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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Constituents Of Different Foodstuffs

By Owen Jones

Unfortunately, not all foods are manufactured equal which makes the job of the dedicated cook more problematic, because it means that the cook has to understand the dietary requirements of humans at all stages of life, which foods can fulfill those needs yet, for normal families, within a finite budget.

Therefore, it is useful to know the constituents of food - that is, how much water, which vitamins, how much protein, fat and carbohydrate everything holds. If you know these proportions in each foodstuff, you can match them to your family's needs, and also choose the right method of serving the food, because some means of preparation destroy some of these properties and so ought to be shunned.

It is possible to cook very successfully for a family without knowing all these facts, yet knowing them either by having picked it up from an older relative or by study makes success more assured. Let us take a look at the five most common needs of all human beings, if not indeed all mammals.

Water is the largest component of human bodies and needs to make up the greatest part of our intake too. We are continuously using up our water content in evaporation, repair, replenishment and cleaning. Luckily, there is also a lot of water in a lot of items that we eat, eg fruit, meat and fish, yet we still have to drink water to keep our fluid levels up. Dehydration kills.

Next in importance is mineral matter - that is vitamins and nutrients. It is not a problem to derive this mineral matter, because plants suck it up from the ground and so, if you eat enough plant life, you should eat enough minerals. By plant life, I mean fruit, vegetables and fungi. Carnivores can consume a concentrated mix of plant life by eating meat, however many people have given up meat for one reason or another.

Different plant life has a different allotment and concentration of mineral. In general, cooking does not destroy mineral content, but over cooking can result in the mineral leaching out into the water they are boiled in.

Humans require protein to grow and repair themselves so a deficiency of protein is the foremost problem for vegetarians. It is not an insurmountable problem, but it is a worry. Carnivores acquire their protein from meat, fish and dairy. The process of cooking protein makes it more easily digestible for humans; dogs and cats do not have this need.

A great deal is talked about fat, yet fat is a vital component of the human diet. A fat-free diet is not healthy for us, but the difficulty is that fat is simple to get, particularly from junk food. Carnivores get most of their fat from meat, yet fat is not difficult for vegetarians, because there is fat in almost every type of food, including nuts and grains.

Carbohydrates have also caused a lot of controversy (particularly with the Atkins Diet), but carbohydrates are also a necessary part of our diet. Again, it is not difficult to get all the carbohydrates that we need. Carbohydrates are most prevalent in starches and sugars yet there is no doubt that we should monitor our consumption of carbohydrates in the same manner that we ought to with fats.

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