Cereals, after Ceres, goddess of the harvest, are grains. Oats, wheat, rye, rice, barley, millet, and similar grass seed, used as foods, are denominated cereals. They grow and mature in short seasons, can be grown in parts of the world that have short growing seasons, will grow almost everywhere, may be produced with a minimum of effort and will keep almost indefinitely. For these reasons they have been the mainstay of whole populations, despite the many objections that may be offered to their use. Until recent modern times, they were used almost wholly as whole grain and not as refined products.
I should not have to remind my readers that the only grain products that are permissible in the diet of an intelligent and informed individual are whole grains in the dry state. But after this has been said, it is necessary to sound a warning against the use of grains in the Hygienic diet. At their best, grains are inferior articles of food and they certainly form no part of the normal diet of man. Every man, woman and child in the land will be better off by leaving them out of their diet.
Dr. Emmet Densmore was the first to raise a voice against the use of cereal products. He pointed out that man is a frutarian animal, not adapted to the use of cereals, and traced many evils to the employment of grains, even whole grains, as food. He declared bread to be the "staff of death" instead of the "staff of life" as it is usually referred to.
Considering man a frutarian and finding that fruits (ripe) contain plenty of sugar, but little or no starch, whereas the cereal and vegetable diet of civilization is largely starch, he began to investigate the subject still more. He soon found that starch requires much more time and energy to digest than fruit and that cereals are the most difficult of all to digest. "Fruits are best, cereals are worst" he declared. He quotes, approvingly, Dr. Evans as saying: "'Cereal and farinaceous foods form the basis of the diet of so-called vegetarians, who are not guided by any direct principle, except that they believe it is wrong to eat animal food. For this reason vegetarians enjoy no better health, and live no longer than those around them'."
Declaring man not to be naturally a grain-eating animal, Densmore says: "The only animals that may be truly said to be grain-eating are birds. Many species of birds eat a considerable portion of grass seeds (and all cereals are developed from grass) * * * birds are the animals for which starchy seeds are the natural food, and birds have altogether a different digestive apparatus from other animals." Even birds do not feed their young on grains--"They generally feed their young on insects and molluscs, while feeding themselves on fruits and seeds," declares Densmore.
Squirrels often are forced, from scarcity of food, to eat cereals. They bite off the end containing the germ and eat this, leaving the rest of the grain. Berg says "the proteins of most seeds, and especially those of cereals, are especially characterized by inadequacy due to a lack of cystin and lysin. In like manner, it is a common characteristic of seeds, not only to contain an excess of acid, but also to exhibit a deficiency of calcium. For lime is almost always present in the soil, so that seeds need not contain any more calcium than is requisite to provide for the growth of the first rootlet. In animal organisms, on the other hand, the need for calcium is very great. Cereals, consequently, quite apart from the fact that they contain an excess of acid, are about the most unsuitable food we can force upon the growing animal organism. The best proof of this is that even graminivorous birds collect insects to nourish their young. The fledglings of the most strictly vegetarian birds are carnivora."
All experimenters seem to agree that the much vaunted cereal diet is inadequate. Funk, Simmons, Pitz, Hess, Unger, Hart, Halpin, Steenbock, Davis, Hogan, Mendel, Wakeman, Parsons and others of equal standing agree with Berg who agrees with Densmore. Oats are deficient in basic salts. Wheat is deficient in sodium and calcium, while the germ of the wheat is inadequate as a growth-factor. Rice is deficient in salts, and especially in calcium. It does not contain enough calcium to support an adult hog. It is also deficient in sodium and chlorine. They are all lacking in iodine.
Mineral deficiency is a common fault in the diet of young animals fed largely on cereals and it has long been known to farmers and stockmen that their animals must have grass and other green foods--that they will not thrive well on an all-cereal diet. In his laboratory experiments with whole wheat bread, Milo Hastings found that the animals used thrived better and grew more rapidly as the percentage of green foods was increased and the percentage of whole wheat bread was decreased in their diet. If the green foods constituted well over half their diet, they thrived best.
"We have learned," says Berg, "that all cereals have certain defects which may be looked upon as characteristic of these nutriments. As regards inorganic salts, they are deficient in sodium and calcium; they are also poorly supplied with organically combined sulphur and with bases generally; but they contain a superabundance of inorganic acid-formers and of potassium. The cereals are also poor in A, B and C, the poverty being more marked in proportion to the fineness of the flour. Finally, the proteins of the cereals are always inadequate; they are lacking to some extent in the ringed amino-acids, and are especially poor in lysin and cystin."
The contention, so frequently heard, that whole wheat is a perfect food, is a foolish statement of over-enthusiastic salesmen. A few years ago an acquaintance of the writer's made an effort to walk from New York to San Francisco on a diet of whole raw wheat alone. Before starting, however, he consulted me and I advised him not to try it, but to have an abundance of lettuce and celery and some fruit in addition to his wheat. He would not hear of such a plan. Whole wheat is a perfect food and he was going to prove that one could accomplish such a walk on a whole wheat diet. He didn't get as far on his wheat as George Hassler Johnston got on his water diet (fasting) before he discovered that whole grain wheat is not the perfect diet that the "health" food exploiters and amateur dietitians say it is.
"It has long been known," says Berg, "that when herbivores, and still more when rodents, are fed exclusively on grain, acidosis rapidly ensues. In rabbits on a maize diet, for example, the acid urine contains far more phosphorus than is being introduced in the food. (Showing that phosphorus is being lost from the animal's tissues.--Author). * * * Rats, again, can only endure an exclusive grain diet for a short period, speedily succumbing to such a regime. An abundant addition of protein to the grain does not help. Hogan, however, tells us that that an addition of alkalies preserves life and has a marvellous effect in furthering growth."