“I GUESS I’m sort of a faddist,” said Dave Owens. “Fads are my hobby. You know how it is. First one thing and then an-other, from crossword puzzles and do-it-yourself gadgets to diets.”
“There’s nothing wrong about either hobbies or diets,” I said, “unless you carry them to excess.”
A good look at Dave was evidence that he had gone over-board on some diet fad. His posture droop showed extreme lassitude, and his body was soft and flabby. Loss of tissue had lined his once cherubic face. His muscles sagged, and his whole appearance was one of weakness and dejection.
“My friend Joe,” Dave said, “is a vegetarian. He got me started on it. For months I ate nothing but vegetables.”
“Vegetarianism is a vicious fad,” I said, “which is responsible for malnutrition, anemia, and countless borderline deficiencies which gradually build up into major disorders. You should have known better.”
“Joe told me,” said Dave, “that I’d lose weight and feel better than I ever had. He kept talking about famous vegetarians like George Bernard Shaw, who was healthy and mentally alert in his nineties.”
“But did he tell you,” I asked, “that Shaw had to cheat on his diet? To stay well, he had to augment his vegetable diet with liver shots.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Dave, “and I guess Joe didn’t, either. I’ll tell him when I go to the hospital to see him.” “Joe’s in the hospital?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Dave. “He’s in pretty bad shape. That’s why I got scared and came to you. I don’t feel very well myself. I thought I just needed a little more fresh air and exercise, but I found out I didn’t have enough strength to exercise. That’s when I began to think there might be something wrong with a vegetarian diet.”
“There certainly is!” I said. “You’ve lost your energy because you don’t have the specific dynamic action that you get only from eating proteins. There’s not much nourishment in vegetables alone. You must have the complete proteins that you obtain from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products. You need proteins for strength, for complete digestion, for life itself!”
Protein is a substance that is found in every part of the body: brain, blood, organs, glands, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, bones, fingernails, hair, and skin. Blood and muscles are one-fifth protein; the brain is one-twelfth protein. Protein is the very basis of all the cell structure, or protoplasm, that makes up the human body.
The word “protein” was coined in 1828 from the Greek. It means “to come first.” This substance is so necessary for the function and the replacement of the body’s cells that we must feed our bodies protein first, last, and always. All the living cells undergo constant change throughout their entire life span, and are in perpetual need of renewal.
“What would you think,” I asked, “if you were told to make a marble table top out of sand?”
“Ridiculous!” said Dave. “It couldn’t be done.”
“But don’t you see,” I asked, “that you’ve been using just as ridiculous a substitute in a futile effort to maintain and reconstruct the tissues of your body?”
“I’m beginning to see,” said Dave. “I just never knew much about protein.”
“Everybody should be taught,” I said, “that protein is the food of life. It’s found only in living tissuesmeats, fish, and fowl; in the foods that support new lifeeggs and milk and milk products; and in the seeds that develop new lifewheat germ, sprouted seeds, nuts, grains, peas, beans, and legumes. Atoms of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon are combined in the large protein molecules, which are 45 times as large as a molecule of fat and 12o times as large as a molecule of sugar.”
“The food of life,” said Dave. “And me trying to exist on vegetables!”
“Vegetables,” I said, “fill a definite need in your diet as sources of viatmins, minerals, and regulatory substances which you must have. It’s simply foolhardy to try to exist on vegetables alone. You must have protein to liveand to make life. Protein is your key to success both in living and in loving. It’s the essential ingredient that makes you a doer, a creator, and a man!”
Why is protein utilized so fully by the body? Because all proteins are composed of building blocks called amino acids, and out of the twenty-three different amino acids the body can construct more than five hundred different combinations.
These protein-molecule combinations can be strung together to make trillions of arrangements. The hair on your head is an almost pure protein called keratin. A fibrous protein called collagen makes up cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
The essential building blocks, or amino acids, can be obtained only from living tissue. Meats, fish, fowl, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products are called the complete proteins. They contain the essential amino acids in concertready to build up your body’s tissues.
Unlike fat, protein cannot be stored in the body. All the protein that your body can get is used for its work twenty-four hours a day. The body needs protein constantly as a tissue builder. The more protein you give your body to work with, the better the quality of its repairs.
For the prizefighter who trains on a high-protein diet, it can build muscles of steel. Protein can restore strength and vigor to the emaciated body.
During World War II amino acids performed miracles in the healing of wounds. Predigested proteins, or amino acids, are given to patients who have sustained accidental injuries or wounds after surgery, to speed the mending of their tissues. Following World War II American scientists had the Government send great quantities of prepared amino acids to the protein-starved people in the war-devastated areas of Europe and Asia.
Severe cases of protein hunger result in edema, or water-logging of the tissues. Proteins build muscle tissue. They also make up the materials used by the endocrine glands in the manufacture of hormones. Hormones are secreted by these glands. These hormones are chemical messengers which control your internal activitiesand even your personalities.
One of the amino acids, tyrosine, contributes most to thyroxine, the active principle of the internal secretion of the thyroid gland, which plays such a vital part in controlling the body’s metabolic processes.
The hemoglobin of the blood, the red coloring matter of the red blood corpuscles, is largely protein. Sufficient proteins have to be present in the blood for it to clot readily.
Protein is essential for the growth of antibodies in the bloodour defense against bacteria and toxins.
Most important of all is the role that proteins play in the construction of the enzymes that make digestion and metabolism possible. These are the globular proteins; they give the cells the means to utilize the other building-block proteins. An enzyme is a complex protein molecule that acts as a biological catalysta substance that accelerates chemical changes in its environment.
When you lack enough protein enzymes to make digestion possible and to rebuild the digested foods into the substances your body needs, you suffer from various starvation symptoms.
You can see a protein. The white of an egg is almost pure protein; it’s composed of a series of different amino acids.
After protein is eaten the digestive juices of the stomach and intestines go to work on it. These juices break the food protein down into its amino acids. The body takes these amino acids, and with the help of the digestive juices, the enzymes, and the hormones, it puts them back together in a different combination so that they can become part of the protoplasm.
Your body will send one reconstituted protein substance into the blood to replace your red blood cells. It will send another to the brain to replace worn-out cells. Still another reconstituted protein is sent to a gland, where it will help form a gland secretion.
Don’t deprive any part of your body by an insufficient protein intake. You must have protein every day to fulfill your body’s needs!
By starving your body, you cause your most important organs to become undernourished; thus your heart, kidneys, liver, or glandular organs may be affected. If you’re on a high-carbohydrate diet, watch for a protein deficiency. Such a diet neither gives you enough protein nor affords the essential amino acids in the protein you do consume.
The list of diseases resulting from protein deficiency is almost endless. Your muscles become weak and flabby, you cannot hold your body erect, and you suffer from poor posture. Flaccid intestinal muscles, causing constipation, can also be traced to insufficient protein in the diet.
You get more protein from some foods than from others. Legumes are 78 per cent incomplete protein; vegetables, 83 per cent incomplete protein; fruits, 85 per cent. But the protein you receive from meat is 97 per cent digestible complete protein.
Complete proteins contain the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein in concert.
With the exception of the organ meats, most meats contain the same amounts of the essential proteins. Liver, heart, kidneys, and brain have a higher amino acid content. Powdered skim milk, contains the same amount of protein as whole milk and costs considerably less. Fish is an excellent inexpensive source of high-quality protein. Whole-wheat bread contains far more protein than white bread.
Gelatin, beans, and cereals furnish us with proteins, but they are deficient in the essential amino acids. For that reason they should be used only to supplement a meal that already has the complete proteinsmeat, fish, fowl, eggs, milk, and other dairy foods.
“The National Research Council says that children must get 100 grams of protein a day,” I told Dave, “and adults 70grams, if they’re not to suffer from some kind of deficiency disease. But in your case, since you’ve been deprived of complete proteins on your vegetable diet, I recommend at least 100 grams a day. And don’t forget that meat is 97 per cent digestible complete protein. You should eat meat twice a day, at least until you recover from this deficiency of yours.”
“How can I know,” asked Dave, “the amount of protein I’m getting in the food I eat, that it adds up to that 100 grams?”
“I’ll give you a list of first-class protein foods,” I said, “with the amount of protein each contains.”
On the next page is the table I made out for Daveand for the 60 to 80 per cent of the American people who get far too little protein in their diets:
“It’s usually a lack of knowledge,” I said, “rather than a lack of money, which limits your daily supply of protein. The late Dr. Logan Clendening, prominent author-physician, said that any warnings against eating meat are not only absurd, but positively harmful. Unfortunately you found that out yourself the hard way by almost wrecking your health.”
“I thought,” said Dave, “that I was getting all the vitamins I needed from vegetables. I hadn’t ever heard about the body’s need for protein every day.”
“Protein, vitamins, and minerals are all indispensable for health. Vitamins have to do with those biochemical trans-formations of food and energy into the many forms of activity essential to the normally functioning human body.”
Since 1910 the organic chemical substances called vitamins have been researched by biochemists. Yet today there are still 999 persons out of every 1,000 who lack proper nutrition. Few are receiving all the proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary for optimum health.
Scientists are continually showing us what an immense amount of avoidable suffering and death is due unquestionably to unbalanced diets. The United Nations World Health
*A fully comprehensive charting of protein foods is to be found in the author’s Eat and Grow Youngera valuable companion volume to this book.
Organization has proved by large-scale feeding tests that when certain additions and improvements are made in a nation’s diet, unquestionable benefits follow in health, stamina, stature, physique, and happinessall adding up to a sturdier race.
Fifty years ago rickets of the most severe type were common in our cities. Today this deforming childhood disease is rare. During the past forty years beriberi and pellagra have been found to be preventable. In hospitals and clinics the vitamin story is so well known that people under medical supervision no longer sicken and die because of a lack of them.
But how well does the average man know the vitamin story? Not nearly well enough. You should know that these minute catalysts, so vital to your body’s metabolism, can play an important role in preventing what is becoming the No.1 health problem of this countrychronic disease.
Chronic disease is not an exclusive problem of old age. Dr. Arnold B. Kurlander, of the United States Public Health Service, points out that more than three-quarters of the sufferers of chronic illnesses are between the ages of fifteen and sixty-fourthe productive working period of life.
One of the principal faults in American cooking lies in the preparation of vegetables. When they are boiled 50 to 90 per cent of the vitamins and minerals and much of the flavor are lost. Fresh vegetables or a fresh garden salad can supply you with vitamins and minerals; but when these vegetables are stored or overcooked, the vital nutrients are missing from them.
“Vitamins,” I went on, “are accessory food substances. They’re necessary for the metabolism of food and for the performance of important body functions. But they aren’t of value unless there’s food to work on. They can’t be substituted for complete protein foods.”
“Well,” said Dave, “I didn’t know anything about protein. Now it looks as though I was pretty confused about vitamins, too.”
“A lot of people are,” I said. “And much of that confusion is caused by failure to understand the basic nature of vitamins as essential nutrients. Remember, vitamins do not pro-duce energy or body tissues. However, you can’t manufacture either energy or tissue in your body without them. They aren’t the materials of life; they are the catalysts which change the foods you eat into the materials to sustain your body.”
“And right now,” commented Dave, “my body could sure use some sustaining.”
“You should take a reliable vitamin-mineral supplement,” I said. “If we could get our foods fresh daily from a farm where they were grown in good, mineral-rich soil, we could rely on them for all our vitamin requirements. But most food suffers losses of important dietary essentials through premature harvesting, long storage, processing, kitchen preparation, and cooking.”
Proper food is essential for health. Vitamins are essential for the efficient and optimal utilization of the food taken in by the body. Vitamins do not constitute your diet. They do supplement it.
“So I should eat lots of protein,” said Dave, “especially meat. And take a vitamin-and-mineral supplement. Do you think all this will help me?”
“That’s like asking,” I said, “if John L. Lewis has eyebrows! There’s no doubt of it. Naturally the protein and vitamin requirements are higher in treating a deficiency than they would be in preventing one.”
“I should know that,” said Dave. “I’ve always heard, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Exactly,” I said. “And you can prevent the deficiency diseases if you’ll learn how to use your proteins, vitamins, and minerals. You’ll find a renewal of strength and vigor. And you’ll never again be content to lead a subnormal, dejected, defeated life behind a hidden-hunger curtain!”