NUTRITION PROBLEM


Very little help be required, I think, for those who are ready to pay annas twelve or more for their daily diet. The listing would be quite easy if one carefully goes through the food list. A substantial and tasteful diet is quite easy of comprehension if one is ready to spare Rupee one daily. But this would be possible only for the rich, for whom this article was not primarily meant.


In the last discourse, I stated 60 gms in 24 hours to be the minimum protein requirement for a maintenance of bodily health and 120 gms to be the maximum amount which can be metabolised successfully by the body without producing ill effects. The optimum amount, that is, the amount most suitable, as should be only too natural, still remains an open question. We are however, concerned much more with the minimum question since the vital defect of our diet lies in a failure to reach this minimum and not crossing the maximum.

We shall be much nearer a solution if we can prepare for the masses a diet-list containing this minimum amount of utilizable protein, which in the present diet is falling short. I would like to stress upon the word utilizable. It has been clearly shown that some food proteins are better suited as human food than others, because when broken up into their elementary parts or aminoacids, more of these can be utilized in forming body tissues than those derived from other foods.

For this reason, milk, meat, eggs and fish, i.e. animal proteins, are most valuable ; those of rice, dal, potatoes are next in value, while those of wheat, beans and other vegetable proteins are distinctly inferior. Thus, mathematically, a diet may fulfil the minimum requirement for protein, but due to the excess of inferior proteins, its nutritive value is much lessened. This vigilant eye that we, poor Indians, have to keep over the cost of foods, of which the proteins are the dearest, takes away much of the latters quality.

Dal is by far the chief protein of the masses. The abundance of rivers in Bengal has enabled us to supplement this with fish, as the next best protein consumed by the Bengalese. After this come milk, which alas ! is too costly. Dal and fish cannot by any means meet the protein requirement entirely, because, if such a thing is attempted the quantity would be enormous of carbohydrate, which occurs in high proportion in dal would be very big. But still, in case of the very poor, this has got to be managed when we prepare diet-lists.

In fact, the proteins in the pulses (such as dal) are quite assimilable if boiled in steam for a very long time as done by our up-country Hindoos. This protein is very nutritious and stands them in good stead. But unfortunately, in Bengal, we have never learnt to take dal in its proper form, and consequently have to depend much more on milk and fish which are costlier. Milk and meat as stated before, are the finest of the utilizable proteins. In fact, animal tissues being already built up of the formed elements which are more akin to the human tissue, are metabolised with much less effort.

They are thus a distinct advance and advantage, particularly as these are endowed with specific dynamic properties yielding more energies than their respective calculated caloric strength. But to what extent these proteins find an entry into the average Bengali kitchen is not unknown to any of us. Few can afford them in proper quantities. Consequently they are growing under deficiencies and should not be expected to grow strong enough to fight either the enemies outside or those inside and the toll of ever increasing infectious and deficiency disease is staring us in the face.

CARBOHYDRATE AND FAT REQUIREMENT.

The exact amounts each of carbohydrate and fat fit for healthy adults have not been specified definitely and a little difference of opinion exists on this subject. While it would not be well under ordinary conditions to omit from the diet either all the carbohydrate or all the fat, as a matter of practical experience on a mixed diet, the exact amount of fat or carbohydrate does not make so very much difference as long as the total number of calories, needed to be supplied in addition to that supplied by the protein, is covered.

Fat is expensive as a foodstuff and it is difficult for the average people to go beyond 50 gms., many often failing to get even as low as 30 gms. in 24 hours. Fortunately, wide variations in the respective quantities of fats and carbohydrates may be allowed. If milk is excluded from the diet, the best method for providing the necessary fat seems to be to take at least 2 chhatak each of ghee and oil (270+270=540 calories) in 24 hours. And if we provide 50 gms. of protein, say, we add 50 x 4 = 200 calories to the total. Thus for making up a total of 2500 calories, we have got 540+200+=700 calories from proteins and fat.

The difference, i.e. 2500-740= 1760 calories are to be derived form carbohydrates. That gives us 1760 / 4 = 440 gms. as the quantity of carbohydrate required for the present case. For providing a total of 3000 calories, basing upon similar calculations, nearly 500 gms. of carbohydrate need be given. This is to be met with mainly from rice, atta and sugar. This means nearly 2 a seer of rice or atta in 24 hours. It is an extremely bad custom in Bengali households to depend on rice at both the principal meals.

It is too soft requiring very little mastication and consequently, the salivary digestion, one of the essential requirements for carbohydrates, remains unutilized. Besides, for simple gulping down without proper chewing, more is taken in than is good. Also, of blood sugar. Added to this the bewildering galaxy of sweetmeats in vogue amongst the Bengalese takes a heavy toll on our digestive organs leading to early exhaustion of the digestive glands with consequent dyspepsia and other troubles such as diabetes, etc. Atta has none of the drawbacks of rice mentioned above, and the rational method is to take rice in the morning and atta in the evening. This relation might with convenience be reversed.

DIET LIST.

I now propose to chalk out a couple of suggestive diet lists based upon economic considerations, yet enough to meet the required calorific value. It would be much more helpful, perhaps, to append first a list of foodstuffs in every day use in our household, showing their respective calorific value per ounce (i.e. 2 chhatak), so that we would know the worth of the article we are taking.

Calories per ounce.

Butter 220

Cheese 120

Fish (fat) 50

Fist (ordinary) 20

Meat (Lean) 50

Do (with fat) 70

Eggs (2 oz.) each egg 80

Milk 20

Sugar 116

Honey 80

Dried peas & beans and.

pulses (e.g. Dal) 100

Nuts 100

Cereals e.g. Flour,.

Arrowroot, Barley, etc. 100

Bread 60

Biscuits 100

Jam (freshly made) 80

Vegetables (fresh) 12

Potatoes 25

Apples 16

Pears 15

Grapes 20

Oranges 12

Dates (dried) 84

Banana 30

Raisins 92

Coconut 100

Molasses 80.

A consideration of the cost of foodstuffs here and their relative merits gives one the idea that it is extremely difficult to prepare a menu for 24 hours, the cost of which will be below annas eight per head, yet will yield 3000 calories or near about. A menu costing annas ten seems just about equal to the requirement and I will begin be listing this first.

ANNAS TEN MENU.

BREAKFAST Calories Cost.

Rs. As. P.

Atta Bread 3 oz. or 12 chhataks 170 … 0 0 42

Butter 4 oz. 60 … 0 0 9

Egg one=2 oz. 70 … 0 0 6

LUNCH

Rice boiled, 8 oz. or 1 pow 280 … 0 0 6

Vegetables, 6 oz. or 3/4 pow 75 … 0 0 6

Dal, 2 oz. or 1 chhatak 200 … 0 0 6

Milk, 8 oz. or 1 pow 160 … 0 1 0

Ghee and Oil, 1 oz.or 2 chhatak 270 … 0 0 9

Meat or Fish, 4 oz. or 2 chhatak 200 … 0 1 0

Sugar, 1 oz. or 2 chhatak 120 … 0 0 12.

DINNER

Atta Bread, 6 oz.or 3/4 pow 340 … 0 0 9

Fish 2 oz. or 1 chhatak 100 … 0 0 6

Ghee and Oil 1 oz. or 1 chhatak 270 … 0 0 9

Vegetables, 6 oz. or 3/4 pow 75 … 0 0 6

Dal, 1 oz. or 2 chhatak 100 … 0 0 3

Milk, 8 oz. or 1 pow 190 … 0 1 0

Gur, 1 oz. or 2 chhatak 120 … 0 0 12

Total calories in 24 hours= 2770,.

Total cost per head in 24 hrs. 0 9 102.

Any attempt at providing for a cheaper menu, as observed before, will be a very tough proposition and even if prepared, will certainly mean definite deficiency, both qualitative and aesthetic. The excess of refuse matter in cheaper foods invariably gives it a bulk, and the roughages present are not always very good for the digestive organs. Besides, the food becomes less vital in character. Still with all these considerations in mind, I have prepared the following practical menu which yields roughly 3000 calories, yet costs less than annas six per head in 24 hours.

ANNAS SIX MENU.

BREAKFAST Calories Cost.

Rs. As. P. Coconut 2 oz, or 1 chhatak 200 … 0 0 42

Molasses 2 oz. or 1 chhatak 160 … 0 0 3

Dried peas or grams 1 oz. or 2.

chh. (taken soaked) 100 … 0 0 12.

LUNCH

Rice, 8 oz. or 1 pow 280 … 0 0 6

Dal, 3 oz. or 12 chhatak 300 … 0 0 42

Fish (slightly inferior) 4 oz.

or 2 chh. 180 … 0 0 6

Vegetables, 8 oz. or 1 pow 100 … 0 0 42

Oil, 12 oz. or 3/4 chhatak 400 … 0 0 42

Banana 1 only= 2 oz. 60 … 0 0 3.

DINNER.

Wheat bread, 8 oz, or 1 pow 450 … 0 0 9

Dal, 2 oz. or 1 chhatak 200 … 0 0 3

Vegetables, 8 oz. or 1 chhatak 100 … 0 0 42

Fish, 4 oz. or 2 chhatak 180 … 0 0 6

Oil, 12 oz. or 3/4 chhatak 400 … 0 0 42

Molasses. 2 oz. or 1 chhatak 160 … 0 0 3

Total calories in 24 hours 3270.

Total cost per head in 24 hrs. 0 5 72.

Though the total calories in the above diet come up to more than 3200 calories, some part of it is liable to become unavailable. This is obviously due to partial indigestibility of the cheaper foods.

Alternative cheap menus costing six annas or thereabout will not be difficult to prepare by consulting the list appended at the beginning . In fact, it will be necessary to do so, because it will be quite a task to stick to the same menu month after month.

Very little help be required, I think, for those who are ready to pay annas twelve or more for their daily diet. The listing would be quite easy if one carefully goes through the food list. A substantial and tasteful diet is quite easy of comprehension if one is ready to spare Rupee one daily. But this would be possible only for the rich, for whom this article was not primarily meant.

S. C. Laha
S. C. Laha, M. B. (Cal. Univ.)