The suggestions offered in the previous chapter concerning the necessity for the enjoyment of food, give one a fairly clear idea as to what he should eat. In other words, he should select those foods that he thoroughly enjoys, keeping in mind the necessity of using only those that are at least reasonably wholesome. If you have a large variety from which to select, this will be to your advantage, provided you do not include too many foods at one meal. It is a good plan to get your variety from meal to meal and from day to day, but without including too many dishes at any one meal.
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One of the most remarkable cases of longevity with which I have ever come in contact proved in a very pointed way the value of this suggestion. This was a woman who had lived to be over eighty years of age. During the last forty years of her life she was as agile, as clear- headed and as capable as a young woman in the heyday of her youth. I am satisfied that to a large extent the unusual vitality possessed by this woman was due to her habit of eating but one article of food two meals each day, although occasionally she would eat only one. Her meals were taken irregularly, because she would eat only when she was hungry. When she had a definite appetite it would nearly always indicate to her the particular food that she wanted. She would then prepare a meal of this food and thoroughly satisfy her appetite with it. Nothing else was eaten at that meal. This woman naturally went through some very severe trials before she adopted this diet-indeed, a terrible lesson of some sort seems necessary to compel one to follow a strict dietetic regimen. At the age of forty she was a physical wreck, having been for years tortured with rheumatism. Having vainly tried every other remedy, she finally became interested in diet, and through it finally overcame her difficulty. It might also be of interest in this connection to know that she never used salt, pepper, or condiments of any sort with her meals, and it would be well to emphasize that it is important to avoid the too free use of condiments and stimulating foods.
We have used salt so long that our bodies seem adapted to it, and it is usually considered essential to the welfare of domestic stock; therefore it is a moot question as to whether it is advisable for human beings to avoid it altogether. Yet the excessive use of it to which we are prone is certainly harmful. How is this to be avoided? If we eat our food in a hand, I have found that the longer you are without it the more you long for it, until the craving becomes much more intense than is the hunger of a man who fasts (the symptoms are those of a disease rather than of being hungry). Among the uncivilized Eskimos the dislike of salt is so strong that a saltiness imperceptible to me would prevent them from eating at all. This fact was often useful to me, and when our Eskimo visitors threatened to eat us out of house and home we could put in a little pinch of salt, and thus husband our resources without seeming inhospitable. A man who tasted anything salty at our table would quickly bethink him that he had plenty of more palatable fare in his own house. On the score of what to eat I would reiterate what I have said about the use of foods in their natural condition. The refinement of various foods has made them entirely unfit for human consumption. Of first importance without doubt is the use of the whole grain of the wheat for flour. Wheat, as produced by the Almighty, is practically a perfect food, containing all the elements required by the human body and in a proportion not very far from that found in the body. In modern methods of milling, however, the effort is made to eliminate everything in the wheat grain except the pure starch, which naturally makes a fine, smooth, white flour. The miller is not absolutely successful in his endeavor, but he does succeed in robbing the product of the natural state, that is in an uncooked form, salt can be more easily avoided, but cooking in many instances modifies the flavor to such an extent that salt seems necessary. I am not prepared to admit that it is a necessity, for I know of many who avoid the use of salt altogether and who have maintained unusual vital vigor. I have known of others, however, who have tried to eliminate salt from their diet and the results have been unsatisfactory. We may therefore say that in most cases the moderate use of salt can be recommended.
One of the most interesting expressions of opinion on the subject of salt that I have seen was a statement by Stefanson, the Arctic explorer, in his "My Quest in the Arctic," in which he discusses the diet of the Eskimos and their constitutional aversion to salt.
"Most people are in the habit of looking upon the articles of our customary diet, and especially upon salt, as necessities. We have not found them so. The longer you go without green foods and vegetables the less you long for them. Salt I have found to behave like a narcotic poison; in other words, it is as hard to break off its use as it is hard to stop the use of tobacco. But after you have been a month or so without salt you cease to long for it, and after six months I have found the taste of meat boiled in salt water positively disagreeable. In the case of such a necessary element of food as fat on the other hand, I have found that the longer you are without it the more you long for it, until the craving becomes much more intense than is the hunger of a man who fasts (the symptoms are those of a disease rather than of being hungry). Among the uncivilized Eskimos the dislike of salt is so strong that a saltiness imperceptible to me would prevent them from eating at all. This fact was often useful to me, and when our Eskimo visitors threatened to eat us out of house and home we could put in a little pinch of salt, and thus husband our resources without seeming inhospitable. A man who tasted anything salty at our table would quickly bethink him that he had plenty of more palatable fare in his own house."
On the score of what to eat I would reiterate what I have said about the use of foods in their natural condition. The refinement of various foods has made them entirely unfit for human consumption. Of first importance without doubt is the use of the whole grain of the wheat for flour. Wheat, as produced by the Almighty, is practically a perfect food, containing all the elements required by the human body and in a proportion not very far from that found in the body. In modern methods of milling, however, the effort is made to eliminate everything in the wheat grain except the pure starch, which naturally makes a fine, smooth, white flour. The miller is not absolutely successful in his endeavor, but he does succeed in robbing the product of the larger part of its food value, until it is absolutely incapable of sustaining life, and this serious mistake is without question the prime cause of the prevalence of constipation. The refining of rice by removing the coating, which contains organic salts, is another process by which is produced a food that is almost pure starch. The disease beriberi is now recognized as being due to a diet of polished rice. Where the natural unpolished rice is used this disease is both prevented and cured. In refining our sugar a similar denaturing process 'is carried on. The same is true in the grinding of corn, and in preparing a whole host of other foods. The practice of "refining" is the great food crime of the age. In addition to this the average housewife adds to our difficulties when preparing vegetables and other foods, by "draining" off the water in which they are cooked, thus throwing away the invaluable mineral elements which have been dissolved in the liquor during the process of cooking. The ultimate result of these crimes of the manufacturer and mistakes of the cook, is that the people are to a large extent starved, as far as mineral salts are concerned, in spite of the enormous food supply and the payment of the highest prices.
Though bread is supposed to be the "staff of life," it might reasonably be termed the "staff of death" when it is made entirely from white flour and is depended upon exclusively for nourishment. It is well to point out also that bread of all kinds should be avoided in some cases of weak digestion. Under such circumstances it often irritates the lining of the stomach and intestines. When symptoms of this kind are noticed bread must not be used-more especially when made with yeast. When the bread is made without yeast and is masticated very thoroughly it may do no harm. There are instances also in which there is a Strong craving for white bread and when graham or whole-wheat bread is not appetizing. When one has an abundant variety of foods and the alimentary canal is unusually active the desire for white bread can be satisfied without harmful results. In fact when the diet is varied by numerous articles of food at one meal considerable white bread can be used if it is appetizing. Those taking the treatment for constipation recommended in this book often stimulate the alimentary canal to such an extent that graham or whole-wheat products are slightly irritating in their effect. As long as such symptoms exist white bread can be used. Remember, however, that whenever there is the slightest sign of constipation white flour products of all kinds should immediately be eliminated from the diet.
As nearly as possible foods should be used in their natural condition. Those that can be enjoyed when uncooked are more valuable when eaten without cooking. When cooking is necessary the food should be cooked in such a way that there is no waste nor loss of the natural elements. Steaming and baking are both preferable in many cases to boiling; cooking in a double boiler may be especially recommended in the case of vegetables, as these are in such a case cooked in their own juices. Therefore my most important suggestions on what to eat would be: first, to select only natural foods; and second, to avoid too much variety at one meal. As to what sort of a diet one should adopt, I might say that the proper answer to a question of this kind depends largely upon one's individual condition and requirements.
Unquestionably a perfect diet is furnished by nuts and fruits. From a theoretical standpoint this would appear to be ideal. I would say, however, that very few persons can be thoroughly nourished on a limited diet of this sort, and therefore it cannot be universally recommended.
Perhaps the next diet that closely approximates perfection would be a raw or uncooked diet. This would include all the foods that can be made palatable without cooking, such as nuts and fruits of all kinds, vegetable salads, cereals and dairy products. A diet of this sort can be continued indefinitely in some cases, and where one can be thoroughly nourished on this regimen it can be highly recommended. Foods in their raw state possess a tremendous amount of vitality-building elements. They are live foods, consequently they give one life, energy, vivacity. One can usually fast longer with a smaller loss of weight and energy after a raw than after a cooked diet. But in many instances this diet does not maintain the weight and the bodily energies at high-water mark; consequently in such cases it often proves unsatisfactory, even where its first effects are pleasing to an unusual degree.
Nearly all restrictive diets are valuable for a short period where there is evidence of overeating. On this account many enthusiasts who adopt a restricted diet and who note their improved appearance and general increase of energy for a time, will be profoundly impressed with the idea that at last they have found a perfect diet. On account of their enthusiasm they will often continue such a strict dietetic regimen until it is productive of seriously harmful results. It should be kept in mind that any diet which is really adequate for all requirements will maintain your normal weight and your energy. In other words, you should feel well and look well, if your diet is as it should be. This is an invariable test, and can be depended upon absolutely.
Probably the next diet that can be recommended in many cases would be a meatless or vegetarian diet. There is absolutely no question as to the superiority of this plan over a regimen that includes meat, provided again that you can be fully nourished and that you feel energetic and capable. A vegetarian diet will usually make a better quality of tissue; you will have more endurance, and there is but little doubt that a healthy vegetarian will outlive a meat-eater, since his vital organs remain in a healthier condition for a longer period than those of one accustomed to a free use of meat.
We must admit, however, that many cannot maintain their weight and keep their full allowance of energy on a vegetarian diet. Where you find a vegetarian whose skin is white, whose lips are colorless, who is thin and seemingly in need of nourishment, you can rest assured that the diet is not agreeing with him. Such persons in virtually every instance need animal food of some sort. It is therefore wise, if you are searching for a diet that is capable of developing in you the greatest degree of mental and physical efficiency, to make a careful study of your individual condition and requirements. After you have acquired sufficient knowledge on the subject it might even be well to do some experimenting, and in that way determine what particular diet is best suited to your needs.
It is extremely difficult, however, for one to adopt a regimen which is radically different from that of those with whom he associates. You may have sufficient enthusiasm for a time to subsist on a nut-and-fruit diet or on an uncooked diet, but when your own family and friends are using other foods at all times the temptation to vary your own diet is sometimes too strong to resist, consequently you will be inclined gradually to resume the general regimen of those with whom you live.
One can, however, maintain good health without being what might be termed a dietetic crank. To be sure, where one is suffering from a disease or is definitely in need of some special diet in order to secure certain results, a very rigid diet is of great importance and should be adhered to strictly. After such results have been achieved, however, and after normal health is regained, you can secure at almost any well supplied table a selection of foods which will furnish satisfactory nourishment.
Some intelligence in selection, however, is necessary. There are a few articles of food that it would always be well to avoid. For instance, nearly all white-flour products are to be condemned. This means not only bread but biscuits, cakes, crackers, and pastries made of white flour. Unquestionably, if one is using meat freely, white-flour products are not nearly so harmful as when taken with a vegetarian diet. The meat supplies some of the deficiencies, though not all. At one time I had an experiment made which proved in a striking manner the defective character of white flour as a food. The subject tested the results of a fast of two weeks. He weighed himself before and after the fast and several times during its progress. He accurately determined his strength at all times, before, during, and at the completion of the fast. A considerable time thereafter he experimented with a diet of white-flour products for the same period of two weeks, eating white flour as commonly prepared, in the form of bread, cakes, etc. The result showed that he lost more weight and more strength while following the white-flour regimen than he had while fasting absolutely. This would seem to indicate that, in this case, at least, white-flour products were not a food, but a slow- acting poison.
Among foods especially valuable I would call attention to green salads. If possible one should eat some food of this kind each day, more especially during warm weather. They are of great value as blood purifiers and they supply to a very large extent the mineral salts. Various combinations can be used in the form of salads, and the most satisfactory dressing is probably a combination of olive oil and lemon juice. I do not recommend vinegar partly because it is seldom pure, and one never can tell what combination of chemicals it contains. Lemon juice is preferable even to the best vinegar for the purpose of salad dressing. Celery, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, water-cress, parsley, cucumbers, and other foods of this character are suitable for salad purposes. Spinach, dandelion leaves, and other greens can be recommended in their cooked form, and it is unnecessary to add that virtually all cooked vegetables are of value.
Fruits of all kinds can be recommended for the same reasons that make the green salads so useful to the body. They are of the very greatest value where there is any tendency toward biliousness. In many cases of this kind where it is undesirable to undertake an absolute fast as a means of setting the stomach right and where there is a lack of appetite, a fruit fast can be highly recommended. This is simply an exclusive diet of fresh acid fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, grapes, cherries, apples and other fresh fruits in season. It is especially important to know in such a case that these fruits should be eaten in their strictly natural condition, properly ripened and without the addition of sugar. As a general thing a sufficient allowance of fruit and green salads will so balance the diet that one is not likely to have any trouble even if he eats heartily of the foods served at the ordinary table.
It would be well also to remember that acid fruits have valuable antiseptic (cleansing) qualities. They keep the mouth and teeth as well as the alimentary canal in a wholesome state. In fact the frequent use of acid fruit, more especially the orange, is of great value in counteracting the effects of digestive difficulties on the mouth and teeth. If a small piece of orange is taken whenever there is an unpleasant taste in the mouth it will destroy the germ life that is being rapidly propagated under such circumstances, though such symptoms indicate also the need of acid fruit of some sort by the stomach. Especially is this required if there is a craving for fruit of this sort. In such cases the rule against eating between meals may be disregarded. Whenever you have a strong desire for acid fruits between meals you are usually safe in using them. In fact they are often sorely needed under such circumstances to assist in digesting a meal that may have been eaten some hours previously. Indigestion which leaves the mouth with a foul, unpleasant taste is often noticed on awakening at night after a hearty meal the evening before. On such occasions a few swallows of water, or whatever is needed to satisfy thirst, and a small quantity of acid fruit, like the orange, are of great value. They should be well mixed and moved about in the mouth until the acid comes in contact with every part of the mouth and teeth.
When there is the slightest sign of digestive difficulties I would advise that each meal be completed with a small quantity of fruit. If you stop your meal at a time when you can enjoy the taste of acid fruit it is usually a definite proof that you have not overeaten.
Remember too that the orange, lemon and any fruit with a strong acid flavor is a splendid tooth or mouth wash, and it need not be ejected as an ordinary wash. It can be enjoyed and swallowed after mouth and teeth have been cleansed. Therefore the frequent use of oranges as a dentifrice is a habit of great value. Use them on retiring and on rising and the results will be unusually pleasing.
What foods can be used as substitutes for meat? This is a question that assumes considerable importance to those desirous of testing the vegetarian diet. I may say that almost any food that is wholesome and hearty in character and which is craved by your appetite will make a satisfactory meat substitute. Those containing a large percentage of protein are particularly desirable for this purpose. The following list will give one a general idea as to the nature of these foods: Cereals of all kinds, either in the whole grain or in the form of flaked grain, contain a fair percentage of protein and may be recommended for the purpose, although refined flour or polished grains are of no value in this way. Bread made from the whole wheat or any of the whole grains may be recommended. The "war bread" used in Europe since the outbreak of the great war is of this type. The pumpernickel and "black breads" used in various parts of Europe are so valuable from a nutritive standpoint that one can live on them entirely. Many of the farming and peasant classes of Europe live almost exclusively on breads of this type. Nearly all the prepared foods ordinarily referred to as breakfast foods, and which are made up of whole grains of wheat, corn, oats or barley would come under this class. No breakfast food made of only a part of the wheat would be recommended for this purpose.
All kinds of beans are splendid meat substitutes, including navy beans, lima beans and kidney beans. They are what one may call hearty foods and as a rule one should lead a fairly active life to enjoy and digest them satisfactorily. The same may be said of dried peas. Lentils belong in the same class and are very similar to the bean in its nourishing elements. Beans, peas and lentils form a class known as the legumes, and contain a high percentage of protein.
Nuts of all kinds make splendid meat substitutes, though they may sometimes be found rich for a weak stomach. They need to be used in small quantities and should be eaten only at meal-time. Peanuts really belong to the legume family, but are quite as good as any kind of nuts. The only mistake in their use lies in the habit of eating them between meals. Peanut butter and nut butters are of value. When nuts are easily digested they are satisfactory in every way.
Perhaps the most popular meat substitute is the egg. Do not, however, entertain the idea that you are not eating any meat products when eggs are included in your diet. Eggs must be classed as animal food, but they are very nourishing. They contain a good supply of lime, sulphur, iron, phosphorus and other mineral salts in addition to their protein and fats. It may also be said that milk should be classed as animal food, though it is of special value from a nutritive standpoint. Milk, cheese and other milk products naturally make good substitutes for meat. Butter is a practically pure fat and will not take the place of meat in supplying protein, although it will take the place of the fatty portions of the meat. Cheese is often appropriately placed at the last part of the meal, and the statement that it will to a certain extent help to digest a hearty meal if but a small quantity is taken has been proven accurate in numerous cases.
As a milk product buttermilk may be particularly recommended as a meat substitute if one uses a considerable quantity of it. We should distinguish, however, between real buttermilk and the fermented milk or sour milk which is often sold in cities under the name of buttermilk. Fermented milk is highly recommended for all food purposes and is undoubtedly conducive to health, but from the standpoint of nutrition it has practically the same value as fresh milk. The true buttermilk, however, from which the fat-forming elements have been extracted in the form of butter, is a more purely protein product. If you use sufficient buttermilk, that is to say, two quarts or more a day, you can rest assured that you will not crave meat.
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