In the later nineteenth century, most Canadians did not have a thorough knowledge of nutrition and its role in providing fuel for the body. Throughout history, physicians debated the role of food in disease progression, though many did see it as an element of bodily health. Many Canadians did not regularly consume a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, resulting in common illnesses like scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency, and beriberi, a vitamin B1 deficiency. Most Canadians thought sickness and disease was seasonal, sporadic, and air-borne. It was not until the twentieth century that physicians and researchers realized that daily doses of vitamins and minerals, an adequate supply of protein, and clean water were the key to good health. At the turn of the century, cookbooks began to include some of this new information about nutrition, pointing out foods considered healthful at the time, and that the ideal diet should consist of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Some books also acknowledged that cooking methods could impact a food’s nutritional value. The “Surprise” Cook Book, for instance, notes that excessive boiling of food reduces its nutritional content.
Cooke, Maud C. Breakfast, Dinner and Supper, or what to eat and how to prepare it, containing all the latest approved recipes in every department of cooking ... including hygenic and scientific cooking ... the whole forming a standard authority on the culinary art. St. John's: R.A.H. Morrow, 1897. Gift of Una Abrahamson. Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph.