STARCH FOODS AND STARCH
THE eating of imperfectly cooked starches is the chief cause of that widely prevalent disease, farinaceous dyspepsia, or amylaceous dyspepsia, as it is sometimes called. Starch, before it can be utilized by the body, must pass through several stages, or changes. First, it must be converted into soluble starch, or amylodextrin; then this must be converted into erythrodextrin; this again into acro-dextrin, the acro-dextrin into maltose, and finally, the maltose into levulose, which is then directly absorbed into the system.
These five digestive changes of starch take place in fruit in the natural process of ripening. There is a quantity of starch in green fruit. It is the indigestible raw starch in green apples that produces those "peristaltic woes" so well known to the small boy whose apple hunger refuses to wait till his favorite fruit is fully ripe. Levulose is the sweetest of all sugars; it is the sugar of fruits and flowers, and gives to honey its sweetness.
The cooking of starch is for the purpose of rendering it digestible. The natural diet of man is fruits and nuts, which are free from starch, and nearly ready for absorption. So if one subsisted upon perfectly natural food, there would be little demand upon the stomach for starch digestion. The power of starch digestion is comparatively weak in man when contrasted with that of other animals. In the horse, the cow, the sheep, and other herbivorous animals, starch digestion is vigorous. The ruminants are provided with four stomachs; the food is first macerated in one of these stomachs, then sent up to the mouth to be chewed again, after which it returns to the first stomach and goes through it to the three others. In this way the digestive fluids are poured out in great quantities, and the food is well digested. But in man we have a natural adaptation to the digestion of fruits and nuts, and a smaller capacity for the digestion of grains, starches, and cereals; hence it is desirable for us to bring our starchy foods as nearly as possible to the condition of ripened fruits.
The evil effects of eating starchy foods as usually prepared, are coming to be widely recognized, and as a result many invalids have given up their use entirely.
Thousands of people in the United States are subsisting almost exclusively upon a flesh diet,— the so-called Salisbury diet. This diet is popular because it gives relief to the stomach when it is burdened with gases that cause hours of griping and severe pains of all sorts. When such a person changes his diet and eats beef and almost no bread, these symptoms almost entirely disappear, and he says, "What a splendid remedy this is! What a smart doctor to prescribe it for me!” This is a most delusive cure. The patient is relieved of these discomforts by a flesh diet, but only at the expense of becoming, in a few months, a chronic invalid, a premature old man, a rheumatic, or the victim of Bright's disease, or a neurasthenic, suffering from systemic poisoning, because he is accumulating in his body uric acid, leuconaains, ptomains, and other poisonous substances.
Now the remedy for the production of gases in the stomach is not to be found in eating beefsteak, scraped beef, and other dead things, but in cooking starchy foods thoroughly and eating them dry. By cooking starch thoroughly we mean carrying it through the process of digestion as far as cooking can do so. Granose, granola, and zwieback are prepared in this way. Crystal wheat might be added, but it is improved by further cooking before eating.
The value of this method of cooking starch has been recognized by others besides civilized people; it is not a new discovery. The Canary islanders prepare their corn by roasting it in a big pot until it is parched, then grinding it up into corn-meal, which they mix with a little water, and it is ready for use. They maintain excellent health on this food, notwithstanding the fact that they do not chew it. To be sure, this is not the best way for them to eat their gojio, as they call it; but the Canary islander has already partially digested his corn by parching it in a large earthen pot; so he can swallow it without mastication much more easily than the American can digest his soda biscuit, the starch of which is scarcely cooked at all, washing it down with tea and coffee which almost annihilate the digestion of starch. Dr. Roberts pointed out, many years ago, that tea and coffee prevent the action of the saliva upon the starch. Food does no good unless it is digested; it is not the amount of food eaten that benefits us, but that which we digest and assimilate. Oatmeal should be cooked three or four hours at least, and then is not really done; for the starch should be exposed to a higher temperature than one can get by boiling; in other words, the baking of starch is necessary for its proper digestion. The temperature may be as high as 300° in the oven, whereas 212° is the highest temperature one can get by boiling in a kettle. It would be well for some people to dispense with boiling altogether. I have known many to cure all their disorders by eating their food dry, and masticating everything thoroughly. This is a good rule for all to follow who have difficulty in digestion. It is also good for those whose digestive powers are intact, because such a diet will help to keep them so.