WHEN we learn that health and strength come to us from the food digested, rather than from the amount eaten, more attention will be given to the quantity and quality taken, and the harmonious agreement of foods one with the other. The body must receive its due share of growth and repair foods, the proteins; there must be the proper proportion of carbohydrates and fat, producers of heat and energy ; blended with these, there must be such mineral matters as are necessary for the building and repair of the bones and the teeth, and a proper bulk to stimulate active elimination.
Not only does the body need all these elements, but for perfect health, they must be taken into the stomach in right chemical combinations. One may as well expect a wolf and a lamb to lie down together in peace, as to put warring food elements into the stomach and look for rest and the blessings of peace. Many a person who thinks that a certain food does not agree with him, may find that the trouble is not with the food, but in the fact that the foods eaten have disagreed with one another. Many foods which in themselves are good, may become actually poisonous if mixed indiscriminately with a number of other foods, and produce fermentation, gas, and other ills, leading to more or less serious consequences.
W. O. Atwater, Ph. D., nutrition expert of the experiment station, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C., writes to the point as follows:
“How much harm is done by the injurious compounds sometimes formed from ordinary wholesome foods is seldom realized. Physiological chemistry is revealing the fact that these compounds may affect even the brain and nerves, and that some forms of insanity are caused by products formed by the abnormal transformations of food and body material.” Farmers’ Bulletin, No. 142.
Many a fond mother praying for the health and happiness of her children, may take the issue out of God’s hand, so to speak, by unthinkingly permitting the indulgence of capricious appetite, which sows the seeds of ill health, with the misery and life failure that must inevitably follow. Many a woman, perhaps devoted to the cause of temperance, is unwittingly a party to the manufacture of alcohol in one of its most mischievous forms, at her own table.
The truth of it is, though often forgotten or not understood, that to put a random blending of fruits, vegetables, starches, and sweets into the warm confines of the stomach, causes them to ferment and develop alcohol there, no less than in the brewer’s vat. The effect upon the body is similar to that upon the brain when distilled liquor is taken; the drunken cells are unable to perform their proper functions, and auto-intoxication is produced, often leading to various forms of disease.
As a usual thing, the simpler the meal, the better it is for the health. A few dishes, each perfect of its kind, and all in harmony, are far better than the serving of many courses, with the menace of a superfluous quantity. Dr. Alexander Haig says on this point, “I may say also, that simple food of not more than two or three kinds at one meal is another secret of health.” “Diet and Food,” page 89.
GOOD COMBINATIONS OF FOODS
Cereals combine well with all other foods. Nuts combine well with all other foods. Eggs combine well with all other foods. Fruits combine well with cereals and nuts. Vegetables combine well with cereals and nuts. Milk combines well with cereals.
POOR COMBINATIONS OF FOOD
Acids and starches mixed before mastication. Fruits and vegetables, especially the coarser kinds of vegetables. Sugar and milk together in excess. Foods cooked (soaked) in fats.
ACIDS AND STARCHES
While fruits and cereals combine well when taken at the same meal, a careful study of the physiology of digestion shows the wisdom of submitting all starchy foods to thorough mouth treatment before they are mixed with acids of any kind. Starches are dependent upon the action of saliva for their proper digestion. There are three sets of glands which secrete saliva, the sublingual, the submaxillary, and the parotid. The first two sets are under the tongue, at the sides and in front, and they serve to keep the mouth moist, but are said to be of little aid in the digestion of starches. The third, or parotid gland is just below and in front of the ears, and contains the serous secretion in which we find the ptyalin that acts upon starches. When starchy food is chewed, this secretion flows freely, unless acid is mixed with it, in which case this part of the digestion is interfered with. A strong acid reaction retards or prevents the action of ptyalin on starches. Hence it would seem best not to mix them with acid, or with acid fruits, before mastication.
The following is from a well-known authoritative text on physiology :
“The most marked influence [in retarding starch digestion] is exerted by acids. Free hydrochloric acid to the extent of only 0.003% (Chittenden) is sufficient to stop the amylolytic action of the enzyme (the converting of starch into sugar), and a slight further increase in acidity not only stops the action, but also destroys the enzyme.” “Howell’s Physiology,” sixth edition, page 767.
It should be remembered in this connection, however, that “free hydrochloric acid” is an inorganic acid, and consequently much stronger than the organic acids found in fruits. Nevertheless, when fruit juices are mixed with soluble starches (cereals cooked in water or steam) in the same manner as milk is used with them, they tend to interfere with the ptyalin, and fermentation quite naturally results.
A question often arises in regard to the cooking of certain starchy foods and acids together, as in Spanish rice, fruit toast, macaroni in tomato, lemon pie, etc. But this procedure is justifiable when these dishes are properly compounded. The rice for this entrée is to be cooked to a light brown over a dry heat before it is added to the tomato sauce, and this partially changes the starch of the rice to dextrin before it is brought into contact with the acid. Likewise in the making of fruit toast, zwieback, or bread twice baked, is used, and thus the starch is partially predigested before it is mixed with acid.
As to the use of macaroni in tomato, and of starch in the making of lemon pie, it will be recognized that these dishes, to be palatable, require a moderate proportion of fat; and the rich sauce on the macaroni, and the free fat added to the lemon pie, serve to neutralize the acid effect, in the same manner as cream neutralizes the action of the acid of tomato in cream of tomato soup. Fats, moreover, tend to lessen the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach; and for this reason, persons who cannot tolerate the acid of fresh or stewed tomato, often experience no trouble whatever in taking it in the form of cream soup.
When soluble starches are thoroughly mixed with saliva, their digestion continues for a length of time after the food enters the stomach. The acid from the glands of the stomach penetrates the mass of food only gradually; but when the contents of the stomach have become acidified, starch digestion ceases there. This emphasizes the need of thorough mouth treatment of all starchy foods, in order that they may be properly acted upon by the ptyalin of saliva before the stomach is made too acid for their proper digestion.