07. Our Daily Diet
Whole, unpolished rice is unprocurable in the bazaars. It is beautiful to look at and rich and sweet to the taste. Mills can never compete with this unpolished rice. It is husked in a simple manner. Most of the paddy can be husked in alight chakki without difficulty. There are some varieties the husk of which is not separated by grinding. The best way of treating such paddy is to boil it first and then separate the chaff from the grain. This rice, it is said is most nutritious and , naturally, the cheapest. In the villages, if they husk their own paddy, it must always be cheaper for the peasants than the corresponding mill husked rice, whether polished or unpolished. The majority of rice found in ordinarily in the bazaars is always more or less polished, whether hand-husked or mill husked. Wholly unpolished rice is always hand husked and is every time cheaper than the mill-husked rice, the variety being the same.
The branless (wheat) flour is as bad as polished rice is the universal testimony of medical men. Whole –wheat flour ground in one’s chakki is any day superior to, and cheaper because the cost of grinding is saved. Again, in the whole-wheat there is no loss of weight. In fine flour there is loss of wheat. The richest part of wheat is contained in its bran. There is a terrible loss of nutrition when the bran of whet is removed. The villagers and others who eat whole-wheat flour ground in their own chakki save their money and, what is more important their health. A large part of the millions that flour-mills make will remain in and circulate among the deserving poor when village grinding is revived.
Another physician quotes a text against the use of sprouted pulses but he too lacks actual experience for supporting his text. And this has been my complaint against many Ayurvedic physicians. I have no doubt that there is abundant ancient wisdom buried in the Sanskrit medical works. Our physicians appear to be too lazy to unearth that wisdom in the real sense of the term. They are satisfied with merely repeating the printed formula. Even as a layman I know many virtues are claimed for several Ayurvedic preparations. But where is their use, of they cannot be demonstrated today? I plead for the sake of this ancient science for a spirit of genuine search among our Ayurvedic physicians. I am as anxious as the tallest among them can be to free ourselves from the tyranny of Western medicines which are ruinously expensive and the preparation of which takes no count of the higher humanities
Young India, 8-8-1929
It is my firm conviction that man need take no milk at all, beyond the mother’s milk that he takes as a baby. His diet should consist of nothing but sunbaked fruits and nuts. He can secure enough nourishment both for the tissues and the nerves from fruits like grapes and nuts like almonds. Restraint of the sexual and other passions becomes easy for a man who lives on such food. My co-workers and I have seen by experience that there is much truth in the Indian proverb that as a man eats, so shall he become.
Autobiography, p. 200, Edn. 1958
My own experience of taking honey mixed with hot water extends to more than four years. I have experienced no ill-effect what so ever. Objection has also been raised against has, I admit, considerable force though the western method of gathering honey is cleaner and less I should have to cut down many things I take or use. But life is not governed by strict logic. It is an organic growth, seemingly irregular, growth following its own law and logic. Western doctors bestrow high praise upon it. Most of them who condemn the use of sugar in unmeasured terms speak highly of honey which they say does not irritate as refined sugar or even gur does.
Young India, 8-8-1929
According to medical testimony gur is any day superior to refined sugar in food value, and if the villagers cease to make gur as they are beginning to do, they will be deprived of an important food adjunct for their children. They may do without gur themselves, but their children cannot without undermining their stamina. Retention of gur and its use by the people in general mean several crores of rupees retained by the villagers.
No one perhaps, as far as I know, has eaten as much fruit as I have, having lived for six years on entirely fruits and nuts and always having has a liberal supply of fruit as part of my ordinary diet. But I had in my mind, when writing, the special conditions of India. Its people should have, by reason of its extent and variety of climate, a most liberal supply of fruits, vegetables and milk. Yet it is the poorest country in this respect. I therefore suggested what seemed to me to be feasible. But I heartily endorse the proposition that for retaining health fresh fruit and fresh vegetables should form the main part of our diet. It is for there medical profession to study the peculiar condition of India and suggest the list of vegetables and villages for local consumption. Wild berries , for instance, sale but can be used for the picking. This is a vast field for research. It can bring neither money nor perhaps fame. But it may earn the gratitude of dumb millions.
I had introduced to me the leaves of sarsav, suwa, turnip-tops, carrot-tops, radish-tops and pea-nut leaves. Besides these, it is hardly necessary to state that the radish, turnip and carrot tubers are also known to be edible in their raw state. It is waste of money and ‘good’ taste, to cook these leaves or tubers. The vitamins contained in these vegetables are wholly or partially lost in cooking. I have called cooking these waste of ‘good’ taste because the uncooked vegetables have a natural good taste of their own which is destroyed by cooking.
Common salt may be rightly counted as the king among condiments. Many people cannot eat their food without it. The body requires certain salts and common salt is one of them. These salts occur naturally in the various foodstuffs but when food is cooked in an unscientific way, e.g. throwing away the water in which rice, potatoes or other vegetables have been boiled, the supply becomes inadequate. The deficiency then has to be made up by a separate addition of salts. As common salt is one of the most essential salts for the body. It might be supplemented in small quantities.
But several condiments are not required by the body as a general rule, e.g. chilies fresh or dry, peper, turmeric, coriander, caraway, mustard, methi, asafotida etc. These are taken for the satisfaction of the palate. My opinion based on my personal experience of fifty years, is that not one of these is needed to keep perfectly healthy. Those whose digestion has become very feeble might take these things as medicines for a certain length of time, if considered necessary. But one should make it a point to avoid their use for the satisfaction of the palate. All condiments, even salt, destroy the natural flavor of vegetables and cereals. etc. Those whose palate has not become vitiated enjoy the natural flavor of the foodstuffs much more than after the addition of salt should be taken when necessary as an adjunct. As for chilies, they burn the mouth and irritate the stomach. Those who are not in habit of taking chilies cannot bear them in the beginning. I have seen several cases of sore mouth caused by the taking of chilies. I know of one case who was very fond of chilies, and an excessive use resulted in his premature death.
Key to Health, pp. 27-29, Edn. 1956