Advantages Of A Fish Diet
( Originally Published 1913 )
With the present high cost of living, when the poorer classes cannot afford to buy meat, I cannot see why a fish diet is not more generally indulged in. With our improved transportation facilities we are able to send sea fish, which in some regions are caught in such enormous quantities, to a great distance, and yet are able to supply the consumer so that they may be eaten on the same day. In this way a food substance is furnished which is not only, when eaten while fresh, much more healthful, but is also much cheaper, than meat, even those meats imported from Australia and the Argentine Republic. Aside from this, it is decidedly preferable to eat a fish which is only one or at most two days old, than meat which has been preserved on ice for weeks. There is probably no other food substance, with possibly the exception of cheese,—in which we have an animal albumin, the value of which we have already stated,—which can be purchased at such a moderate price as many varieties of fish. Fish meat also has many advantages, some of which have already been mentioned. First of all, I wish to again emphasize the digestibility of fish as compared with that of meat, and it is quite certain, as I have myself been able to determine, that fish does not remain as long in the stomach as meat, and that one consequently has a better appetite for the next meal. When, therefore, one has a weak stomach, the tender meat of some of the white fishes referred to in the last chapter is a much more appropriate food. It is also a great advantage—to which we desire to call attention—that one is able to take in combination with fish certain valuable foods which can probably never be taken with meat, as, for instance, the roe and milt. Both are rich in phosphorus, and the roe contains some iron. These are perhaps the most valuable components of fish, since they contain as much as 30 per cent. of nitrogen and 20 per cent. of fat. I might add, however, that in some kinds of fish, like the salmon and pike, these structures, as well as the meat itself, have certain toxic properties during the breeding season, and should therefore not be indulged in at that time. The eggs of the sturgeon ((caviar) will be treated of in a special chapter.
As an albuminous food fish has, furthermore, the very great advantage that patients suffering from kidney and liver disorders, or from gout, may take this form of albumin, which contains much less of the injurious substances than that of meat, since in fish there is a smaller proportion of extractives, —with the exception of the smaller varieties,—while those having tender fibers give off more of these extractives during the process of cooking.
With few exceptions less uric acid is formed with a fish diet than with one of meat; and since it is often very difficult to induce a gouty patient, who has been a meat-eater for years, to give it up entirely, he might be allowed to eat fish at least once a day. With diabetic patients, as I have stated in my book on diabetes, I have observed that the eating of fish, such as the "schill" and the perch-pike, causes much less sugar elimination than is the case with meat, and by using such a diet with the addition of green vegetables and some carbohydrates (fruit, rye bread, graham bread, etc.) I have more easily arrested the elimination of sugar in Carlsbad patients. In the treatment of arteriosclerosis I have likewise obtained great benefit from the use of tender white fish. The fish diet is especially useful as a transition food between the meat and the milk and vegetable diet. We first leave off the meat and replace it by fish, which is after some time also abandoned, and the albuminoid portion of the food is made up of cheese or cereals. The use of fish in the diet of brainworkers, as a component article of food, when exhausting literary work is to be clone, and also the influence of fish upon the sexual activity and upon the intellectual activity, will be dealt with later on.
All of the above advantages, however, depend entirely upon the fresh condition of the fish. Such as have been kept for a long time have lost all taste, as I was able to convince myself during my ocean voyages to and from America. I was, for this reason, only able to eat the fish during the first few days.
This loss of taste is not the worst feature. The poisoning by fish has already been mentioned, and very frequently eczema and other skin rashes make their appearance after eating stale fish. Strange to say, I most frequently saw such cases among my French patients—last summer in a colleague, and in two other gentlemen from Paris. The patients assured me that every time they ate fish their old eczema was sure to manifest itself again. One of these patients did not suffer from eczema after eating trout at Carlsbad, because these fish were only killed just as they were to be cooked. These toxic symptoms may have been due to the fact that the fish suffered before death—through unsatisfactory modes of transportation, insufficient quantities of water—and this perhaps unclean—and that this gave rise to the formation of "fright products," which acted like poisons, already referred to when speaking of the killing of animals. The fish must, immediately after having been caught, be placed in large receptacles containing fresh and, if possible, running water, a sort of aquarium as it were, where they remain until just before they are to be used, when they should be very quickly killed.
Frequently, when injurious effects follow the eating of fish, these may be due not so much to the fish itself as to the addition of bad sauces made with bad butter, or with spoiled cream. This state of affairs usually only occurs in restaurants, and here the preparation is more to be feared than the fish. Soup made of fish is a valuable and agreeable food substance. The "halâszlé" (fish soup) made in Hungary is a very excel-lent fish food, particularly that made on the shores of the Platten See (Balaton) of the fish found in its waters, the world-renowned fogas (Fogorsh). This is a kind of fish goulash, but true gourmands prefer the "fogas" when broiled upon the spit. We consider this fish a most excellent one, and a very healthful food.