible to disease and infection and their skeleton fails to develop the strength that is normal. Naturally the nervous system also suffers and becomes more or less unstable, making one susceptible in later life or even in early adult life to various nervous and psychic disturbances.
One may be sure that there will be an ample supply of the vitamins if such foods as the following are used regularly: Green vegetables, root vegetables, tomatoes, citrus and other fruits, milk and its products, eggs, particularly the yolks, whole grain cereals and nuts. Included in the fruits may be avocados, bananas, dates, figs and raisins. Various berries may be included, also melons. The seasons for these are short, but fortunately they are provided by Nature at a certain time of the year when the body requires very liberal amounts of watery foods and needs comparatively less of the heavier foods.
Nuts form a type of food much neglected – and for unexplainable reasons. Nuts constitute one of our most natural and wholesome foods, being comparatively rich in proteins, fats, and having vitamins and minerals and some starch. They provide protein to be preferred to meats, in addition to supplying considerable of the protective elements. One great factor in their favour is their freedom from toxic waste products, which are present in all flesh foods. The majority of people who use nuts in the conventional diet use them after meals, as tidbits or between meals as ‘snacks’. They are rich and concentrated foods and should be used as the heavier portion of the meal, in place of other protein or starches although they do not substitute for starches, yet they provide some starch and liberal quantities of carbohydrate fuel elements.
The digestibility of foods is largely an individual matter. Many foods digest without any difficulty at all with many people, and yet with others cause a considerable amount of trouble. The digestive power varies much in different individuals. One reason for prolonged digestion of certain foods in many cases is that these foods are used in too great a variety, and another is that they are insufficiently masticated. Almost any food that is a good food for anyone can be digested by any individual if taken alone or in the simplest possible combination with other foods and if thoroughly masticated. The present-day diet includes an excess of rich foods – foods that often cause other foods that normally digest very easily to be delayed in their digestion. The average dinner is an ill-assorted combination of foods, and the general develop, but that the stomach can ever be so repressed in its normal instinctive capacity for emptying itself when abused, as to retain such a meal and struggle with it until ultimately the food is digested sufficiently to be passed on.
The following simple rules may serve as a guide for selecting and proportioning foods in the planning of menus. It seems inadvisable to list hard-and-fast menus, for the reason that there are so many possible menus of proper combinations that unless one understands the underlying principles one is at a loss as to how to duplicate on substitute for these menus, and they may become monotonous if used over and over again.
Breakfasts as a rule should begin with fruit. The second course may be either a starch or a protein: either a cereal preparation, or eggs in some form or milk. If a person is doing only sedentary work, fruit and milk alone or fruit alone may be sufficient. The growing child, who needs more in proportion than the adult, should have a cereal and milk and may have a sweet fruit with the cereal. A laboring man may require and may assimilate both the starch and the protein but as a rule both are not necessary at the same meal. It is not advisable to sue coffee or tea. In place of either of these something of real value and without detriment may be taken such as milk, fruit juice, cereal coffee, cocoa or one of the malted milk products.
As for the noon-day meal, much will depend upon whether this is to be the largest meal of the day (dinner) or the lighter meal (lunch). For the majority of people an excellent lunch, which of course may vary from day to day, would be a liberal serving of salad or green vegetables – either a single vegetable or a combination salad; one or more cooked green vegetables; sweet fruit and sour milk or butter-milk. If one’s work involves labor, there may be a cereal product, such as bread or toast or a starchy vegetable, such as potato or sweet potato. When no protein is taken at breakfast, cottage or other cheese may be used, or eggs or nuts. A fruit dessert may be taken at this meal, either a raw juicy fruit or stewed or baked fruit. Any of the above meals may be taken as a luncheon, which may be taken at noon or at night for supper.
The dinner, to be taken at night or at noon, may be similar to the lunch with the exception that instead of a sweet fruit may be taken a protein, such as nuts, cheese, meat or fish, or such a starchy food as potatoes, macaroni or spaghetti.
At any meal berries or melons may be substituted for fruits, and there are so many of the green vegetables and the foods of each class, for that matter, that monotony easily can be avoided by following the plan mapped out above.
Definite rules should be observed in the matter of diet and eating habits. We may note a few of these rules:
- Never eat without an appetite created by definite need for food. This does not mean a stimulated appetite or mere habit hunger.
- Never eat when fatigued or worried or emotionally upset or when in a hurry. Normal digestion of food will not follow under such circumstances.
- Omit a meal or take nothing but fruit or fruit juice at intervals. You next meal will taste better and do you more good. In animal experimentation it has been found that if one day out of four the young animals are given nothing but water, they will grow faster and into larger, stronger animals than where they are given full rations regularly every day.
- Do not form the habit of drinking heedlessly at meal times. There is no objection to taking a limited amount of plain water if there is a definite thirst, if the mouth is empty of all solid food at the time. But it is a great mistake to wash food down into the stomach before it is properly masticated. It is better to drink a glass or two of water from thirty minutes to shortly before a meal, and another glass a little time after a meal, than to form a habit of drinking while food is being masticated.
- Do not eat late at night, or at least not less than three hours before retiring. If there is a definite hunger through having missed a meal, or if there is inability to sleep under certain conditions when the stomach is empty, there may be no objection to taking a glass of milk or a bowl of milk toast, or a bowl of simple hot vegetable soup, or something of this type even just before going to bed – provided there is no definite heart trouble and no high blood pressure.
As to the amount of food one should eat, this will depend upon the patient’s age, weight, occupation or amount of daily activity, and the gland activity by which oxidation is largely controlled. If the thyroid gland, for instance, is quite active it will burn up food much faster than if it is normal or sluggish. A course of treatment with a limited diet for a time may be very necessary for overcoming a condition of over-active thyroid. Yet the regular diet usually in such cases may need to be somewhat more liberal than where the thyroid is less active.
One should strive to reach as nearly a normal weight as possible and then keep the diet so balanced that this weight will be maintained. Normal weight does not mean the weights shown on numerous weighting machines. Such weight lists give the averages. One should use his mirror to determine his normal weight. One should have sufficient judgement of symmetry to be able to determine by the mirror what one’s normal weight should be. At least one can tell whether or not above or below normal weight for one’s height and then strive to reach the normal. It may mean modifying the diet, exercise, the sleeping habits and practically every factor concerned with health, but diet will be the most important factor in weight control. Without a doubt one feels better, is able to perform the daily duties more effectively and with less fatigue, the brain is clearer and capable of more satisfactory constructive work, relaxation will be more complete and recuperative, and in every way one should be able to put more into life and get more out of life, if the weight can be maintained at normal or approximately at normal. A well balanced diet should accomplish this, if it provides every element the body needs for building and for its manifold functions, and if all waste products and unused substances are eliminated from the body as formed or before they have time to undergo abnormal fermentation and putrefaction.
Remember that food should serve chiefly the purpose of maintaining the body in structure and in function. Learn what your body requires to get it and keep it in condition, and adhere to such a diet and general health program as to maintain the body in its maximum degree of health, energy and vitality.