( By Dr. H.K.Bakhru )

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Introduction: Diet in Health and Disease

Your food shall be your medicine - Hippocrates.

Diet plays a vital role in the maintenance of good health and in the prevention and cure of disease. In the words of Sir Robert McCarrison, one of the best known nutritionists , " The right kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of health ; and the wrong kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of disease. " The human body builds up and maintains healthy cells, tissues, glands and organs only with the help of various nutrients. The body cannot perform any of its functions, be they metabolic, hormonal, mental, physical or chemical, without specific nutrients. The food which provides these nutrients is, thus, one of the most essential factors in building and maintaining health. The other essential factors is that , these nutrients must also be appropriately utilised by the body.

Nutrition, which depends on food, is also of utmost importance in the cure of disease. The primary cause of disease is a weakened organism or lowered resistance in the body, arising from the adoption of a faulty nutritional pattern. There is an elaborate healing mechanism within the body but it can perform its function only if it is abundantly supplied with all the essential nutritional factors. It is believed that at least 45 chemical components and elements are needed by human cells. An adequate diet must contain each of these 45 substances, called essential nutrients. Two of these nutrients are oxygen and water. The other 43 are classified into five main groups,namely, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. All 45 of these nutrients are vitally important and they work together. Therefore, the absence of any of them will result in disease and eventually in death.

Research has shown that almost all diseases can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to an undersupply of various nutrients. These deficiencies occur due to various factors, such as, the intense processing and refining of foods, the time lag between the harvesting and consumption of vegetables and fruits, the chemicals used in bleaching, flavoring, coloring and preserving foods and the chemical fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and sprays used for treating the soil. Vitamin losses also occur due to the storage, paring and grating of vegetables, from soaking in water and from the heat of cooking.

One of the fundamental principles of nature cure is that most diseases have the same basic underlying cause, namely, the steady accumulation in the system of waste materials through years of wrong food habits. Apart from nutritional deficiencies, other factors contributing to this are a faulty nutritional pattern, constant overeating, excessive consumption of proteins and the body’s inability to properly digest them and sluggish metabolism. As wrong food habits is the most potent cause of disease, a healthy and balanced diet alone can prevent further accumulation of toxic waste matter in the system, purify the blood and allow all bodily structures to work at a high level of efficiency.

Research shows that diseases produced by combinations of deficiencies can be corrected when all the nutrients are supplied, provided irreparable damage has not been done. A well-balanced and correct diet is thus of utmost importance for the maintenance of good health and the healing of diseases. Such a diet, obviously should be made up of foods which, in combination, would supply all the essential nutrients. It has been found that a diet which contains liberal quantities of seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits would provide adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients. These foods have, therefore, been aptly called basic food groups and a diet containing these food groups as an optimum diet for vigour and vitality. This diet has been named the Airole Diet after its exponent, Dr. Paavo O. Airole, the internationally famous nutritionist and naturopathic physician. It is briefly described in the following lines :

Seeds, nuts and grains :

These are the most important and the most potent of all foods and contain all the important nutrients needed for human growth. They contain the germ, the reproductive power which is of vital importance for the lives of human beings and their health. Millet, wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, beans and peas are all highly valuable in building health. Wheat, mung beans, alfalfa seeds and soya beans make excellent sprouts. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds , almonds, peanuts and soya beans contain proteins of high biological value. Seeds, nuts and grains are also excellent natural sources of essential unsaturated fatty acids necessary for health. They are also good sources of lecithin and most of the B vitamins. They are the best natural sources of vitamin C, which is perhaps the most important vitamin for the preservation of health and prevention of premature ageing. Besides, they are rich sources of minerals and supply the necessary bulk in the diet. They also contain anxones, the natural substances that play an important role in the re-juvenation of cells and prevention of premature ageing. Sprouted seeds are a good source of vitamin C and A. All seeds and nuts should ideally be eaten raw but those which can be sprouted, should be consumed in that form to derive maximum nutritional value. Some grains such as rice, wheat, millet, rye and barley can be cooked in the form of cereals and bread.

Vegetables :

They are an extremely rich source of minerals, enzymes and vitamins. However, faulty cooking and prolonged careless storage, destroy these valuable nutrients. Most of the vegetables are, therefore, best consumed in their natural raw state in the form of salads.

There are different kinds of vegetables. They may be edible roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds. Each group contributes to the diet in its own way. Fleshy roots have high energy value and are a good source of vitamin B. Seeds are relatively high in carbohydrates and proteins and the yellow ones are rich in Vitamin A. Leaves, stems and fruits are excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, water and roughage.

To prevent loss of nutrients in vegetables, it would be advisable to steam or boil vegetables in their juices on a slow fire and the water or cooking liquid should not be drained off. No vegetable should be peeled unless it is so old that the peel is tough and unpalatable. In most root vegetables, the largest amount of minerals is directly under the skin and these are lost if the vegetables are peeled. Soaking of vegetables should also be avoided if taste and nutritive value are to be preserved.

An intake of about 280 grams of vegetables per day per person is considered essential for the maintenance of good health. Of this, leafy vegetables should constitute 40 per cent, roots and tubers 30 per cent and the other vegetables like brinjals, ladies fingers and cauliflower 30 per cent.

Fruits :

Like vegetables, fruits are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. They are easily digested and exercise a cleansing effect on the blood and digestive tract. They are highly alkaline and contain a high percentage of water and a low percentage of proteins and fats. Their organic acid and high sugar contents have immediate refreshing effects. Apart from seasonal fresh fruits, dry fruits, such as raisins, prunes and figs are also beneficial.

Fruits are at their best when eaten in the raw and ripe state. Much of their nutritional value in terms of salts and carbohydrates is lost in cooking. They are most beneficial when taken as a separate meal by themselves, preferably for breakfast. If fruits are eaten with regular food, they should form a fairly large part of the meal. Fruits, however, make better combination with milk than with meals. It is also desirable to take one kind of fruit at a time. For the maintenance of good health, at least one pound of uncooked fruits should form part of the daily diet. In case of sickness, it will be advisable to take fruits in the form of juices. However, juices should be drunk immediately after their extraction as they begin to decompose quickly and turn into harmful substances.

Each food group should roughly form the bulk of one of the three principal meals. Fruits can be taken in the morning for breakfast ;seeds, nuts and cereals for lunch and vegetables for dinner. This order can, however, be interchanged to suit one’s requirements.

About 75 to 80 per cent of the diet should consist of foods in their natural uncooked sate, because cooking destroys much of the nutritional value of most foods. Sprouting is an excellent way of consuming seeds, beans and grains in their raw form as in the process of sprouting the nutritional value is multiplied. New vitamins are created and the protein quality is improved. Foods should be eaten only in their natural form, that is whole, unprocessed, unrefined and preferably grown organically, without chemical fertilisers and sprays. Organically grown fruits and vegetables contain more enzymes and have greater health-building and disease-preventing potential.

The three basic health-building foods mentioned above should be supplemented with certain special foods such as milk, vegetable oils and honey. Milk is an excellent food. It is considered as ‘Nature’s most nearly perfect food.’ According to Charak, the great author of the Indian system of medicines, milk increases strength, improves memory, revitalizes the body, maintains strength and promotes long life. The best way to take milk is in its soured form - that is, yoghurt and cottage cheese. Soured milk is superior to sweet milk as it is in a predigested form and more easily assimilated. Milk helps to prevent intestinal putrefaction and constipation. High quality unrefined vegetable oils should be added to the diet. They are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and F and lecithin. The average daily amount should not exceed two tablespoons. Honey too, is an ideal food. It helps increase calcium retention in the system, prevents anaemia besides being beneficial in kidney and liver disorders, colds,poor circulation and complexion problems. It is one of Nature’s energy-giving food. It is easily digested and assimilated.

A diet of the three basic food groups, supplemented with the special foods mentioned above, will ensure a complete and adequate supply of all the vital nutrients needed for health, vitality and prevention of disease. It is not necessary to include animal protein like egg, fish or meat in this basic diet, as animal protein, especially meat, always has a detrimental effect on the healing processes. A high animal protein is harmful to health and may cause many of our most common ailments.

Daily menu :

Based on what has been stated above, the daily menu of a health-building and vitalising diet should be on the following lines :

Upon arising : A glass of lukewarm water with half a freshly squeezed lemon and a spoonful of honey, or a glass of freshly squeezed juice of any available seasonable fruit such as apple, pineapple, orange, mosambi or grapes.

Breakfast : Fresh fruits such as apple, orange, banana, grapes or any available seasonable fruits, a cup of unpasturised milk and a handful of raw nuts such as almonds, cashewnuts and peanuts.

Lunch : A bowl of freshly prepared steamed vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, squash or beans, using sea salt, vegetable oil, or butter for seasoning, one or two whole wheat chappatis and a glass of butter-milk.

Mid-afternoon : A glass of fresh fruit or vegetable juice or coconut water or sugar cane juice.

Dinner : A large bowl of fresh salad made up of vegetables like tomatoes, carrot, beet, onion, etc., with lemon juice dressing, any available sprouts such as alfalfa seed or mung beans along with one tablespoon of fresh butter, and cottage cheese or a glass of butter-milk.

Bed-time snacks : A glass of fresh milk or one apple. The above menu is a general outline around which an individual diet can be built. It can be modified and changed to adapt to specific requirements and conditions. The menu for lunch and dinner is interchangeable. Water should not be taken with meals, but half an hour before or an hour after meals. Milk, butter-milk and vegetable soups can be taken with meals.

Diseases can be overcome by sensible natural dietetic treatment. Disease is actually a self-initiated effort of the body to throw off the accumulations of waste materials which are interfering with its functioning. Since most conditions of ill-health are systemic in their origin and have the same underlying causes, the basic treatment is likewise the same. In the beginning of the dietetic treatment, the patient should undergo a short cleansing juice fast so that the body may throw off all the accumulated toxins and wastes. In this regimen, the person should take the juice of a fresh orange or any other juicy fruit diluted in the proportion of 50 : 50 with water. Alternatively, vegetable juices such as carrot, cucumber, beet and spinach may be taken. Each day, while fasting, the bowels should be cleansed with a warm water enema. In certain conditions, the patient may adopt an exclusive fruit diet for a few days in the beginning of the treatment instead of juice fasting. In this regimen, three meals a day of fresh juicy fruits such as oranges, grapes, grapefruits, apples, pineapples,peaches and pears may be taken at five-hourly intervals. After the short juice fast or the all-fruit diet as the case may be, the patient may gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet of three basic food groups, namely seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits as already outlined. Further , juice fasts or periods on the all-fruit diet may be undertaken at intervals of two or three months depending on the progress being made.

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