( Originally Published 1913 )
The Various Cereals.
If we class these fruits of the earth, to which we owe our daily bread, after the leguminous vegetables, it is because we wish to give the preference to those plants which furnish us with the greatest amount of the most nourishing substance, namely, albumin. This occurs in smaller quantities in the cereals. They, on the other hand, furnish a nutritive element, the carbohydrate, which is only second in importance to albumin. Rice, for instance, contains more of the carbohydrates than any other food. The nutritive value of the cereals is consequently characterized by a large amount of carbohydrates and a fair quantity of albumin; the latter occurs principally in wheat and oats. The third important component of our food, fat, is very poorly represented in them, and least of all in rice; corn and oats considerably more. The cereals are also rich in some of our most important nutritive salts, namely, phosphorus. Since we have previously given the quantities of the most important nutrient salts contained in each of the cereals, we shall now first give the chemical composition of the foodstuffs according to Robert Hutchison.
It is unfortunately the case that in the majority of these cereals much of the nutritive substance is lost to our bodies—that is to say, it is not taken up by the blood—before it can be freed from the outer indigestible portions. In this way not only a large amount of the nutritive albumin is not assimilated, but many nutrient salts, such as phosphorus, lime, and iron, are also lost.
The finer the flour is ground, especially wheat flour, the more of the nutritive substances are lost. Some cereals, such as millet, barley, and buckwheat, are very poorly assimilated by us, and consequently flour made from them is not much used in our country. We here show, according to König, the composition of various kinds of flour:
Proteid Fat. Carbohy Cellulose. Ash.
wheat flour 10.68 1.13 74.69 0.30 0.52
Of these various flours, wheat flour is most useed. A very fine quality of wheat flour comes from Hungary (especially from Banat) and the southern part of Russia. The very finest and best wheat is, however, grown in Canada, where, in the province of Quebec, I saw an almost unbelievable development of the ears and grains in corn and other cereals. The province of Manitoba furnishes a still finer quality. In this virgin soil, until recently entirely uncultivated, which still contains all of the nutritive salts, wheat is grown such as is found nowhere else. The value of wheat is determined principally by its albumin content, that is to say, the gluten; in this respect the Hungarian wheat is the finest, and I have never tasted better wheat bread than in Hungary, and perhaps in the northern part of the United States, in Minneapolis, where there are steam flour mills on the order of those in Hungary. It is not the fact of its being so finely ground which makes the Hungarian meal so agreeable to the taste, but rather its rich content of gluten, salts, and other elements of taste.
Thus, considerable amounts of certain salts, especially phosphorus and lime, are found in wheat, but unfortunately they occur principally in the outer portion of the grain, which also contains the greater part of the glutinous substance,—the starchy substance is contained in the inner portion,—and in the finer qualities of flour the outer portion of the grain is lost. The more gluten there is in wheat flour, the greater its lime and phosphorus content. In very fine flour many valuable substances—especially albumin and nutrient salts—are lost in the bran. According to Rubner, 100 parts of
Dry wheat flour contains:— Wheat bran contains :
11.6 per cent. albumin 13.9 per cent. albumin
While wheat flour thus contains an appreciable amount of bran, much of this is not taken up by the blood, but is eliminated unused. Rubner found that wheat bread is very poorly absorbed, and that much more albumin and carbohydrate are lost when much of the bran is ground in with the flour. Fortunately not all of the bran content is lost, as 61.3 per cent. of albumin and 26.5 per cent. of carbohydrate and cellulose are nevertheless absorbed. It is of great importance that the bran be finely milled, and that the stomach and intestines be in good condition.
Rubner's statement, that the German people would gain a yearly profit of 780 million of marks if bran could be as well assimilated by our bodies as flour, is most interesting.
He estimates that in the very best mills 20 per cent. is lost as bran. If it were possible to grind this bran finer than it is now done, it could be better absorbed, and would be of great value to mankind. With wheat flour it is therefore of primary importance that it be finely ground, and fine bread is much better assimilated in general than the coarser varieties. The coarser flour would, however, be better assimilated if milk, or, still better, cheese, were to be taken with the bread.
Rye flour, when it contains the bran, is very badly assimilated, according to Romney, however finely it may be ground. Rubner states that bread made from fine rye meal is assimilated about as very coarse white bread would be. The nutrient sub-stances in the outer covering of corn are not only very poorly assimilated, but, by irritating the intestinal canal, they also cause a too early elimination of other useful substances, before they can be absorbed by the intestine. Coarsely ground corn, owing to the cellulose it contains, has a very irritating effect upon the intestinal mucous membrane, which might be an ad-vantage in cases of constipation ; in healthy persons, however, the use of much corn bread would cause too frequent bowel movements, and interfere with the assimilation of the food. Rye flour is best suited for strong constitutions, and by the sturdy northern races it is more used than wheat flour. While wheat is principally used for the finer varieties of breadstuffs consumed by the rich, rye flour forms the food of the poorer population. It is not deficient in nutrient salts such as iron and lime. Unfortunately the assimilation of the salts and other nutritive substances is very defective, according to Rubner, who states that in whole-corn bread only one-half of the nutritive value is absorbed.
Oats, which are used in the north, principally in Scotland, and which contain more cellulose than any other cereal, are even more poorly assimilated. When oats are to be used, it is best to eat the products manufactured especially with a view to the digestibility, like oat flakes, Quaker oats, etc. ; in these by the action of heat the very indigestible cellulose husk or outer skin is burst open, and the starchy content is converted into a soluble and more digestible product. Oats in the form of gruel (like the porridge of Scotland) are very palatable when eaten with cream, and certainly I have never eaten better porridge than that served to me in Edinburgh, where I also acquired a taste for zwieback made from oats (oat cakes). Of course, I experienced the disadvantage that when porridge was swallowed too quickly—and was consequently not masticated—digestion and assimilation suffered. With oat cakes this difficulty is obviated, as they, like other oat breads, require considerable mastication.
In my estimation a purée of oatmeal with two, yolks forms a very healthful food, in which the eggs not only greatly improve the taste, but also increase the nutritive value. Very valuable preparations for children's use can be made with oat-meal, which render good service when taken with milk. In my practice in Carlsbad I obtained excellent results with oat flakes and oat gruel.
As by their use the irritating action of the cellulose is avoided, they form valuable foods, since, as can be seen in the above table, they contain a considerable amount of albumin and fat. Oatmeal is likewise not lacking in nutrient salts, as it contains, according to Konig, 7.92 per cent, lime, o.85 per cent. iron oxide, 48.19 per cent. phosphoric acid, 1.95 per cent. silicic acid, and 5.93 per cent. chlorine.
The considerable lecithin content of oats is also note-worthy. Topler found that 11.90 per cent. of lecithin is contained in oat fat. We thus see what a valuable food oats furnish, particularly when taken with milk, in which manner they are better assimilated. Oats should be much more frequently used, especially in the form of oatmeal and oat gruel, than has been customary. Not only the horse, but man also, would thrive upon it. A very valuable statement is that of von Noorden, that diabetics can take considerable quantities of oat foods in combination with other vegetables without causing any increase in the sugar secretion; it is, on the contrary, often diminished, as is also the case in acetonuria.
Another very little used variety of cereal—barley--might be rendered very valuable for us, if specially prepared by heat in the form of barley flakes. In Sweden barley is often made into bread. It is, however, very indigestible when whole barley is ground, as was found by Osawa, for of the albumin content 56 per cent. was eliminated unused, this being the case even with barley that had been ground and cooked. With us it is principally used in soup, as barley cream, gruel, etc. Barley water has long been used as a cooling drink in fevers. Barley plays its principal rôle with us when used in coloring beer. The American variety has more sugar and less dextrin, and the German less sugar and half as much again of dextrin.
Buckwheat is also very little used with us (in Austria) ; its large amount of cellulose makes it very indigestible, and it is badly assimilated. It could be made a valuable food if previously prepared by the removal of the cellulose, as is the case with the Knorr buckwheat. It would be valuable for the preparation of bread and pastry for diabetics. The ash contains appreciable quantities of nutrient salts, 1.74 per cent. iron oxide, 48.67 per cent. phosphoric acid, 3.07 per cent. of potash; the soda content is comparatively high, 6.12 per cent., and there is also 1.30 per cent. of common salt. Buckwheat flour is of a dark color; in some countries it is used for making bread. In Styria and in the adjoining portions of Hungary, dumplings called "Nocklen" and "Sterz" are made from a mixture of this and other kinds of flour; they form an appetizing article of diet, which is sometimes also used in intestinal catarrh.
The cereal least used in our country is millet; it is, how-ever, the national food, so to speak, of many negro' tribes. Notwithstanding the considerable amount of cellulose—according to König, 12 to 18 per cent.—it is not unpleasant as a food ; 53 per cent. of the nitrogen content is lost. When it is taken in the form of a pap or gruel with milk or water, with a little butter or even lard added, I have found that it tastes quite good. As it contains valuable nutritive substances, it should find greater appreciation among our poorer classes than is the case at present. Its deficient assimilation can be allowed for by taking more of it. Of the three cereals, barley, buckwheat, and millet, buckwheat is best assimilated.