This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Mineral, acid and ballast foods are so closely connected that they really belong to the same group, and are separated only for convenience in planning the balanced ration. They include all bulky, watery vegetables, as onions, corn, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, radishes, spinach, and all greens; asparagus, string beans, salad plants, prunes, figs and rhubarb; all fresh fruits, coarse breads, cereals made from undenatured food products, as whole wheat meal, oatmeal, home ground cornmeal and brown rice.
The term "minerals" is so little understood that the importance of this constituent in the diet is usually overlooked or left to take care of itself. The body averages seven pounds of mineral matter, five-sixths of which is found in the bones, the remainder being distributed throughout the tissues, where it performs important duties in assisting to oxidize, or burn, the food, carry off carbon dioxide (the by-product of oxidation) giving life to the nervous system and pliability to the muscles. In fact life cannot be carried on without mineral, and, just as there is crop failure if land lacks phosphorus or some other necessary constituent, the body droops, grows pale and finally ill, if deprived of any of these minerals. Lime, for instance, is essential to digestion, and, strangely enough, has a great affinity for sugar. In case many sweets are eaten and not enough lime, the body begins to call on its own store to combine with the sugar, gradually the lime is sapped from the teeth, and decay is apt to begin. Life itself cannot be carried on without iron, for the little red corpuscles of the blood cannot refresh, or reorganize, the body without it. When iron is deficient, pallor, lassitude and, finally, anemia may set in. The body cannot lack any one mineral and expect the others to carry on their work effectively. But if a balanced diet is used and the vegetables and fruits are carefully prepared, the body will be supplied with all the mineral matter necessary. On such a diet little thought need be given to the matter of minerals and salt will be the only one which will have to be added.
As all vegetables contain a variety of minerals, it is somewhat difficult to classify them as being rich in any particular one.
Lime is found in all cereals and predominates in brown rice, as well as in radishes, apples and spinach; while iron has a definite place in apples, lentils, strawberries, cabbage, spinach and string beans.
It will be noticed that in classifying cereals the word "undenatured" is prefixed to wheat, oatmeal, cornmeal and brown rice. When a cereal is "denatured," one or more of its valuable elements have been removed. When wheat is made into white flour, a portion of the mineral is sacrificed. A similar loss is sustained when the heart and outer husks are removed from corn. Rolled oats and polished rice suffer in like manner. In this way the body is really deprived of several of the most important food elements, and, if these special denatured foods predominate in the diet, mineral starvation results
Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the necessity of supplying minerals in the diet for prospective motherhood. The body is then taxed to the utmost to supply not only itself, but the food essences needed for the new life. In this case, as with the child, the diet should be over-rich in minerals, as, otherwise, the bony structure of the coming baby will suffer, while the mother will be robbed of her own supply of body minerals to give to the child. The decay of the teeth of the pregnant mother is largely due to the lack of lime and phosphorus in the diet.
Fruits, like vegetables, are both mineral and ballast foods. They also convey to the body various acids which are combined with minerals in such a way as to play an important part in maintaining health. As digestion transforms these acids into alkalis, they cause the blood to become alkaline and the urine less acid. The differing flavors of fruits are due to these acids, in part, but more to the presence of small numbers of little bodies which almost elude investigation. While these are of no great nutritive value, they give the fruits pronounced flavor and make them valuable stimulants to the appetite and aids to digestion, because they excite the digestive juices.
Fruits in their raw state have a much greater tonic-value, but as they are indigestible to many people, it is often necessary to cook them. Unless the liquor or medium in which they are prepared is served with them, they suffer great nutritive loss. The skins should be retained as far as possible, as many of the mineral salts are found just beneath the surface and are lost when the fruit is pared. Whether raw or cooked all fruits should be served with less sugar than is the usual custom. Fruit drinks offer an opportunity to introduce acids and salts into the system; any fruit, from peaches to grapefruit, is adaptable, either alone or in combination. Again, these drinks should not be served too sweet, or the direct value is thwarted. Uncooked, acid fruits, however, should not be served in combination with starchy foods, as they frequently cause indigestion. Many a person has suffered for years from flatulence through eating both raw, acid fruit and cereal for breakfast.
Figs, prunes and bananas should be classed as food fruits, rather than mineral fruits. Both figs and prunes contain so much sugar that they are listed under carbohydrates, although their mineral content is high. Both are ballast foods and very laxative. The banana is largely starch, so it also is classified under carbohydrates. As it is almost impossible in the north, to obtain bananas fully ripened, they should be served cooked, as otherwise, the starch is often indigestible. In any case the outer surface should be scraped off until the banana becomes slippery.
To manufacture foods that are concentrated, so that the body may acquire its nourishment without dealing with bulk, has been the subject of many experiments. But it has been proved that the body must have bulk in order to stimulate the digestive organs to sufficient activity, and to clear or "sweep out" the intestines.
Most vegetables and fresh fruits contain so much cellulose that they are invaluable as ballast foods. Favorite refreshments a century ago were apples and nuts. This is a perfect combination, as the bulk of the apple satisfies the appetite and prevents the eating of too many nuts. If needed, this simple rule of using bulk to supplement concentrated foods will do much towards producing better health. Bulky cereals, as whole-wheat meal, corn- and oatmeal, are splendid ballast foods, and, in cases of auto-intoxication or constipation, should be used to replace ordinary flour in making bread. All of the ballast foods should be used freely in either case.
The dissolvent group includes several of the foods classed under minerals and bulk, as well as others which contain an abundance of liquid. Under this heading we find watery fruits and vegetables; gelatines, water-ices, frappes and sherbets; buttermilk, skimmed milk, fruit drinks, tea, coffee, water and stock and milk soups. About two-thirds of the body's weight is due to water. Approximately four and a half pints are given off each day in the waste and exhaustion, a portion of which is actually manufactured in the body tissues, the remainder coming from food and drink. Roughly speaking, in order to maintain the fluid balance for a day, at least two quarts of liquid should be taken by an adult, besides that contained in the food. In case the diet is over-heavy in meat and protein, more will be needed to carry off urea and other products of protein waste than when it is largely vegetarian or balanced.