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.
I was recently surprised to read about the destruction of the natural life experienced by lorikeets when unnatural foods are introduced into their diets. Many are feeding lorikeets simple sugars from syrups, honeys, and jams to encourage them into their backyards. In turn, the regular diet of the lorikeets is changing.
Lorikeets are natural vegetarians. When they eat these unnatural foods, they become very aggressive in the pursuit of eating meat. Over time, they become ill, and develop diseases that are not found in their natural way of life. The health issues facing the lorikeets in Australia are remarkably similar to many who eat the standard American diet.
Imbalances perpetuate themselves. The foods we eat creates and changes the balance in our digestive system. Food creates our taste for other foods and eating unhealthy foods creates cravings for other unhealthy foods. It seems we have followed a similar pattern to the lorikeets. Since we introduced more processed flours and refined sugars and syrups, meat consumption has steadily increased. Many people aggressively pursue and strongly defend their right to eat meat. Consider that lorikeets naturally have a high carbohydrate, low-protein diet, which is similar to our natural diet.
Fortunately, balance also perpetuates itself. When we begin to reintroduce complex carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, we restore the natural balance of our digestive system. This leads to recovering a taste for healthy, natural foods as well as a gentle and enthusiastic approach towards sharing these ideas with others.
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?
I was recently interviewed for a Pilates Glossy in The Netherlands. Thank you Marjolein van Sonsbeek, for reaching out over the ocean and sharing macrobiotics with your audience.
Here is the transcript of the interview:
The Strengthening Health Institute is a 501 c3 non-profit educational center based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the SHI, we offer educational courses for both personal study and professional training with our unique approach to macrobiotics. I also have a personal counseling practice in both Philadelphia and New York City, and recently online via Skype. My ability is to do what medicine can’t and I help many people with serious illnesses recover and create lasting health. I also counsel healthy people to live long, productive, healthy lives.
I do not really consider macrobiotic practice to be a set of rules to follow. Rather, we do have guidelines that we can use to create an orderly approach to life. These guidelines help us make healthy choices in diet, activity, and lifestyle practices. When I was younger, George Ohsawa’s message about personally creating the health and life that you want started me on the macrobiotic path. His message was dramatically different from trying to fit yourself into a mold.
Before I became macrobiotic, I was not a happy camper. I found no satisfaction from food or life. Now I wake up each day wondering about what I can do, what I can learn, what I can discover; how I can live more and more fully each day.
I have been practicing for forty-five years now. My life is now more about making conscious choices about how I want to live and being more aware of how my choices impact my family, society, and the environment.
There are certain changes in lifestyle that may be perceived of as difficult, such as buying food and finding somewhere for dining out, which requires a bit more forethought. These considerations are a deterrent for some. But overall, I find many peoples’ attitude towards macrobiotics and lack of acceptance (or the unwillingness to give the practice a chance) to be the most challenging thing as a practitioner. Even though macrobiotics is the longest-standing way of eating and lifestyle practice, it is also still the most progressive at the same time.
My life style is primarily plant-based, but I occasionally eat fish, and wear leather shoes and belts. Considerations such as quality and sustainability always factor into any decision.
Originally, my inspiration was to seek a more meaningful life. I did not want to go to Vietnam, so I began reading from various authors (such as Herman Hesse and Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”). All of the practices and philosophies however, said that a teacher or mentor was necessary and I did not have a relationship with one, and had no way of finding one. Yet, George Ohsawa taught that we as individuals could create our own health and happiness as well as provided the guidelines to make that possible. That was a revelation for me.
I try to base all of my meals around grains and vegetables with a variety of local and indigenous foods. The most substantial meal of the day is lunch, which is more grain and vegetable based, and dinner is a lighter meal, usually with more Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Mexican influence. My practice is dynamic and has evolved over the years, and is usually based on the needs of our clients and students. My practice has expanded to include more choices and varieties of cuisines. My experience and observation is that eating healthy food becomes more and more satisfying over time.
I still weight the same as I had when I was 16, and I am still relatively flexible. I find that as I age, my thinking has become more clear and open as the years go on, which is in contrast to the idea that as we age, our minds deteriorate.
My view on macrobiotics is that it is the practice of expressing and living the spirit of gratitude and having an endless appreciation for all of life. The spirit of Macrobiotics is based on Nature’s model; one grain naturally produces 10,000. In practice, I find it to be the most embracing and open way of life. This is why I have dedicated my life to exploring and sharing the spirit of macrobiotics since I was nineteen years old.
Originally, macrobiotics appealed to hippies, who helped develop the practice. I believe though that the practice appeals to innovators. In the 60s, macrobiotics became more widely available in the West through the work of the author, William Dufty, who translated “You Are All Sanpaku” and authored “Lady Sings the Blues”. Historically, some of the world’s most prolific contributors were primarily grain and vegetable eaters, from Ben Franklin to Albert Einstein. Macrobiotics appeals to young people and to those on the cutting edge of their fields: be they scientists, musicians, architects, etc.
Some individuals experience uncomfortable transitional symptoms when they begin to detox. Yet others feel really good from day one.
I offer lectures and courses around Philadelphia. We also offer all of our courses at The Strengthening Health Institute online. I have also taught throughout the United States, Eastern and Western Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, as well as in parts of Asia, mostly in Japan and Taiwan.
I study macrobiotics everyday; it is a never-ending exploration. Lately, I am excited about the recent, large-scale acceptance of the important relationship between individual food choices and overall health, even if there are no unanimous agreements on which approach is the healthiest. Scientific research has, for some years now, slowly been validating the major premises and lifestyle practices of macrobiotics. Now, I see the potential that macrobiotics has with verifying trends to current nutritional scientific theories.
I was never one much for sports, but I was a gymnast as a teenager. Now I find Yoga to be a good complement to my lifestyle and activities.
I have not had the experience of Pilates yet.
My dream has always been to create and experience large-scale social change. I have been working to share and bring into the mainstream our Strengthening Health Approach to macrobiotic practice because it is open and flexible and can be combined with other approaches to a plant-based lifestyle.
I believe that the combination of our knowledge and understanding of history and tradition together with science can develop into a medicine for the future. I’m currently working on making macrobiotic education available online to more people and trying to establish networks with like-minded, interesting individuals and groups who are constantly looking to play the game of health.
I wrote “The Great Life Diet” as the handbook for our style of macrobiotic practice. My wife, Susan, and I have recently updated and expanded the book to twice the length of the original. “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” Is available online and at retail bookstores countrywide; it includes the spiritual philosophy underlying the practice as well as recipes and menu plans developed by Susan. Our hope is that “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” helps to change the image and perception of macrobiotic practice so that it is more acceptable for the modern audience. We are very happy to have received endorsements from T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Neal Barnard (founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), two forerunners in the medical field who have dedicated much of their career to promoting the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
A number of my longtime clients are elderly women who have come to me with a variety of health concerns. I have counseled these women over many years regarding their diet and lifestyle practices according to macrobiotic principles. Some of these women have had serious falls where you would except them to break a bone, and surprisingly they have not. I attribute their strong bones and quick recovery to their macrobiotic practice. Even those of my clients that have experienced broken bones, have healed in about half the time expected. This would not be the case if they had osteoporosis.
In addition, my longtime observation is that children who were born and raised following the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle have stronger and thicker bones than their peers. This is something I have found to be true around the world. Both of these situations lead me to believe that there is not a problem with phytic acid and mineral absorption from the amount of grain we eat as part of our macrobiotic practice.
There is a general consensus that soaking grains is desirable for taste and digestibility; however there is not a general agreement on the best method for soaking grains. I found the information in the blog post from macrosano.com very interesting and helpful. I would like to inform you of the way we recommend soaking grains. Experiment and see which way you like best. The only way to really know is to try a specific way for weeks or months and try to see which method is more suitable. If you are not sure, you can always vary your soaking method.
This is our method for soaking and cooking rice. We recommend rinsing the rice in cold water two or three times. Measure out the water for cooking and soak overnight or longer, basically between 8-22 hours. Overnight soaking is more beneficial. When ready to cook the rice, add a pinch of sea salt or a half inch square piece of kombu and then boil or pressure cook as normal.
We’ve been soaking grains in this way for many years and feel very comfortable in it. Brown rice is the most sensitive food to our intentions, feelings and emotions; it is uniquely sensitive to our own condition. Taking time to properly prepare rice in this manner ensures a happy and satisfying meal. Soaking and cooking rice in this manner is not an afterthought; it is an act that conveys respect and appreciation.
It’s no longer a personal choice of whether to eat animal or dairy foods or not. Our planet can only support the production of animal and dairy foods for a limited number of people. At the same time, the environmental effects of animal and dairy foods is devastating. Take a look at this graph that shows the differences of impact from a vegan diet, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, and an omnivorous diet*.
Whether we like it or not, everything we do impacts climate, society and the environment. It is becoming more clear that eating and raising animals is the most devastating thing we are doing to the environment.
So it’s no longer a question about what the healthiest diet is. Raising grains, beans, and vegetables and eating them directly nourishes us at the most basic level. You can feed the entire planet on grains and beans and the agriculture devoted to the cultivation of grains and beans is in turn nurturing and sustaining to the planet. Understanding this connection means that we can all do our part to restore and help the environment we live in to heal.
*Baroni, L.; Berati, M.; Candilera, M.; Tettamanti, M. Total Environmental Impact of Three Main Dietary Patterns in Relation to the Content of Animal and Plant Food. Foods 2014, 3, 443-460.
No Comments | Tags: Articles and Research
I would like to share with you an informative and entertaining article by my friend Elizabeth Karaman about the trials of therapy, extreme work-outs, and macrobiotics. This article will be published by Amberwaves later this summer. Enjoy!
Below is a PDF of the article that you may want to share.
ACUPUNCTURE WITH A FORK
Reprinted from Amberwaves, Summer 2014
My best friend, a shrink, has a patient she calls grouchy girl due to her reactions to suggestions made to her during their sessions. Every range of emotion is expressed, from sullen anger to stomping on the floor while raging against her plight in life and her (imagined) beleaguered state. After her visit, grouchy girl feels compelled to work out her perceived unhappy existence at a gym where she pedals away on a bike in a frenzy. Or alternatively she attends a boot-camp session taught by a former navy seal. Despite her tremendous effort to silence her angry inner voice, she is still left emotionally frustrated. Her volatility gets temporarily anesthetized, but still ripples throughout her being.
Extreme workouts are the latest trend for burning body fat and for emulsifying a jagged brain chemistry. High-Intensity Training is the name of this current workout craze to be found at selected gyms throughout the country. It’s no longer enough to lift some weights and follow that with a thirty-minute aerobic session. All of a sudden, this routine is shunned—it seems the extreme workout people believe it’s no longer adequate to remove all the body fat found on most Americans now. Speed running or intense cycling for short bursts of time are what’s required, they say. I guess none of these athletic connoisseurs have ever seen the star macrobiotic counselor Denny Waxman or the vegan doctor John McDougall, both of whom possess trim bodies despite their supposedly no-no diet of 80 percent carbohydrates, ten percent protein, and 10 percent fat. They do exercise, but moderately, and their diet is currently reviled by the paleo-enthusiasts and the gluten-free mavens.
At a gym, a lot of these people pay more than $100.00 an hour to get as sleek as a jaguar, but unfortunately for them, their jungle physiques have yet to be attained. Instead, they acquire a lot of muscle and stamina on top of their fat stomachs filled with big pharma’s medications to lower stubbornly high cholesterol levels, off-the-charts high blood pressure, and borderline elevated glucose. These rigid people wouldn’t dare eat a single kernel of any wholegrain food. Instead they eat bison or buffalo meat, along with the standard beef, chicken, fish staples, combined with salads loaded with olive oil. Protein is the key component of their supposedly healthy regimen. What they’re not being told is that places like MD Anderson Cancer Centers and the Salk Institute, among others, have learned that animal protein fuels the growth of cancer cells, in addition to contributing enough plaque to the cardiovascular system to cause a heart attack.
Accompanying 100-mile runs, double-spinning classes, and boot camps, body detox centers have arrived to provide the latest choice of purges.
Take your pick:
- Drink enough saltwater to induce vomiting—this supposedly cleanses the contents of the stomach;
- Drink water with epsom salts to induce diarrhea and further rid the body of toxins.
But wait, that’s not enough…
- Also offered are extended juice fasts, colonics, and wheat-grass rectal infusions.
- If more cleansing is in order, chelation therapy, ozone therapy, or bloodletting can be offered to satisfy the most fastidious customers.
In the 1970s, I visited China where I saw skinny yet muscular Chinese slurp down a bowl of noodles and then scamper up a palm tree as if it were a flight of stairs. Their diet contained tons of white rice along with a lot of Chinese vegetables and condiment-size portions of animal protein. They all had low body fat, tons of hair, clear skin, and flat stomachs. I was told that many of the men fathered children at an age when most men in America were reaching for Cialis to get their hydraulic system to work.
During the mid-eighties, my husband and I ran so low on money while vacationing in Florida that we were forced to forego such treats as ice cream, exotic, costly tropical fruits, expensive cheeses, and any animal food from land or sea in order to save enough money to get home. Instead we dined on the basic components of a macrobiotic diet. In my kitchen there, I still had brown rice, tofu, seaweed, lentils, cabbage, and collard greens—our splurge was on a bakery loaf of bread and rolled oats. In one week, my husband lost eight pounds and I lost five, but we gained an inner calm and natural energy. All this for a few dollars, compared to the thousands it would have cost to join a gym or go to a detox spa.
Basically, macrobiotics is nothing more than acupuncture with a fork, which manages to balance the body without employing extreme measures. Give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised and like what you find.
6 Comments | Tags: Articles and Research
The Wellness section of The New York Times recently published a blog about the climbing numbers of sedentary youth in the country. Despite all claims that we as a country are making advances in health, it is clear that our health is declining and longevity is falling. Young people are at risk for developing degenerative illness, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In addition, 1/3 of our children between the ages of 6-19 are overweight or obese. There is a great concern that the U.S. is falling behind in education as well. There is a clear connection between being sedentary and a lack of interest or inability to learn.
Healthy people like to be active, challenge themselves, and learn. Throughout history, throughout the world, children have played outside without our involvement from morning until night, summer through winter. Why is it that our children no longer want to play? Being sedentary is a very clear indicator of poor overall health.
The article blames parents for not helping their children to exercise. That is not the solution. Healthy parents who are active and curious about life usually have children that grow up and foster similar attitudes and approaches. Health is a family issue. We learn about health through eating healthy foods at mealtimes. When healthy foods are reinforced at school, it becomes easier for children to make healthy choices.
Large quantities of poor-quality food do not encourage us to be active or foster an interest in learning. We also have total access to unhealthy foods, but we have to seek out and make an effort to find high-quality, healthy foods. Proper education about the long-lasting benefits of a plant-based diet and increasing access to healthy foods is the best solution for our youth and our future.
Michio and Aveline Kushi started the natural foods movement in the 60s by creating access to whole, natural, and organic foods. They encouraged the development of natural food stores and educational centers to make the food available and to teach people how to incorporate these foods into their daily lives. Now is a good time to make macrobiotic-style education more widely available so that a new generation of healthy children are better equipped to create a healthy future.
3 Comments | Tags: Articles and Research
The U.S. Leads the way again! Unfortunately, it is individual obesity rate.
How many people do you know practicing macrobiotics or other plant-based diets have issues with being overweight or obese?