Hints Concerning Diet In Various Climates And During Different Seasons Of The Year
( Originally Published 1913 )
It is the firm opinion of the writer that man fares best when he follows the indications of Nature in everything, since she gives proof in all her doings of a most wonderful perspicacity. This good' management is well shown by the way in which, in every climate, she has caused to grow in abundance just the proper foods, and those best suited to the climate. We find the most juicy fruits in the hot southern countries, and, as a generous meat diet is not well borne in a hot climate, while such a diet, together with the heat, abolishes the desire for work, she has provided foods very rich in carbohydrates. In the tropical regions, in Brazil, Central Africa, Java, etc., such an abundance of plants grow which are replete with starch that only a portion of the excess would be sufficient to amply feed all the poor and hungry of Europe. I do not mean to say that uncivilized and necessarily vegetable-eating people dislike meat; on the contrary, and possibly because of the lack of albumin in their food, they have a perfect passion for meat. Consequently, they eat flesh used nowhere else as food. The South Sea Islanders, for instance, when visited by Cook, ate their dogs, which were fattened for the purpose, and in New Zealand the Maoris even now eat sharks, which are elsewhere considered to be unfit to eat. The desire of the Congo negroes for meat is also very great. The Commissary-general of the Congo State, Major de Meulemeester, told me that during an expedition his men, numbering 40, lived for two days and a half on the meat of an elephant weighing 5000 kilos or more, and they liked this food so much that they even sliced or scraped the skin into shavings, which they also ate. They even exchanged a large part of their regular rations for this skin, which they ate in preference ! They consumed so much of this food that their abdomens projected noticeably. It is very probable that these people resort to cannibalism only because their albumin food is so limited. For both man and beast rarely indulge in barbarity when not driven to it by necessity, unless when cannibalism is practised for religious motives, as by the old Mexicans, the Aztecs, who tore out the hearts of their sacrificed captives of war, held them up to the sun, and then cooked the flesh of their victims in order to. devour it.
Meat foods are scarce in these tropical regions, as nature does not facilitate their creation. Cattle do not thrive in hot and dry climates as they do in the temperate zone and in the north. In these regions the most meat is eaten, and such a diet is better supported than in the hot south. There the plant kingdom offers in abundance the cereals which are rich in albumin and carbohydrates, and the greatest variety of grain. In the north, the grain which is richest in fat (oats) thrives the best. In the various animals and fishes of the north, like the whale, seals, and the mammals living in the cold waters, and also in certain kinds of birds, the fat-layers are greatly developed; which fact points to the necessity of a plentiful intake of fat in the food in these climates, the importance of which has been shown in the already-mentioned experiments of Voit, and of the Duke Karl Theodor of Bavaria. It is more-over a well-known fact that the inhabitants of the north instinctively take very large quantities of fat, as butter, for instance. In Sweden, much butter is used with the "Smorga brod" at mealtimes, and I still remember that when traveling by rail in Dalekarlia, from Insjö to Leksand, during my student days, an old "Dalbonde" (Dalekarlian farmer) was continually taking butter from a large, copper, pan-like vessel, which he spread upon slices of bread until more than half of the con-tents were gone. He never stopped ! The craving for some-thing rich in calories, like whisky, for instance, in the damp, cold and wet, foggy climate of England is quite readily com prehended, even though, with the majority, the warming qualities seem to be the least important. While in the north fat is so greatly desired as a food, many cattle-raising tribes in Africa can find no other use for it than to smear their skins with it, as they also do with their oily seed-fruits.
On the other hand, the Eskimos take a large amount of fat, blubber, and marrow; they fairly drink it. They like to eat the liver of the walrus, together with slices of its lard. Wrangel, in his Polar expedition, found that the Jakutes regarded fat of all varieties as a delicacy.
The above remarks also afford indications for our foods in summer and in winter. In the hot summer we must cut down the meat supply, but when much work is to be done a plentiful quantity of albumin must be taken, whether it be summer or winter, in the north or the south. Vegetables and fruit should form an important part of our diet in the summer, and when the heat diminishes the appetite it is advisable to take more spices or flavorings, in order to stimulate it. In winter this procedure should be avoided as much as possible, since the injurious substances contained in condiments cannot, to the same extent as during warm weather, be excreted with. the perspiration, but must be eliminated by the kidneys. In the winter we can safely indulge in more meat and fat-containing foods. The acid fruits, on the contrary, are much less needed, and dried fruit such as raisins, dates, etc., should be given preference.
As far as the age is concerned, no meat should be given to little children, as their immunizing organs, which have the function of destroying the injurious disintegration products of meat, are not yet developed; the same is true for old persons, in whom these organs, the ductless glands, are already de-generated, and their immunizing power destroyed. Milk, with all its products, forms the best diet in these two periods of our lives, together with eggs, and carbohydrates in the form of gruel, rice, sago, tapioca, finely prepared grains, and certain cereals; also in porridges, although for the better development of the teeth in children foods of a harder consistency should also be given, as soon as they are able to masticate the same. Meat or other albumin-containing foods should not be spared during the period of growth, since otherwise, as we show in various parts of this work, serious injury to the organism may result. As regards the quantity of the various food substances to be taken daily.
Regarding the difference in food for adult women and men, it would appear that women can do with less than men. It may be mentioned that women of the same height as men weigh less, and in general also do less work. However, after a series of observations I must conclude that most probably other features, principally sexual, should be taken into consideration; I have frequently noticed that hard-working women, masseuses, for instance, of the same weight, do well with foods which in albumin and number of calories are far below the rations of men doing the same work, and do not suffer at all in either their weight or health.