15. Plea For More Fruits

Dr. Menkel, who is also a dietetist, comments as follows in The Oriental Watchman on my note* in Harijan of January 25th:

"First is the statement that food taken in excess of actual requirement for repair and energy is as much food actually wasted. Excess food is not only wasted food, but this excess also places a tax on the organs of digestion, detoxication and elimination, producing premature exhaustion with such developments as diabetes, nephritis and auto-intoxication. Another economy recommendation is that half the quantity of grain as wheat or rice will meet the food purposes when not taken in sloppy form. Cooked or baked grains when taken as near dry as possible must then be masticated and moistened with saliva to be swallowed. This results in better digestion and therefore less food providing the needed energy. Mr. Gandhi suggests that an ounce or two of raw salad vegetables is worth eight ounces of cooked vegetables. This applies particularly to their vitamin and mineral values. There is also something vital in raw fruit and vegetable which is destroyed by cooking. For this reason it is desirable that some uncooked raw fruit and vegetables be taken daily. India needs to make more extensive use of such raw uncooked foods. The elimination of sweet dishes as advocated would greatly relieve the stress upon the pancreas and liver imposed by the average Indian diet, and thus reduce the incidence of diabetes. It is in regard to Mr. Gandhi's statement about fruit that we do not find ourselves quite in agreement. He writes: 'Fresh fruit is good to eat, but only a little is necessary to give tone to the system.' While we can hobble along on low power with little fruit in the diet, it is the contrary that is required. Because so little fruit is available and consumed by the population, that there is so much vitamin and mineral deficiency in India. Writing about fruits and berries in his book Food, Sir Robert McCarrison states: They are among the best of all foodstuffs and should form a considerable part of our daily diet. They contain much mineral salts of the alkaline kind which keep the blood pure and prevent it becoming acid and sour. Fruits are most useful in keeping the bowels healthy and active.' (p.88). Man's physical structure indicates that he is intended to be a frugivorous creature. His natural food, the food on which he can be at his best, is fruit, nuts, milk and the more succulent vegetables. Cereals would be better introduced as additional rather than as basic to the diet because of their strongly acid-ash-forming tendency. On the other hand, as stated by Sir Robert McCarrison, the fruits and vegetables are rich in the alkali minerals. The importance of this difference will be recognized when it is recalled that most of our ailments and all our pains, except those due to accident, are of acid origin. Obviously there would be less pain, and more enjoyment of life, if we kept more definitely on the alkaline side. This necessitates more fruit and vegetables, with proportionately less of the acid-tending cereals. The normal proportion is four parts of the alkaline - fruit and vegetables - to one of acid, which includes all other foods. This would be the diet of health economy, and should be made economically within the reach of all, in a well-organized world. Under existing emergency Mr. Gandhi has advocated very rational and possible food economy. His suggestions merit careful study and application."

While I appreciate Dr. Menkel's endorsement of my remarks, I like better his correction of my apparent lukewarmness about fruit. No one perhaps, as far as I know, has eaten as much fruit as I have, having lived for six years entirely on fruits and nuts and always having had 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 the medical profession to study the peculiar condition of India and suggest the list of vegetables and fruit which are or can be easily and cheaply grown in the villages for local consumption. Wild berries, for instance, grow abundantly. They may not be taken to the market for 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.

Sevagram, 28-2-1942

Harijan, 15-3-1942

[1] A part of this note appears just previous to this chapter, as 14, "Minimum Diet" in this volume.