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Cereals, after Ceres, goddess of the harvest, are grains. Oats, wheat, rye, rice, barley, millet, and similar grass seed, used as foods, are denominated cereals. They grow and mature in short seasons, can be grown in parts of the world that have short growing seasons, will grow almost everywhere, may be produced with a minimum of effort and will keep almost indefinitely. For these reasons they have been the mainstay of whole populations, despite the many objections that may be offered to their use. Until recent modern times, they were used almost wholly as whole grain and not as refined products.
I should not have to remind my readers that the only grain products that are permissible in the diet of an intelligent and informed individual are whole grains in the dry state. But after this has been said, it is necessary to sound a warning against the use of grains in the Hygienic diet. At their best, grains are inferior articles of food and they certainly form no part of the normal diet of man. Every man, woman and child in the land will be better off by leaving them out of their diet.
Dr. Emmet Densmore was the first to raise a voice against the use of cereal products. He pointed out that man is a frutarian animal, not adapted to the use of cereals, and traced many evils to the employment of grains, even whole grains, as food. He declared bread to be the "staff of death" instead of the "staff of life" as it is usually referred to.
Considering man a frutarian and finding that fruits (ripe) contain plenty of sugar, but little or no starch, whereas the cereal and vegetable diet of civilization is largely starch, he began to investigate the subject still more. He soon found that starch requires much more time and energy to digest than fruit and that cereals are the most difficult of all to digest. "Fruits are best, cereals are worst" he declared. He quotes, approvingly, Dr. Evans as saying: "'Cereal and farinaceous foods form the basis of the diet of so-called vegetarians, who are not guided by any direct principle, except that they believe it is wrong to eat animal food. For this reason vegetarians enjoy no better health, and live no longer than those around them'."
Declaring man not to be naturally a grain-eating animal, Densmore says: "The only animals that may be truly said to be grain-eating are birds. Many species of birds eat a considerable portion of grass seeds (and all cereals are developed from grass) * * * birds are the animals for which starchy seeds are the natural food, and birds have altogether a different digestive apparatus from other animals." Even birds do not feed their young on grains--"They generally feed their young on insects and molluscs, while feeding themselves on fruits and seeds," declares Densmore.
Squirrels often are forced, from scarcity of food, to eat cereals. They bite off the end containing the germ and eat this, leaving the rest of the grain. Berg says "the proteins of most seeds, and especially those of cereals, are especially characterized by inadequacy due to a lack of cystin and lysin. In like manner, it is a common characteristic of seeds, not only to contain an excess of acid, but also to exhibit a deficiency of calcium. For lime is almost always present in the soil, so that seeds need not contain any more calcium than is requisite to provide for the growth of the first rootlet. In animal organisms, on the other hand, the need for calcium is very great. Cereals, consequently, quite apart from the fact that they contain an excess of acid, are about the most unsuitable food we can force upon the growing animal organism. The best proof of this is that even graminivorous birds collect insects to nourish their young. The fledglings of the most strictly vegetarian birds are carnivora."
All experimenters seem to agree that the much vaunted cereal diet is inadequate. Funk, Simmons, Pitz, Hess, Unger, Hart, Halpin, Steenbock, Davis, Hogan, Mendel, Wakeman, Parsons and others of equal standing agree with Berg who agrees with Densmore. Oats are deficient in basic salts. Wheat is deficient in sodium and calcium, while the germ of the wheat is inadequate as a growth-factor. Rice is deficient in salts, and especially in calcium. It does not contain enough calcium to support an adult hog. It is also deficient in sodium and chlorine. They are all lacking in iodine.
Mineral deficiency is a common fault in the diet of young animals fed largely on cereals and it has long been known to farmers and stockmen that their animals must have grass and other green foods--that they will not thrive well on an all-cereal diet. In his laboratory experiments with whole wheat bread, Milo Hastings found that the animals used thrived better and grew more rapidly as the percentage of green foods was increased and the percentage of whole wheat bread was decreased in their diet. If the green foods constituted well over half their diet, they thrived best.
"We have learned," says Berg, "that all cereals have certain defects which may be looked upon as characteristic of these nutriments. As regards inorganic salts, they are deficient in sodium and calcium; they are also poorly supplied with organically combined sulphur and with bases generally; but they contain a superabundance of inorganic acid-formers and of potassium. The cereals are also poor in A, B and C, the poverty being more marked in proportion to the fineness of the flour. Finally, the proteins of the cereals are always inadequate; they are lacking to some extent in the ringed amino-acids, and are especially poor in lysin and cystin."
The contention, so frequently heard, that whole wheat is a perfect food, is a foolish statement of over-enthusiastic salesmen. A few years ago an acquaintance of the writer's made an effort to walk from New York to San Francisco on a diet of whole raw wheat alone. Before starting, however, he consulted me and I advised him not to try it, but to have an abundance of lettuce and celery and some fruit in addition to his wheat. He would not hear of such a plan. Whole wheat is a perfect food and he was going to prove that one could accomplish such a walk on a whole wheat diet. He didn't get as far on his wheat as George Hassler Johnston got on his water diet (fasting) before he discovered that whole grain wheat is not the perfect diet that the "health" food exploiters and amateur dietitians say it is.
"It has long been known," says Berg, "that when herbivores, and still more when rodents, are fed exclusively on grain, acidosis rapidly ensues. In rabbits on a maize diet, for example, the acid urine contains far more phosphorus than is being introduced in the food. (Showing that phosphorus is being lost from the animal's tissues.--Author). * * * Rats, again, can only endure an exclusive grain diet for a short period, speedily succumbing to such a regime. An abundant addition of protein to the grain does not help. Hogan, however, tells us that that an addition of alkalies preserves life and has a marvellous effect in furthering growth."
McCollum fed rats on a diet restricted to grains--only one kind of grain being used at a time--and found that they became restless, irritable and apprehensive. They were "on edge," rather than "full of pep." He inclines to the belief that the "obstreperousness" of the horse that "feels his oats" is due to the fact that he is suffering from an "attack" of nerves; that he is displaying pathological irritability and apprehensiveness, rather than healthy activitiy.
There are vegetarians who might more properly be called cerealists; that is, they drop flesh from their diet and substitute large quantities of cereals therefor. Usually they do this because they are told that whole wheat, for example, is an almost perfect food--"has all the elements the body needs in about the right proportion." These people not only consume too much cereal for which they suffer, but they eat their cereal in forms that tend to ferment before it digests.
Take for example, the mush dish of boiled oat-meal, to which has been added milk and sugar, so commonly eaten. It is one of the worst abominations that ever slipped down the human throat. It is practically indigestible. No saliva and no ptyalin are poured out upon such a dish and it may remain in the stomach for hours, undergoing little or no digestion, before it is permitted to pass into the intestine. Fermentation is inevitable. Cracked wheat, soaked and boiled, and then served with milk and sugar, milk and honey, milk and sweet fruits, is equally indigestible.
The oatmeal, or cracked wheat or other soaked or boiled cereal does not undergo salivary digestion, even when, and if, eaten without milk and sugar. When eaten in the usual combination, digestion is doubly impossible.
Flaked cereal foods (various types of corn flakes and other such foods) are much in use. Chemical analysis shows them to be possessed of abundant food value, though, actually, they are largely charcoal. They are said to be ready-cooked and predigested. This is a fallacy that the public must outgrow. They are pressed between rollers at intense heat and are rendered practically valueless as foods.
Whole wheat alone will not sustain life, health and growth in an ideal manner. After a shorter or longer period on such a diet, the rate of growth slackens unless, in addition to the whole wheat, the animal is also fed some green foods. Furthermore, if growth is to continue in an ideal manner, the amount of green foods must be greater than the amount of whole wheat. Hasting's experiments only serve to corroborate the correctness of the long-time observations of farmers that their horses, mules, etc., must be given grass or other green foods and cannot be fed exclusively upon grains or other dry foods for any considerable time without harm.
Wheat is the most acid-forming of the cereals. Oats seem to have the worst effect on the teeth. Rice which is probably the best of the cereals, is the staple article of food in the diet of more than half the world's human inhabitants. Cases of beri-beri in human beings have been reported in which whole and not polished rice constituted the bulk of the diet.
I have repeatedly referred to the dangers of attempting to feed man after the results of experiments on animals. For, as Berg says, "The same nutriment has very different effects on different species of animals." Maize proves harmless to fowls and pigeons. Rats maintain health on it. It produces marked polyneuritis in rabbits and scurvy in guinea pigs. Pigs fed on maize die from general malnutrition. Fowls fed on wheat maintain health while pigs and rats develop polyneuritis on this diet, and guinea pigs develop scurvy thereon.
Says Berg: "The varying reactions of different species of animals to an identical diet is still a complete enigma, and in my opinion insufficient attention has been paid to the matter. Speaking generally it would seem that graminivorous birds thrive on whole grains, but suffer from polyneuritis when the grain is hulled. In mammals, on the other hand, grain feeding may cause polyneuritis in certain circumstances, especially in rodents (except for the omnivorous rat), which are highly susceptible to acidosis. In many mammals, however, a grain diet induces scurvy instead of polyneuritis; while some animals perish from general malnutrition owing to the inadequate supply of inorganic nutriments in the grain. When grain has been thoroughly hulled, almost all animals, human beings included, become affected with polyneuritis. Are these variations due to varying requirements in respect to vitamins; or are the polyneuritic disorders due to the absence of various vitamins which act differently in different species of animals, or are essential to different species in varying degree?"
This last question of Berg's completely ignores the mineral deficiencies of grain and the varying requirements of various animals for these minerals. It completely ignores the individuality of the organization and functions of the various species. It is enough for us, at this point, that we note the evils of the largely grain diet and the confirmation of Densmore's earlier claims. While fowls thrive on a grain diet (this is only true of adult fowls), we must not overlook the fact that in a state of nature the graminivorous birds all consume large quantities of green grasses, and even consume most of the seeds or grains in their green or "milk" state, when they are alkaline and not acid.
Corn, while green and still growing, contains almost no starch, but considerable sugar. During the last two or three weeks of its maturing period, this sugar is converted into starch which, unlike sugar, is insoluble in water and therefore not readily fermentable. What is true of corn is true of other grains.
Green corn is not classed as a starch. It ranks relatively high as a base-forming food. Some of our State Agricultural Experiment stations have shown that, when green corn is detached from the stalk, it immediately begins to ripen and will accomplish as much of the ripening process in twenty-four hours, as it would have done in several weeks, had it been left on the stalk. So rapid is the transformation of the sugar into starch that in twenty-four hours, it is changed from an alkaline-ash to an acid-ash food.
Germinated grains make better food than dry grains. Grains "in milk," this is, before they have been matured, are alkaline foods, but the matured grains are acid. Fresh corn on the cob, not off the stalk for twenty-four hours or longer, is an alkaline food.
Never before in history have as much cereals and refined flours been consumed, as in America and parts of Europe, since the perfection of the rolling mill process in 1879. Bread is consumed in enormous quantities. Breakfast foods (denatured cereals) are eaten in considerable quantities in almost every household. "Health" food stores and "health" food factories turn out more cereal products than all other products combined. The advocates of whole cereals, in preference to the denatured kinds, did their work too well. Vegetarians are usually great eaters of cereals. They would receive less harm from moderate amounts of meat.
Cereal (denatured) with cream (pasteurized) and sugar (white) is a staple breakfast in most households. A predominantly acid forming breakfast, a horrible combination--and plenty of sickness as a result. The physicians continue to tell us that germs cause our diseases!
Bread eating is one of the great curses of modern life. Made of cereals, largely of denatured cereals, mixed with salt, soda, yeast, lard and often other ingredients and subjected to a high degree of temperature, in cooking, and then eaten three and four times a day, in considerable quantities, mixed indiscriminately with all classes of foods and taken in addition to much other starch food, bread is one of our chief sources of woe.
The so-called enrichment of white flour has given people a false sense of security. Various states have passed laws requiring the "enrichment" of all flour manufactured in or shipped into them. The people are lead, by this requirement, to believe that the "enriched" flour is good food. Never was a greater fallacy entertained. These laws were lobbied through the state legislatures by the milling companies, in an effort to head off the rising demand for wholewheat flour. They seem to have temporarily succeeded.
This "enriching" process adds a small quantity of "synthetic vitamins" but does not return to the flour the minerals that have been extracted. Seventy-five percent of the minerals of the wheat are extracted in the process of making white flour. All of the vitamins, and not just one, are removed. The present process of "enrichment" is similar to the process of sixty and seventy years ago of adding phosphorus to the flour to replace the phosphorus extracted in milling.
In the milling process organic salts are extracted. These are not returned by the "enriching" process. In the milling process real vitamins are removed. Part of these are replaced, by the "enriching" process, with fraudulent or imitation vitamins. What folly to remove the vitamins in the first place! Why not leave them in the flour and why remove them at all?
Dr. Anton J. Carlson, noted physiologist of the Department of Physiology of the University of Chicago, recently uttered a warning about this very matter in which he said that the term "enriched" applied to white flour to which a little vitamin B is added is misleading. "Such flour is still impoverished," he said. Referring to the fact that the idea is "put across" that "enriched" flour is better than whole grain flour he pointed out that refining actually takes out salts, vitamins and proteins, only a small part of which are replaced by the "enrichment" process. The learned physiologist added that the theory that some races cannot physiologically tolerate whole grain is without foundation. He declared it to be not a matter of toleration but of acceptance, adding that food acceptance is a question of what a person is used to from childhood. "You cannot overnight change the diet of a healthy people," he declared, although, since he never saw a healthy people, it would be interesting to know how he came to this conclusion.
Grain alone was shown, by experiments conducted by the Defensive Diet League, to be a much safer food than grain and meat--the combination of these at the same meal being the chief trouble-maker. We know that too much bread, if taken alone, will break down one's health. But the combination of bread and meat causes even more trouble. Such a diet, when fed to experimental animals (young ones), resulted in high blood pressure, Bright's disease and troubles which usually accompany these conditions in man. Neither do the animals grow as they should.
Cereals are about the most difficult to digest of any habitual sources of starch except beans and peas. They are difficult for the infant and growing child. They ferment easily and cause much gas and intoxication.
Cereal starches require from eight to twelve times as long to digest as does potato starch. Grierson found that two full hours are required to digest the starch of wheat, corn and rice, and eighty minutes to digest the starch of oats, whereas the same amount of potato starch digests in ten minutes.
Doctors frequently recommend the feeding of cereals to infants and children. Densmore declared: "Cereal or grain and all starch foods are unwholesome for all human beings; but this diet is especially unfavorable for children, and more especially for babies. The intestinal ferments which are required for the digestion of starch are not secreted until the babe is about a year old; and these ferments are not as vigorous for some years as in adults. All starch foods depend upon these intestinal ferments for digestion, whereas dates, figs, prunes, etc., are equally as nourishing as bread and cereals, and are easily digested--the larger proportion of the nourishment from such fruits being ready for absorption and assimilation as soon as eaten." No starch and, more particularly, cereals, should be given any child before it is two years old.
Dr. Percy Howe, of Harvard University, says: "Mrs. Mellanby and Dr. Pattison, in England, have just concluded a very interesting experiment on 71 children in a bone-tuberculosis hospital, for a period of 28 weeks, which may help to establish the fact that cereals, especially oatmeal, exert an anti-calcifying influence." Calcification is the deposit of lime salts in the tissues. Cereals would prove a distinct evil in rickets, tuberculosis and in growing children, if this is proven to be true. Of course, these people had no right to experiment on these children, but since human vivisection goes on in every hospital and sanitorium in the world, they probably thought they had as much right to flirt with human health and life and produce suffering, as do the other physicians, surgeons and "research" workers.
We may state a few conclusions about cereals from the above facts:
(1) Cereals do not form any part of the natural diet of man and are not necessary to health and life. (I believe geologists and anthropologists are agreed that man did not become a cereal eater until late in his history).
(2) They are best omitted from the diet entirely and especially from the diet of infants and children.
(3) Where they are eaten, only the whole, undenatured, unprocessed cereal should be taken.
(4) They should form but a small amount of the diet and should be offset with an abundance of fresh fruits and green vegetables--properly combined.
(5) To insure the conversion of their starches into sugar they must always be eaten dry and not as porridges and mushes.