This section is from the book "The Natural Food Of Man", by Emmet Densmore. Also available from Amazon: How Nature Cures Comprising a New System of Hygiene.
I DO not deem myself competent, at this writing to express an opinion as to the correctness 01 incorrectness of Mr. Hills' theory of Vital Food; tion. I have not given the subject adequate considera-
In regard to the bearing of some of the necessary postulates of that theory, I desire to call the attention of my readers.
It will be seen at a glance that a food, to be vital, in accordance with the theory of Vital Food, must be taken uncooked and unseasoned. Let us consider, first, the matter of rawness. It must be plain to the philosopher and scientist that at the outset man - without fire or tools - must have subsisted on raw food. That this food was fairly adequate, is proven by the fact that the race exists; that it was entirely adequate, is probable from the fact that all animals below man, living upon raw foods, and foods spontaneously produced by Nature, are in the most robust, vigorous health; and there is no reason why man should be an exception to the rule. Tried by this test, what do we find? Fruits and nuts are exquisitely adapted to our needs and desires, in a state of nature. But how fare other foods? Science teaches that all starch foods are made more nutritious and digestible by cooking, since the sac containing the starch granule is softened and opened by the process, and the adapted digestive juices, coming in contact with the nutriment contained in the starch granule, proceed at once to the work of preparing it for assimilation and nourishment. If cereals are eaten raw, a large proportion of the starch granules pass through the digestive tract unopened, and have no other effect upon the organism than the wasting of the vital force required in the process of eliminating these (in such condition) valueless products from the system. The universal instinct and custom of cooking cereals - in all climes, and in all ages - is in accordance with the teaching of science in this matter, and it will be found that a custom coextensive with the race always has a basis for its existence other than custom.
This law, that cooking improves the digestibility of cereals, is not confined to the human animal. In America, where large numbers of cattle are fattened for the markets, it is customary to feed raw maize to the cattle; the excrement from these cattle is then given to swine, which seem to fatten as readily on the excrement as the cattle on the raw maize (usually called corn in America); and thousands of swine are thus annually fattened, whose only food is the excrement from maize-fed cattle. Within a stone's-throw from the publication office of the Vegetarian is exposed for sale a large cooking-vat, or boiler, in which English farmers improve their starch foods for their cattle. It has been seen, from a preceding chapter, that starch foods at their best are not adapted to stomach digestion, and necessarily require a protracted and vital-force wasting process; but, from the higher aspects of Vital Food, it will be seen that, if we are not permitted to cook our cereals, still more are we obliged to discard them from our dietary. As for raw pulse, the very thought is repulsive to the last degree; the most enthusiastic devotee of Vital Food will hardly be stout-hearted enough to make the attempt of eating raw pulse undisguised and unmixed with a less repulsive food; and are our tastes and instincts to stand for nothing ? Raw wheat, decorticated, is not repulsive; but, with the bran unbroken, it will be found a food too difficult of mastication for the human grinder, and, even when thoroughly masticated, there remains a large amount of indigestible bran, which food reformers in America have shown to be productive of inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
When Mr. Hills tells us that "there are many foods of the muscles and many foods of the mind, many foods of the soul and many foods of the spirit," I feel like asking for some evidence of these assertions, drawn from the teachings of science, or deduced from the facts of human experience; and I feel very sure that, if a score of men and women - Vegetarians or not, believers in Vital Food or not - are given a plentiful supply of raw foods, consisting of the best varieties of fruits, nuts, cereals, and pulses, and are not permitted to have any other food, it will soon be seen that they partake most of fruits, somewhat liberally of nuts, next to none of cereals, and absolutely none of pulses.
It will be seen that the facts of seasoning tell as conclusively in favour of a diet of nuts and fruit, and against a diet of cereals and pulses, as the matter of non-cooking. From my adoption of Vegetarianism, some eight years since, I was intuitively convinced that all animal products, and all salt and seasonings, are wrong. I tried for years to abstain both from salt and animal products. I found, after a two years' trial, that I could get on very well on a diet of fruits and cereals unsalted, with the addition of milk; and also found that I got on nicely on a diet of fruits and cereals, without any animal products, with the addition of salt. I was as full of theories as need be; and theoretically I was opposed to both animal products and salt; practically, I was forced to use the one or the other. These facts had been a puzzle to me for years; when, reading, in the Vegetarian Messenger for March, 1890, a review of Dr. Holbrook's book, entitled "Eating for Strength," light began to dawn. The following somewhat lengthy quotation from this review clearly points out a scientific reason why salt is necessary where cereals, pulses, and vegetables form a considerable portion of man's diet.
"Let us now look at the potash and soda salts. Potash is a very remarkable material; phosphate of potash is an essential constituent of the muscles, and also of the blood corpuscles. In the serum of the blood, however, it is an abnormal constituent, causing paralysis of the heart and frequently sudden death. One may, without especial danger, take chlorate or carbonate of potash through the stomach, as is often the case by prescriptions of physicians. The same dose, or even a less one, however, introduced directly into the circulation, causes death. . ."Johannus Ranke says that potash is a substance which, if it accumulates in the flesh cells or nerve cells, causes irritation of the muscles and paralysis of the nerves. We find here a riddle. How is it that this material is a necessary constituent of the firm material of our bodies, but so deadly in the serum of our blood ? Dr. Bunge suggests that the potash and soda salts decompose each other, as is the case when mixed in the laboratory and allowed to crystalise, new compounds being formed, one being chloride of potassium and the other carbonate of soda.