Almonds and pistachio nut kernels are valuable, for they contain protein 20, fat 50, carbo-hydrates 10 per cent, or even higher proportions. Chestnuts yield the largest amount of carbo-hydrates of any of the nuts.
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Boiled chestnuts contain 70, and roast ones 40 per cent of water. The tomato is so common a food that its composition should be known. Albahary (Comp. Rend, de l'Acad. des Sciences, 1907) gives the analysis as : - water 93.5, carbo-hydrates 3.6, insoluble organic matter 1.69, nitrogenous matter 0 95, fat 0.2, insoluble inorganic matter 011, ash 0.74 (calcium phosphate 0.12), citric acid 0.69, malic acid 0.48, and traces of oxalic, tartaric and succinic acids. Its nutritive value is evidently small.
In a vegetarian diet the proteins must be obtained mainly from the pulses. These contain much nitrogen, which, except about 3-5 per cent, is in the form of legumin or vegetable casein. They are well digested if properly prepared but, if cooked in the ordinary way and in hard water, they are indigestible. The protein combines with the lime. Such foods should be finely powdered before cooking. Some of the pulses, notably beans, are rich in sulphur, and cause flatulence from the formation of sulphuretted hydrogen gas. Lentils contain very little sulphur. Revalenta Arabica is an expensive kind of lentil flour and less nutritious than ordinary lentil flour, being poorer in nitrogen. Another feature in the composition of the pulses is the relatively high proportion of lime. It may possibly be a disadvantage to their free use, as liable to lead to premature calcification of the arteries. Pulses are poor in fat and are usually taken with fatty foods, e.g. beans and bacon; and they are comparatively poor in phosphates.
The composition of pulses as regards protein, in ascending order from 20-32 per cent, is as follows : butter beans, dried peas, Soy beans, broad beans, horse beans, peanuts, lentils, and haricot beans. Green peas contain 4, scarlet runners 17, and French beans 1.5 per cent of protein, when cooked. Carbohydrates are present in most of them in amounts exceeding 50 per cent., while Soy beans contain 28, peanuts 17, green peas 12-16, French beans 7, and scarlet runners 3.5 per cent. The amount of fat does not exceed 2 per cent, except in Soy beans 18 and peanuts 44 per cent.
The consideration of the constituents of the above food-stuffs shows that one of the chief advantages of the vegetarian diet, pure and simple, is the reduction in the nutritive value of the food, although as large or a larger bulk is taken. Proteins are especially deficient. The abolition of animal foods, except eggs, milk and milk products, from the diet has its advocates among those who consider the slaughter of animals unjustifiable or have aesthetic objections to flesh foods. No doubt this is a charming fancy of delicate and highly sensitive women and among sentimentalists. Carried out thoroughly to its logical conclusion it would have a most profound effect on life generally. Under such a scheme of diet all animals, except those used for draught purposes and pleasure, would gradually be abolished. Were fowls only kept to supply eggs and feathers, the price of eggs would rise considerably. So, too, the supply of milk would be insufficient and its price prohibitive, for cattle could not be kept profitably for the supply of milk and leather alone. Woollen clothing would become the luxury of the rich. The bulk of the grass grown would be absolutely wasted unless the science of the vegetarian were able to prepare from it a food for man.
The productive value would be, however, increased if grass were converted into arable land for the growth of cereals and sugar beet, and into orchards for fruit and nuts. We should have an insufficient and expensive supply of milk, milk products and eggs, wool and leather. We should be dependent on cotton and linen for clothing and on compressed cellulose for boots and many other purposes. >
But although universal vegetarianism is opposed to the scheme of nature, there are cases in which the diet, or one modified by the addition of milk and eggs, is particularly suitable for some individuals and in certain diseases. Notably, as has been stated above, its advantage largely depends on a relative starvation, when compared with the previous diet. The patient no longer overeats. Vegetarians claim that they live longer and are healthier, physically and morally, than flesh-eaters. They may be healthier physically, if they have been subject previously to ailments due to an excess of nitrogenous food or overeating generally. The diet is more suited to those engaged in hard physical work, for they sweat freely and get rid of the excess of water in the diet, and they require much carbo-hydrate food to provide for muscular energy. A sedentary person on a vegetarian diet is liable to develop a distended flatulent abdomen, watery blood, and diarrhoea from the excessive peristalsis set up and the excess of waste products to be got rid of. A nutarian diet, is, on the other hand, more liable to cause constipation.
The relative value of the vegetarian and the mixed diet is a question of protein digestibility and absorption. Practically all carbo-hydrate, except honey and the sugar in milk, is derived from the vegetable world. Fat comes from both sources. Can the vegetable world supply the necessary protein in a suitable form? The protein derived from the animal world is in a concentrated, digestible and assimilable form. That from the vegetable world is in an unduly bulky form or, if concentrated, very indigestible. Dried lean beef will contain as much as 87, and fat beef 51 per cent of protein. Pea flour contains at most 27 per cent, wheat flour 16 per cent, and rice flour 7 per cent. If an average man lived on pea flour containing protein 20, carbohydrate 60, fat 1.5 per cent, he would have to consume twenty large bowls of pea-soup, each containing one ounce of the flour, in order to take 120 grammes of protein a day. This would provide 9 grammes of fat, 360 of carbo-hydrate, and a calorie value of about 2,000. If the soup were made with milk, the number of bowls might be reduced to six, each containing one ounce of flour and half a pint of milk. The total yield would be; - protein 110, fat 75, carbo-hydrate 190 grammes, calories 1,900. This is more of a milk diet than a vegetarian one. The calorie value of three pints of milk is about 1,200. By adding eggs, cheese, bread and butter the amount of pea-soup could be still further reduced.