Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/79

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69
FOOD ACCESSORIES AND DIGESTION.

cent infusion of tea. Further researches appeared to show that this retarding effect of beef -tea was due to the salts of the organic acids contained in it.

While on the subject of beef -tea, it will be novel and instructive to many to hear that

there is a wide-spread misapprehension among the public in regard to the nutri- tive value of beef-tea. The notion prevails that the nourishing qualities of the meat pass into the decoction, and that the dry, hard remnant of meat-fiber which remains undissolved is exhausted of its nutritive properties ; and this latter is often thrown a way as useless. A deplorable amount of waste arises from the prevalence of this erroneous notion. The proteid matter of meat is quite insolu- ble in boiling water, or in water heated above 160 Fahr. The ingredients that pass into solution are the sapid extractives and salines of the meat, and nothing more except some trifling amount of gelatine. The meat remnant, on the other hand, contains the real nutriment of the meat, and if this be beaten to a paste with a spoon or pounded in a mortar and duly flavored with salt and other con- diments, it constitutes not only a highly nourishing and agreeable but also an exceedingly digestible form of food.*

Beef -tea must therefore be looked upon rather as a stimulant and restorative than as a nutrient beverage, but it is nevertheless very valu- able on account of those properties.

Sir W. Roberts puts forward an ingenious argument, which can not be fully repeated here, in favor of the view that, in healthy and strong persons, this retarding effect on digestion observed to be produced by many of the most commonly consumed food accessories answers a dis- tinctly useful end. They serve, he maintains, the purpose of whole- somely slowing the otherwise too rapid digestion and absorption of copious meals.

A too rapid digestion and absorption of food may be compared to feeding a fire with straw instead of with slower-burning coal. In the former case it would be necessary to feed often and often, and the process would be wasteful of the fuel ; for the short-lived blaze would carry most of the heat up the chimney. To burn fuel economically, and to utilize the heat to the utmost, the fire must be damped down, so as to insure slow as well as complete combustion. So with human digestion : our highly prepared and highly cooked food requires, in the healthy and vigorous, that the digestive fires should be damped down, in order to insure the economical use of food. . . . "We render food by preparation as capable as possible of being completely exhausted of its nutrient properties; and, on the other hand, to prevent this nutrient matter from being wastefully hurried through the body, we make use of agents which abate the speed of digestion.

It must be borne in mind that these remarks apply only to those who possess a healthy and active digestion. To the feeble and dys- peptic any food accessory which adds to the labor and prolongs the time of digestion must be prejudicial ; and it is a matter of com-

  • " These remarks on beef -tea apply equally to Liebig's extract of meat, Brand's es-

sence of beef, and Valentine's me at- juice, all of which are devoid of albuminous constitu- ents " ("British Medical Journal," August, 1885).