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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

Your starch would entirely disappear


as Fuel. The starches contain no nitrogen except a mere trace in the framework of the grains or roots they grow in. They burn very clean; that is, almost the whole of them is turned into carbon dioxid gas and water.[7]

This burning quality makes the starches a capital fuel both in the body and out of it. You may have heard of how settlers out on the prairies, who were a long way from a railroad and had no wood or coal, but plenty of corn, would fill their coal scuttles with corn and burn that in their stoves; and a very bright, hot fire it made.

One of the chief weaknesses of the starches is that they burn up too fast, so that you get hungry again much more quickly after a meal made entirely upon starchy foods, like bread, crackers, potatoes, or rice, than you do after one which has contained some meat, particularly fat, which burns and digests more slowly.

How Starch is Changed into Sugar. As we learned in chapter II, the starches can be digested only after they are turned into sugars in the body. If you put salt with sugar or starch, although it will mix perfectly and give its taste to the mixture, neither the salt nor the starch nor the sugar will have changed at all, but will remain exactly as it was in the first place, except for being mixed with the other substances. But if you were to pour water containing an acid over the starch, and then boil it for a little time,

your starch would entirely disappear, and something quite different take its place. This, when you tasted it, you would find was sweet; and, when the water was boiled off, it would turn out to be a sugar called _glucose_. Again, if you should pour a strong acid over sawdust, it would "char" it, or change it into another substance, _carbon_. In both of these cases--that of the starch and of the sawdust--what we call a _chemical change_ would have taken place between the acid and the starch, and between the strong acid and the sawdust.

If we looked into the matter more closely, we should find that what has happened is that the starch and the sawdust have changed into quite different substances. Starches are _insoluble_ in water; that is, although they can be softened and changed into a jelly-like substance, they cannot be completely melted, or dissolved, like salt or sugar. Sugar, on the other hand, is a perfectly _soluble_ or "meltable" substance, and can soak or penetrate through any membrane or substance in the body. Therefore all the starches which we eat--bread, biscuit, potato, etc.--have to be acted upon by the ferments of our saliva and our pancreatic juice, and turned into sugar, called glucose, which can be easily poured into the blood and carried wherever it is needed, all over the body. Thus we see what a close relation there is between starch and sugar, and why the group we are studying is sometimes called the starch-sugars.

Wheat--our Most Valuable Starch Food. The principal forms in which starch comes upon our tables are meals and flours, and the various breads, cakes, mushes, and puddings made out of these. Far the most valuable and important of all is wheat flour, because this grain contains, as we have seen, not only starch, but a considerable amount of vegetable "meat," or gluten, which is easily digested in the stomach. This gluten, however, carries with it one disadvantage--its stickiness, or gumminess. The dough or paste made by mixing wheat flour with water is heavy and wet, or, as we say, "soggy," as compared with that made by mixing oatmeal or corn meal or rice flour with water. If it is baked in this form, it makes a well-flavored, but rather tough, leathery sort of crust; so those races that use no _leavening_, or rising-stuff, in their wheat bread, roll it out into very thin sheets and bake it on griddles or hot stones.

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