Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/July 1892/Proper Diet for Hot Weather



THE Englishman is very conservative in his ideas and averse to change in his mode of life, at all events so far as his diet is concerned, and it would not be going too far to say that he is averse to change even where the change is for his good in this respect. The manners and customs of generations gone by with regard to eating and drinking, are the manners and customs of the present age, with this exception that, of course, the refinements of cookery have brought into requisition many delicacies in the way of dishes unknown to our forefathers. The maid of honor in these days does not drink, or have allowed her, a gallon of ale, as did those of the time of "Good Queen Bess," for her breakfast (it is to be hoped she did not consume it), for she now drinks tea or coffee, then unknown. But though her appetite may be the same as in those days, and doubtless even in maids of honor is, custom has altered its constituents. The exigencies of season compel the individual to dress differently winter and summer, so as to equalize the warmth of the body; and to a certain extent most people do this, but it is very apparent that it is the discomfort of feeling the cold that induces them to put on in winter a different kind of dress to that worn in summer. A man would look very absurd if during the summer and the hot months he was seen out wrapped in furs and thick clothing; but though, as I have pointed out in one or two former papers on diet, the heat of the body is better and more perfectly equalized by the food that is taken than by its external covering in the way of clothes, few people adapt their diet to any particular season of the year or its temperature. The ordinary individual eats the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner in spring, summer, autumn, and winter—the same routine of bread, meat, puddings—and the majority of the more wealthy classes consume almost identically the same food, only, perhaps, more delicately manipulated in our time by culinary art. It does not seem to enter into the calculations of the middle-class cook, or the aristocratic chef, that there is such a thing as the physiology of dietetics. His aim seems to be to furnish a substantial or delicate meal, pleasant to the palate, utterly regardless of the dietetic value of its constituents, and whether they are more particularly adapted to hot or cold weather. Eating is considered by many, whose intellectual attainments ought to teach them better, almost a religious duty, an irksome one, it is true, as some would say, but one that necessity compels them to perform. My own opinion is that the physiology of food should be taught the rising generation as an important item of school life. If this were so, what a vast difference it would make in the comfort, the health, and the well-being of the individual; and with what a reserve of strength he would, if properly nourished in early life, commence his struggle with the world, whether that struggle involved physical or mental work!

In the first place, his frame would be properly developed, his brain nourished, his digestive powers in perfect condition, and he would not have in his daily work, literary or otherwise, or when old age advances, to fall back upon stimulants to give him the necessary appetite for his midday or evening dinner. Cicero says, "To live long, it is necessary to live slowly." When I say that the physiology of food should form a part of every man's, and, I may add, more particularly of every woman's education, I mean that they should know what particular use each food is applied to in the economy, and what particular food is suited for intellectual work in contradistinction to muscular work; and further, what particular food is best suited to the requirements of the system in the different seasons of the year. Fewer wives would be widows and children orphans if the mistress of a household adapted or ordered her husband's food to meet his requirements, and made it, or saw that it was made, tempting and palatable. But what obtains now in most middle-class households? The husband comes home to dinner weary and hungry to find warmed-up meat, or a washy stew, awaiting him, or, worse still, an underdone joint and half-cooked vegetables. Perhaps this goes on day after day, and year after year, until some day or other an illness occurs, and his constitution, exhausted for the want of proper food to nourish his complex organism, succumbs to it.

In the houses of the very wealthy this state of things seldom occurs—perhaps it would be better if it occasionally did, for a life of indolence and ease would be lengthened by occasional starvation. Half the illness that occurs at one season, I think I can safely say, is due to improper dieting taken at another. We hear of people feeling weak in the spring, or suffering from those different ailments due to malnutrition, such as boils, skin diseases, obesity, or debility. Now this would not be so if the person adapted his diet to his requirements and to the season. No sensible person would think of keeping a large fire burning in his room in the summer. If he did, he would undoubtedly soon feel the effect of it; but many a man who would feel himself insulted if he were not thought a sensible person, will eat in the summer to repletion foods the particular action of which is to supply heat in excess. Perhaps I can not do better here than to explain that the foods that are converted into heat that is, keep up the heat of the body—are starches, sugar, and fat; and those that more particularly nourish the nervous and muscular system are the albumen and salts; and a perusal of, or reference to, the following table will show what these are, and also the amounts of the different constituents they contain. At a glance the reader will see that the largest proportion of summer food should consist of green vegetables, cooked or as salads; white or lean meats, such as chicken, game, rabbits, venison, fish, and fruits.

Table showing the Percentage Composition of Various Articles of Food.

  Water. Albumen. Starch. Sugar. Fat. Salts.
Bread 37 8·1 47·4 3·6 1·6 2·3
Biscuit 8 15·6 73·4 73·4 1·3 1·7
Wheat-flour 15 10·8 66·3 4·2 2·0 1·7
Barley-meal 15 6·3 69·4 4·9 2·4 2·0
Oatmeal 15 12·6 58·4 5·4 5·6 3·0
Rice 13 6·3 79·1 0·4 0·7 0·5
Peas 15 23·0 55·4 2·0 2·1 2·5
Arrowroot 18 . . . . 82·0 . . . . . . . . . . . .
Potatoes 75 2·1 18·8 3·2 0·2 0·7
Carrots 83 1·3 8·4 6·1 0·2 1·0
Parsnips 82 1·1 9·6 5·8 0·5 1·0
Turnips 91 1·2 5·2 2·1 . . . . 0·6
Cabbage 91 2·0 5·8 5·8 0·5 0·7
Sugar 5 . . . . . . . . 77·0 . . . . . . . .
Treacle 23 . . . . . . . . 5·2 . . . . . . . .
New milk 86 4·1 . . . . 2·8 3·9 0·8
Cream 66 2·7 . . . . 5·4 26·7 1·8
Skim milk 88 4·0 . . . . 6·4 1·8 0·8
Buttermilk 88 4·1 . . . . . . . . 0·7 0·8
Cheese 36·8 33·5 . . . . . . . . 24·3 5·4
Cheddar cheese 36 28·4 . . . . . . . . 31·1 4·5
Skim cheese 44 44·8 . . . . . . . . 6·3 4·9
Lean beef 72 19·3 . . . . . . . . 3·6 5·1
Fat beef 51 14·8 . . . . . . . . 29·8 4·4
Lean mutton 72 18·3 . . . . . . . . 4·9 4·8
Fat mutton 53 12·4 . . . . . . . . 31·1 3·5
Veal 63 16·5 . . . . . . . . 15·8 4·7
Fat pork 39 9·8 . . . . . . . . 48·9 2·3
Green bacon 24 7·1 . . . . . . . . 66·8 2·1
Dried bacon 15 8·8 . . . . . . . . 73·3 2·9
Ox liver 74 18·9 . . . . . . . . 4·1 3·0
Tripe 68 13·2 . . . . . . . . 16·4 2·4
Cooked meat, roast, no dripping being lost, boiled assumed to be the same 54 27·6 . . . . . . . . 15·45 2·95
Poultry 74 21·0 . . . . . . . . 3·8 1·2
White fish 78 18·1 . . . . . . . . 2·9 1·0
Eels 75 9·9 . . . . . . . . 13·8 1·3
Salmon 77 16·1 . . . . . . . . 5·5 1·4
Entire egg 74 14·0 . . . . . . . . 10·5 1·5
White of egg 78 20·4 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1·6
Yolk of egg 52 16·0 . . . . . . . . 30·7 1·3
Butter and fats 15 . . . . . . . . . . . . 83·0 2·0
Beer and porter 91 0·1 . . . . 8·7 . . . . 0·2

I know that I am warring with many established opinions, and I know that the ideas I am promulgating in regard to diet are a little contrary to those generally received; but I think I shall succeed in convincing those who will go carefully into the matter with me that many preconceived conceptions on the subject of diet will not bear investigation. Perhaps the particular condition of the system that I am called upon to treat—obesity—gives me a greater insight into the exact effect of diet than falls to the lot of the ordinary physician or specialist. To begin with, I will assail a time-honored belief—viz., that meat is a heating food—that is, in the sense of giving warmth, and raising the heat of the body; and that farinaceous foods are the reverse. People believe that the less meat they eat in the summer the better, "because it tends to heat the system." Now, it is a curious thing that in dieting people for the reduction of fat by dietetic means only—and this I have to do at all seasons of the year—I am in the habit of cutting off farinaceous foods, sugar, and fat, and giving large quantities of meat, green vegetables, stewed fruit, and other non-fattening substances, in quantity regulated according to the height, weight, and physical or mental work of the individual, male or female, as the case may be; with the result that in the colder months of the year people tell me that they do not feel too warm, clothe as they will. To so great an extent does this sometimes occur, that I am obliged to supplement the non-fattening diet by giving a little heat-forming food, such as cream, or a slightly increased amount of bread, or a small quantity of fat. The result is at once apparent. The body warmth becomes more comfortable. Now, what does this show? It shows that the foods that supply heat are more particularly farinaceous foods, sugar, and fat;[1] and this is admitted by all dieticians now. If this is so—and it undoubtedly is—it naturally stands to reason that when the external temperature performs this duty, the individual can not require so much food that will, by its chemical decomposition in the body, maintain a high temperature, and, if taken, as is usually the case, in excess, become an incumbrance by being stored as fat. It must be distinctly understood that the argument which I have used, where the heat-forming food is cut off by me, is where the surplus fat in the body is in excess—that is, in corpulency and when it is desirable to get rid by dietetic means of the accumulated fat in the system. In this case the fat is the storehouse from which the system draws to sustain its warmth, as long as the stored fat is in excess.

A fat animal will live without food months longer than a thin one. A pig buried by the fall of a cliff at Dover was dug out alive one hundred and sixty days after. When it was buried by the fall it weighed about one hundred and sixty pounds; when dug out it weighed only forty.

Now, with regard to the proper diet for hot weather. In the first place, we must take into consideration the occupation of the individual. A man doing sedentary work or intellectual work would not require the same diet as a person doing laborious muscular work; but this article, in nine cases out of ten, would appeal to the ordinary individual earning his living by the sweat of his brow, or, if I may so say, by the sweat of his brain. If a man earns his living by the sweat of his brain he must, if he wishes to live long, maintain his health by the sweat of his brow, that is, he must, in some form or other, take muscular exercise. He may do it by brisk walking, tennis, bicycling, shooting, hunting, or the thousand and one pursuits that the average Englishman indulges in; so that, as I said before, the diet that I should lay down as suitable for summer will, under these conditions, almost universally apply.

Nature apparently knows what is good for us, and Nature furnishes for the different seasons suitable substances in the way of food. But, of course, Nature assumes that man, being a reasonable being, should study and apply them as he ought to do; but Nature in this case credits man with attributes that in this matter he seldom possesses, or, at all events, does not care to use if he does possess them. Men do not study Nature as much as they should, at least the majority do not. If they did, they would see that in the warm weather fruit should form a considerable portion of the daily food. The most suitable articles for hot weather, experience tells me, are fish, such kinds of meat as fowls and game, green vegetables, salads, and fruit. Farinaceous food, that is, starches, should be taken in the very smallest quantity only. Sufficient sugar would be found in the different fruits that the season of the year produces, and, therefore, should not be supplemented.

In a former article on The Proper Diet for Cold "Weather, I illustrated what I meant by giving one or two samples of a day's dietary for an ordinary individual, and I will here do the same. Of course, in an article of this kind it would be perfectly impossible to distinctly draw a dietary suitable to each individual. This can only be done by taking into consideration the mode of life, the idiosyncrasies, the intellectual work, the peculiarities of constitution of a particular person; but in the case of the ordinary healthy person, of course, these distinctions are not necessary. If a man is too fat, he would require certain modifications; if he is gouty or biliously inclined, slight change would be necessary; but, as I said before, to go into this would be unnecessary and out of place, and every intelligent person must alter and adapt the’ dietary to his means and to his special requirements. Pope says, "The proper study of mankind is man," and, undoubtedly, if long life and comfort are to be attained, many would do well to lay his aphorism to heart. In the case of a man of ordinary size doing ordinary physical or mental work, this would represent an ordinary day's food for hot weather, as far as quantity and constituents are concerned:

Breakfast, 8.30 to 9 a.m.—Two cups of tea or coffee, sweetened with saccharine, one or two teaspoonfuls of cream in each; 1 oz. of dry toast, thinly buttered; 4 ozs. of grilled or boiled fish, such as plaice, sole, whiting, haddock, cod, or trout, or 4 ozs. of cold chicken, cold tongue, or of grilled steak or chop.

Lunch, 1.30 p. m.—Two or three ounces of cold mutton, beef, or lamb; 3 or 4 ozs. of green vegetables, plainly boiled, plenty of green salad, made with vinegar, but without oil; 4 or 5 ozs. of stewed fruit; water, or 2 or 3 glasses of pure dry Moselles or other Rhine wines.

Afternoon Tea, 4.30, if desired.—Two cups of tea as at breakfast; nothing to eat.

Dinner, 7 to 8.—Julienne, or clear vegetable soup; 3 or 4 ozs. of fish; 3 or 4 ozs. of any red meat, or of chicken, rabbit, game, or venison; 6 ozs. of any green vegetable, with gravy from the meat only; 4 ozs. of stewed fruit or of raw fruit; a little stale or pulled bread, and a small piece of cheese.

This diet may be varied as to hour; but three meals only should be taken daily, and only sufficient at each meal to satisfy appetite. Fruit may be taken at other times, and any quantity of fluid, so long as it does not contain sugar; any number of pleasant alcoholic and other beverages suitable for the hot weather, and particularly suitable for those who should not take quantities of sugar, will be found in a book I wrote two or three years ago.[2]

Fruit is only beneficial in moderate quantity. If taken in excess, and out of proportion to other food, it is apt to derange the bowels and cause diarrhœa; more particularly is this the case if it is eaten underripe or overripe—in the former case, from its undue acidity; and in the latter, from its strong tendency to ferment and decompose in the digestive tract. Fruit diminishes the acidity of the secretion of the kidneys, and by virtue of this is advantageous in gout.

It goes without saying that more fluid is necessary in hot weather than in cold. Indeed, so long as it is a harmless fluid, I question whether too much can be taken. Fluid in this way is to the kidneys what fresh air is to the lungs, and the waste of meat not used in the system is carried off by its aid.

A meat diet is healthy and life-prolonging if supplemented with plenty of fluid to carry off its waste. That fluid should be taken in large quantities in the summer is a wise provision of Nature, as the skin carries off a large amount of waste from the system, and therefore its activity should "be stimulated in every way, and it is most desirable by frequent baths to keep the pores open. The perspiration drying on the skin leaves a deposit of its salts and other waste constituents, and these should be washed off as a matter of health. A very useful appliance for this purpose is the "massage rubber," patented by Mr. Crutchloe. This consists of a serrated India-rubber surface, and when used it cleans the skin of all scurf as a Turkish bath does, rapidly brings the blood to the surface, and has the conditioning effect that grooming has on a horse. The India rubber seems to act on the skin much as it does in erasing lead-pencil marks from paper, and acts in a way that no towel or brush can equal. All the old loose scurf of the skin is cleared off, and a soft and smooth surface results. After the brisk use of this dry rubber, a tepid bath is a great adjunct to health in hot weather, to say nothing of its cooling and refreshing results. I see a well-known man in the Hospital Gazette says the massage rubber acts like a charm in rheumatism.

It would be no use advising those who take stimulants for the sake of their stimulating qualities, that spirits and beers, and certain wines, are too heating in the summer; and that, however suitable port, sherry, spirits, and beer may be in the colder months of the year, the most suitable beverages containing alcohol, for this reason, are those known as the light, dry Moselle wines. Even claret and Burgundy contain a large quantity of tannin, and taken in excess are therefore apt to disagree and derange the stomach. Where a nice dry Moselle is drunk in fairly moderate quantity no harm can accrue. Of course, the quantity that would apply to one person does not apply to another, and a free drinker would certainly not be satisfied with less than two bottles.

The man who lives to eat, drinks after his soup a glass of pale sherry; after his fish, Rhine wine; with his joint, Burgundy and champagne; with the entrées, Bordeaux or Burgundy; with the ice, champagne or liqueur, and with his dessert probably some old crusted port. But the man who eats to live would be satisfied with one pint of dry and delicate white wine, such as I have previously indicated, to cover the whole of this menu.

It is a well-known physiological fact that the system can not assimilate more alcohol than is contained in a pint of dry Moselle or claret, or in a half-pint of sherry or three pints and a half of table beer, supposing it to be in that form; or, if taken in the form of whisky, about a wineglassful of pure whisky per day. I do not mean to say that an excess of any of these quantities would be absolutely injurious to health, and many might and do exceed them considerably for very many years with impunity; but still, in ordinary individuals, this is the quantity that can be taken with no harm whatever. In some houses people seem to take stimulants at all hours, and only the other day a nobleman told me that, visiting a certain house, his valet came into his bedroom at ten in the morning bringing a pint of champagne. On his telling him he did not want it, his valet said, "If your lordship does not drink it, they will think you are ill!" "His lordship" did not drink it, but the champagne did not go down to frighten his host. I imagine gout must be a permanent institution in that household, and that the family vault must be as well stocked as the wine-cellar.

In the summer acidulated drinks are the most grateful to the palate, and in the August number of this journal last year I gave a number of these in an article called Beverages for Hot Weather. There can be no doubt that the most refreshing beverage in summer, and certainly the most harmless, is the properly made cup of tea; but, alas! how seldom does the ordinary English household in England get a properly made cup of tea or coffee! The first cup may be by chance drinkable, or it may have infused half an hour, and therefore contain all the tannin and other disagreeable and injurious products of the leaf. Now, while on the subject of tea, I should like to give a rational and sensible mode of making it for breakfast or other meal with which it may be taken. Any one walking up or down Shaftesbury Avenue, W., will see in a window half a dozen cups that he might reasonably imagine had been bequeathed the establishment by Goliath of Gath. These teacups are called magnums, and they hold exactly a pint, and one of them is sufficient, therefore, or more than sufficient, for a breakfast. To secure a delicious cup of tea, the proper quantity should be put into the teapot according to the number of people requiring a supply, and when it has infused nine or ten minutes—not longer—the magnum, as it is called, should be filled. This being sufficient, and equal to two large breakfast cups, is of uniform strength and flavor throughout. Its contents will please the most fastidious taste and suit the most delicate stomach. In the summer time it should be sweetened with saccharine instead of sugar, and flavored with a little cream. Some prefer tea with a squeeze of lemon-juice in it, and in this way it is possibly more wholesome and suitable as a cooling beverage.

It would occupy too great a space in a short article like this to give the most suitable fruits and vegetables for the summer months to the different conditions of the system. In a dietetic work I wrote some two years ago this subject was fully discussed,[3] more particularly in relation to those of corpulent, gouty, and rheumatic habit of body.

Three quarters of the ailments that humanity is subject to undoubtedly arise from errors in dieting, that is, in the quantities of food taken, in its not being adapted to the constitutional requirements and environment of the individual, in its not being properly estimated in its constituents, or applicability to the season of the year; and if, as I said at the commencement of this article, people would take as much trouble in adapting the food to suit their needs as they do in so many other things of minor importance, they would enjoy life more, and see more of it. It is astonishing what a complete change in diet will do. Change in diet acts like change in air, and is a potent factor in the treatment of those conditions that indicate exhaustion of the nervous system, and, as a corollary, general collapse. Man is something like a steam-engine, and he requires fuel according to the work he has to do. The driver of an express train does not have his engine fed as the driver of a slow train does, and so it is with the human engine. The fuel in this case should be to a certain extent adjusted as to whether it is to be utilized for intellectual or muscular work; and if this is done, a large amount of intellectual or physical work may be accomplished without strain. But if these facts are ignored, the complex mechanism on which the happiness and well-being of perhaps even a nation may depend, will collapse like a house of cards.

When the diet is properly regulated for the different seasons of the year in regard to its constituents, there is seldom any necessity to take what some people are so fond of doing, that is, purgative medicines in the spring and in autumn. A little alkaline aperient, such as the "Franz Josef" mineral water, may be taken at any season with benefit by people who live well and who are of sedentary habits, but beyond this it is a mistake to take irritating and powerful purgatives during the early spring and summer, as they are sure to set up diarrhoea that may go on for some time, especially if unreasonable quantities of fruit be indulged in. Fruit in itself is laxative in its effects, and though beneficial, as before borne out, if not taken in excess, will with some people, when more is taken than should be, set up persistent and troublesome irritation throughout the digestive tract. This was one of the evils attending the "grape cure," so much in vogue a few years ago.

In every well-appointed household, dinner is unquestionably the most important meal of the day, and a fashion in regard to this has lately crept into use, which is neither physiologically correct nor conducive to its enjoyment. I refer to the custom now prevalent of commencing dinner with some anchovy toast, caviare, or sardines on bread and butter, or some other savory of a like nature. The proper commencement of dinner should be the old-fashioned dish of good soup, and for this reason: that it is necessary that the first food taken at dinner should be quickly absorbed, so as to stimulate the nervous system and give tone to the stomach. In this way the appetite is stimulated and the sense of taste made more keen. Nothing acts so beneficially for this purpose as a small quantity of good soup. The more important adjuncts are, of course, pleasant surroundings and cheerful companionship.

Contrast the exhilarating effect, say, of a dinner at the "Grand," at Brighton, under the superintendence of its accomplished and obliging manager—with the open sea, and ever-varying kaleidoscope of life to gaze at—with the same dinner in a dull country hotel. Addison says, "Health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other." They undoubtedly do.

To maintain life at its highest standard and for the longest period should be the aim of every individual, and this can only be done by adapting our food to the requirements of the system and the time of the year. If the body is properly nourished, disease will not attack it; and if it does, will get no foothold. It is like an impregnable fortress—it may be assaulted, but it can not be taken.

But to get the economy into this state of perfection, it must be remembered that no more food should be taken than will be consumed in the operations of life, and no more stimulant than the amount previously indicated, so that no surplus of either shall remain in the body in the shape of excess of fat, or as waste, in the form of gout poison or acidity.

"Gluttony," says an old writer, "kills more than the sword."

On the other hand, there is no reason why food should not be made as palatable as possible—in fact, the more palatable it is the better. It is not excess in variety of food that is injurious, but excess in quantity.—The Gentleman's Magazine.

In his account, in the Australasian Association, of the natives of New Guinea, Mr. J. P. Thomson spoke of their numerous tribal divisions and of the various languages and dialects spoken by them. Even in localities separated by only a few miles, the dialects spoken differ the one from the other in some cases considerably. The Motu, which is the language spoken and taught by the missionaries at Port Moresby, is understood over a considerable area, but outside of that neighborhood changes and variations occur, so that at the bead of the Great Papuan Gulf and in the Fly basin, the Motu language is a foreign tongue. In other parts of the island, also, the philological variations are numerous and conflicting; and in the western division neighboring tribes are unable to hold intercourse with each other, even if friendly, by reason of the incompatibility of language. No doubt this may in some measure be accounted for by local environment; constant civil intertribal war is the means of isolating communities, so that no friendly intercourse is held; an incongruity of language may have been unknowingly established by reason of this and other causes.

  1. The Eskimo eats twelve pounds of fat a day.
  2. Foods for the Fat: the Scientific Cure of Corpulency.
  3. Foods for the Fat.