Holy Cow, Calcium From the Source!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just finished reading the NY Times blog on the dangers of taking calcium supplements. This was very predictable because so many things recommended as being healthy or necessary by the medical profession end up causing more harm than good. It turns out that taking calcium supplements can increase your risk of having a heart attack. What will also most likely come out in the future is that calcium from supplements causes brittle bones that break easily. Strong, flexible bones, come from plant sources of calcium. What I found most disappointing about the blog is that there no healthy sources of calcium were recommended. Dairy foods and mineral waters are not healthy sources of calcium.

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust. Plants take minerals from the earth as their food. Cows accumulate great amounts of calcium in their milk through eating grass. Doctors and registered dietician’s tell us to drink cow’s milk and eat cheese in order to get calcium. This is second hand calcium and does not produce strong and healthy bones. Dairy foods also contribute to many of our modern health problems.

I find it interesting that people who have the highest calcium consumption from dairy products, also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. On the other hand, people who get their calcium from plant sources do not develop these problems. I have counseled many people throughout the years on how to remineralize their bones. Many of my clients have been frail, elderly women. Some of these women have had serious falls and have not broken bones. In every case, these women were shocked that they did not break bones from their falls. In situations where they did break bones, the fractures usually healed in about half the expected times. This also was completely predictable because plant sources of calcium build the strongest bones.

Now I would like to make you an expert on building strong bones. There are four main plant sources of calcium: green leafy vegetables; beans, especially white beans; toasted sesame seeds and miso soup. Eat a variety of leafy greens on a daily basis, including, kale, collards, bok choy and others. Eat a serving of beans often or daily. Use toasted sesame seeds as a condiment on your foods. Make miso soup with wakame seaweed and leafy greens and consume it often. To absorb the calcium and other minerals from these sources you need to use some vegetable oil in your cooking. A few or several times a week use sesame or olive oil in cooking your greens and beans. You can also cook greens and beans together sometimes. You do not need to go overboard on any of these these things. Good nutrition is natural. Just try to vary your diet with these healthy foods.

Natural exercise is also important. To make sure the calcium gets into your bones, walk outside on a daily basis to get fresh air and sunshine. Take the stairs when possible and get a variety of other life-related exercises. You will find that these recommendations benefit other areas of your life physically and mentally.

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

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.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Exercise, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Recipes, Weight

Three Square Meals a Day

Posted on by Denny Waxman

The family meal has played an important role in the history of all cultures. A recent article published in the Daily Mail suggests that the family meal is disappearing. Our busy lifestyles are compromising this long-standing tradition. Snacks, alcohol, and microwaveable foods are replacing cooked and shared meals.

I define a meal as a cooked grain and a separate vegetable dish. This is the minimum requirement of components to get complete, balanced nutrition and to feel satisfied. The centerpiece of any meal should be a cooked grain, such as brown rice, pasta, or polenta. Granola, muesli, popped corn or other dried grains, such as rice cakes, do not count as part of the grain component for meals. The meal is then completed by any type of prepared vegetable dish, like a stew or a salad. Brown rice and steamed kale or pasta and salad are excellent examples of complete and balanced meals.

Meals serve a valuable function in our life. Eating at regular times without skipping meals regulates all of our body’s functions including digestion, elimination, blood sugar, appetite, and moods. The time at which we begin our meal regulates our metabolism and our ability to digest, process, and eliminate the unused portions of our food. Eating at the proper times makes our metabolism healthy and active. Skipping meals stagnates our metabolism and contributes to excess weight gain and blood sugar problems. Try to make lunch your most regular meal. By starting your lunch before 1 pm you will help to stabilize your blood sugar and metabolism.

I think of meals as the glue of society. Meals bring stability to the family and build communication and a sense of belonging. Even though my mother passed away many years ago, I still have fond and powerful memories of our family meals, especially at holidays. Now my own children look forward to these family gatherings, even after they have grown and moved on to develop their own lives. I even observe my three year-old grandson already walking in the door, anxiously awaiting a family meal. Meals also connect us with the past. They preserve our traditions and unite us as a family. Meals brings a richness into our lives that cannot be replaced. The rewards of emotional and spiritual nourishment and enrichment are well spent.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotics

Health is Natural

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When I first started to explore macrobiotics, I discovered George Ohsawa’s “7 Conditions of Health.” These conditions of health were a revelation to me. George Ohsawa divided health into three main areas: physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual. He assigned the most importance to spiritual health and the least importance to physical health. From the macrobiotic view, health is primarily a spiritual rather than physical or mental quality and capacity. Ohsawa taught that spiritual health and endless appreciation for all of life guide mental and physical health. According to Ohsawa, health is something that we can learn to grow and improve throughout our life. Contrary to what we are taught in modern life, health is not something that we inevitably lose over the years. Sickness is not the necessary eventuality that we must prepare for all of our life.

In thinking about health, it became apparent to me that health is more natural than sickness. In most cases, we spend years spoiling our health and losing touch with our needs in various areas of life. We usually lose our health little by little. We often do not even notice the gradual decline of our health until it becomes significant and interferes with our life. On the other hand, we can make amazingly fast progress once we decide to start improving our health. I am always amazed at how much improvement my clients experience in one or two weeks after starting to implement my counseling recommendations. I am also amazed at how much progress people make in five days of attending our Intensive seminars the Strengthening Health Institute. You can actually see people transform day by day when they are exposed to good food, good activity, and a good environment.

The quality of our food has steadily declined since the end of World War II. Food science has taken over and transformed food into a long list of chemicals and preservatives. While it is hard to understand what these chemicals are made of, it is not hard to understand that they are detrimental to our health and well-being. During this same period of time, we have gotten increasingly less outdoor physical activity. Walking outdoors on a regular basis has virtually disappeared from modern life.

I am continually amazed by the marvels of the human body, with its quick responses to positive changes in diet, activity, and lifestyle. Even making small changes yields positive results in a short period of time. When it comes down to it, good diet, good activity, and a good attitude all lead to long-lasting good health. Really, all you need to do is get to the right starting line and then let nature run its course.

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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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

Coffee: another addiction

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started drinking coffee in 1969, shortly after starting my macrobiotic practice. Michio Kushi, in his attempt to make macrobiotics more relaxed and approachable, introduced his coffee-flavored style of macrobiotic practice. Around this same time, I also heard that coffee shops were referred to as “penny universities” in the colonial days. I always liked the sound of this term. It conjured up images of the founding fathers brewing up and debating the ideas that formed this great country.

At first I did not like coffee much. It made feel nervous sometimes and kept me awake at night on other occasions. However, I grew to appreciate the mental stimulation, the flow of ideas, and the active conversations that grew out of coffee drinking. Over the years coffee became an integral and essential part of who I was. I started to feel that I could not teach or counsel without my cup of coffee. I almost felt that it was my obligation to keep me at my best.

Over the years I began to realize that coffee had another, somewhat darker side. It seemed that coffee actually made me feel more tired than energized. I loved the jolt I got from a good cup of coffee, but my overall energy and stamina seemed to be declining. Maybe it was age, but I really thought it was mainly due to the long-term effects of daily coffee drinking. The one thing that bothered me most about my coffee drinking was the addiction. It began to weigh on me that I simply could not begin my day without my cup of coffee. Over the years I had tried to give up all my addictions and coffee was still getting the best of me.

This thought process went on for a year or two until I woke up one day and realized that I did not need my cup of coffee. It was a revelation. I started to drink black tea and began to appreciate the subtleties of a well brewed cup of black tea. I began learn about the tea drinking culture and, in time, I did not miss my morning coffee at all. When I travelled I would drink some coffee and go back to the black tea on my return home. Then something interesting happened. A few people sent me articles on the health benefits of coffee. Also, a few friends questioned my choice to not drink coffee. As a result, I began to think about coffee again. I had heard that Rudolph Steiner was a fan of coffee and I began to read his essays on coffee and tea. According to Rudolph Steiner, coffee creates thoughts that flow in a logical order. Tea, on the other hand, creates more diverse thoughts. One day, while struggling with my blog, I tried an experiment and drank a cup of coffee. Sure enough, my ideas started to flow freely.

I found that now that I have reintroduced coffee into my life, I am more than satisfied with my one morning cup. I hope you enjoy the results. At some point I may wish to return to tea and if I do I will let you know.

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

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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Macrobiotics and Medicine, Mental Health, Weight

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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Mental Health

Regulating Thyroid Issues Naturally

Posted on by Denny Waxman

A recent article in the New York Times discusses a link between psychiatric troubles and imbalances in thyroid hormones. Quite often subtle imbalances in thyroid hormones can create depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems.

From a macrobiotic or energetic point of view, the thyroid is the balancing point between the pituitary and adrenal glands or, you could say, mind and body. The pituitary gland at the base of the brain is the major endocrine gland that regulates all others. The adrenal glands, just above the kidneys, help regulate vitality, metabolism, and help us deal with stress. The thyroid shows an overall balance between mind and body. Problems in the throat region can also be related to difficulty in expressing ourselves or in accepting situations.

Many of my clients express how much more positive, energetic and calm they feel, even after one visit. When we add balance into our diet, activity and lifestyle practices, our hormonal system including these major glands naturally rebalance themselves. The adrenals like beans and root vegetables and the thyroid likes leafy greens and the natural sweetness of vegetables such as onions, carrots and squash. Walking outside also helps all upper body problems.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Mental Health