International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


The Indian Government Health Bulletin, No. 23 discusses those mineral which are most likely to be insufficiently supplied by the average human diets. They state

"CALCIUM is found abundantly in milk... cheese, and green leafy vegetables. Amaranth, fenugreek, and drumstick leaves are rich in calcium. (Milk varies so muchin India, it is difficult to evaluate. Skimmed milk powder contains about 0.4 gm. of calcium per oz. Green leaves, amaranth 0.24 - 0.15 per oz. See nuts and seed tables also) Children need relatively more calcium and other minerals than adults, just as they need relatively more protein. Rice is very deficient in calcium, and there is evidence that insufficiency of calcium is one of the most important defects of the rice eater's diet.

"Expectant and nursing mothers require a large intake of calcium. A healthy breast-fed baby of three months contains a great deal of calcium in it bones, all of which has been drawn from its mother's blood and its mother's milk. If the mother's diet is deficient in calcium, then the calcium present in her own bones is drawn upon, and her health and probably that of the child will suffer; since there is this enormous drain of calcium during pregnancy and lactation, a large intake of milk during this period is recommended..

"The usual text-book figures representing calcium requirements are 0.68 gramme daily for adults, and 1.0 gramme for children. These figures allow a 'high margin of safety.' Indian diets, particularly diets based on milled rice, may supply less than 0.2 gramme of calcium daily. This intake is too small. The diet of growing children should contain upwards of 0.6 gramme of calcium daily and that of pregnant and nursing women rather more.

"The best source of calcium is milk. Green vegetables and certain of the millets - e.g., ragi - are particularly rich in calcium, but the calcium contained in such foods may not be as well absorbed and assimilated as the calcium in milk. Regular daily doses of calcium lactated may improve the health of malnourished children.

"The habit of chewing betel leaves coated with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) which is common throughout India, increases intake of calcium. At present we have no precise knowledge of the value to the body of calcium consumed in this manner."

(But Dr. Y. V. S. Rao and Mr. V. V. S. Murthi reported to the Society of Biological Chemists that "the calcium of greens (like amaranthuis was not available for animal nutrition, because of the high content of oxalic acid present in it," yet adduced evidence to show that "when amaranthus, however, was fed along with cooked raw rice, the calcium was made available.")

"PHOSPHOROUS: it is usually stated rather more than 1 gramme of phosphorous daily should be supplied by the diet. Cereals in the raw state are fairly rich in phosphorous; considerable loss of this element occurs during the washing and cooking of rice. If a diet contains sufficient calcium, it may be taken for granted that its phosphorous content is satisfactory.

"IRON : Haemoglobin, the red pigment of blood - a most important physiological substance which transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues - contains iron as an essential constituent of its molecule. Iron is needed by the body for blood formation. When destruction and loss of blood corpuscles is taking place as in such conditions as chronic malaria and ankylostomiasis (hook-worm infection) iron requirements are increased.

"It is suggested that a well-balanced diet for a growing child or an adult should contain 20 mgs of iron according to the Tables. This figure gives a 'margin of safety' and allows for the possibility that the iron content of foods in certain parts of India may be lower than that of the foods analyzed in the Coonoor laboratories. The iron in certain foods is less "available" - i.e., less well assimilated - than the iron in others, A fairly high percentage of the iron in cereals, pulses, and meat, for example, is "available" but a lower percentage of the iron in vegetables. If, however, total iron intake from all foods present in the diet exceeds 20 mgs per day, it is probable that sufficient iron will be assimilated.

"In the treatment of certain forms of anaemia, iron medication is more effective
than the consumption of a diet containing abundant iron-rich foods, For the
prevention of anaemia, however, an iron-rich diet is valuable, Pregnant women are particularly prone to suffer from anaemia."

[Added to the dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, and certain nuts, jaggery, ghur, or molasses is one of the highest sources of iron. one ounce containing according to the Coonoor tables 3.4 mg. of the 30 mg. advocated daily. An ounce of Spinach or Bengal gram leaves (weighed before cooking) will contain about 6mg., but if the water is thrown away much iron will be lost. The tables as to common nuts are herein given. An ounce of unroasted cashew nuts about 1.5 mg. ; whole-wheat flour 2.2 mg. ; but after refining only 0.3 mg ; an ounce of Ragi, 1.6 mg. ; bajra per ounce contains about 2.5 mg. The so-called "boiled" rice contains 0.66 mg ; raw rice home-bounded 0.73 ; but milled raw rice contains only about 0.33 mg, per ounce. Egg, (fowl) contains 0.6, and duck eggs 2 mg. per ounce]


In these days of liver craze in the treatment of both pernicious and secondary anemia, the studies of Dr. R. S. Harris and his colleagues, published in the American Journal of Digestive Diseases, and reviewed in the American Medical Journal, are welcome. They find the availability of iron so high in the ordinary table molasses (jaggery) that the review concludes: "Whipple and Robschait-Robbins have listed chicken and beef-liver, chicken gizzard, beef, kidney, eggs, apricots and raisins as especially valuable in the treatment of anemia, From the authors' studies on these foods, it appears that molasses is superior to all these foods in this respect and is, moreover, the most inexpensive food source of iron."