Today we read and hear much about the "medicinal properties of fruits," as if there are some elements in oranges, apples, pears, grapes, etc., that make them part of the druggist's stock-in-trade. It should be fully realized that fruits are foods and not drugs, that they are nutritive and not medicinal substances. They should be eaten as foods and not taken as so-called medicines.
Fruits were often referred to in the past as condiments, which they are not in any sense. They are food and the best of food. Strange, is it not, that there was a time, and that not far distant, when they were placed on the dining table as decorations, not to eat?
Much of the prejudice against fruits was due to medical opposition to their use. Medical men denounced fruits and vegetables so indiscriminately that more illness resulted from abandoning them than from abuses of them. Vegetarians of the period were said to eat "green trash," just as today they are described as eating "rabbit food." The acids of fruits were supposed to be especially bad. Even today, people as a whole do not eat fruit as they should, do not make fresh fruit a part of their daily diet in a rational fashion and, consequently, suffer from many functional and, ultimately, organic impairments.
As a nation we run to animal foods and these are, economically, the most expensive foods we produce. Humbolt asserted that an acre of bananas will produce as much food for man as twenty-five acres of wheat. We grow the wheat, feed it to the animals, and then eat the animals, receiving back in the form of animal foods a small percentage of the food value of the wheat. Seeds and grain are more nutritious than roots, although leaves are often superior to the seeds. The potato is not a root, but a tuber--a sort of fleshy underground seed that may be properly classed as a fruit.
Many people complain that they cannot digest fruit; yet, these are the easiest of all foods to digest. The trouble arises not from the fruit, but from combining them with other foods. There are those who complain that they cannot digest apples. But they eat them at the end of a meal or after meals. Let them eat their apples as parts of a fruit meal and the trouble vanishes. There is an old Spanish proverb which says: "Fruit is gold in the morning, silver at noon, and lead at night." This proverb must have grown out of the observations of experiences in eating fruit with meals. A fruit breakfast is gold; fruit as part of a light lunch was blamed for the digestive discomforts that resulted; fruit as part of the heavy evening meal was blamed for the troubles that followed such eating. But why blame the troubles upon fruits? Why not blame the flesh or the bread or some other part of the meal? Why are we ever anxious and eager to blame the best parts of a meal for the results of our imprudencies in eating?
Corn in Anglo-Saxon usage is a general term, not a specific name for a particular kind of grain. In England, corn simply means grain--any grain--though most commonly applied to wheat. In Scotland, oats are called corn; in Germany, korn means rye; in this country, corn means maize. The word is synonymous with the term cereal and refers to the fruit of grass. Corn, in this broad sense, is one of the most commonly eaten foods of man and is used in the making of bread. The early Hygienists laid special emphasis upon the importance of whole-wheat bread.
Although Graham advocated no special recipe for bread making and did not name a bread or a cracker or a flour or a meal after himself, advocating only the use of coarsely ground and unbolted wheat meal with no animal fat for seasoning, his followers soon began to regard all bread made from any whole grain, if the meal was coarsely ground and unbolted, as Graham bread. Writing in The Science of Health, April 1873, Julia Coleman says: "The term 'Graham' should apply to all unbolted flour, or rather, meal of all kinds and to the bread made from it, for that, as I take it, was the peculiarity advanced by Mr. Graham."
Hygienists went all the way in their abstinence from animal foods. At the beginning of his work, Graham thought that cow's milk was an excellent food for human beings, but only a few years of experience and observation were required to convince him that this was a mistake. Referring to the practice of milk drinking by adults, Trall said: "It seems to us that if adult human beings will persist in drinking their victuals, like a great calf, they will be more or less calfish all their days." This condemnation of milk drinking applied also to the use of butter and cheese. Writing in The Science of Health, June 1864, Julia Coleman said: "There are not a few diseases, like nasal catarrh, which it is difficult, if not impossible, to cure while continuing the use of milk."
Honey, also, was regarded as poor food for man. Replying in November 1855 to a question about honey, Trall said: "Our opinion is that honey is an excellent article of diet for bees, but not good for humans. As to its medicinal qualities or properties, we believe it does not possess any in the curative sense." While discussing honey, it may not be amiss to add that molasses was not regarded as good food.
Animal fats were particularly objectionable to the early Hygienists, these objections beginning with Graham and Alcott. Vegetable fats were considered superior to animal fats, but were not regarded as essential elements of the diet, except as they form natural parts of foods, such as the oil of nuts, the avocado, etc. Trall said: "Olive oil.is not recommended as necessary or useful, but as preferable to lard or butter. We do not teach nor believe in the principle of greasing food in any manner, nor of shortening it in any degree."
It is noteworthy that modern researches have fully confirmed the position of the early Hygienists on the eating of fats. These have shown that the fatty acids of fruits, nuts and other vegetable sources, by virtue of their formulae, belong to a group that are described as polyunsaturated, while the fats of butter, milk, lard and other animal fats are heavily saturated. The saturated fats are used with difficulty by the human organism and today are accused of being partly responsible for high blood cholesterol, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and, ultimately, heart disease. Two striking exceptions to this rule with reference to vegetable fats are found in the oils of chocolate and the coconut. The oils of nuts, the avocado, sunflower seed, peanuts, the soybean, and of grains are much better adapted to human use than the fats of beef, sheep, pigs, dairy products, etc.
Hygienists also early emphasized the fact that prolonged heating, as in baking or frying, destroys some of the essential fatty acids in fatty foods and in oils or butter and produces rancidity of the fats. This is but one of the reasons they objected strongly to the frying of foods.