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The conclusions are a result of ten years' experience in laboratory examination of food materials.
The author is especially indebted to Miss S. MINNS and to Miss L. M. PEABODY for valuable aid, both in the laboratory and in the preparation of the text.
BOSTON, December, 1885.
FOOD MATERIALS AND THEIR
PRINCIPLES OF DIET
HE food of savage and semi-civilized man has
always been of the material most readily obtained; either the flesh of animals killed in the chase, or wild fruits native to his country, or the products of crude agriculture. The nations of Northern Europe, down to nearly the middle of the present century, ate rye and barley bread, as wheat could not be profitably grown in that region; and the Esquimaux today live upon the product of the seal fishery from necessity, not from choice.
Now, the food products of the whole world are accessible to the people of the United States through the use of improved methods of transportation — the refrigerator car and steamship compartment — and through improved methods of preservation — by cold storage and by the canning process.
This very abundance brings its own danger, for the appetite is no longer a sufficient guide to the selection of food, as it was in the case of the early peoples, who were not tempted by so great a variety.
No hard and fast rule of what to eat can be laid
1 For the diet of ancient peoples, see Food and Dietetics, Pavy, p. 475.
down. Not only is it true that what is meat to one is poison to another, but it is also true that what a man may eat with impunity today may cause illness tomorrow, because the man himself is in a different condition. After a day spent in pleasurable exercise in the open air one may take a meal which might jeopardize his life if taken after a day of grief, anxiety, or exposure to severe cold.
Bodily energy is supplied by the food which has been "assimilated," made a part of the body tissues. Much food eaten is never so utilized. It passes through only slightly changed or is decomposed into toxic substances that do the body harm and not good. Illnesses which come from this cause are said to be due to auto-infection.
Many diseases of modern civilization are doubtless due to errors of diet, which might easily be avoided. Numerous dietaries have been published, but nearly all are only of limited local application, so that when applied elsewhere they have failed and brought discredit upon the whole plan. Only certain broad principles can be laid down, and much intelligent study must be brought to bear upon the question in each community.1
The first general principle is suggested by Dr. Pavy, when he calls attention to the fact that the meat eaters among animals, having to hunt for their food, pass long intervals without any, and when it is obtained gorge themselves with it, and then lie torpid for days. The herbivorous animals, having their food always near them, eat all the time, and are stupid all the time.
17. G. Benedict: Journal of Physiology.