IF your eyes depend largely upon the condition of your general health and your general health depends very largely upon the condition of your stomach, you will see that it is highly important that you make no serious errors in the matter of what, when and how you eat.
What you eat is important. Your sustenance and strength depend upon it. But there are other important factors in the food problem. The question of how you eat, how much you eat and how often you eat requires nearly as much consideration, and people go wrong in these matters, perhaps, even more often than in regard to what they eat.
The first thing to learn is to follow your appetite. This means not only that you should eat when you are hungry, but also that you should not eat when you are not hungry. The greatest dietetic crime in the world is eating without appetite. Do not eat merely because the custom of the country calls for three meals per day at stated hours. If you are not hungry when meal time comes, or if you are excited, nervous, sick, or for any other reason without an appetite, then do not think of eating. Wait until appetite appears.
In other words, you should put your stomach on a natural and not on a forced regime. To force food down your throat when you do not desire it and cannot enjoy it means that you are placing an unnatural burden upon your stomach. If you are not hungry and your stomach seems a little bit upset, then drink water. The quickest relief for any form of stomach trouble is found in the drinking of hot water. This is an old-fashioned, old woman's remedy, but the best in the world. If you are "sick at your stomach" and the hot water induces vomiting, this will be the best thing that could possibly happen, for it will relieve you of the burden of the fermenting and poisonous load. And if the drinking of more water is followed by further vomiting, it will mean that the stomach has been well washed out. You will then quickly recover.
In any case the drinking of hot water has a tendency to flush or wash out the stomach, as well as the entire alimentary canal, particularly if you drink enough of it. Nothing in the world is so effective in the case of indigestion or loss of appetite, as several cups of hot water, taken at intervals of five or ten minutes, or even more frequently, if you can take it faster. I mention this for the sake of any emergency in which you may have lost your appetite or suffered from temporary indigestion. You will find that hot water, taken before meals, will improve your power of assimilation. It is to be hoped, however, that you will not need even this simple treatment for this purpose. If you have no appetite, the omission of one or two meals can be depended upon to give you an appetite such as even a child might have reason to envy.
Do not think that you must eat three times a day irrespective of appetite just because farmers and piano-movers have that kind of an appetite. For many people, especially office workers, the two-meal-per-day plan is far superior. You may take your meals either morning and evening, or noon and evening, as you choose. This is no untried theory. Millions of people eat such a light breakfast that it is practically no breakfast at all—merely coffee and rolls. In fact such a meal is worse than none at all. Thousands of others have found by experiment that the two-meal-per-day plan means a better appetite, better assimilation and consequently better health.
Almost as bad as eating without an appetite is eating too fast. Do not swallow your food without thorough chewing. The work of digestion is commenced in the mouth, through the treatment of the food with saliva. You should try to chew your food to a liquid before passing it on to the stomach.
On the subject of what you eat one may well hesitate to give any sweeping advice. There is no special menu or diet that will suit every one. It is not strictly true that "what is one man's meat is another man's poison," and yet there is a small measure of truth in this old saying. Do not eat anything advised by dietetic experts as ideal if you cannot enjoy it. On the other hand, do not follow the course of eating "palate ticklers" to the exclusion of plain and substantial foods.
If you have a normal and natural appetite this should dictate as to your food requirements. To a large extent the entire problem of diet may be narrowed down to the question of eating natural foods, as against those which are too much refined, or tampered with, in the process of preparation.
For instance, take the case of wheat. Wheat is a perfect food just as it is grown. It will nourish every part of the body. In the making of white flour, however, much of the best nutrition in the wheat is thrown away to be fed to stock.
A similar food crime is committed in the polishing of rice. The best part of the rice is in the natural light brown coating. When this is removed in the polishing process, leaving practically pure starch, rice is no longer an adequate or satisfactory food. The same thing applies to the refining of sugar. White granulated, or fine white powdered sugar, does not contain the nourishing elements found in the juice of the sugar cane from which it has been made.
To a large extent, the nutrition loss involved in the refinement of food is due to the wastage of the mineral salts. Old books on dietetics, after discussing the importance of protein, fats and carbohydrates (sugar and starch), were accustomed to refer to these mineral salts under the collective term of "ash," and then to dismiss them. These organic minerals form only a very small percentage of any food, but they are a vitally important percentage, nevertheless. Because they are limited in quantity it is all the more important that they should not be eliminated from any of our foods.
Not only are mineral salts lost in the commercial manipulation of flour, rice, sugar, corn and other foods, but they are often lost, also, in the kitchen. The woman who boils her potatoes, cauliflower, peas, beans and other vegetables and then throws the water down the drain commits an equally serious food crime, inasmuch as these mineral salts are, to a large extent, dissolved in the water and thus lost when the latter is thrown away. What to do about it? These vegetables should be cooked in no more water than is necessary, and simmered down so that only a moderate amount of juice, which should be served and eaten with them, is left. Don't follow the cookbooks that tell you to boil your vegetables and then "drain." Too much cannot be said about the criminal stupidity of this wastage of iron, lime, phosphorus and the many other organic mineral salts which Nature has so carefully built into the structure of plant life. The same consideration applies to draining water from other foods.
To make this discussion of food as brief as possible, therefore, it is earnestly recommended that you endeavor to follow the plan of eating foods in their natural condition as nearly as possible. If cooked, they should be as unchanged as possible. Honey is a more perfect, more digestible and more satisfactory form of sweetening than sugar. Brown sugar, being less refined, is better than white sugar.
As foods contain elements which are destroyed by cooking, the diet should contain a liberal proportion of raw foods, such as lettuce, celery, watercress, onions, peppers, tomatoes and fruits. Fruits not only help digestion, but they are especially valuable for supplying mineral salts.
The question of meat eating is one which may be left to the individual with the caution that the use of large quantities of meat is neither desirable nor necessary to health. Nearly every one would do better to eat one-fourth of the amount of meat which he consumes. It may even be just as well to eliminate meat entirely, if one uses a sufficiency of eggs, cheese, milk or buttermilk in the diet. Lentils, beans and peas are also valuable protein foods, and may be used as substitutes for meat.
Milk is the ideal food for infants and young children. It should continue to form the most important part of the diet of young children up to six or eight years of age, one quart a day being required for each child. Eggs are a substantial protein food and for tissue building may be classed with meat, fish, poultry, cheese, milk and buttermilk. Many men and women who do not care for milk will find buttermilk, or fermented milk, which answers the same nutrition requirements, more palatable and agreeable.
Constipation is an almost universal problem. It is invariably the direct result of improper diet and irrational habits of life. Given proper muscular activity, a natural diet and a sufficiency of water, constipation would be a rare condition.
What then is the victim of this stubborn and chronic complaint to do about it? The first thing is to revise the diet, using natural foods and especially a considerable amount of fruit and raw green salads. White bread is probably the greatest enemy of the constipation victim. An immediate change to whole-wheat, or graham, flour and such whole-grain cereals as oatmeal and shredded wheat will be helpful. Rice, tapioca and spaghetti are likewise constipating. Macaroni, or spaghetti, with cheese, is particularly so, but when spaghetti and macaroni are served in the Italian style, with a plentiful sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes and onions, this objection is practically eliminated.
The drinking of a sufficient amount of water is an important factor in preventing constipation. The hot water suggested earlier in the chapter is very effective indeed. Laxatives or cathartics should never be used because of the detrimental after effects. They tend to make the condition more stubborn. An enema should be used when necessary, although even an enema should be regarded as an emergency treatment. The refined mineral oil, which is sometimes known as Russian oil, and sometimes as liquid petrolatum, offers a very satisfactory means of relief and prevention. It is not assimilated, and serves merely as a lubricant.
The condition of the alimentary canal is such an important factor in the preservation of health that the above suggestions should he very carefully studied and assiduously followed. Keep at peace with your stomach and avoid constipation, and you will have little or no trouble in building up that condition of vigorous health which is conducive to the strength of your eyes.
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