Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

Posted on by Denny Waxman
A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

The holiday season is one in which we express our appreciation with our friends and loved ones, with a time to experience real joy and togetherness. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercialization of these holidays. This year, I hope we can be more aware of what these times are supposed to impart, which is joy, togetherness and appreciation.

With some forethought and common sense, it is possible to continue with our healthy habits and practices as well as embrace the spirit of joy that the season brings to us. In this way, we can avoid feelings of depression or feeling restricted during or after the season.

Health is a direction, not a fixed state. That is to say there is not an “on” or “off” state of our health and well-being, but we can always choose to move in the direction of health. Some days and periods will be better than others on the path. Even if we take some detours, if we keep our goals with us, we will reach them. So, it is not healthy to feel overly restricted during the holidays as we enjoy them with our friends and families. During the season, keep in mind your long-term health goals, which will help to decide what you can afford. The controlling factors of our health are our eating habits, our dietary choices, and our activity and lifestyle practices. Keeping in mind the following during the season will help with maintaining healthy habits.

1) Remember to eat at the table without distractions. This is a good time to reconnect with those we may not have seen. Even if you are having turkey and cranberry sauce, sitting down and eating, rather than at a television or while standing up will deter you from overeating
2) Try to limit your eating to mealtimes.
3) Wherever possible, include grains and vegetables to maintain the format of a complete and balanced meal.
4) Include foods that naturally aid digestion such as vegetable soups, radishes, sauerkraut and naturally made vinegars.
5) It’s also a good time to go outside walking together.
6) Keep up with your daily body rub.

 

Below are two natural detox remedies you can implement throughout the festivities to maintain digestion.

-Bancha Twig Tea or Kukicha Tea is a naturally alkalizing beverage that activates digestion and circulation. Drinking a cup of Kukicha is a great way to end a meal. “Shoyu bancha” is much more effective remedy that can be used on occasion and is prepared by putting a quarter teaspoon of shoyu into the cup before pouring the tea in. Stir and drink.

-Doing a foot bath is also a relaxing way to detox and warming for cold nights. Fill a basin with comfortably hot water from the tap and mix in a handful of table salt. Soak for 5-10 minutes.

Our practices of self-care and self-love will help us extend those feelings to those around us. Here’s to a joyous season of celebration!

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Recommendations for PMS

Posted on by Denny Waxman

PMS is part of a cycle of hormones–expansions and contractions. Being aware of where you are in your cycle, what you’re eating and how you’re feeling as a result can guide you with managing PMS.

 During ovulation, hormones are causing contractions to release an egg.

The other half of the cycle, hormones are building and preparing for the shedding of the uterine lining. When there is an imbalance during the building process, it is largely related to eating foods which interfere with the hormones being produced and secreted.

 

Animal and dairy products interfere as do baked, toasted and salty foods. Non-animal dense protein such as seitan does as well. Over indulgence in sugar, alcohol and chocolate at this time interferes too, despite possible heavy cravings. Cravings(to be discussed in a future post) are sometimes the expression of the cause of our discomfort.

 

Try this regiment in your cycle and see if any of the symptoms associated with PMS are quelled. If results are not immediate, it may take two or three cycles to notice the effects as the body adjusts.

4-5 days before the onset of shedding, eliminate the above foods and focus on foods that are light and refreshing such as:

                        -boiled grains and pasta

-salads, steamed or lightly cooked greens and vegetables

  -light proteins such as beans

-fruits and mild sweets(malted barley, brown rice)

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Our Trip to Taiwan

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Susan and I are on our way to Taipei, Taiwan at the invitation of our client. We will be there for about a week to support her on her journey back to health.

We are also going to explore new foods and cooking styles. This will help us to further understand the application of our macrobiotic principles in tropical environments. So many of the vegetables and other foods she has described are so different from the ones we are using to here.

Over the years I had the chance to offer seminars and counseling in many countries, both east and west, north and south. These travels and experiences helped me develop my understanding of the best practice of macrobiotics in each of these regions. Now this opportunity to visit Taiwan will further help Susan and I make our approach to macrobiotics truly international.

We look forward to reporting on our new adventure after we return. Please also check out Susan’s latest travel blog.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy

Cooking Friend or Foe?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Food is a touchy and personal subject. It affects us in so many ways and we often feel threatened by changes in our food choices and preparation. I hope to express these ideas with openness, curiosity and respect, as food is at the very core of our health and life.

We have grown up with so many mythologies surrounding food. Thanks to T. Collin Campbell and his ground breaking book, The China Study, it is finally becoming more widely known that plant protein is superior to animal and dairy protein in every way. I was so happy to find The China Study as it confirmed everything that I wrote in my book, The Great Life Diet.

Modern education about the importance of animal and dairy proteins has created far more harm than good throughout the world. Yet, most people still ask, “Where’s the protein?” The correct answer is that it is in all plant-based foods including grains, beans, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruits, and not just animal and dairy foods.

At the same time we have been brought up to think that cooking destroys nutrition. That idea is also not completely accurate. It is far more accurate to say that cooking has the ability change nutrition for better or worse. Cooking can increase or decrease nutrients and their digestibility depending on the food, cooking style and length of cooking. Cooking also increases the taste and enjoyment of our food as well as giving us the ability to preserve it for long periods of time.

I have the greatest respect and appreciation for all plant based ways of eating and living. There is no doubt that these are all the way to a healthier future. At the same time I find Richard Wrangham’s research about the effects of cooking on nutrition compelling as it confirms my many years of macrobiotic practice, study and personal experience. Through my macrobiotic counseling practice, I have seen repeatedly that learning how to cook well is of central importance to creating long-lasting health and fulfillment.

The relationship between food choices, cooking and health has become my lifelong study since living in London from 1981 to 1983. At that time I was the director and main instructor of the Kushi Institute and had the experience of meeting so many people from all over eastern and western Europe that came to study there. The more that I talked with these people about their food traditions the more I began to realize that their food choices and cooking were the key to not only health but the uniqueness of the varying cultures and environments that they were from.

I like to refer to all methods of food preparation including raw, pickling and fermentation as cooking since they are all done with a specific purpose in mind. Skillful cooking has a number of advantages. It makes food more delicious and digestible. Cooking actually increases the bio-available nutrition in our foods. It also increases the energetic level of the food and provides more physical and mental energy. Think about eating a raw salad, steamed greens or a stir fry. The raw salad is the most relaxing, the steamed greens more soothing or settling and the stir fry is the most energizing.
Cooking also increases our ability to adapt to our environment by increasing our ability to disperse or maintain heat. Think about the differences of the cuisine from different parts of the world. Just compare Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, British and German cuisine. It is easy to see that the cuisine of India is much more cooling than the cuisine of a colder climate such as Germany.

I find it interesting that most plant based approaches to eating and living are separating and polarizing rather than aligning these days. To me, the way to a healthier future personally, socially and environmentally will be fostered by combining raw foods, sprouting and juicing with a wide variety of cooked foods according our environment, desires and individual needs.

I will expand on this topic in my next blog including the use of oil in our foods.

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The Importance of Eating on Time

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When I was writing my book, The Great Life Diet, I made a conscious decision to only speak in terms of common sense and not try to validate anything I said scientifically. I wanted to speak from my long-time experience and understanding about the connection between diet and health. These observations and the understanding that followed were developed over years of working with clients, together with my personal experience. I knew intuitively that over time that science would confirm and validate my understanding and observations.

I just read a blog on mealtimes and weight loss that again confirms my personal experience and observations. Our weight is as strongly influenced by the time we start our meals as it is by what and how much we eat. We cannot discount calories, but they are not the main factor that regulates our weight. Our food choices and the amount we eat are regulated by the time we start our meals.

When we eat at the proper times our metabolism becomes more active. When we eat in between meals our metabolism stagnates. I see metabolism as our ability to digest, process our food and eliminate efficiently.

Everyone knows people who eat plenty and do not gain weight even without excessive exercise or workouts. You probably also know people who do not need to eat much to start gaining weight. Both of these situations are very common. This means that other factors regulate how we use and metabolize the calories we consume.

Our digestive system is not on-call 24 hours a day to receive and process nutrition. It is only active at certain times. These times have come to be known as mealtimes and have a consistency throughout the world in similar climates.

Mealtimes align us with the rising and falling of nature’s energy and also regulate our blood sugar. Our blood sugar follows the sun’s movement. Blood sugar rises in the morning so that we can be active and gently falls in the afternoon so that we can settle down in the evening. Simply speaking, hypoglycemia means that our blood sugar cannot rise properly in the morning and falls too quickly in the afternoon. This hypoglycemic condition causes us to crave more sweet and rich foods. It imbalances our natural appetite.

Lunch is the meal that has the greatest effect on regulating our blood sugar. When we start our lunch no later than 1:00 pm our blood sugar starts to find it’s natural rhythm. The later we start our lunch the lower our blood sugar dips and the more sluggish our metabolism becomes. The same foods eaten mid afternoon cause us to gain more weight than if we would have eaten them earlier.

Please do not take my word on this. Experiment for yourself. Start your lunch everyday for at least three weeks no later than 1:00 pm. For the next three weeks start your lunch at 3:00 or 4:00 pm. Keep a record of you energy, emotions and weight and see if there is a difference. To make this experiment stronger, start you breakfast by 9:00 am and dinner by 7:30 pm consistently day by day. Try not to skip meals. Eating at the proper times activates your metabolism. Eating late and skipping meals stagnates your metabolism.

I hope these suggestions have you looking and feeling good for the spring and summer.

1 Comment | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet

Brighten Up Your Winter!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

The winter solstice is less than one month away. This year it will be on Friday, December 21. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in contrast to the Summer solstice, the longest day of the year. On the winter solstice in Philadelphia the sun will rise at 7:19 am and set at 4:39 pm. This only gives us 9 hours and 20 minutes of sunshine as opposed to about 16 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year. This is almost a seven hour difference.

This huge difference in the amount of sunlight we receive can make a dramatic difference in our energy and moods. It is natural to feel more energetic and uplifted on bright and sunny days, whether it is summer or winter. We also feel more energetic in the summer, provided it is not too hot and humid!

During the winter, when sunlight is low, we can take steps to pick up our energy and moods. These are some suggestions to adapt into your diet and home or work environment.

Most of the food we eat is converted into physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual energy. During the winter months we need more warmth and energy from our foods and cooking. Grain, bean and vegetable stews are always a good choice. Hearty soups can also make a difference. Try to use sesame or olive oil daily in cooking and don’t forget some mild spice from ginger, garlic or pepper. It is also important to also have some light and refreshing dishes in the winter to complement the hearty, long cooked dishes.

We also absorb food, in the form of energy, from our environment. This includes our home and work environments, the area we live in and season. Our home and work environments can either nourish and charge us or have the opposite effect of draining us. It is easy to feel exhausted in stagnated and synthetic environments without fresh air or natural light. Try to keep these places clutter free, well ventilated and let in natural light when possible. An abundance of green plants can also make a noticeable difference in our energy and moods, especially during the winter. During the summer, when there is abundant sunlight we get more energy from the environment and need less physical food. These things are less of a concern during the warm summer months.

Try to get outside more even if you are not a winter person. Build up your resistance to the cold little by little with short walks until you feel that you can get a half hour a day in. You will feel better if you have more contact with the brisk outside air and natural light. For those of you who are a little more hearty, try finishing your hot shower with cold!

Even thought the winter solstice is the shortest day, the coldest time is still to come in January and February. Early February is when nature’s energy starts to shift and is actually the real beginning of spring. I hope these suggestions help you through the cold winter months until the spring and increased sunlight appear once again!

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Your Brown Rice and Arsenic Safety Checklist

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In a previous blog I made some recommendations to help protect against any possible harmful side effects from arsenic in brown rice. I wanted to post an expanded list since I have received some new information. A friend sent this article to me that was published in The Chicago Tribune. This article contains valuable information that has caused me to rethink the best ways of getting the enjoyment, satisfaction and value from eating brown rice while avoiding any potential harm from arsenic contamination. Please take the time to review the Chicago Tribune article. I have included the suggestions below that I found most helpful.

Try these recommendations to mitigate any potential harmful affects from arsenic in brown rice.
Choose organic brown rice from California. It is reported to have lower levels of arsenic than rice from other states.
Rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking it to help reduce arsenic contamination. This will help unless local water has hight levels of arsenic.
Check your municipal water report. This is a link to the Philadelphia Water Department.
Soak your brown rice overnight and cook it in fresh water rather than the soaking water.
Eat brown rice once a day, or almost daily, and not at every meal.
Cook brown rice with other grains such as barley, millet, wheat, faro or bulgur, etc.
Cook brown rice with beans or a combination of other grains and beans.

There are a number of natural chelating foods that we recommend as part of a varied macrobiotic lifestyle. Try to regularly consume miso soup and incorporate sea vegetables like wakame and kombu into your meals. I hope this helps you to continue enjoying your brown rice.

1 Comment | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

More on Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When I think about our children I worry. We want our children to grow up to be healthy and happy. We want our children to live long, exciting and hopefully prosperous lives. Despite claims about our increasing longevity, this generation of children is the first that will live shorter lives than their parents.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last thirty years. It is estimated that one third of the present generation of our children will develop diabetes. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve system disease, blindness and amputations. It is not a pretty disease.

I just finished reading the NY Times blog by Mark Bittman, “Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?” Mr. Bittman’s blog makes perfect sense to me. The pancreas is our deepest organ. The deepest parts of the pancreas produce and secrete insulin. In diabetes the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or our cells are not using it properly.

In macrobiotics as well as Oriental medicine all organs are seen as having a complementary organ or being part of a system. Problems in one side of this complementary relationship effect the other. For example, the lungs and large intestine. The lungs process gas, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The intestines process liquids, the absorption of water and water soluble vitamins (B & C) and then form our bowels for elimination. Problems in one side of the pair signal problems in the other as well. Digestive and lung problems are understood to be closely associated in macrobiotics.

The digestion system and our brain is another complementary system. Our brain processes vibrations, thoughts and memories. In other words, our ability to think, figure things out and remember. The ability of our digestive system to process solid and liquid foods, absorb the nutrients and eliminate the excess regulates our minds ability to process thoughts. The pancreas specifically is associated with our intellect.

The pancreas is harmed by strong animal foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, hard cheese, tuna and shell fish. It is also harmed by refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, especially fructose, soft dairy foods like ice cream and yogurt, tropical fruits especially bananas and iced drinks or cold foods and beverages. In other words, our modern, fast food diet.

The pancreas processes food into energy for life. It regulates our physical nourishment. Our brain process this nourishment vibrationally to guide our life. Our poor diets and lack of natural activity are destroying our health physically and mentally.

Simply speaking, excessive and poor quality animal foods overexcite and eventually exhaust our pancreas. Dairy foods dull our thinking ability and sugar, refined carbohydrates and tropical fruits consumed in colder, temperate climatic regions erase our memories.

Whether you look at this problem from an eastern or western view the end result is very similar. Our modern diet and lifestyle are destroying us physically and mentally and these two problems cannot be separated.

There is a solution to this problem that I discuss in my book, The Great Life Diet. My approach to health is based on adding, not taking away. Complex carbohydrates found in grains, beans an vegetables regulate our pancreas as well as our thinking ability and memory. Systematically reintroduce whole unrefined grains, beans, vegetable dishes, salads, soups, nuts, seeds and fruits into your diet. Start to get more natural outdoor activity. Then just let nature run its course. Health craves health. Eating more healthy foods helps to cultivate our appetite for more healthy foods. Healthy helps us to want more natural outdoor activity. Sound too easy to be true? Try it for a few weeks and let me know.

4 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Diabetes, Macrobiotic Diet

Preliminary Thoughts on Arsenic and Brown Rice

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I am not a scientist, researcher or medical doctor, my background is in macrobiotics. Over the past forty years I have studied and applied the relationship between diet and health to help many people maintain lasting health and recover from illness. This blog is based on my personal observations and experience.

I have been eating brown rice on a regular basis during these forty years. All of my children were nourished by brown rice daily in the womb. My children were also raised on brown rice on a daily basis until they went out on their own. So far, my two grandchildren are following this same pattern. All of my children seem to be thriving in every way.

I have also observed this pattern in my clients and students over the years. They all seem to thrive on eating brown rice on a regular or daily basis. I can observe daily changes in people who attend our Intensive Seminars at the Strengthening Health Institute, eating brown rice one to two times a day.

It is possible that the phytic acid in whole, unrefined grains and beans provide protection against heavy metal pollutants, including arsenic. Research has shown that the phytic acid in the bran of grains can incapsulate heavy metals, render them inert, and eliminate them from our bodies. Some people have charged that phytic acid may also interfere with the absorption of essential minerals including iron, calcium and zinc. I doubt this is the case with the Strengthening Health approach to macrobiotics because so many of my clients have recovered from anemia and also remineralized their bones while eating whole grains with every meal. In almost every case, my clients, in all age ranges, tell me that their blood tests are the healthiest that their doctor have ever seen.

Arsenic is a residual poison. The effects accumulate over time. If the levels of arsenic in organic brown rice are harmful, I do not know how to account for the benefits that so many people have realized over the years through eating this grain on a daily basis. It seems to me that the benefits of eating brown rice greatly outweigh any potential risks.

If you are concerned, try these recommendations to mitigate any potential harmful affects from arsenic in brown rice.
Soak your brown rice overnight and cook it in fresh water rather than the soaking water.

Eat brown rice once a day, or almost daily, and not at every meal.
Cook brown rice with other grains such as barley, millet, wheat, faro or bulgur, etc.
Cook brown rice with beans or a combination of other grains and beans.

Now that the question has been asked, more research will appear. As I find scientific proof or gain some new insights, I will pass this information along to you. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy your brown rice on many levels.

1 Comment | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet

Seaweed For Your Health and Enjoyment

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Vegetables are largely forgotten in our modern diet. I always find it interesting that when I come to the check-out counter with my basket of organic vegetables, I usually have to tell the cashier what the vegetables are. I assume that people working in health food stores are more enlightened than the average person when it comes to fruits and vegetables. I often wonder how many vegetables the average person on the street could identify let alone how many they have eaten in the previous year. Eating a variety of vegetables on a daily basis is strange or foreign to many people.

I do not find it surprising that seaweed or sea vegetables seem even stranger and more foreign than vegetables produced on the land. Seaweed in usually associated with macrobiotics and Japanese or Asian diets. It is one of the foods that makes macrobiotics seem Japan-centric. Seaweed has a long history as both a food and agricultural fertilizer. It has been used for many thousands of years in all island countries and coastal regions of the world. Like salt, various groups of people have also pilgrimaged for seaweed. Both nutrients originally come from the sea and are important for maintaining a healthy, mildly alkaline condition in our blood.

Seaweed is one of the foods that everyone grows to love. When I tell that to people they often look at me in disbelief. I have seen so many of my clients and students that could not stand the taste or smell of seaweed in the beginning, later tell me how much they craved and looked forward to eating it. My experience is that taste is biological even more than it is cultural. As our health improves our taste changes. Healthy people enjoy and are satisfied by healthy foods.

Seaweed has numerous health and nutritional benefits. It is an importance source of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, iodine, calcium, magnesium and iron. Seaweed is a filter in the sea and also helps to filter and detoxify our blood. It regulates fat metabolism and can help to lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Sea vegetables have also shown to block or reduce tumor formation. Seaweed is also important for hormonal and reproductive health. They also have the ability to encapsulate heavy metals, render them inert and eliminate them from our body. Seaweed has also shown to replace radioactive elements in our body including radioactive iodine in our thyroid and strontium 90 in our bones. Like salt, too much seaweed is not beneficial. It is best to use sea vegetables in small quantities, on a regular basis.

The following is a list of seaweeds you may like to include in your diet.

Toasted Nori is ideal for nori rolls and crumpled in soups, fried rice and noodles. It is refreshing, good for our blood and helps children grow. Your dogs and cats will love it too! Try adding 2 to 3 sheets a week into your diet.

Wakame is great in miso soups and salads or can be sautéed with vegetables. Use a 1 to 2 inch piece a few or several times a week. Soak until it expands before using it in your dishes. Miso soup with Wakame seaweed and leafy greens is a wonderful source of calcium. It is also important for reproductive, digestive and circulatory systems.

Arame makes a tasty side dish and is usually cooked with onions, carrots to bring out its sweet and rich taste. It can be used 2 to 3 times a week. Arame is thought to block tumor formation and aid in digestive health.

Kombu can be cooked with beans to make them more tender and digestible. It adds a wonderful flavor to soups and vegetable dishes. it is important to use Kombu in small pieces, around the size of a postage stamp or two.

Dulse is good in salads and sandwiches. It adds a salty, zesty taste and is a good source of iron.

Experiment and enjoy. You can find recipes in macrobiotic cook books, online or in seminars at the Strengthening Health Institute.

1 Comment | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Counseling, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics, Recipes