Beauty is more than skin deep, but it does start there. The skin, the largest organ of the body, renews itself every 28 days. It serves as a pressure valve for the entire body, moderates temperature, fluids and sensory perception as well as releases excess energy and stress. Our complexion is an important factor in our attractiveness.
The body’s nervous system, circulatory system, lymphatic system, and the acupuncture meridians are all affected by the condition of the skin. What can not be eliminated by the kidneys, intestines and lungs, moves to the skin. The liver also aids in the detoxification process. The long term effects of an improper diet cause a build up of fat under the skin. The skin also absorbs sunlight, and protects us from pollutants and toxins in the environment. In Oriental medicine, it is said that the surface shows the inside. Skin, essentially, is a barometer and indicator of the overall health of our organs and systems.
The skin maintains its health by receiving proper nutrition in the form of moisture, oils, various nutrients and oxygen from inside. When healthy, it appears moist, slightly shiny, resilient, is free of blemishes, and does not break or bruise easily. Healthy skin also heals very quickly from injury. When the skin gets clogged, it begins to age in an unhealthy way, as it is no longer able to receive proper nutrition. It becomes dry, then rough, develops blemishes, and eventually becomes doughy to the touch. I have observed that the skin oftentimes becomes doughy before someone receives a more serious health diagnosis. My clients are always amazed at how quickly their skin responds and improves from dietary and lifestyle changes. It’s never too late to develop a healthy relationship with your skin. You can have healthy, beautiful skin at any age.
These foods in excess, will clog the skin
-animal and dairy foods
-baked goods, and dry foods such as cookies, crackers, pretzels, and chips
-poor quality oils and fats
-excessive use of oil
-tropical, thick-skinned fruits (in temperate climates)
-iced foods and beverages
Things that further damage the skin
-excessive exposure to sun
-excessive exposure to cold and wind
-excessive use of poor quality moisturizers
Things that strengthen the skin
-all whole grains, especially brown rice, barley, farro, and millet, make the skin flexible
-all beans make the skin smooth
-sea vegetables make the skin strong and resilient
-buckwheat noodles and shoyu in broth and cooking
-light use of high-quality sesame and olive oils
-sparing use of high-quality moisturizers
-a daily body rub*
-all light to moderate, varied physical activity
*The body rub is the ultimate anti-aging technique that helps maintain and restore the youthful health of the skin.
It has been my observation that recently more and more vegans have been having bone problems including hip fractures and replacements. In the past, hip fractures were considered to be a sign of old age and impending death. This may not the case today, but I do believe that the food choices common to much of the vegan practice are creating an overly acidic condition which may cause calcium loss. Calcium is available in all plant-based foods, especially greens and beans. Proper food preparation aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, minerals, and other nutrients.
Current vegan recommendations advise avoiding all added salt, sugar, and oil. In addition, nightshades and other acidifying vegetables are highly recommended. Furthermore, smoothies are often used to replace some meals altogether. It is my concern that this may not be a healthy direction for a sustained vegan practice. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations were plant-based; their mainstays were grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. They also used salt and oil in their food preparations (this includes the people of Blue Zones). It seems it is safer and healthier to base our general recommendations on what has already worked for many hundreds, or even thousands of years.
There’s no doubt that the excessive use of salt and oil is unhealthy, especially when these are poor quality. It might be advisable to take a softer approach by recommending a minimal use of natural sea salt and high quality sesame and/or olive oil. Salt makes food tastier, more enjoyable, and satisfying. High-quality sea salt, used in cooking, aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Oil, used in cooking, aids in the absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It also adds to the taste and enjoyment of foods cooked in oil.
I am concerned that current vegan recommendations are an overreaction to a meat and dairy-based diet. The world is watching us; let’s make sure we get it right. I’d like to add more detailed information about specific recommendations and food choices in future blogs. Stay tuned.
We can regulate our metabolism through foods choices, mealtimes, and daily lifestyle practices. I define metabolism as the ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in food, and the ability to eliminate the excess. Excess takes the form of what we don’t use as well as accumulated toxins. The key to a healthy metabolism is the right foods at the right times.
Our digestion is not on call 24 hours a day; our body is most ready to receive nourishment at certain times. Eating at the proper times activates our metabolism, whereas eating between these times or skipping meals deactivates it. A person with a poor diet who sits down to eat at regular times will have better health than someone with a poor diet and poor eating habits.
Starting breakfast by 8:30 a.m., lunch between 11 and 1 p.m., and dinner between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. are the best times of day for our meals. Lunch is the most important meal of the day to be consistent with as it has the greatest ability to regulate our metabolism
-Sit down to eat without doing other things
-Start meals at the proper times and don’t skip meals
-Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly
-Stop eating before full
-Sleep and rise early–the earlier you eat, the more active your metabolism will be
-Do not eat at least three hours before going to sleep
-Have daily, life related activity, especially cleaning and walking outside everyday
-Try to eat with other people
-Have a good belly laugh every day
-Do things for other people
4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet
Kimberly, a nutritional therapy student in the UK, recently posted on her blog “The Little Plantation” about miso soup and her experience with macrobiotics. I wish to thank her for encouraging people to read “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet.” I’d also like to compliment her for recognizing that our style of macrobiotic practice is an orderly approach to life that connects us with our environment and brings us to better overall health.
It is clear that modern society does not prioritize health. When we begin macrobiotic practice, it takes effort to create an orderly, daily schedule and to carve out time for meals. However, over time, these health-supporting habits become second nature. The way in which we practice macrobiotics influences and determines our overall health. Because health is a direction, and not a fixed state, any efforts we make to improve our dietary and lifestyle practice moves us in the direction of health.
When I began my practice, I also thought that macrobiotics was based on a traditional Japanese diet. However, over time I began to realize this way of eating and living was common to the world’s long standing civilizations. With few exceptions, traditional diets from our ancestors around the world were based around a variety of grains, beans, vegetables, soups, pickled and fermented foods, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Not only that, but it is also common that our ancestors had lifestyles that aligned with nature’s orderly cycles.
Each civilization has made significant contributions that have become a part of our personal practice. For example, we eat a variety of whole grains and their products from temperate climatic zones. Not only do we eat brown rice, we also include pasta, polenta, unyeasted sourdough bread, and oatmeal. We tried to illustrate the global influence in our practice in the recipe section of “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet,” which serves as a reference point for those interested in integrating global cuisines. The future of modern macrobiotic practice is in embracing the contributions of these cuisines, which includes the traditional Japanese diet from which macrobiotics was originally based.
Thanks Kimberly for sharing with your readership what you have been learning and for helping to dispel some of the misconceptions about modern macrobiotic practice. As time goes on, macrobiotic, vegetarian, and vegan practices will align more closely as we focus more on planning our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables.
In a recent entry , I began to discuss the benefits of cooking food. Cooking is a lifetime study that makes humans unique. It is a practice we can enjoy and learn from everyday without end.
Each method of cooking affects the color, taste, aroma, and textures of foods in different ways. The best cooking looks good, smells good, tastes good, and holds our interest for the entire meal. We receive the most nourishment and satisfaction from the variety of flavors that are present when enjoying the combination of raw, cooked, and naturally pickled and fermented foods at our meals.
Cooking enhances the bioavailability of nutrition in foods by concentrating certain nutrients on the surface, making them easier to digest and absorb. I’d like to illustrate these points by looking at just a few methods of preparation.
-Naturally pickling and fermenting foods is a unique method of preparation because nutrients and probiotics are produced that simply did not exist before. Naturally fermented sauerkraut is much more than cabbage and sea salt. We recommend miso (grain and bean ferment), sauerkraut (vegetable ferment), and umeboshi plum (fruit ferment) in our macrobiotic practice because they aid in the digestion and assimilation of the full range of plant-based foods.
-Baking makes foods look and taste richer. It is considered healthy, but the main result of baking is that the fats and proteins in the food become more bioavailable.
-Blanching brings out the intense brightness of vegetables. This is because it enhances and concentrates the B vitamins, vitamin C, as well as minerals.
-Currently, there is much controversy over the use of oil in cooking. Is cooking with oil beneficial or harmful? It is a question I have been pondering a long time and I would like to share some thoughts. Oil has been used in cooking for thousands of years in the world’s long-standing civilizations. It is also used in the cuisines and cultures with the highest longevity. I wonder if cooking with oil is being studied out of context.
It seems to me that high quality sesame or olive oil, used sparingly, has a similar effect as salt in combining with foods. In macrobiotics, we only use salt in cooking in a way to bring out the natural flavors of food without leaving a salty taste. We recommend using oil in a similar way so that it enhances the flavors and energetics of the food without leaving an oily taste. My observation is that the elimination of oil for periods of time (weeks or months) can provide substantial benefit. However, do these benefits last over sustained periods of time? I think it will be seen over time that oil, used properly, has a deeply nourishing and protective quality for the bones, joints, blood vessels, and nervous system.
I hope that these ideas stimulate your creativity to prepare meals that are deeply satisfying and nourishing. The final act of cooking is our enjoyment, chewing well, and giving thanks to nature, the food, and to the cooks. All of these thing wake up the goodness in the food. I will be further exploring these ideas in future blogs.
Recently, The New York Times published a piece Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote regarding her recent medical decisions as they relate to her family’s history and struggle with cancer. In the article, she wrote about her choice to have a double mastectomy and later, to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes. She offered readers the type of options she was offered, such as testing and surgery.
I appreciate her courage to share such a deeply personal situation; I am sorry she had to struggle with such difficult decisions. While I applaud Mrs. Jolie Pitt’s dedication to making her choices known, I believe that many possible options for health and well-being were not offered.
In my 43 years of experience, the combination of dietary practices, activities, and attitudes produces lasting health. It all begins with the desire and willingness to take control of these factors. The daily habits that we form have the biggest impact on shaping our long term health. The science of epigenetics shows that our daily life choices control how our genes express themselves. Cancer genes can be turned on or off through dietary and lifestyle practices.
This checklist will help you move in the direction of health.
– Lasting health starts with our desire to be healthy through natural means.
– Health is natural. Our body wants to be healthy and tries to maintain and return to health at every moment.
– Health is not all or nothing. You will experience the benefits of any healthy dietary and lifestyle practices you incorporate into your life.
– It takes time to gain confidence in your body’s ability to heal through daily lifestyle choices. Once you start to see results, you will gain stronger confidence in your ability to maintain and recover your health.
– Our daily lifestyle practices promote mental clarity and calmness that will help us make important life choices.
– Create a healthy support network of those that also make health a priority.
– Maintain and foster supportive relationships.
– A clear direction towards health provides the best results. Choose one diet and lifestyle practice that suits your needs and goals.
-Plan your meals around whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. Use a variety of methods to prepare meals.
– The combination of books and seminars are important for supporting your journey towards health.
These choices that produce health and longevity are available to everyone. The world is polarizing into two groups of people. There are those who choose personal and environmental health based on aligning and harmonizing with nature. Then, there are those who choose artificial health through trying to control nature, the environment, and their bodies. Which side are you on?
Many believe that cooking destroys the nutrition in foods. Cooking literally transforms the nutrition that is available in foods. This can be done for better, or for worse depending on how food is prepared and cooked. All methods of preparation including pickling and fermenting are a part of cooking. Proper cooking can completely transform food. Michio Kushi called cooking the highest art form because it can create life, transform sickness into health, unhappiness to happiness.
The healthiest food looks beautiful, tastes delicious, engages all of our senses, supports health and clarity of mind, and inspires us to live to our fullest. Cooking brings to life and strengthens our connection to nature. It’s no surprise that some of our most memorable experiences come from a great meal. There’s no match for healthy food cooked over a wood stove or campfire.
Primatologist Richard Wrangham summed up his controversial research in “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” that gives credence to the act of cooking. Cooking increases and enhances the bioavailability of nutrition in food. Cooking lead to the smaller, more efficient digestive system and larger brain capacity of modern human beings. Primates spend most of their day eating to receive adequate nutrition. Cooking allows us to receive all of our nutrition in two or three meals each day. Cooking also enhances our ability to adapt to different climates, and is a uniqueness to human beings.
Cooking makes nutrition more bioavailable by bringing nutrients to the surface and concentrating them. Different types of cooking bring out different nutrients. Including a variety of foods and using a variety of methods of preparation is a key to receiving abundant nutrition. Changes in color, taste, and texture are evidence of how we’ve transformed the food. In a future post, I will explain more specifically the effects of different methods of preparation.
Part of a macrobiotic meal prepares by Susan Waxman and students at a recent Strengthening Health Intensive seminar
One of the common misconceptions about vegan diets is that they are deficient in protein due to the lack of animal and dairy foods. However, all foods in their natural state contain protein; it is nearly impossible to have a protein deficiency. Eating a variety of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, naturally pickled and fermented foods, provides the most complete and high-quality protein available.
The research of T. Colin Campbell brings to light epigenetics, and how our food choices regulate how our genes express themselves. It seems the combination of animal and dairy foods moves us closer to the potential to develop cancer. His research demonstrates that consuming casein (dairy protein) has a stronger potential to cause cancer than red meat. At first, I was surprised about these findings, but upon thinking, it makes perfect sense.
When we eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, we are getting protein directly from nature. On the other hand, when we eat meat, we receive second-hand protein as well as the toxic waste produced by the animal through processing the protein. When we eat dairy foods, we receive third-hand protein, as the food went through another stage of processing in the animal. What we are told about the source of superior protein is actually much more inferior. Not only that, but the commercial conditions in which most animals are raised increases the amount of toxicity we receive from these animal products.
What we eat today enters our blood plasma by tomorrow. Plasma is the liquid portion of our blood that carries nutrients and transports waste to be eliminated. It makes up about 55 percent of our blood, and renews itself every ten days. So choosing a variety of plant-based foods over a 10 day period creates the best quality blood.
My long term observation has been that people naturally lose their taste for animal and dairy foods once they base their diet on grains, beans, and vegetables. I find it interesting that most macrobiotic children are in the top 50% of their class for height and weight. They are generally raised on what is considered a low-protein diet. Macrobiotic children raised eating a variety of healthy foods are never thinking about individual nutrients. Food is a source of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual nourishment. Many of these children often have little taste for many protein-rich foods other than tofu and broccoli. Shifting our thinking away from food as a set of composite nutrients is one of the keys for adopting a healthy and satisfying way of eating.
Nature provides for us abundantly, and choosing plant-based foods that nourish us directly gives us the additional satisfaction of feeling a deeper connection with nature.
2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet
Everyone seems to be concerned about aging these days. People take special preparations and treatments to reverse the natural process of aging. Most of these treatments are based on hormonal and/or nutritional supplements, creams and injections, or surgery. Unfortunately, these treatments are only temporary and oftentimes these treatments backfire. What are the differences between those who age well and those who do not?
The process of aging is a natural cycle of growth and maturity where we come to understand what is important to us in our lives. In a healthy aging process, we grow out of and discard the things that do not have lasting value and meaning. Healthy people naturally follow and enjoy this process.
In macrobiotics, we approach aging with the attitude that we have the ability to grow and create our health through all stages of our lives. As we age, we get better at creating our life. In healthy aging, our thinking ability, mental clarity, and memory enhances and becomes more powerful. Aging is something that we can look forward to and enjoy.
The keys to anti-aging are good nutrition, good digestion, and good circulation. These things enhance our ability to continually clean, refresh, and renew ourselves.
-planning meals around whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits
-have a variety of naturally pickled and fermented foods (miso, natural vinegars, pickles, sauerkraut, micro-brewed beer)
-choose foods that can naturally store for long periods of time without canning and artificial preservation
-include variety in the selection of ingredients and methods of preparations for meals
These foods and practices in combination create an abundant balance of all nutrients essential for health, longevity, and vitality.
-sit down to eat without doing other things.
-eat slowly and chew your food well
-stop eating at least two hours before bedtime
These practices improve your digestion, help you eat less, and feel more satisfied. Digestion begins in the mouth, and chewing well helps to keep your condition more alkaline. Sleeping on an empty stomach helps your body clean and repair itself while you rest.
-outdoor activities including walking
-rub your skin with a hot damp cloth for ten to fifteen minutes everyday
-adopt practices that encourages natural, deep, and rhythmic breathing
Activity outside cleans and refreshes our energy. Rubbing our skin deeply cleans and renews our skin and activates our circulation in the deepest parts of our body. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and meditation naturally bring in more oxygen, keep us fresh, and promote health and longevity.
Bonus: sleep and rise early
It’s becoming apparent that macrobiotics is the healthiest approach to diet and lifestyle. I’ve spent the past 43 years developing and refining the best possible ways to achieve the maximum benefits from this way of eating and living. A student of mine once said that no one can dispute that the practice of yoga is more than just a physical practice around movement and stretching. Yoga is based around a core of spiritual beliefs that guide the practice. The same can be said about macrobiotics. The development and cultivation of a deep sense of appreciation for food and all of life guides and completes the practice. In a practical sense, we emphasize an orderly and structured approach to eating and living.
The most important aspect of these practices grows from a desire to be healthy. The approach that we take helps people rediscover their natural appetite that leads to lasting health. We stress eating habits as much as food choices so we can experience deeper satisfaction from our meals and greater enjoyment of our food. I’ve compiled this list of things to keep in mind to move you in the direction of health. Use this guide as a primer for planning anything from meals, to menus, to outlining goals for transforming your lifestyle practices.
—good eating habits lead to healthier food choices and greater satisfaction
—orderliness and regularity with our eating habits leads to an increase in openness and variety
—balance perpetuates itself
—our sense of balance comes from aligning with nature’s orderly cycles
—indigenous and local foods create the strongest connection to the environment
—format meals around grains, beans, vegetables, and local, seasonal fruits at home or away
—have vegetable soup with one meal every day
—emphasize life-related activities (such as walking outside, cleaning, or taking the stairs)
—surround yourself with green plants in rooms where you spend time
—create a strong and nurturing support network
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