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HEALTH > DIET AND DIET REFORM > PART II > SECTION I : GENERAL > Place of Cereals in food

 

52. Place of cereals in food

[Shri Ishverbhai Amin, Chief Chemist and Technical Superintendent of the Alembic Chemical Works of Baroda, has prepared a chemical analysis of principal cereals and pulses, commonly used in Gujarat and a note thereon. I give the important part of it below, omitting the detailed analysis as being too technical for the reader. The note gives the reader sufficient information for his guid­ance.

- M. K. G.]

The investigation was undertaken with a view to study the chemical constituents of cereals and pulses which form the main "bulk of the daily food of a village farmer.

Referring to the results of analysis in the following pages, one can see that the lecithin in the soya beans on which much stress is laid nowadays is in a fair proportion in almost all the pulses and one need not be afraid of its deficiency, in spite of its being lower than that in soya beans or eggs, because while the latter are not consumed in a very large quantity, the ordinary cereals and pulses are, and therefore supply sufficient lecithin. The farmer's daily food in Gujarat is Kodari, Millet, Dal of Tuver or Math the last two being replaced sometimes by Mag, Val or Dal of Udad.

The next important thing is that Millet, which forms the main food in the evening contains 7.436 per cent oil, and Kodari which is the noon day meal, contains 5.941 per cent oil. In spite of the farmer's inability to provide for necessaiy portion of free fat in his daily diet, he is still getting it unawares by taking Kodari and Millet. Lecithin also is sufficiently present in Millet and Dal of Vdad, while fairly good in Math, Dal of Tuver, and to some extent in Mag, Val and Kodari.

The total Nitrogen content in cereals allows easily to calculate the percentage of total proteins, but does not allow us to judge their quantity. All the pulses contain 20 to 22 per cent of protein, but the proportion of protein soluble in cold water is highest in Mag and Tuver, which is two-thirds of the total proteins.

It is an established fact that medical men prescribe the use of boiled and spiced aqueous extracts of Mag and Dal of Tuver to even very weak patients, who first are allowed to begin taking food after they have abstained from taking it for a very long time. It is because they contain about 66 per cent of total proteins in water-soluble form and hence are very easily digestible, causing thus minimum strain either to the stomach or the intestines. Val and Dal of Udad contain less soluble proteins which form four- fifths of the total proteins, one-fifth being only in the soluble form. It is a common experience to everybody that Val produces a lot of gases in the intestines due to the insoluble nature and hence bad digestibility of its proteins.

Analysis of Ash gives a clue to their mineral contents. Calcium and Iron which are absolutely necessary in bone and blood formation are highest in Math, while potassium, whose importance is established in the metabolic changes of the human system, is highest in Dal of Tuver. Phosphorus is fairly well represented in all of them. The mineral constituents may vary in the same cereal or pulse on account of the changing nature of available plant foods in the soils. While raising crops, the village farmer should be particular in at least properly manuring the land on which he grows corn for his own consumption, otherwise he and his family are likely to be lacking in nourishment due to low contents of minerals in their daily food. It is not that grains and pulses alone should be the sole guid­ing factors in their nourishment, but there are other ar tides of food such as green and fresh vegetables and milk and butter which supply all the necessary vitamins.

The farmer's food should be balanced if his present stamina and vigour and health are to be raised to a higher standard, and some economical and philanthropical ways and means should be found out by which he is able to retain for consumption at least some milk, butter and green vegetables. His present poor condition does not permit him to do so, in spite of his producing them, as he has to sell all these products for making money. The farmer should be taught to reduce his monetary wants as far as possible, so that some of his produce is left to himself and his family for nourishment.

ISHVERBHAI AMIN

Harijan, 12-12-1936