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Food Values

protein, body, human, fuel, foods, fats and sugar

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FOOD VALUES — the Foods we eat, their Characters, Comparative Values and Digestibility. There is much yet to be learned concerning the comparative effects of foods taken into the human system and the processes by which they are converted into flesh, blood, bone, nerves and brain, but the advance of knowledge in these matters has been very rapid during the last few decades and sufficient has been ascertained to give the average individual a very fair idea of the needs and the requirements of the "machinery" which enables him to live and of the composition of the machinery itself.

Many and complicated are the natural chemical processes by which food is trans formed in the human stomach, intestines, veins, etc., but a general consideration of the subject is simplified by the fact that the beginning and the end—i. e., the food put into the stomach and the body built and sustained by the food—are composed chiefly of the same chemical compounds. In other words, the human body is composed of water, protein (a term which includes the principal nitrogenous compounds), fats, mineral matter (phosphate of lime—the mineral basis of bone—and numerous com pounds of potassium, sodium, iron, magnesium, etc.), and carbohydrates (starches, sugars, etc.). And all these components are found in varying proportions in the foods we eat, though in the human body the carbohydrates become principally fats, only a very small percentage being reproduced as sugar, etc.

Water constitutes about 60% of the entire weight of the average person, protein forms about 18%. fats about 15%, minerals about 6% and carbohydrates a little less than 1%.

After the large amount of water and the small amount of minerals, both of which are absolutely essential to life, the protein are the constituents of the first impor tance for they are the chemicals which chiefly build the flesh, bone and muscle of the body. The principal protein compounds may be divided into albuminoids and gelati noids (classed together as "proteids") and extractives. Of these, the albuminoids are the chief and the real body builders and the extractives are the least important except that they provide the flavor of meats, etc., and thus stimulate appetite and digestion.

Protein is found in all human foods—but in greatly varying proportions. In this

country, any lack in other foods is made up, and very often over-done in that respect, by the excess of protein in meats—lean meat consists almost entirely of protein and water—and by the consumption of eggs, fish, etc. In Asia, the insufficiency of protein in the rice diet is supplied in some parts by the use of beans and peas (dried beans being even richer in protein than meats, in addition to their great percentage of car bohydrates) or by the consumption of fresh or salted fish ; or by both beans and fish. And similarly, in one way or another, as the result either of instinct or experience, has the balance been maintained with at least some degree of accuracy in every part of the wovl d.

We have said that the protein practically builds the machinery of the human body—but a machine needs fuel to operate—and, similarly, the human body requires the necessary chemicals to produce heat and energy. These it obtains to some degree from the protein but principally from two other forms of food—fat and carbohy drateR. Fat, is the most condensed form of fuel but the average digestion does not take kindly to it in over-large quantities so the greater part of the supply is in carbo hydrates—practically "sugar" for the starches are converted into a form of sugar in the stomach and intestines, as a preliminary to their assimilation by the body.

Be it understood that the term "fuel" is not used as a mere figure of speech— it represents the actual uses of the food, for fats and sugars are consumed in the body by chemical processes which are allied in general character to the consumption of coal in the fire which drives an engine. The sums of heat and energy engendered i a the digestion, etc., of different foods have been carefully ascertained and recorded and are credited as so many "calories" or fuel units to a pound of each kind of food. Butter, for example, being 85% fat, is a fine type of human fuel and is credited with 3,410 calories per lb. Sugar, 100% carbohydrate, contains 1,750. Beef varies from only 500 to 1,400—the principal value of beef being as already noted for its protein, or as a flesh and muscle builder, instead of for "fuel" purposes.

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