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Mahatma Gandhi


51. Improved Diets

"One of the tasks of those who are striving to improve diet in India is to educate the educated," writes Dr. Aykroyd in Health Bulletin No. 23. He bemoans the fact that it is not only the poor, whose choice is extremely limited, who are ignorant and prejudiced, but also those who can afford an excellent diet who do not feed properly, with the result that their children suffer from malnutrition and food-deficiency diseases. Even for people with limited incomes effective improvement can be made with little increase in cost. He says it is desirable that children should consume upwards of 8 oz. of milk a day, but, if funds do not admit, then buttermilk or skimmed milk may be supplied, for "even a little milk is better than none. Careful experiments have shown that the giving of 8 oz. of skimmed milk daily to children fed on an average 'ill-balanced' Indian diet results in an acceleration of growth and a great improvement in health and well-being." Calcium is found abundantly in milk, and children need relatively more calcium and other minerals than adults, just as they need relatively more protein. Rice being very deficient in calcium, its insufficiency is one of the most important defects of the rice-eater's diet. The milled rice-eater, therefore, needs more "protective" foods - milk, green vegetables, fruits etc., than the consumer of whole wheat or ragi. "Parboiled rice, even when milled, is superior in nutritive value (particularly as regards the anti-beri-beri vitamin) to raw rice milled to the same degree." Since diets among the general population are low in fat, Dr. Aykroyd suggests that "addition of extra vegetable oil (at the expense of a quantity of cereal supplying an equivalent number of calories) does not greatly increase expenditure. Pure ghee or butter is, of course, preferable to vegetable fat, but very much dearer." Fruits, he avers, must always be included in children's diets. Tomatoes, oranges and other juicy fruits are richer in vitamins than bananas.

A. K.
Harijan, 12-4-1942