Grains are the most nutritious of all foods, and if properly cooked and masticated, they are easily digested. The grains are all similar in composition, varying in the relative amounts of the various elements, such as gluten, albumen, casein, and fibrin. They also contain a certain amount of starch, which is converted into dextrin, or sugar, fatty matters, and also mineral matter and cellulose. The total nutritive value of the grain foods is nearly three times that of meat. Grains approach more closely than other foods the proper standard of proportion of the food elements. We are told that the system requires six parts of carbonaceous to one part of nitrogenous material. Wheat contains exactly the correct proportion of the food elements. Bread made from the ground whole-wheat kernel is rightly called "the staff of life;" for one could live upon it without other foods, for an indefinite length of time, without injury to the body, as it contains all the elements needed in the body and that, too, in the right proportion.
But even these most nutritious of foods can be cooked and eaten in such a way as to be wholly unfit for the stomach.
The following are some of the errors made in cooking and eating grains :-
First. Not cooking them long enough. Many people think grains can be cooked in twenty or thirty minutes. This is a fatal mistake, and one that has ruined many a stomach. Grains consist largely of starch in the form of little cells; each cell is enclosed in a tough, fibrous coat, which the saliva or the gastric juice does not affect. By prolonged cooking, the starch in the cells expands and bursts the cells; then it can be acted upon by the saliva, which changes it to dextrin, or sugar. The gastric juice digests only the nitrogenous material, so when the starch is not digested by the saliva, it is apt to ferment in the stomach.
Second. Not masticating them thoroughly. Because the grains are softened by cooking and do not need to be masticated in order to render them fine, they are often swallowed without being thoroughly mixed with the saliva. This is a very injurious habit. When we consider the fact that mastication is the only step in the whole process of digestion and assimilation given by the all-wise Creator to man to perforin, it seems that it ought to be given more time than many give to it in this age of hurry.
Third. Grains are often put in bad company. The custom of eating sugar and cream or milk on grains is a very injurious one, for the sugar combined with milk very readily ferments and causes a sour stomach. Either milk or sugar would not be so bad alone, but a dressing of nut cream, fruit-juice, or some sauces such as fig sauce, would be much more wholesome.