Your food shall be your medicine – Hippocrates
Diet plays a vital role in the maintenance of good health and in the prevention and cure of disease. In the words of Sir Robert McCarrison, one of the best known nutritionists, ‘The right kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of health ; and the wrong kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of disease. ”
The human body builds up and maintains healthy cells, tissues, glands and organs only with the help of various nutrients. The body cannot perform any of its functions, be they metabolic, hormonal, mental, physical or chemical, without specific nutrients. The food which provides these nutrients is thus one of the most essential factors in building and maintaining health. Nutrition, which depends on food, is also of utmost importance in the cure of disease. The primary cause of disease is a weakened organism or lowered resistance in the body, arising from the adoption of a faulty nutritional pattern. There is an elaborate healing mechanism within the body but it can perform its function only if it is abundantly supplied with all the essential nutritional factors.
It is believed that at least 45 chemical components and elements are needed by human cells. Each of these 45 substances, called essential nutrients, must be present in adequate diets. The list of these nutrients, include oxygen and water. The other 43 essential nutrients are classified into five main groups, namely carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. All 45 of these nutrients are vitally important and they work together. Therefore, the absence of any of them will result in disease and eventually in death.
Research has shown that almost all varieties of disease can be produced by an under-supply of various nutrients. These nutritional deficiencies occur on account of various factors, including the intense processing and refining of foods, the time lag between the harvesting and consumption of vegetables and fruits, the chemicals used in bleaching, flavoring, coloring and preserving foods and the chemical fertilizers, fungicides insecticides and sprays used for treating the soil.
Therefore, as a first principle of nutrition, one should insist upon whole meal flour and whole meal bread and avoid the white stuff.
Research has also shown that diseases produced by combinations of deficiencies can be corrected when all the nutrients are supplied, provided irreparable damage has not been done. A well-balanced and correct diet is thus of utmost importance for the maintenance of good health and the healing of diseases. Such a diet, obviously should be made up of foods, which in combination would supply all the essential nutrients.
It has been found that a diet which contains liberal quantities of
- seeds, nuts, and grains,
would provide adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients. These foods have, therefore, been aptly called basic food groups and the diet contains these food groups as optimum diet for vigour and vitality. It is described, in brief, below :
(I) Seeds , nuts and grains :
These are the most important and the most potent of all foods and contain all the important nutrients needed for human growth. They contain the germ, the reproductive power which is of vital importance for the lives of human beings and their health. Millet, wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, beans and peas are all highly valuable in building health. Wheat, mung beans, alfalfa seeds and soya beans make excellent sprouts. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts and soya beans contain complete proteins of high biological value.
Seeds, nuts and grains are also excellent natural sources of essential unsaturated fatty acids necessary for health. They are also good sources of lecithin and most of the B vitamins . They are the best natural sources of vitamin C, which is perhaps the most important vitamin for the preservation of health and prevention of premature ageing. Besides, they are rich sources of minerals and supply necessary bulk in the diet. They also contain auxones, the natural substance that play an important role in the rejuvenation of cells and prevention of premature ageing.
(ii) Vegetables :
They are extremely rich source of minerals, enzymes and vitamins. Faulty cooking and prolonged careless storage, however, destroy these valuable nutrients. Most of the vegetables are, therefore, best consumed in their natural raw state in the form of salads. There are different kinds of vegetables. They may be edible roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds. Each group contributes to the diet in its own way. Fleshy roots have energy value and good sources of vitamin B . Seeds are relatively high in carbohydrates and proteins and yellow ones are rich in vitamin A. Leaves, stems and fruits are excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, water and roughage.
To prevent loss of nutrients in vegetables, it would be advisable to steam or boil vegetables in their juices on a slow fire and the water or cooking liquid should not be drained off. No vegetable should be peeled unless it is so old that the peel is tough and unpalatable. In most root vegetables, the largest amount of mineral is directly under the skin and these are lost if vegetables are peeled. Soaking of vegetables should also be avoided if taste and nutritive value
are to be preserved.
(iii) Fruits :
Like vegetables, fruits are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. They are easily digested and exercise a cleansing effect on the blood and digestive tract. They contain high alkaline properties, a high percentage of water and a low percentage of proteins and fats. Their organic acid and high sugar content have immediate refreshing effects. Apart from seasonable fresh fruits, dry fruits, such as raisins, prunes and figs are also beneficial. Fruits are at their best when eaten in the raw and ripe states. In cooking, the loose portions of the nutrient salts and carbohydrates. They are most beneficial when taken as a separate meal by themselves, preferably for breakfast in the morning. If it becomes necessary to take fruits with regular food, they should form a larger proportion of the meals. Fruits, however, make better combination with milk than with meals. It is also desirable to take one kind of fruit at a time. For the maintenance of good health, at least one pound of uncooked fruits should form part of the daily diet. In case of sickness, it will be advisable to take fruits in the form of juices.
The three basic health-building foods mentioned above should be supplemented with certain special foods such as milk, vegetable oils and honey. Milk is an excellent food. It is considered as ” Nature’s most nearly perfect food.” The best way to take milk is in its soured form – that is, yogurt and cottage cheese. Soured milk is superior to sweet milk as it is in a predigested form and more easily assimilated. Milk helps maintain a healthy intestinal flora and prevents intestinal putrefaction and constipation.
High quality unrefined oils should be added to the diet. They are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and F and lecithin. The average daily amount should not exceed two tablespoons . Honey too is an ideal food. It helps increase calcium retention in the system, prevents nutritional anaemia besides being beneficial in kidney and liver disorders, colds, poor circulation and complexion problems. It is one of the nature’s finest energy-giving food.
A diet of the three basic food groups, supplemented with the special foods, mentioned above, will ensure a complete and adequate supply of all the vital nutrients needed for health, vitality and prevention of diseases. It is not necessary to include animal protein like egg, fish or meat in this basic diet, as animal protein, especially meat, always has a detrimental effect on the healing process. A high animal protein is harmful to health and may cause many of our common ailments.