The Deal With Miso

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Miso is a unique food. It is a fermented soybean paste often made with brown rice or barley as well. It is used as a seasoning in various types of sauces, spreads, soups, and for pickling other foods such as vegetables, tofu or fish. Miso soup has become very popular in recent years. A good bowl of miso soup leaves you with a wonderfully satisfied feeling that is soothing, calming and strengthening at the same time. Miso is a very nourishing food that aids digestion and strengthens our blood.

Miso soup made with wakame seaweed and leafy green vegetables is a wonderful source of high quality protein, B-vitamins, calcium and other minerals. It also provides protection from environmental pollution from the air, heavy metals and even radiation. In Oriental medicine, it is used to promote digestive and reproductive health.

There are many types of miso to choose from. In macrobiotics we use three main types of miso for maintaing health and for healing: soybean/Hatcho miso, barley miso or brown rice miso. The two that I recommend most in my counseling practice are barley and brown rice miso. Hatcho miso seems to be too strong for regular use.

From a macrobiotic perspective Hatcho miso is the most strengthening. Barley miso also has a more deeply nourishing and strengthening effect on our health, though not quite as strong as Hatcho. Brown rice miso is the most relaxing and soothing. It depends on our health and desires to decide which miso is best for regular use.

We can use the principle of yin and yang to understand the nature of each. Soybeans are the most yin food of the group followed by barley and then brown rice. Since soybeans are by far the most yin they have the ability to absorb more yang and become stronger and more yang over time. Barley is more yin than brown rice. Using the same principle, barley miso has the capacity to become substantially more yang than brown rice miso over time. All types of miso have a strong polarity of yin and yang elements, which gives them the ability to balance out extremes. Miso can balance out the harmful effects from animal foods, dairy foods, sweets, alcohol and many pollutants.

It is easy to think that a stronger miso is a better choice. This is not the case. We are after balance. If we move to either extreme too strongly, we can harm our health. For people that ate too many animal foods, well-cooked and salty foods, brown rice miso may be the best choice to help lighten their condition. The sweet richness of brown rice miso can effectively balance out the harmful effects from meat, hard-salty cheese and baked foods. It has a more relaxing, calming and soothing effect on us. If we became depleted from too many sweets, alcohol or other weakening foods, barley miso may be the better choice. It is more deeply nourishing and strengthening and can more easily cancel out excesses and extremes of yin. Simply speaking, barley miso for strength, warmth and activity, and brown rice miso for relaxation and unwinding.

Experiment with the various types of miso and try to observe their effects on your digestion, vitality and overall feeling of well being. You can also blend two types of miso for a unique effect.

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Going Macrobiotic

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I read, The Challenge of Going Vegan with great interest and agree with many of the points of the blog. Change is always difficult, especially with something so basic as food. I am not completely vegan since I do eat fish from time to time. In 1969, I started to eat brown rice and move towards a macrobiotic diet. My diet has been based on grains, beans, vegetables and a large variety of plant-based foods since that time. I have never looked back at my old way of eating.

Before my macrobiotic practice, I was a confirmed junk food eater: hamburgers, hot dogs, cheesesteaks, pizza, toasted bagels, coke, pastries and Breyer’s vanilla fudge ice cream. I went from a picky eater as a child to a junk-food eater as a teen ager. I shunned most things that were considered real and healthy foods. When I started to eat brown rice on a regular basis I started to crave other foods that I had never eaten before in my life. Other healthy foods started to become appealing. It was a revelation for me. I experienced an intense excitement about discovering and adding new foods to my diet. With each new dish I added, cravings for past foods began to fade away. This process became self-perpetuating. Over the years, I developed my approach to health based on emphasizing adding over taking foods away.

When most people think about diets, losing weight or improving their health, they think about restricting themselves. They think about what they shouldn’t be doing and which enjoyable things they will be giving up. My long time observation and experience is that restriction leads to excess and that this approach is doomed to failure. Food is our strongest desire in life and our cravings inevitably win over time. When a client tells me that they are following my recommendations, but they do not enjoy the food, I know they are headed for trouble. I then spend some time finding out what they do enjoy and how to build on that.

Try to think about adding foods in three categories: grains, vegetables and soups. These are the basics of a healthy way of eating. Add foods that you are familiar with first. For grains try adding brown rice, couscous, oatmeal or polenta into your diet. Complement these grain dishes with steamed greens, sauteed vegetables or a raw salad. Next think about adding vegetable or bean soups made without meat or chicken stock. Try to observe how these new additions affect your appetites and cravings. Focus on finding new, healthy foods that you find exciting and satisfying. Go to restaurants that offer a variety of vegan dishes to get some new ideas.

Natural food and natural activity also complement each other. Go for a walk outside and see how this affects your appetite and taste for healthy foods. Try a yoga class or other more natural activities and watch your craving for foods that are spoiling your health fade away.

Over the years, I began to think that taste is more biological than learned, and is based on our health. When we eat healthier foods, we begin to improve our health and consequently other healthy foods become appealing and satisfying. This only works if we have an open mind and think about adding and eliminating. The process also works in reverse, the more junk-foods we eat, the better they taste. I tell my clients and students that taste for food is a barometer of health. The better your health, the more satisfying healthy foods become. If we lose our taste for healthy foods, something is off in our diet or activity that is causing an imbalance. Correcting this imbalance restores our taste for healthy foods. Think of these changes as a new adventure. Good luck on your new journey.

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Thoughts on Eating Breakfast

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I had a dilemma. I wanted to start eating breakfast but I was addicted to coffee shops as well as coffee. I looked forward to starting the day outside my home to read and work on ideas before starting my day officially. It was starting to become apparent that I would have to give up my coffee shop addiction to start eating breakfast at home. In my previous blog I wrote about my relationship to coffee.

Recently I re-read Ben Franklin’s autobiography and was impressed on many levels. It is clear that Ben Franklin was a creative and practical genius in just about all areas of life. It was also clear from reading his autobiography that he was actually practicing macrobiotics. He had an orderly lifestyle and eating habits. He was a vegetarian from the age of 16 and he ate grains. He constantly worked on self-development and self-improvement. He had the spirit and practice of a real macrobiotic person.

One of Ben Franklin’s sayings that caught my attention was his sage advice to eat breakfast and lunch, but to eat little to no dinner. This caught my attention because, for many years, I had little to no breakfast, other than coffee. I adopted this practice because my teacher, Michio Kushi, didn’t eat breakfast. Upon reading Franklin’s saying, I realized that eating breakfast has a grounding effect on us and balances creativity. I knew then that I needed to break my coffee shop habit and start eating breakfast.

For many years I have recommended that people have regular meals at specific times. You can find the details in my book, The Great Life Diet. I have observed that eating and rising at earlier times makes us more practical and physically active. Blue collar workers eat earlier than white collar workers. Time has shown that an earlier schedule makes workers more productive. Now it has also become apparent that which meals we eat also have a profound effect on us.

I started my macrobiotic journey with a balance of practicality and creativity. It seems that my practicality has declined in favor of creativity over the years. Now that I have passed my 60th birthday it it time for the pendulum to swing back towards practicality. I am hoping that you will be able to observe my progress from my newly found breakfast habit.

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Adding: The One Thing You Should Be Doing to Improve Your Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When we think about going on a diet to improve our health, we usually think about restriction and hard work. We think about cutting back on, or completely avoiding our favorite foods and activities. We want to schedule time to get over to the gym or health club for an intense workout.

In my experience and observation over many years with my clients, this restrictive approach has great limitations. It leads most people to think about when they can stop their diet, or to worry about what happens when they “cheat.” We do get short-term benefits from stopping things and increasing exercise. Many of us have experienced this. However, these improvements are usually short-lived. If we are really interested in more long-term benefits, we need a different approach. Long-term benefits are a result of what we do, rather than the results of the things we don’t do.

Small positive changes over time create substantial and long lasting benefits. Think of a long distance run rather that a sprint. It is best to pace yourself. You want to create new and health-producing habits. Do as much as you can to improve your eating habits and lifestyle without feeling stressed about it.

Remember, small changes produce big benefits over time. Think about being consistent.
Start by taking time for your meals. Try to eat one meal every day, or even a part of a meal, without working, reading or TV. How does eating without distraction make you feel? Did you enjoy your food more or feel more satisfied?

Here are a number of things that you can think about adding into your diet and lifestyle:
Try to start eating your lunch by 1 pm as many days a week as possible. Plan one meal a day around a grain and a separate vegetable dish, even if it is in a restaurant. Have a vegetable soup with one of your meals. Stop eating two to three hours before getting into bed. Go outside for a walk, a few times a week, even if it is only for five to ten minutes. Bring some more green plants into your home. Let some fresh air into your home daily.

The important part is to try these things, as consistently as you can, for two to three weeks. See how they make you feel. When you notice the positive benefits, see how you can improve upon your new good habits. Notice your energy level, moods, and how you enjoy your foods. You will find that as you improve your health you will start to enjoy your meals more and naturally lose interest in the foods that are spoiling your health. You will also find that creating healthy habits in this way can actually be fun and inspiring.

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Brown Rice Friend or Foe?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I find it interesting that I posted a blog on the wonders of brown rice on February 15 and this Yahoo News story about the dangers of brown rice was published on February 16, 2012. I guess brown rice is in the air and it is my hope that this exposure will lead to many more people cooking and consuming brown rice on a regular basis.

I am not a medical professional or a medical researcher. I am a macrobiotic professional with more than forty years of experience guiding many thousands of my clients on diet and lifestyle to recover and maintain their health. I have observed the power and benefits of the regular consumption of brown rice on the young and old over these forty years. My own children and their children follow these same dietary and lifestyle practices. You can easily observe that each generation following these practices is stronger, brighter, and more vibrant than the one before. This response is based on my personal experience along with my long-time observation and experience with people practicing macrobiotics, and not as a medical professional.

The benefits of proper macrobiotic practice are varied and all-embracing. They include recovery from cancer, allergies, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis and weight issues. Many of my clients have also followed my recommendations to successfully overcome infertility, to have healthy pregnancies, and to raise healthy children. Macrobiotic practice can also lead to a more positive attitude towards life in general, better moods, and a renewed or enhanced satisfaction and enjoyment from food.

One of the most common points of macrobiotic practice is the regular or daily consumption of brown rice along with a variety of other grains, grain products, beans and vegetables. Brown rice syrup and other natural sweeteners are also recommended to satisfy sweet cravings. We do not recommend the regular consumption of cereal bars, energy shots or the use of infant formula. On the other hand, we do recommend a mostly plant-based diet based on whole, unrefined, and naturally processed foods. We also encourage people to eat local and seasonal foods when possible.

Most macrobiotic women choose to nurse their children because of the long list of physical, emotional and mental benefits to mother and child. When weaning their babies from breast milk most women tend to move on to homemade grain milk, made from a combination of grains, beans, sesame seeds, and sometimes vegetables. These homemade grain milks are often sweetened to the mild sweetness of breast milk with rice syrup or barley malt. They are used temporarily until the child moves on to more adult consistency foods.

There is a lot of controversy about whether phytic acid is beneficial or harmful in a grain based diet. Phytic acid is found in whole grains, beans, and seeds, including brown rice. Some people think that phytic acid interferes with mineral absorption. I doubt that is true when it is eaten as part of a varied diet together with other mineral sources. I have observed that so many of my clients have increased their bone density from the regular consumption of whole grains, beans, and leafy green vegetables. It may be possible that phytic acid actually gives protection against environmental toxins including heavy metals such as arsenic. It also seems that phytic acid has anti-cancer properties and aids in the regulation of cholesterol and blood sugar.

In order to be careful about arsenic exposure it is best to minimize the consumption of cereal bars, energy shots or the use of infant formula. It is also best to minimize the use of brown rice syrup until we have more information. I will post another blog when I have more information to share. We also recommend using filtered water for both drinking and cooking. The filters we recommend are carbon block water filters that filter out lead, arsenic and other common water contaminates.

I invite everyone and their families to share their personal experiences with the long-time, regular consumption of brown rice together with other whole grains, beans, seeds, and vegetables. Please also share pictures of your children who are born and raised on a varied plant based diet. Let common sense and personal experience prevail to let more and more people know the benefits of this way of eating and living.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Cancer, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy

What’s So Great About Brown Rice Anyway?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started to eat brown rice in 1967 after years of indulgence in an almost exclusively junk food diet. Interestingly enough, one of the few foods that I liked in my junk food incarnation was kasha and bow ties, a typical Russian dish, which my mother made on a regular basis. Kasha or buckwheat is commonly eaten in Eastern European countries where my mother is from. There was something about it that I found both delicious and deeply satisfying. It wasn’t until I encountered brown rice in 1967 that I found another food that had a similar degree of satisfaction. I started to eat brown rice because of a challenge from a friend.

Doing that brown rice challenge led me to begin my macrobiotic practice over the course of the next two years. One of the first things I noticed after I started to eat brown rice on a regular basis was that many of the foods that I had avoided in previous years started to become delicious. For years I had refused to eat vegetables other than lettuce and tomato on a sandwich. All of sudden I became attracted to eating vegetables. The only thing I could attribute this change to was my regular consumption of brown rice. One by one, my diet began to widen with healthy foods. I also found that my cravings for junk foods were declining. Brown rice transformed me from a junk food eater to a healthy foodie, almost overnight.

As I became more familiar with brown rice, I discovered that it had some other very interesting qualities. Brown rice is the only cooked grain you can eat everyday and always find it delicious. I discovered this in the early 1970‘s when the crop of brown rice would not last the entire year and we were forced to try eating other grains. Try eating oatmeal or millet everyday for weeks or months and see if it is still appetizing.

Brown rice has two other attributes that I find even more amazing. Whatever you cook with brown rice cooks in the same period of time as the rice, even if it takes much longer to cook without the rice. Chickpeas, which can take hours to cook on their own will cook in one hour when pressure cooked with brown rice. It is the same with other foods with long cooking times.

Brown rice also combines well with and enhances the taste of all other foods. Brown rice combines well with all other grains, all beans, all seeds and nuts, all vegetables, all fruits, all different types of meat, poultry fish, shell fish, all dairy foods, and finally all different types of sweets.

Because brown rice has these unique capabilities, I think it is safe to assume that eating brown rice on a regular basis will also give us unique abilities. My experience is that brown rice helps us in all areas of our life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eating brown rice helps us to align with or understand the thoughts and ideas of others, even if they are divergent from our own. I have seen the power of brown rice in helping people to recover their physical health and also to re-direct their lives in many ways. These are bold statements and probably seem hard to believe. So now, I pass the brown rice challenge on to you. Try eating brown rice on a daily basis for two to three weeks. If you experience positive results (and I am confident that you will), please pass this brown rice challenge on to others.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Mental Health

Walking: Exercise for the Body and Mind

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Walking helps all aspects of our body, emotions, and mind in children and adults alike. Walking aids our digestion and improves circulation. It harmonizes the left and right sides of our body including the intestines, liver and spleen, kidneys, lungs, two chambers of our heart, left and right sides of our brain, and two branches of our autonomic nervous system. Walking helps all of these organs and systems work more harmonious and efficiently. It also stimulates bone metabolism and enhances flexibility.

In Oriental medicine, the digestive system and mind are considered front and back. They are one system. The digestive system processes liquid and the brain and nervous system process vibrations. Healthy digestion leads to a healthy mind, thinking, and learning ability. All natural, life-related activity increases our ability to think and figure things out. When you combine healthy eating with healthy activity you have the best of both worlds. These simple practices are all part of my 7 Steps to a Great Life.

Walking outside makes us feel better in every way– it clears and refreshes the mind and lifts the emotions.

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Learning From Isaiah: The forgotten step

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Recently my wife Susan published a blog on the importance of expressing gratitude, illustrated by a photo of our grandson Isaiah. Her blog got me thinking about the practice of giving thanks before every meal. It is something that I adopted in 1969 when I began practicing macrobiotics. It is something that I do whether eating at home or in a restaurant. There is no “right” way to give thanks. It is just the expression of our thanks and gratitude that is important.

This is a practice that my son Joe grew up with and he passed it on to his son, Isaiah, who needs no encouragement to give thanks. He puts his hands together and moves them slightly. You can see from the photo that it is a gesture of great joy and peace.

As I was thinking about this practice, I realized that it is the missing step in my 7 Steps to a Great Life. It was a realization that moved me. It made me think about how easy it is to overlook or take for granted things or practices that are so much a part of us- things that are vitally important to our life.

It also made me think that perhaps I should start doing this in other areas of my life, especially with those who are important to me. This photo of Isaiah praying and giving thanks will now serve as a reminder for me to look around and acknowledge all of the wonderful things that I have to be grateful for every day.

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Ben Franklin’s Mistake?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I have endless admiration for Ben Franklin’s accomplishments and the way he lived his life. It is a marvel that one man could have left us with so many wonderful things. At the same time, whenever I think about daylight savings time, I wonder if Ben Franklin made one mistake.

All of life moves according to the sun. We rise and sleep according to the sun’s movements.
In an agrarian society, such as our own until the Industrial Revolution, everyone lived close to nature. At that time, an extra hour of daylight would have been a wonderful advantage and saved many expensive candles. However, it also moved us away from sun time. Now that we have become so disconnected from Nature and her orderly cycles, it may be helpful to realign again by living more closely to the sun’s movement. Our daily life has lost its rhythm of movement and rest that we enjoyed not long ago.

Our sense of balance in life comes from nature. This sense of balance is necessary to maintain or recover our health. There are two ways to recreate this sense of balance in our life. One is through dietary choices and the other is through an orderly day/night cycle and meal times. In The Great Life Diet I discuss the details to recreate this balance.

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Great Frustrations

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In my macrobiotic counseling practice, I often say to my clients, “if people say it is good, I say it is bad.” It is my automatic response to hearing someone praise the health virtues of a certain food. I know this sounds completely arrogant or at the very least contrary. To me it is an expression of a deep frustration. It is a frustration that has been growing within me for many years.

So many of my clients come to me saying that they have been eating a healthy diet, yet they are here to see me for a life-threatening problem. I find a huge contradiction there. My experience is that a healthy diet leads to lasting health. My approach to health is simple; add healthy foods and activities into your lifestyle, and a try to cultivate a positive and embracing attitude. Food is the starting place that has the most power over our health.

Recently I read an article in the Atlantic about teens wanting to lose weight and not knowing how. The conclusion of their research was that the actions of obese teens do not reflect their desire to lose weight. Now, this is where my frustration grows again. I find it hard to believe that most obese teens do not want to lose weight. Rather, I think that they have a frustration that prevents them from losing weight. Their frustration is that what they are told does not work. As a result, they get frustrated and give up trying to lose weight.

Why is it that common beliefs about weight loss do not work?

First of all, the calorie theory does not work. Eating fewer calories and working out more do not lead to sustained weight loss. The secret to sustained weight loss is simple: if you have a healthy, balanced way of eating and natural activity, you will feel satisfied. When we are satisfied with our diet and activity we never need to think about our weight. Healthy weight is the natural outcome of a balance in diet and activity. Weigh loss systems are doomed to failure if they are based on restriction. Frustration and restriction inevitably lead to excess weight. This is not an idle theory. I have helped many hundreds of people lose weight effortlessly with these basic principles.

The modern diet causes a deep biological frustration that cannot be satisfied. It does not satisfy our basic nutritional needs. Exercise and eating less do not solve the problem. This can be seen all around us. If we teach children the basics of a healthy way of eating through the enjoyment of unprocessed whole foods and daily activity they will automatically achieve a sense of satisfaction which leads to healthy weight. The simple steps outlined in my book, The Great Life Diet, lead to sustained weight loss naturally without feeling deprived. You will learn how to be satisfied with your diet and activity and lose weight naturally. It is a great way to start the new year.

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