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-   -   Is there one food you could live on? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=550004)

sweeteviljesus 01-29-2010 06:15 PM

Is there one food you could live on?
 
Is there one food (+ water) that you could eat for the rest of your life and not suffer from malnutrition? We know from Cecil's column that bread and water won't do it.

Thanks,
Rob

Polycarp 01-29-2010 06:47 PM

Obviously you'd need fluids plus nutrients/bulk, which will not all come in a single food. On the presumption that the question would be, "Is there a food such that water + single foodstuff will be adequate nourishment?" I would suspect not.

I'll report, as merely a UL from which to work on the right answer, that peanuts were once said to be the most nearly perfect food, contaiing almost all nutrients that humans need, though not necessarily in the proportions humans need them in. Someone with a knowledge of nutrition minima and the nutritive value of peanuts and other foodstuffs migth be able to analyze that better than I.

carnivorousplant 01-29-2010 06:58 PM

Whatever provides the necessary nutrients, yes if I can put Hollandaise sauce on it.

Superfluous Parentheses 01-29-2010 07:14 PM

I want to bake it, make alcohol out of it, and it should be filling.

I suppose grain is the best choice. I'm sure it won't keep me alive.

Wesley Clark 01-29-2010 07:27 PM

Smoothies made out of fruit, vegetables and milk might do that. But that probably isn't one food.

friedo 01-29-2010 07:30 PM

Lots of people live on pretty much nothing but rice and beans. That's two foods, though.

joyfool 01-29-2010 07:41 PM

I guess pizza is really not the answer you're looking for....

carnivorousplant 01-29-2010 07:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by faithfool (Post 12055418)
I guess pizza is really not the answer you're looking for....

Maybe with Hollandaise sauce on it...:)
I had a history prof in college who claimed to feed his family on a Roman Empire diet of bread and lentils.

Perciful 01-29-2010 08:22 PM

Iams dry dog food.

twhitt 01-29-2010 08:47 PM

Purina Monkey Chow? That should do it.

friedo 01-29-2010 08:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by twhitt (Post 12055602)
Purina Monkey Chow? That should do it.

This guy did it. As for dog food, I wouldn't recommend it. That stuff often uses ground bonemeal as a bulking agent. Perfectly fine for dogs, but it will tear up your delicate intestines.

rhubarbarin 01-29-2010 10:02 PM

Meat has all the nutrition necessary for human life. Some fat in it is necessary (if you eat fatless rabbits you die right quick), and if you were allowed the whole animal -muscle meat, fat, skin, liver, kidneys, bone marrow- you'd be set up for good health, not just survival.

So my vote is for a nice fatty beef steak. Unless 'cow' is an acceptable answer (and you could eat other parts).

There are lots of people who eat animals alone with no evidence of ill health. Google 'zero-carb'. There are also human populations who have reproduced long-term with apparently excellent health on all-animal diets.

Sehmket 01-29-2010 10:15 PM

Would something like K-Rations count? If so, I would go for that.

elfkin477 01-29-2010 10:20 PM

My nutrition teacher in the late 90s told us that people could survive on chicken eggs and oranges. Eggs only lack vitamin C, so that's why you'd need some oranges too occasionally.

Hazle Weatherfield 01-29-2010 10:30 PM

Beans.

garygnu 01-29-2010 10:36 PM

Well, most of what we consume today in America is corn.

needscoffee 01-30-2010 12:21 AM

Meat is the correct answer. It contains all the vitamins and minerals you need, and as Rhubarbarin pointed out, there are peoples who exist entirely on it for most of the year, specifically Eskimo populations.

I once read (was it in The Straight Dope?) that potatoes will tide you over for a very long time because they contain a small amount of vitamin C. I have no idea if this is correct, though; it sounds doubtful to me.

twhitt 01-30-2010 12:31 AM

A large baked potato with the skin contains 48% of your RDI of Vitamin C. It's also a fairly complete source of essential protein. It's short on most other vitamins, and has rather more iron than men would need. Not a terrible choice, really.

Hazle Weatherfield 01-30-2010 12:42 AM

I think I'm remembering "Tortilla Flat" where a woman and her kids ate nothing but beans and were totally thriving.

vifslan 01-30-2010 12:52 AM

If quinoa had more vitamins and fat, it might be a strong contender. At the very least, it was a sacred food to the Incas until the Spanish started to suppress it.

Rhythmdvl 01-30-2010 02:06 AM

You may be interested in a couple previous threads on the subject:

cat food has everything needed for life....why isn't there a "people" food?

Why No Human Chow?

njtt 01-30-2010 02:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by garygnu (Post 12055877)
Well, most of what we consume today in America is corn.

And that is definitely not the answer: How long could you live on popcorn and Gatorade?

sweeteviljesus 02-01-2010 10:43 AM

No, K-, C-rations, MREs, etc. don't count. Anyway, I don't believe you are supposed to consume them for more than thirty days in a row.

I thought meat might do the trick, but how much?

Thanks,
Rob

jasg 02-01-2010 11:16 AM

Soylent Green

Slypork 02-01-2010 01:17 PM

Bachelor Chow

pancakes3 02-01-2010 01:20 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfberry#Nutrient_content

Chronos 02-01-2010 01:49 PM

Quote:

Meat has all the nutrition necessary for human life. Some fat in it is necessary (if you eat fatless rabbits you die right quick), and if you were allowed the whole animal -muscle meat, fat, skin, liver, kidneys, bone marrow- you'd be set up for good health, not just survival.
With the caveats that you need to eat the organs, too, and at least some of it will have to be raw, or you won't get all the vitamins you need. If you just ate nothing but steak, you'd get scurvy pretty quickly.

Rumor_Watkins 02-01-2010 01:54 PM

lentils?

Markxxx 02-01-2010 02:01 PM

Drink Ensure :)

kanicbird 02-01-2010 02:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rhubarbarin (Post 12055806)
Unless 'cow' is an acceptable answer (and you could eat other parts).

I was thinking cow also, which would include milk, and if allowed a bit of leeway, cheese and fermented drink, along with, if really needed, the contents of it's stomachs.

Derleth 02-01-2010 04:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rhubarbarin (Post 12055806)
Unless 'cow' is an acceptable answer (and you could eat other parts).

Cow might do it if you eat the organs, the stomach contents, and ground the bones into meal for calcium (would that work?). I don't know if you'd need to drink the blood, but I don't see how it would hurt. (The Masai drink cattle blood as a matter of course in their diet. It allows them to get nutrition from the animal without destroying it.)

(Of course all of this assumes a healthy animal. Eating diseased just about anything is unhealthy.)

Shodan 02-01-2010 04:45 PM

Cannibalism. As long as you clean your plate and ate some of everything.

Regards,
Shodan

Shot From Guns 02-01-2010 04:47 PM

Crap I'm remembering off the top of my head, so no cites, unfortunately:

You could get all your nutritional requirements from Guinness if you drank about 40 pints a day. (No info on how long your liver would be able to keep up.)

You can get almost everything you need from potatoes, if you eat them in large enough quantities. That's why potatoes were a staple food in Ireland and why the potato "famine" was so devastating: it wiped out the one crop that a huge percentage of the population depended on almost entirely.

Chronos 02-01-2010 06:00 PM

Actually, the Irish diet was mostly a combination of potatoes and cabbages, with a little milk and other things thrown in. While you can get everything you need from potatoes, if you eat a heck of a lot of them, it's more efficient to get most of your calories from potatoes, and most of your vitamins and other nutrients from cabbage.

Dickerman 02-01-2010 06:45 PM

Breastmilk?

Arnold Winkelried 02-01-2010 06:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by needscoffee (Post 12056065)
I once read (was it in The Straight Dope?) that potatoes will tide you over for a very long time because they contain a small amount of vitamin C.

Could I survive on nothing but potatoes and milk? (December 5, 2008)

needscoffee 02-02-2010 12:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 12063654)
With the caveats that you need to eat the organs, too, and at least some of it will have to be raw, or you won't get all the vitamins you need. If you just ate nothing but steak, you'd get scurvy pretty quickly.

Apparently not the case. When eating only meat, the amount of vitamin C it contains is sufficient. After all, the animal you're eating wasn't vitamin-deficient. In fact, early polar explorers eating animal livers overdosed on fat-soluble vitamins.

Chronos 02-02-2010 12:59 AM

Quote:

After all, the animal you're eating wasn't vitamin-deficient.
Well, no, but that doesn't mean those vitamins are evenly distributed-- They're mostly in the organs. And I think that the vitamin overdose only happens with polar bear livers, not, say, caribou.

needscoffee 02-02-2010 01:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by needscoffee (Post 12056065)
I once read (was it in The Straight Dope?) that potatoes will tide you over for a very long time because they contain a small amount of vitamin C. I have no idea if this is correct, though; it sounds doubtful to me.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arnold Winkelried (Post 12064959)

The piece I read was at least 10 years old, but this is a much better reference. The reason I was doubtful was because of the lack of protein. The piece I read I think said you could survive for 4 months or so on taters alone (but my memory is fading quickly, probably from some vitamin or mineral deficiency.)

rhubarbarin 02-02-2010 01:46 AM

Potatoes may have the vitamins needed for survival, but they don't have any fat, and you need fat in your diet to process many vitamins and minerals, as well as for normal hormonal functioning. I give someone on the all-potato diet a couple months, tops. If you give them lots of butter on their potatoes - much longer. :)

They were the staple of the Irish poor pre-famine, but their prized foods and secondary sources of calories were mutton (one of the fattiest meats existing), cow's milk products, buttermilk in particular (extra-fatty), and fish in populations on the coast. As well many of them kept chickens so got eggs on a regular basis. And of course some grains and bread. Irish peasants in the 1800s knew better than we do now- animal products full of delicious saturated fat have more available nutrition than any other food and as much of them should be eaten as you can afford.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Derleth (Post 12064495)
Cow might do it if you eat the organs, the stomach contents, and ground the bones into meal for calcium (would that work?). I don't know if you'd need to drink the blood, but I don't see how it would hurt. (The Masai drink cattle blood as a matter of course in their diet. It allows them to get nutrition from the animal without destroying it.)

(Of course all of this assumes a healthy animal. Eating diseased just about anything is unhealthy.)

I know people who have eaten nothing but factory-raised (usually in compromised health) beef cuts for years, and they are in good health. Eating plain muscle-meat with a normal proportion of fat seems to be just fine for survival. Probably not ideal for a life-long diet, or reproduction.

rhubarbarin 02-02-2010 01:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus (Post 12062732)
No, K-, C-rations, MREs, etc. don't count. Anyway, I don't believe you are supposed to consume them for more than thirty days in a row.

I thought meat might do the trick, but how much?

Thanks,
Rob

The people I know who eat only meat eat about 1400-2000 kcal worth per day. :) They naturally eat less - it's tough to overeat on meat-only - and tend to lose body fat and build muscle easily. Calorie content depends on whether it is fowl, pork, or ruminent and what cut it is..

Most of them are not as extreme as the beef-only crowd I mentioned before. In general they prefer organic and 'pastured' animal products and they eat a variety of animals and include some liver, kidneys and sometimes sweetbreads (all cooked). Most also eat eggs and use additional fat (lard, etc) for preparing meat.

Chronos 02-02-2010 02:41 AM

Quote:

Irish peasants in the 1800s knew better than we do now- animal products full of delicious saturated fat have more available nutrition than any other food and as much of them should be eaten as you can afford.
That may be true when you can only afford as much as a 19th-century Irish peasant, but that still left them eating a heck of a lot less meat than modern Americans do.

For that matter, it's been true for almost all of human evolution that "as much as you can get" was a good amount for meat (as well as for other fats and for sugar), which is why meat, fat, and sugar taste so good. We didn't need to evolve a sense for when something tasted "too fatty" or "too sugary", because for the vast majority of our evolution, it was just never an issue: You'd never manage to get that much, as a practical matter, anyway.

rhubarbarin 02-02-2010 03:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 12066106)
That may be true when you can only afford as much as a 19th-century Irish peasant, but that still left them eating a heck of a lot less meat than modern Americans do.

For that matter, it's been true for almost all of human evolution that "as much as you can get" was a good amount for meat (as well as for other fats and for sugar), which is why meat, fat, and sugar taste so good. We didn't need to evolve a sense for when something tasted "too fatty" or "too sugary", because for the vast majority of our evolution, it was just never an issue: You'd never manage to get that much, as a practical matter, anyway.

Well, I would disagree with half your point. In the beginning of time sweet came only in the form of honey and fruit (and some tubers), and was seasonal and more rare than the savory foods high in fat and protien that were a diet staple- in the form of coconut, insects, small animals, and shore seafood (gathered) and large animals and fish (hunted - and every last bit consumed with the fat prized above all).

This was still largely true with the advent of agriculture. When we made the switch from hunting and gathering to farming and herding, staples were grains and full-fat animal products. Average people had no access to fruit orchards.

sweeteviljesus 02-02-2010 04:34 PM

When I asked how much meat, I was asking if you might wind up overdosing on some nutrient in order to get enough of another.

Also, the poster who cited wolfberries (aka goji berries) should note that that section's cites regarding the berry's purported nutritional content were flagged as unreliable. I guess that was probably a whoosh.

Also, I don't believe buttermilk is especially fatty since it is the stuff left over after churning the butter (in the old days anyway).

Thanks,
Rob

devilsknew 02-02-2010 11:52 PM

Breadfruit, possibly? Like the potato, but it has seeds and some fat.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Breadfruit Institute
Breadfruit is a versatile crop and the fruit can be cooked and eaten at all stages of maturity. It is an important staple food in the Pacific region, parts of the Caribbean and other tropical regions where it is mainly grown as a subsistence crop in home gardens or small farms. It is an excellent dietary staple and compares favorably with other starchy staple crops commonly eaten in the tropics, such as taro, plantain, cassava, sweet potato and white rice. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy with low levels of protein and fat and a moderate glycemic index. It is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium with small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. Some varieties contain small amounts of folic acid. Yellow-fleshed varieties can be a good source of provitamin A carotenoids. The seeds are edible and can be boiled, roasted, or ground into meal. They resemble chestnuts in flavor and texture. They are a good source of protein and minerals.


Ranchoth 02-03-2010 05:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by needscoffee (Post 12056065)
Meat is the correct answer. It contains all the vitamins and minerals you need, and as Rhubarbarin pointed out, there are peoples who exist entirely on it for most of the year, specifically Eskimo populations.

So...would seal meat be better, or whale?

devilsknew 02-03-2010 10:47 PM

Sounds like a Breadfruit, Wolfberry, and Olive Orchard is in order.

devilsknew 02-04-2010 12:05 AM

On a hillside you could alternate large breadfruit trees for wood and fruit, with similarily ancient and sustaining olives, Inbetween the rows you could stake out the wolfberries, maybe a ground cover of melons and cukes to be hyper efficient. Be an excellent soil and ground conserve for tropical and subitropical areas. Could probably grow all of those outside my door, here on the suncoast.

devilsknew 02-04-2010 12:38 AM

Of course, you need fish guts, and shit to fertilize that hillside sustaining orchard.

rhubarbarin 02-04-2010 09:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus (Post 12069088)
When I asked how much meat, I was asking if you might wind up overdosing on some nutrient in order to get enough of another.

Also, the poster who cited wolfberries (aka goji berries) should note that that section's cites regarding the berry's purported nutritional content were flagged as unreliable. I guess that was probably a whoosh.

Also, I don't believe buttermilk is especially fatty since it is the stuff left over after churning the butter (in the old days anyway).

Thanks,
Rob

It's nearly impossible to eat enough muscle meat to overdose on any vitamins.

If you are eating a diet very heavy in organs, especially raw organs, vitamin A toxicity is a concern.


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