Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Van Dyck to Yaper >> Vegetables


food, diet, foods, protein, beans, fat, salts and meat

VEGETABLES, Food Value of. The function of food is to build up the tissues of the body and keep them in repair, to yield energy in the form of heat, to keep the body warm and to create strength to enable it to do its work. A diet to accomplish all this must contain the nutrients, water, nitrogenous substances or proteids (classified as protein), also fats, carbo (sugar, starch, cellulose, etc.), and mineral matters, such as sodium chloride (com mon salt) and phosphate of lime. Animal foods, meat, eggs, cheese, etc., are rich in pro tein, but not in carbohydrates. With the excep tion of butter, lard and the fat of pork, they yield but little heat and as a rule should be asso ciated with other foods to form a complete diet. Cereals (corn, wheat, etc.), on the other hand, though classed among the vegetable foods, furnish a very large proportion of the actual nutrients in the ordinary diet and more eco nomically than animal foods, for which they may be substituted. Combined with milk, fruit and nuts, they form a complete diet. 'Vegetables as a rule are deficient in fat and protein, but rich in carbohydrates and some of them con tain beneficial juices and salts. While a vege table diet is often of great service in neuras thenia, gastric neurosis, etc., for healthy per sons the objections to a strictly vegetable diet are based upon .the large amount of material required to furnish necessary protein, the amount of residue to be got rid of by the body and the monotony of the diet. Most of the so called vegetarians are merely non-meat-eaters, for they consume milk, butter, eggs, cheese and sometimes fish. The fact is that man is an omnivorous animal, his digestive apparatus is adapted for the digestion of both animal and vegetable foods and usually he needs both in moderation. Vegetables are too often consid ered merely as a pleasant addition to the diet and not a necessity. Most families use but 12 or 15 different kinds of vegetables, whereas the large markets in our cities have for sale through out the year about 50 varieties. The United States government has recently encouraged the increased use of vegetables and through investi gations and experiments has added to our knowledge of their food value. For example, the purslane and other so-called weeds have been found to be useful as food and the propa gation and use as food of the roots, tubers, beans, bulbs and various plants heretofore grown and used as food almost exclusively by the Chinese, such as lily bulbs, the lotus, taro and ginseng, are recommended to Americans.

The malates, citrates and other salts found in certain vegetables are indispensable in food as they are converted into carbonates in the body and furnish some of the alkalies to the blood and other fluids. Potatoes, onions and fresh salad vegetables, such as tomatoes, cabbage, greens, lettuce, corn and cucumbers are excel lent preventives of (q.v.) and in the spring, after the heavy winter diet (more or less of meat) their juices and salts are especially beneficial. These vegetables, together with oranges, lemons, limes and apples, may well be substituted for so-called spring medicines. Vegetables are also needed for their bulk, which is an important adjuvant in maintaining the necessary movements of the intestines.

Much of the indigestion following the use of certain vegetables is due either to insufficient cooking or to the fact that the vegetables are not fresh. The Irish potato, the °king of vegetables? lacks protein, fat and salts and should be eaten with butter and salt, pot liquor, meat gravy or fat meat and associated with some nitrogenous food. The legumes, beans, peas and lentils differ from other vegetables by reason of the large amount of protein they contain, as well as mineral matter, chiefly lime and potassium salts, but fat is needed with them to furnish the necessary nutrients, hence ((pork and beans? They need, also, especially when dried, to be thoroughly cooked, and are best adapted to persons who do outdoor work. The flatulence which they sometimes produce, especially in persons of sedentary occupation, constitutes one objection to their use. Legumes may well be called the "meat of the poor.? In Mexico the frijole (a variety of bean) is the staple food next to maize; and in the Orient the soy bean and its products, bean-cheese, etc., rank next to rice. In India lentils form the staple diet. There is a Hindu proverb that °Rice is good, but lentils are my life? The Arabs feed ground beans to their horses when extraordinary exertion is needed of them. Finely ground- peas, beans and lentils form the basis of many soup-tablets and of condensed foods used by armies, explorers, etc. The pea sausage of the German army was composed of lentil flour, bacon and seasonings. Government reports show that the Southern negro, though having salt pork, wheat flour, cornmeal, mo lasses and milk, needs also vegetable food to keep him in a proper condition of health. See FOOD; NUTRITION OF MAN.