Fundamentals Of Correct Eating
( Originally Published 1927 )
If we properly prepare, combine, and eat our foods, the digestive organs and the blood will do the rest, changing the foods into compounds needed by the system, and carrying these compounds to the parts of the body that require them.
The rules in this chapter are simple, but very important. So necessary are these rules for building and maintaining health that they have appeared in every health book that has come from my hands.
The time of eating depends upon the individual's work. The ideal way would be to eat only when one has a strong desire for food, but under present conditions of living it is necessary for most of us to have regular meal times.
Three or four meals daily are sufficient even for young children. Feeding the little ones six or more times a day, as many mothers do, always leads to overeating and sickness. Children should be fed not to exceed four times a day, and nothing but water at night.
Adults should not eat more than three times a day. Eating is part necessity and part habit, and we have allowed it to become largely a bad habit. Those who eat between meals are indulging in the bad habit part. Outside of meals, only water should be taken.
Most people prefer three meals a day, and this is all right if the meals are moderate. Those who do light work in town or city should eat only one "square" meal a day. The other two meals should be lunches.
Many live on two meals a day, and it is sufficient for those who prefer this mode of living. In a short time the desire for the third meal disappears. The best plan for those who take but two meals a day is an early lunch and evening dinner. There is no keen hunger in the early morning. Heavy breakfasting is a poor way to begin the day, for it clogs both body and brain.
Be regular, as a rule, for regularity is best in routine matters.
Arrange the meals so that there is an interval of at least four hours between any two of them. This is to allow one meal to vacate the upper digestive tract before another one is taken.
Eating before going to bed is a mistake. The system objects to this. Nearly all who indulge in food immediately before retiring awake feeling dull and unrefreshed next morning.
The big meal of the day should be taken when there are no more heavy cares, when the hard work of the day is finished. This is generally in the evening. No brain worker can digest a heavy meal and do first-class thinking at the same time.
The moral is: Eat light breakfasts and lunches, if doing mental work.
Heavy physical work also retards digestion. The manual laborer who wishes to retain his health must avoid overeating when he is doing heavy work. He too should take his heartiest meal after the day's work is done.
It would seem that everybody knows how to eat. But only a few have and practice this valuable knowledge. It is important but simple. Let it sink in and apply it. It will prevent sickness and sorrow. It will add to one's health, happiness and length of days.
The first and most important eating rule is:
Eat very slowly, and thoroughly masticate all food. Forty minutes should be spent in eating a hearty dinner. Breakfast and lunch should also be eaten slowly. Never bolt any food.
Thorough mastication is especially necessary for the following foods : All kinds of cereals and breadstuffs (everything made of grains) ; potatoes of all kinds; all varieties of dried beans, peas and lentils; peanuts and nuts. Fruits and vegetables should also be well masticated.
The reason for such thorough mastication of sugars and starches is that their digestion begins in the mouth. The saliva begins to turn the starches and sugars into maltose (malt sugar), a form of sugar that the blood will accept. If this process does not begin in the mouth, another form of change may ensue in the stomach and bowels—that is, acid or alcohol fermentation.
Thorough mastication also helps to overcome the tendency to overeat. This tendency is al-most universal under civilized conditions, hence it is difficult to put too great stress on the importance of masticating well.
Guard against overeating. The amount of food needed varies with climate, work, size of individual, temperament, age and other file-tors. The young need more food than the old; winter more is needed than in summer; the manual laborer needs more than the office worker.
To guard against overeating, observe the following: Masticate well and stop eating before feeling uncomfortable, that is, while you still feel that you could with relish eat more. If you become sleepy immediately after eating or if you fill up with gas or have heartburn or develop pain, you have eaten too much. The remedy is to reduce the food intake until there is no, discomfort after meals.
It is all right to take water at the beginning of a meal or at the end, but it is best not to drink while eating. Avoid washing down food with liquid. Masticate so well that the food needs no liquid aid to enter the stomach.
The smaller the variety of foods at a meal the better. The more foods taken at one time, the harder it is to digest the meal, and the greater the tendency to overeat. Various foods are digested in different ways and in different parts of the digestive tract, and they require different periods in which to be well digested. When the variety of food is very great the digestive juices are unable to adapt themselves to all the foods eaten, before fermentation takes place.
Indigestion and overeating are at the bottom of many of our ills. Course dinners, in which from ten to twenty different varieties of foods are served, should not be eaten. Three or four different kinds of food will satisfy any normal palate, and furnish all the food elements the body needs. It is not necessary to eat as many as six or eight varieties in a meal and it should not be done habitually. The simpler the cooking and the fewer the foods in a meal, the better the health.
A common meal is : Soup with crackers, bread, meat, potatoes, a cooked succulent vegetable in "cream" sauce, salad, dessert and a cup of coffee. No human being needs such elaborate meals and no one can habitually eat this way without suffering for it. If the crackers, bread and coffee were omitted it would be a fairly good dinner.
We also make a grave mistake in dressing the foods. Salt, pepper, other condiments, pickles, vinegar, hot sauces and an excessive amount of sweets are used in the average household. Most of these stimulate the appetite so that overeating is inevitable. Pepper is very stim ulating, and should be used sparingly. The same is true of all "hot" sauces. The body needs but little salt, so it should be used in moderation. Sugar is a good food, but it is a stimulant and irritant in its refined, concentrated form, hence it should be used in moderation. The natural sugars are best.
Never eat a hearty meal when worn out or when mentally or emotionally upset. It is best to rest until body and mind regain their poise.
Those who are so busy that they are unable to take time to eat properly always have time to die.
Either take time to eat properly or do not eat. It is better to go without food than to suffer from indigestion and the resultant ills.
This is most important. To sum up :
1. Make it a rule to have meals regularly, leaving an interval of at least four hours between.
To this let us add the life-saving advice that in high fevers and very acute disease of any kind, all food, liquid and solid, should be kept away from the patient. He should have nothing except water, with the possible exception of some unsugared fruit juice, until the fever or acute attack of disease has subsided. Acute disease itself seldom snuffs out life, but the feeding and medication often end life. Nobody will starve through fasting a few days. The fasting shortens the disease, reduces its severity, and helps to produce a quicker and more complete recovery.