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Food Classification And Food Values

( Originally Published 1927 )

Everybody should know what purpose the foods serve in the body, so as to make intelligent selection. It is impossible to classify foods rigidly because all the natural foods contain various compounds that entitle them to a place in different tables. For instance: Wheat is rich in starch, so it must be placed among the starches ; it contains enough protein to entitle it to a place among the proteins; it contains a little fat, and many of the health-giving mineral salts. This classification aims to be practical, but it is also scientific.

These tables are not strictly necessary, but for many they will be convenient, for there are those who are curious to know the percentage of starches, fats, sugars, and other compounds in the various foods. Please remember that food tables can never be exact, because all wheat is not equally starchy; all beef is not equally fat; all spinach does not contain the percentage of iron and other salts. In other words, foods vary according to the conditions in which they are produced.


The proteins are the albuminous foods, or nitrogenous foods. They are the only foods that contain nitrogen in a form that is acceptable to the body, and as the body must have nitrogen, these foods are essential. The racial habit has been to get the proteins from animal sources, mostly from dead fish, birds, and quadrupeds.

Lean flesh food, plainly and correctly cooked, is easier to digest than such vegetable proteins as peanuts and navy beans.

The proteins help to build up the framework of the body, supply materials to repair body waste, also supply the essential ingredients of the body lubricants (serums, synovial fluid, mucus), and are necessary to maintain the strength of the muscles.

Many hold the false belief that proteins, especially meats, are very essential when one is doing hard physical work. A manual worker needs about the same amount of protein that a brain worker should take; but a manual worker needs more starch, and sugar, and fatty food than does the office man.. This is an. important point.

Proteins can also be used as body fuel, but it is unwise to use them for this purpose, because they are apt to wear out some of the organs, especially the liver and the kidneys, when so used. Starches, sweets and fatty foods are the best fuels.

The principal sources of protein are:

1. Meats of all kinds (the lean part), such as beef, veal, mutton, lean pork, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, game, both feathered and furred, in fact, all lean flesh from animals and birds.

2. Fish of all kinds, such as trout, salmon, herring, pickerel, pike, cod, halibut, mackerel, sturgeon, and shad. Also shellfish, like oysters (which are mostly water), clamas, crabs and lobsters.

3. Legumes, the chief of which are all kinds of dried beans, dried peas, lentils and peanuts. Also green peas, and both the green and the dried lima beans.

4. Dairy products, including sweet milk, clabbered milk, buttermilk, cottage cheese and all other kinds of cheese. Cream contains but little protein, and butter practically none.

5. Nuts, especially almonds, Brazil nuts, filberts, hickory nuts, pecans, English walnuts, butternuts, pistachios and pignolias. (Peanuts are legumes, not true nuts. Chestnuts contain much starch and only a little protein.)

Some of the foods listed are not rich in protein, but such foods as milk and buttermilk be-long in this class.

The term carbohydrates mean sugars and starches.

Ash is a poor name for minerals in the food, but will be retained in this book because it is commonly used.

Where the calories are not figured, those mathematically inclined can do their own calculating, if they will bear this little table in mind :

One pound of protein produces 1,860 calories.
One pound of sugar produces 1,860 calories.
One pound of starch produces 1,860 calories.
One pound of oil or fat produces 4,220 calories.

Calories are not important, for the feeding requirements vary so much in the same individual at different times, and in different individuals at the same time. The climate and the work and general activity and the period of life modify the food needs, and these are but a few factors. The only safe rules for eating are the fundamental rules given in another chapter. Nobody can tell you how many ounces of food you need, but if you follow these rules, you will learn for yourself.


The starchy foods are to the human body what coal is to an engine. They furnish heat and energy.

If the starches are plainly cooked and properly masticated they digest easily and well. Many say that all foods should be eaten raw. It is too hard to break down the cellulose of wheat and other grains to make them good raw foods. When well cooked the cellulose is softened, the digestive juices easily obtain admittance to the starchy particles, and digestion follows.

Those with good digestive and assimilative power tend to grow too stout if they eat too much of the starchy foods. Those who are below par in digestive power tend to acquire in-digestion, hyperacidity, and eventually underweight if they overeat of starchy food. The same kind of food can act in two different ways under varying conditions.

Starch digestion begins in the mouth; the ptyalin in saliva is a digestive ferment which starts the starch on its way to become sugar. All starch must become sugar before it can be used by the body. This is one reason why all starch should be very thoroughly masticated. Rapid eating of starch leads to indigestion.

Those who do hard manual work need more starchy food than do sedentary individuals.

The chief sources of our starchy foods are:

1. Cereals, the most important being wheats of all kinds, Indian corn, rice, rye, barley, and oats. No matter in what form we eat them—in bread, toast, cakes, mushes, flaked or puffed cereals—they are starchy.

2. Tubers, the most important being Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke. The dasheen is also a tuber, which resembles the white potato in consistency, and has an agreeable flavor.

3. Legumes, especially when they are ripe. The ripe limas, navy beans and other kinds of ripe beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are starchy. Green limas and young peas contain more starch than the other vegetables; usually classified as succulent.

4. Nuts, but only a few varieties. Acorns, dried chestnuts and cocoanuts are rich in starch.

Hubbard squash (winter squash) contains about the same proportion of starch as the Irish potato.

Parsnips are rich in starch.

Green bananas are about as starchy as Irish potatoes, but ripe bananas contain only a trace of starch, for it has been turned to sugar.

Pumpkins are of watery consistency, and can be classed with the succulent vegetables.

Tapioca and sago are very starchy.

Cornstarch is the starchy essence of the corn.

Spaghetti and macaroni are wheat cereals, hence starchy.

Some of the foods appearing in the starchy table, were also in the protein table. Beans and peas are rich in both protein and starch.

All foods made of grain, such as toast, bread, rice pudding, cornstarch pudding, muffins, macaroni, and cakes are cereals.


Like starches, the sugars or sweets are a carbon food, and serve as a source of heat and energy. The sugars are more easily digested than the starches, and sooner ready for ab-sorption into the blood.

The natural sugars, especially the sweet fruits, are fine foods, for they are nourishing and also contain an abundance of the mineral salts needed to maintain health.

Refined white sugar is nourishing, that is, it contains many heat units; but from the stand-point of health it is one of our poorest foods. So poor is it as a food that in experimenting it has been found that dogs live longer when given water only than when they have sugar and water. Refined sugar is an irritant and often overstimulates the appetite so that the result is overeating.

Refined sugar is a comparatively recent addition to the menu. It is not long ago that it was used as a wonderful drug, and in those days it was known as Indian salt. A small amount of it eaten with fresh raw foods does no harm, but to consume about 100 pounds of it annually, as the average American does, is Injurious.

The principal sources of sugar are :

1. Sweet fruits, the most important of which are ripe bananas, currants, sweet grapes, raisins, sweet prunes, figs, dates, persimmons and oranges. All ripe fruits contain sugar and the dried fruits are rich in this food element.

2. Sugar cane and sugar beets, from which nearly all of the refined white sugar is made.

3. Honey.

4. Sap of the sugar maple.

If curious about the caloric values of sweet food, find the percentage of sugar in the food, and remember that sugar produces 1,860 calories per pound.


Fats and oils are our most concentrated food. Pure oil, contains 4,220 calories to the pound, which is much higher than the caloric value of any other class of food. Because these foods are so concentrated, we should be careful to avoid overeating of them.

Oils are simply soft fats. The two are alike in their nourishing qualities.

In cold climates or cold seasons fats and oils are fine foods, in fact nature provides them abundantly in the polar regions. In warm weather one should eat less of these foods. Those who eat too freely of fats and oils, whether vegetable or animal, in hot weather are apt to suffer much from the heat, and to have skin blemishes and discomfort.

The basis of fats and oils is carbon, so they are a heating and energy-producing form of food. They also help to fatten the body. Those who are too stout should avoid these foods for a while, or eat them in moderation.

The chief sources of our fats are:

1. Dairy products—cream, butter and some rich cheeses.

2. Flesh of dead animals, especially pork, mutton and beef, that have been fattened.

3. Fat fish, such as herring, shad and salmon trout.

4. Legumes. Some kinds of peanuts are very oily, and so are soy beans.

5. Nuts of nearly every kind. Almonds, Brazil nuts, filberts, hickory nuts, pecans, English walnuts, butternuts, cocoanuts, pistachios and acorns are rich in oil.

6. Cotton seed, olives, and corn furnish much edible oil.


Fruits and nuts are the finest foods we have. properly handled they are absolutely clean. They contain no waste to poison the blood stream.

All fruit juices contain elements that help to cleanse the blood. They are rich in sodium, potassium, calcium and other salts which the body must have to maintain health.

Even the acid fruits sweeten the body. The fruit acids are digested in the stomach and intestines, and their salts and vitamins enter the blood. The condition known as acidosis (general hyperacidity) is rather common. Many think that in such a condition fruits of acid nature should be avoided. Experience shows that a moderate amount of acid fruit helps to reestablish the alkalinity of the body. The injurious acids are the ones formed in the body, as a by-product of subnormal digestion and of poor combustion in the body and defective elimination. However, those suffering from acidosis should take acid fruit in moderation.

Very thin people, especially if they are chilly; also elderly people who are under weight should eat moderately of the acid fruits in cold weather. Acid fruits tend to cool the body. Most young people can eat acid fruit at all times of the year with benefit; if the young individual is fat, he will be much benefited by the acid fruit.

The sweet fruits, and all fruits containing over fifteen per cent of sugar (carbohydrate) should be called sweet, are very nourishing. Most people fail to realize that some of the fruits are among the most nourishing of foods. Compare figs, for example, to various meats in the caloric value. It may be surprising to learn that figs are, weight for weight, three or four times as nourishing as some of the popular lean meats.

The sweet fruits are excellent winter foods, but should be eaten more moderately in summer. The sweet fruits will take the place of such foods as bread, rice, potatoes, and macaroni. In other words, the natural sweets may be used in place of the starches.

The term "acid fruit" means fruit that is quite sour, like sour apples, pineapples and lemons.

"Subacid fruit" is a mild fruit, containing only a little acid, such as mild pears, sweet apples and good blueberries.

Some of the most common juicy fruits are :

Apples, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries, apricots, avocadoes, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, grapes, huckleberries, blueberries, mulberries, nectarines, olives, pineapples, plums, raspberries and whortleberries.

The melons (watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, casaba, honey dew, etc.), rhubarb stalk and tomatoes are so like fruit that for practical purposes we may call them so.

The most important sweet fruits are:

Ripe bananas, sweet prunes, sweet grapes, raisins, dried currants, figs, dates and persimmons.

The carbohydrates in ripe fruits are almost exclusively sugar.


These vegetables are not eaten because of their great nourishing values, though they all contain nourishment. All of them contain some starch.

The chief reason for using these vegetables is that they are true health foods. Like the fresh fruits, they contain the mineral salts and the vitamins needed by the body to maintain health. The fresh fruits and the fresh vegetables, even though they may be low in nourishing values, are as important as the more concentrated foods. The fresh vegetables help to keep the bowels sweet and clean, and the blood pure. Internal cleanliness and purity maintain youth, and ward off old age.

These vegetables should be eaten both cooked and raw. If the individual partakes of a liberal amount of both cooked and raw vegetables every day, enough of the mineral salts are furnished to maintain the purity of the blood.

Nature did not distill any medicines for us, but she did supply us bountifully with fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.

Raw foods are absolutely essential to health, and the need for these can largely be supplied with salad vegetables.

The principal succulent vegetables are :

Asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, cucumber, egg plant, lettuce, okra (gumbo), onions, radish, summer squash, tomatoes, spinach, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts, cone artichoke, chard, stringbeans, celery, turnip tops, lotus, endive, dandelion, oyster plant, rutabaga and garlic. Though corn is really a cereal, corn in the milk, either on the cob or canned, and green peas may also be classed with the succulent vegetables. Also the pumpkin.

Mushroom is a fungus. Those who are fond of it may partake occasionally, but fungous growths cannot be recommended as a steady diet.

Young lima beans are quite starchy, as much so as Irish potatoes. Parsnips are also quite rich in starch.

Radishes are delicious peeled and cooked.

Macaroni and spaghetti are not vegetables. They are made of wheat flour and are very starchy. They are cereal foods.


These are also succulent vegetables.

The principal salad vegetables are :

Lettuce, celery, endive, romaine, chicory, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, celery cabbage, parsley, field lettuce, and cress. All leaves that are relished may be used for salad purposes.

Raw onions in moderation may be used for flavoring, and garlic likewise. Those who are fond of raw root vegetables and have good digestive power may occasionally eat some raw carrots or turnips, but they should masticate these foods very well. Grated carrots are good in salads.

Those who eat plenty of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables get all the mineral salts the body needs.

To satisfy the curiosity of those who wonder at the meaning of "ash" in the food tables, the answer is given in the table of mineral matters, for they are the ash. This table was originally compiled by Otto Carqué, the pure food man of Los Angeles.

The leafy vegetables used as salads and cooked greens are most valuable for their organic mineral contents.

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