Animal and Vegetable Food.
IT has generally been supposed that it was intended man should subsist on a mixed diet, consisting of both animal and vegetable substances. Within the last fifty years, however, a school of physiologists have appeared, who affirm that a vegetable diet is alone consistent with the laws of health. They declare that animal food is not adapted to man's organization, that it unduly stimulates the blood, predisposes to fevers, consumptions, diarrheas, choleras, apoplexy, and numerous other diseases, and of course shortens life. That such a school should have come into existence in this country, where animal food is more largely consumed than in any other part of the world, in proportion to the number of people, is not surprising. We do, undoubtedly, eat too much flesh. So enormous is the consumption, that notwithstanding the vast herds of cattle raised in all our agricultural states, and especially on the western plains, the demand keeps up with the supply so well that beef brings, on an average, about twenty cents per pound, at least twice its full value as a bloodformer.
Facts show that man may live upon flesh alone, upon vegetables alone, or upon flesh and vegetables combined. Is it best he should subsist upon vegetables only, or upon a mixed diet? A mere affirmation upon these points is of little consequence. To cite facts avails nothing. Men have a way of making their own affirmations, and of looking at facts with eyes which sometimes see clearly enough on both sides of them, but totally ignore their existence.
Man's Structure Settles the Question. To settle this matter, we must appeal to man's organization. His structure will tell us something we need not mistake. All the works of God show design. Everything he has made has a use, and is so contrived as to be adapted to that use. Lions, tigers, and other animals, for example, which feed on flesh alone, have a short second stomach, it being only about three times the length of the animal's body. Animals which eat no flesh have a long second stomach, that of the sheep being from thirty to thirty-five times the length of its body. A very remarkable difference of anatomical structure!
This is the meaning of the difference : Vegetable food has a great deal of waste matter in it. Woody fiber makes quite an item in its composition. This waste portion must be carefully separated from the nutritive part, and this must all be done in the second stomach. It takes time to do it. It must not be done in a burry. The nutritive materials are destined to build a living structure, whose dura, tion, like that of all other fabrics, will depend on the care with which the materials are selected and put together. The second stomach of the sheep is long, that there may be ample time for the mixed mass of chyme, when it passes out of the first stomach, to be changed to chyle, and then to be carefully separated into the two parts, the useful and the useless. Animal food is in its composition just like our own flesh, there is little waste matter, and not much time is required for its separation; hence, the second stomach of flesheating animals is short. Nearly the whole alimentary mass is quickly taken up by the lacteals, and there is no occasion for its traveling through a long second stomach.
Man's second stomach is in length midway between that of the flesheating and the vegetableeating animals. If there be design in the works of the Creator, and if that design in the structure of the flesh and vegetableconsuming animals has now been correctly interpreted, it is plain that man is best nourished when he eats both kinds of food. The structure of his teeth and the motions of his jaws (see p. 30), confirm the same conclusion.
Americans Eat too Much Meat.Yet, as I have said, there is no doubt the Americans eat too much meat. Sedentary persons require but very little. Less is wanted in summer than in winter, in warm climates than in cold. People of wealth, whose circumstances impose no bodily hardships, need less than the poor, who are much exposed, and work hard; whereas, they consume more. Those who do not labor with their hands, should never eat meat more than once a day.
It is painfully amusing (if such a compound word is admissible) to hear a nervous female, whose sole exercise consists in going from the parlor to the kitchen once or twice a clay, and in making a brief shopping excursion once a week, complain that she cannot maintain her strength unless she eats freely twice a day of meat, and takes her free potations of strong coffee and wine.
A like opinion prevails generally among the feeble who are not obliged to labor. The child in its nurse's arms must daily, it is thought, suck a piece of chicken or beefsteak in order to thrive. Children thus fed have their blood constantly inflamed, and stand a poor chance when attacked by scarlet fever. The little master or miss who attends school complains of headache, and grows pale, feeble, and nervous. The books are blamed and thrown aside for what the dishes have done. The doctor is called in and assured that the dear child can eat nothing but a little fat broth, a custard, or cake; and if he prescribe a diet of plain bread and milk, be is believed to be heartless, and his prescription is not followed.
The Majority of Mankind Eat no Flesh. All such misguided persons should be apprized that the great majority of mankind eat no flesh, because they cannot afford it. And they do not appear to suffer from its loss. Millions of Irish do not taste of flesh or fish from one month's end to another. Potatoes, oatmeal, and cabbage constitute their chief diet. Rice, poor as it is in nourishment, sustains, when combined with vegetable oil, millions of people in Asia. The Lazaroni of Naples, with active and finely molded forms, live on bread and potatoes. These facts do not afford ground for altogether rejecting animal food, any more than Bayard Taylor's statement respecting whole tribes in Africa who live upon flesh furnishes a reason for excluding vegetable aliment. Man may live and enjoy health upon either, but his organization implies the use of both.
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