Naturetherapists believe that walking barefoot in the dew, lying in cold streams naked, exposing oneself ditto to the sun’s rays, eating hay, grain, oats and other uncooked foods will cure about anything.
Most of us, however, prefer our food cooked. Cooking does two things to food:
The first is esthetic, it develops new flavors and improves its appearance.
The second is hygienicsterilizes it to some extent, makes it easier to keep longer.
Cooking undoubtedly increases the digestibility of vegetables. It probably also does that of meats by loosening the fibres.
The effect of cooking on the vegetables and fruits is mainly on the starches. Dry heat converts starch into a soluble form, ultimately to dextrin. The most familiar example of such a change is the crust of bread or toast. Both are more digestible than plain bread.
Moist heat causes starch grains to swell, and, if continued, to rupture their envelopes. The starch is then said to be gelatinized.
The gelatinization point of potatoes is a temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit, of wheat 176 degrees Fahrenheit and of oats 185 degrees.
The principal effect of cooking on protein food is coagulation. The most familiar instance of this is the change that occurs to the white of egg when cooked. The change is an improvement from the stand-point of nutrition because, as has often been proved, raw white of egg is the most difficult thing in the world to digest, while cooked egg white is easily digested. Boiled milk is much easier digested than raw milk.
Fats are not changed chemically by cooking. The only exception is that at very high temperatures they may be partially decomposed into fatty acids.
The only bad thing cooking does to food from the standpoint of nutrition is that it destroys some of the vitamins.
How HEALTH AND HAPPINESS REST ON HOUSEWIFE’S SKILL
The art of cooking cannot be too highly rated. It is so important to the preservation of food value that it might well be said that a nation’s health and happiness rest upon the culinary kill of the housewife.
People who pour off the water in which green vegetables have been cooked throw away the content of valuable natural salts; most cooks know the value of cooking potatoes in their jackets; too often vegetables are unnecessarily soaked in water, and useful matter thereby drawn out; much valuable food material is removed in the peeling.
Cooking vegetables and fruits under home conditions invariably destroys all the Vitamin C, and for that reason a raw vegetable or a raw fruit should be part of at least one meal a day.
Planning a meal so that it shall include all such necessary articles is just as important a part of a housewife’s task as the cooking of it.
Science has made important discoveries in the ways to cook foods so that they maintain the highest content of nutrition. It is one of the outstanding merits of the public educational system that practically all schools throughout the nation have provided in their curricula specified courses in domestic science, including the buying, preparation, and balancing of meals. It is a study deserving of serious thought, and one that will prove helpful to the coming generations.
This advancement of educational interest in home economics is comparatively recent, and I venture to say that there are many youngsters still in their early teens who can teach their parents much concerning foods and its proper uses. In fact, so many people have come to realize their ignorance of this subject of health and proper diet, that hundreds of adult classes have been opened to meet the demands which increasing interest in scientific cookery and dietetics have created.
Another score or so of years may produce a generation more rarely afflicted with scurvy, rickets, pellagra, and all those diseases which result from a badly balanced diet.