Nutrition and the Cell
Pushed by the necessity of understanding his diseases and bolstered by his leisure time and insatiable curiosity, western man has used the tools of modern science to probe the mysteries of living matter. Over the last century, medical science has come increasingly to focus on the basic structure of protoplasm. The human body has been examined in increasing detail -— even the inside of what had been considered the smallest unit of life, the cell. Recently our understanding of the events inside the cell has become more and more detailed. The electron microscope has revealed for us the inner structure of the cell's substance and has helped us to explore its tiniest components.
A journey through the cell
Any effort toward good nutrition must start with and be organized around an awareness of the cell and its central importance in human nutrition. The clearer the picture we have of cellular function, the better we can provide for its nourishment. The busy world that exists there is as fascinating as it is complex. When we look inside the cell, we see embedded in its substance compact little units like tiny rooms where a great deal of activity is going on and from which heat emanates. These mini-power houses are called mitochondria. Outside, a continuous line of medium-sized molecules of fat and sugar wait to get in. Inside, they are broken down, and a continuous line of the by-products exits. The energy released is transferred to energy-carrying phosphate molecules (ATP). Highly charged streams of these issue from the mitochondrian, like electricity flowing from a generator. They serve as one of the chief sources of the energy that keeps the cells active.
There is a trend in the movement of other molecules as well. Various molecules filter in through the outer covering of the cell (the cell membrane). They are of several types: first are the glucose, fructose and other sugars which will be burned inside the mitochondria, producing carbon dioxide, water and energy. Another rather frequent arrival is the protein molecule, sometimes coming in large chains (some too large to get through the rather small openings in the wall and other times in little detached segments which are called amino acids d which pass through readily, only to be reassembled again into protein chains inside the cell.
The influx of sugars and amino acids is a routine matter for a cell, but
occasionally a special molecule arrives which creates a flurry of unusual activity. This molecule, called a hormone, plays a very strategic role in regulating the chemical processes going on in the cell. Thyroid hormones, for example, speed up the overall tempo of cellular metabolism while adrenalin molecules accelerate the conversion of stored carbohydrate into a usable form, gearing the cells for emergency operations. Upon their arrival in certain areas of the cell, the whole course of activity shifts.
Other entering molecules that seem to play a strategic role in making metabolism possible are the vitamins. They are of many sizes and participate in many biochemical processes, but the one thing they are said to have in common is that the cell is generally unable to manufacture them, so they must come "ready-made" with the diet. Minerals can also be seen to enter the cell from outside. They vary in character but are generally smaller and even less frequent than the vitamins, though perhaps of equal or even greater importance. Calcium ions are among the more common of the minerals, where as some of the others are so rare as to be called trace elements. Zinc, copper, cobalt and manganese are some of these. Technically, the ever-present potassium ions also are minerals, but they are involved with water molecules and are distributed throughout the cellular protoplasm as is sodium, though it is more concentrated in the fluid that surrounds the cell.
Chromosomes and genes
In most cells, one will find a great deal of traffic coming and going from a central compartment, the nucleus. Small "messengers" enter and leave, carrying orders that are issued from here. The nucleus serves as a sort of central computer bank where plans for the cell's functioning are more or less encoded on long chains or coils of a protein-like substance called DNA. These chain like coils are called chromosomes, and each spot that carries a bit of information is a gene. Periodically, an assembly of special units called nucleic acids are brought to the nucleus to line up in order against a portion of the DNA chain, forming its mirror image, and these are joined together by a special molecule called an enzyme. After this process has been repeated a predetermined number of times, this new chain separates and moves out of the nucleus to another part of the cell, where the process is repeated. The end result is that a protein chain is synthesized. The order in which the units line up is extremely important, and it is the enzyme which helps them to interact in such a way ' that they are joined together with very little energy input.
Throughout most of the cells, it is the enzymes that do the bulk of the work. For each biochemical reaction that occurs, there is a special enzyme, and the reaction can proceed only in its presence. Some enzymes break down
old molecules while others reassemble new ones. Other enzymes make sure that oxygen combines with sugar for its combustion, while still others break down fat chains.
While enzymes help build protein chains, actually they are themselves proteins. It is their special shape that endows them with the capacity for grasping, holding and bringing together other molecules. Many of them also depend in some way on a mineral (or trace element) for their mysterious ability to create and destroy. In fact, the regulation of the cell's overall performance is carried out through altering the activity of the enzymes. As the enzymes go, so goes the entire metabolism. In many cases, molecules of a foreign substance, a contaminant, or a medicinal compound, for example, shape the course of events in the cell by affecting the enzymatic activity.
Nutrition for the intracellular world
Studying the inner workings of the cell confronts us with a confusing maze of molecules. Our confusion is due in part to the fact that the molecules vary so much in size —some are huge, coiled, knotted up giants, while others are tiny by comparison. Gradually we realize, however, that there is actually a definite order to the apparent chaos. Careful scrutiny reveals a sort of lattice work made up of protein molecules that extends in every direction, creating a three dimensional frame within which the rest of the cellular components are moving. These beam-like structures form a sort of huge "jungle gym" that both preserves the shape of the cell as well as maintains each of the components in place. The chains of protein which make up this interior skeleton also seem to serve as sort of "assembly lines" along which the various molecules move, being altered at each juncture. What seems at first like random motion in the cell protoplasm is really very orderly, only it is so complex that the order is not at first apparent. In the spaces lying between the protein beams, the other molecules are separated by water molecules which serve as a sort of "fluid cement" holding them apart, and yet securing them in place, as the positive and negative poles of the water molecules shift and swing like swarms of tiny tugboats moving huge ships.
The intricate inner workings of the cell require certain molecules at each position and function well only if their components can be supplied. If "imported" material is not available, then some of the cell's processes may stop altogether while others are slowed. Though there are many alternate paths and much flexibility, repeated shortages or deficiencies result in malfunctioning of the cell and even, if they continue, in its death.
For tissue integrity to be maintained, the cells must have a ready supply of carbohydrate and fats which are used as the fuel for metabolism, a supply of
protein for building materials and a supply of the many miscellaneous components of biochemical reactions such as vitamins and minerals which the cell does not itself manufacture. These raw materials which the cell needs from outside are called nutrients, and our primary source of them is another cell — that of the plant. Here we find all the needed nutrients combined in ideal pro portions and neatly packaged for our use.
Whether man takes his food directly from plants or indirectly from animals, it is the plant cell which is ultimately the source of the substances he needs. It is the nature of the plant cell to take energy from the sun and, using water and carbon dioxide along with the minerals it draws from the soil, to create the protein, the carbohydrate and the many other nutrients on which the animal cell relies.
Extracts from Rudolph Ballentine, M.D,
Diet and Nutrition : A Holistic Approach (pp 39-44)
When man first began the chemical study of nutrition, he became aware of the need for those nutrients which were used in the largest quantities. These were the carbohydrates such as sugar and starch which provide the fuel on which the body runs, and which comprise the largest bulk of what we eat. Although the body can burn fats or proteins, it does not do so as efficiently as it burns 'carbohydrate, so for smooth physiological functioning, substantial quantities of carbohydrate are constantly used.
The body can convert excess -carbohydrate into fat which is essentially a storage form of fuel. This can later be burned when there is no ready source of carbohydrate. Other animals besides man, of course, also make and store fat in the same way, and when animal foods (meat, fish, fowl, etc.) are eaten then fat becomes a significant part of the diet. Plants make some fats too, the majority of which tend to have a low melting point and are therefore normally encountered in liquid forms which we call oils. Certain of these oils, which are much more plentiful in plants than in animal food, cannot be manufactured by the body and must be taken in the diet in small amounts. Otherwise fat in the diet is taken less out of necessity than out of preference. While fats are ordinarily taken in lesser quantities than carbohydrates, protein is usually taken in still smaller amounts.
Protein is the basic building block of the body and makes up the frame
work of its more rigid structures such as the cell walls, skin, bones, solid organs, blood vessels, etc. It is the framework of protein molecules inside the cells which serves as the inner skeleton that helps the cell to maintain its integrity. In most cases, protein structures are relatively stable, and there is not a rapid turnover of protein in the body. During times of growth, more protein is needed, but during adulthood there is a decreasing requirement. If more protein is taken in than is needed and if the intake of carbohydrate is low, the body will tend to burn the extra protein as fuel, and this may cause problems.
These three basic nutrients — carbohydrate, fat and protein — stand quite apart from other requirements of the body such as vitamins and minerals since they are needed in comparatively larger quantities; they are the fuel and the building materials which are used in bulk. The vitamins and minerals are, by contrast, analogous to the screws and bolts necessary for the construction and operation of the body. More precisely, if we think in chemical terms of the carbohydrate, fat and protein as the basic compound out of which the body is composed, then the vitamins and minerals are the catalysts which prompt these compounds to interact. While daily requirements of vitamins and minerals are recorded in amounts that can be measured in milligrams or even micro grams, protein, fat and carbohydrate intakes are expressed in grams, which is to say they are needed in amounts one thousand to a million times as great.
Most whole natural foods (with the exception of meat, which contains no carbohydrate) contain a balance of the three major nutrients as well as appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Only with the coming of modern technology has man been able to cheaply and easily separate out the basic nutrients, yielding relatively pure fat or carbohydrate, for example, and creating the "refined" foods, mineral tablets and vitamin pills that are increasingly available today. This provides both the possibility of quickly supplying that which is deficient as well as the danger of taking excessive amounts of one of these nutrients. It also presents the hazard of disrupting the balanced food that nature offers us, thereby destroying the equilibrium of natural diet.
Extracts from Rudolph Ballentine, M.D,
Diet and Nutrition : A Holistic Approach, (pp 46-48)
The Association called "The Health Seekers", in the U.S.A., have, after detailed research, evolved certain criteria for determining an "ideal diet". These criteria are presented below in the hope that the readers might find them useful in arriving at their own judgment on the subject.
1. Ideal foods must be nontoxic. Toxic substances are those which-are anti-vital", anti-life — that is... downright poisonous. The body cannot use toxic food for optimum nutrition. Ingested toxins in unnatural foods and drink are the primary basis for Enervation and Toxemia and future disease. Only fruits are virtually toxin-free, as are most vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
2. Ideal foods must be edible in the whole, raw, natural state. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are not only easily eaten uncooked, but they are delicious that way! A food that cannot be eaten with relish in its raw state and made into a tasty meal is simply not an Ideal Food.
3. Ideal foods must have sensory appeal. Our Ideal Food delights the eye, gives enticing aromas, and provides a gustatory treat to the taste buds. Fruits and most vegetables, nuts and seeds meet this criterion.
4. Ideal foods must be easily digested when eaten alone or in proper combination. Ideal Foods undergo easy digestion without the formation of pathological debris. The foods are easily digested and readily assimilated without requiring a tremendous drain of Nerve Energy. The simple sugars in fruits are absorbed in less than an hour, which makes them the most easily digested food of all. With a generous meal of fruits, the digestive system is not heavily loaded down with a complicated, toxic mixture that defies the human capacity to process!
5. Ideal food must be efficiently digested. The human digestive system in its entirety was created to thrive at its finest on the ideal Diet of fresh, "sun cooked" fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. These foods, properly combined and in modest servings, the human body in a state of health digests most efficiently.
6. Ideal foods must have protein adequacy. Proteins are broken down into amino acids by the body, which are immediately assimilable nutrients. Because the body recycles approximately 3/4 of its proteinaceous waste in what is called the "amino acid pool," the body needs only 20 to 30 grams of protein daily — or less. A diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds provide a high quality, nontoxic protein
7. Ideal foods must be adequate in vitamin content. Whole, raw fruits and vegetables — because they have not undergone fragmentation of nutrients
through processing, refining, or preserving — are vitamin-rich.
8. Ideal foods must be adequate in mineral salts. Ideal foods are miner al-rich. In the Ideal Diet, the minerals remain organic in form, since they come from whole, raw foods directly.
9. Ideal foods must supply needs for essential fatty acids. All the recognized "essential fatty acids" which the body requires but purportedly cannot synthesize are supplied in fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds abundantly. We need very little actual PAT to begin with!
10. Ideal foods must supply our caloric needs. Our greatest, most immediate nutritional need is for fuel. It is estimated that approximately 90% of the body's nutrient needs are for glucose or "simple sugar." Carbohydrates, high in simple sugars, are the most readily usable form of body fuel. And fruits — of all the Ideal Foods — best meet this need. The carbohydrates in fruit are easily, efficiently converted to blood glucose, the body's primary fuel source.
11. Ideal foods are water-sufficient. The purest of water is found in fruits and vegetables, which are 78 to 95% water in the uncooked form. A diet of such foods will eliminate the need to drink liquid at all, except, perhaps, under conditions of extended, vigorous exercise and/or exceedingly warm climates.
12. Ideal foods are alkaline in metabolic reaction. The human body maintains an alkaline condition. This normal state of 7.4 ph is slightly alkaline. We may enhance the body in maintaining its alkalinity by partaking of a diet predominating in alkaline minerals. A food is classified "acid" or "alkaline" depending on which type of minerals predominate. The "acid minerals" are sulphur, phosphorous, and choline, which predominate in meat, eggs, refined sugar and refined grain products, and most nuts and seeds. The "alkaline minerals" are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which predominate in virtually all fruits and vegetables and some nuts and seeds. To maintain the proper acid/alkaline balance, the diet should be 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid-forming foods. And since fruits and vegetables are on the alkaline side of the scale, The Ideal Diet insures this proper acid/alkaline balance for health.
13. Ideal foods are fiber-rich. The human body needs a fiber-sufficient diet to insure stimulation of peristaltic action throughout the gastro-intestinal tract. All uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds fulfil this criterion ideally.
Extracts from The Health Seekers Year Book,
Bidwell, Freamont, Calif 94538, USA
About Diets and Menus
The kind of food you put in your body may affect you. But there are hundreds and hundreds of different foods on earth, from nuts and berries to tofu or meat and nowadays processed or artificial foods...
How to choose what is best for you?
Scientists have discovered in food three main nutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. All foods can be classified (with some controversy) according to which nutrients predominate. You can then select your food on the basis of these nutrients which the body needs in known proportions... But this is not the only way to classify foods.
— Yin & Yang
— tomato, greens, carrot, coconut, sprouts salad
— fresh fruit
— spicy pickle
— spicy whole gram
— fresh salad
— fruit or pudding or sweet
— whole cereal with milk
— herbal tea
— whole rice
— sesame seeds
— cooked vegetables
— small amount of fruits
— cereal or pasta
— fruit pie
To be kept in mind while preparing menus
What is described below is not accepted by all nutritionists. The theory behind food combining was particularly worked out by Dr. Shelton, a famous nutritionist in the U.S.A. We believe that these suggestions are very useful provided that everyone experimentally finds what is effective in his or her case.
Here are the combinations that are least compatible with the human digestive system, although these combinations are commonly used, they are also quite often followed by the symptoms of indigestion. Familiarize yourself with them, and soon, selecting compatible food combinations will be easy!
All acids destroy the starch-splitting enzyme, salivary amylase. This includes the acids contained in fruits and the acetic acid contained in vinegar. Additionally, due to the differing transit times of fruits and starches, the fruits will be detained in the stomach, resulting in fermentation.
Salivary amylase is destroyed in the stomach in the presence of a highly acidic medium. Since protein digestion requires such a medium, this combination is unacceptable.
(Note: since this combination is so commonly used, it may be a factor as to why "food combining" has not been recognized by conventional nutritionists, as it would contradict many of our typical, conventional meals.)
Each type of protein food requires different timings and different modifications of the digestive secretions. When one protein is combined with another protein, digestion becomes difficult. As protein is the most difficult food nutrient for the body to digest anyway, we would benefit by consuming only one type of protein at a meal. This would not exclude the eating of two or more types of nuts at a meal, as their composition is relatively similar. (Note: The most recent data concerning protein needs has shown that it is unnecessary to consume all essential amino acids at each meal.)
The renowned physiologist Pavlov demonstrated the influence of acids upon protein digestion. The enzyme pepsin — necessary for protein digestion — will only be active in the presence of one particular acid, hydrochloric acid. Other acids may actually destroy this enzyme, including fruit acids. Also, when fruits are eaten with proteins, the fruits will — once again — be detained in the stomach until the completion of protein digestion, resulting in the fermentation of the fruit sugar.
There is an exception to this rule. The proteins such as nuts, seeds, and cheese, do not decompose as rapidly as other proteins, due to their high fat content. The inhibiting effect of fat on the gastric digestion of protein causes these types of proteins to receive their strongest digestive juice during the latter part of digestion. Therefore, the fruit acids do not delay the secretion of gastric juice any more than the fat content of these particular proteins. This distinction makes it acceptable to eat acid fruits with nuts, or cheese.
As was mentioned in the preceding paragraph, fats inhibit the flow of gastric juice, interfering with protein digestion. Dr. Shelton referred to this in his book by quoting from McLead's Physiology in Modern Medicine. "Fat has been shown to exert a distinct inhibiting influence on the secretion of gastric juice... the presence of oil in the stomach delays the secretion of juice poured out on a subsequent meal of otherwise readily digestible food." Since our need for fat is very little, and most protein foods already contain a sufficient quantity of fat, any additional fat intake becomes difficult to digest. Avoid combining butter, oils, avocado, etc. with protein foods.
Sugars also inhibit the secretion of gastric juice, interfering with protein digestion. This is true of both fruit sugars and commercial sugars. And, the sugar will be detained in the stomach, once again, resulting in fermentation.
If starch is combined with sugar, the starch is disguised, preventing the adaptation of the saliva to starch digestion. That is, the saliva will not contain the enzyme, salivary amylase, necessary for starch digestion. And the sugars will ferment in the stomach. The common practice of pastry eating or the common breakfast of mixing juice and/or fruits with cereals or bread is a cause of various unpleasant symptoms.
Take milk alone
Milk is that "perfect food" provided by nature for the young of each mammalian species of animal. The nutrient content is specific to provide for the nutritional needs of the particular animal. For instance, the milk of the cow is suited to the specific needs of the growing calf. And human milk (only) is suit ed to the specific needs of the human infant. There comes a time, however, when the animal weans itself from its mother's milk. We would be wise to adopt such a plan, as the enzyme "rennin" — secreted to digest milk proteins — is present in sufficient quantities only in the gastric juice of infants. When the child has a full set of teeth, the secretion of rennin begins to diminish. This phenomenon indicates the time has come for weaning and feeding solid food.
There is a great complexity of variables which affect the nutritive value of what one eats. Vitamin and mineral and even protein content varies not only from food to food but from foods grown in one area to those grown in another. The value of protein also depends on the way in which various foods are combined, and the amount of carbohydrate one needs depends on his activity and his way of life. Moreover, each person's needs vary according to his individual makeup, his personality and his way of reacting to situations around him, so that some people have higher requirements for one vitamin and lower requirements for another. The amount of food assimilated from that which is taken in depends to a great extent on the functioning of the digestive system. This also varies from person to person, but it may vary from day to day or even hour to hour as well, depending on one's emotional or mental state. One may secrete more enzymes or less depending on his state of mind, and on his attitude toward the food, what it might mean to him, or whether it looks and tastes appealing. Climatic and seasonal variables also enter into the picture, having an effect on one's requirements.
If we all vary in our psychological makeup, and because of this, use our bodies in different ways so that our nutritional requirements vary, how then does one go about finding out which diet is a good one for him? Faced with the complexity of choices in diet, biochemical individuality and the unpredictability of daily needs, it becomes quite apparent that one can't calculate mathematically what his requirements are.
Clearly, the optimal selection of food for an individual is a matter that defies his intellectual capacity. No amount of education and training prepares him to consider all these multiple variables in himself and in the food before him. One must therefore rely in part on taste, appetite, instincts, feelings, impulses and intuition. After we have learned to recognize what is wholesome and what is not, we must then make from the best available foods a correct selection.
Experiential criteria as a basis for nutritional understanding and the personal devising of a diet bypasses many difficulties. No longer is it necessary to try to analyze from the outside one's physiology, biochemistry and metabolic needs. Nor is it any longer necessary to analyze from the outside each food (which is extremely difficult in. any case since one tomato varies from the next, and so forth). Of course, it is an intuitive or subjective process of selection that we ordinarily certainly use, every meal, every day. But most of us have not examined this process to see how it might be sharpened and refined.
Once one has begun to approach the subject of nutrition from a personal,
experiential point of view new horizons open. For instance, if one makes a careful study of the effects of different foods on himself, he will begin to find that he can classify them into different categories. What's more, he will begin to learn interesting things about himself — his feelings, his desires, his conflicts. In the East there are many systems which provide the framework within which one can do this, such as the Ayurvedic system. The same is probably true of other ancient cultures, but much of their knowledge has been lost since there is not the continuous, living tradition found in countries like India, Tibet and China.
Developing one's fullest capacity for studying himself in relationship to his food calls on the best of contemporary scientific data on nutrition and physiology combined with the essence of ancient traditions of organizing the experimental data of self-observation. But the rewards are worthwhile, both in terms of improved nutrition and personal growth.
Extracts from Rudolph Ballentine, M.D,
Diet and Nutrition : A Holistic Approach, (pp 535-37)