Macrobiotics – Something For Everyone

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I am reading “Diet For The Atomic Age” by Sara Shannon. It is not a pleasant read in some ways, though it is very important and timely. It is interesting that it was published in 1987 and has an even more important message today. Sara lists a number of foods and categories of foods that are protective against low-level radiation. We are all exposed to low-level radiation every day through leaking or damaged nuclear plants, bomb testing in the past, airport body scanners, medical diagnosis and treatments. The effects of low level radiation are cumulative and are a concern to everyone, especially pregnant women, the young and those with weakened immune systems.

This list of foods that Sara Shannon recommends are very familiar to me; whole grains, vegetables especially cruciferous, beans, miso, tofu and tempeh, sea vegetables, seeds and nuts. These all happen to be staples of the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle that macrobiotic practitioners have been eating for many years. Many of the foods that are associated with macrobiotic practice are also the most protective against radiation. For example, short or medium grain brown rice, Azuki beans, green and black lentils, well aged barley or Hatcho soybean miso, umeboshi plums, sauerkraut and Kukicha, Bancha Twig Tea, to name a few.

Macrobiotic teachers and practitioners have been recommending an organic, local and seasonal plant based diet for more than fifty years. We also recognize the importance of respecting and preserving traditions and our environment. As I mentioned in my previous blog, our daily dietary and lifestyle choices influence society, the environment and climate. Whether you are into Slow Foods, local, traditional, organic, mindfulness practice, yoga or none of the above you will still derive enormous value from adopting these foods into your diet.

My experience as a macrobiotic counselor and teacher over many years has shown me that there is something for everyone in macrobiotic practice. If you want to lessen or possibly avoid medical treatments, you will benefit from these foods and lifestyle practices. If you want to make your medical treatments more effective, you will benefit from adding these foods into your diet. If you want to protect yourself from some of the harmful side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy you will also benefit from these same foods. If you want to heal more quickly and experience less pain from broken bones or surgeries, you will benefit. If you are a gourmet and want the most delicious and satisfying foods your taste buds will benefit. If you want to loose weight, look and feel better these foods will also help.

My approach to macrobiotic practice is based on adding and not taking away. You can be a one meal a week, one day a week or full time macrobiotic practitioner. We will all benefit from these additions. 


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Seven Things I Believe In

Posted on by Denny Waxman

These are some things that I have been thinking about recently that I wanted to share with you.

1. Everyone has the right to health and happiness. Unfortunately in our country the majority of people do not enjoy these basic rights. There is a severe lack of the understanding of the basic principles that create strong and lasting health. So much of the information available is confusing, misleading or just plain wrong. Many people also do not have easy or affordable access to healthy food choices.

2. Your body wants to be healthy. Health is more natural than sickness. It takes about 10% to 15% of the time to return to health as it did to become sick. Even if we have spent a lifetime abusing our body and getting sick, our health starts to return quickly from dietary and lifestyle adjustments. As a macrobiotic consultant, my clients often tell me how amazed they are with their health improvements in a short time. Even after two to three weeks they report sleeping better, better bowel movements, more energy, more enjoyment and satisfaction from their meals and feeling more positive, motivated and inspired.

3. Health is a direction in life. Health or sickness is a direction not a state. Every day we are moving towards health or sickness. Health is not a static condition. It develops though our daily habits. Sickness is the same. The combination of a good diet and eating habits, activity and lifestyle practices over time move us towards health. We all have the ability to improve our health on all levels day by day through these lifestyle choices. It is unfortunate that most people are unnecessarily moving towards sickness each day due to a lack of understanding of these basic principles.

4. Health is simple. We do not need to do special or complicated things to be healthy. Good food, good activity and a good attitude are the basis of strong and lasting health. Good food means a varied plant based diet, local when possible. Good activity includes anything that is life-related; walking outside, taking the stairs, cleaning, dancing, yoga, mindfulness practice, meditation, outdoor recreational activities and sports for fun and self challenge, rather than professional sports. The Strengthening Health approach to macrobiotics helps create a good attitude. A good attitude means that we try to be positive and open to the possibility of change and creating lasting health. It also includes the development in the confidence of our ability to create our own health.

5. Lasting health is a spiritual condition. Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional and physical health. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. This process does not work in the opposite direction. Physical training alone does not lead to mental and emotional development and refinement.

6. Your daily choices influence society, the climate and environment. What you do for yourself, you also do for others. The process of self love and caring through our daily choices, activities and attitudes also influence others. Eating a plant based diet ensures that there will be enough food for everyone on our planet. There is enough food when we eat the grains and beans directly rather than feed them mainly to animals. Eating a plant based diet preserves precious natural resources, especially water and land. It also greatly decreases pollution and green house gases that contribute to global warming. According to recent research most modern diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many common cancers are preventable or reversible with a plant based diet. There are many other benefits that I will discuss in the future.

7. Two important changes have occurred in the last couple years that will allow large-scale change to happen. I have wondered for many years if these ideas can become mainstream and start to create large-scale changes in our society. I have hoped I could see these changes in my lifetime but often doubted that I would. Due to recent changes in our attitudes I now believe that I will be able to see and experience these changes. The relation between diet and health has become mainstream. Recent research alone has shown that eating less meat alone can make a major difference in global warming. This is a social, environmental and health practice that is open to all of us. More and more people believe that they can make a difference through their daily lifestyle choices.

2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy

Thoughts on Japanese Foods

Posted on by Denny Waxman

As part of the macrobiotic way of life, we have enjoyed a rich cultural, philosophical and spiritual heritage from Japan. This heritage has guided many aspects of our life from our approach to cooking and eating to our overall view of life. Some aspects of this way of life, from futons to tofu and miso soup, have become mainstream. Many of the ingredients we use such as miso, shoyu and umeboshi enable a moderate to good cook to produce outstanding meals.

We also have the challenge of developing a local practice of macrobiotics by reconnecting with our local foods and traditions. I think that many people within macrobiotics have been moving towards a more local practice over the years. At the same time, local food processing and seaweed harvesting have been increasing and great strides have been made in quality and taste. This is a natural progression that is necessary for us to grow and develop our capabilities more fully. It is also necessary if we want to align with the basic premise of macrobiotics that we are one with our environment.

In my experience, some of the foods produced in Japan still have a greater healing ability than the ones we produce here. I am confident that over time that will change. Many years ago, a long-time Japanese friend told me that America has already conquered Japan in terms of tofu. He thought that American made tofu was the best. What he said rang true for me. However, we can adjust the quality of tofu day by day. Miso, shoyu and umeboshi are a different story. It takes months or years to adjust them. The time it will take to perfect these products is much longer than for tofu. After all, these foods have been perfected over hundreds or even thousands of years in the Orient.

I find the contrast between the delicacy in taste and nourishing and strengthening qualities of many of the foods from Japan amazing. It is ironic that these same foods also give us the greatest protection from radiation and other environmental pollutants. These foods, including brown rice, Azuki beans, miso, umeboshi, seaweed and kukicha tea are truly unique and amazing in terms of taste, nourishment and health benefits.

I have always understood macrobiotics as a process of redefining and reinterpreting traditional practices to see if they are appropriate and beneficial for the future. This approach gives us the ability to take what is best from the past and develop it further for the present and future. It has been my long-time dream to preserve traditional food processing from both east and west. It would be wonderful to have some of these people in Japan, who have become masters of their craft, guide us in the production of these traditional foods on our own soil. I think that this collaboration and cooperation could lead to even more unique foods over time.

Because of a lack of accurate reporting from the media on both sides of the ocean, we do not really know the degree of pollution in our foods, land or water. I think it would be a big mistake to over-react and avoid foods coming from Japan completely. It is possible that we could be going from bad to worse by doing that. I have come to rely on certain people for high quality and safe foods in the same way that people rely on me to guide their health and that of their families. I am also trying to share this information openly so that we can all make informed choices.

I am not endorsing any one person or company. I am trying to keep an open mind and I will continue to study and research this situation. After regular conversations with my brother Howard Waxman of Essene,we have decided to continue to use both Japanese and local products. I have also been in contact with Michael Potter of Eden Foods. Please read the wonderful NY Times article about him and review the link to the Eden website for further information about Japanese food safety.

We know from this wonderful philosophy we have inherited that all challenges are opportunities. It is my hope that people with understanding and integrity will join together to maneuver through these difficult times. I firmly believe that an open and informed dialogue is the best approach to guide us into the future.

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

Holy Cow, Part 2

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just finished reading Mark Bittman’s blog in the NY Times with great interest and I could not agree more with his conclusions about the downside of drinking cow’s milk. I am happy to know that this subject has been published in a source that is so widely respected and available. Many more people will now be aware of the various harmful aspects of drinking milk.

I agree that lifelong exercise and vitamin D are essential for healthy bones. However, I would like to add that it is also important to regularly consume the foods, especially leafy greens and beans, that nourish our overall health including building strong and healthy bones. For more details on the essential foods for bone health please see my previous blog, Holy Cow, Calcium From the Source!

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Immune System

Fermented Reflections on Philly Beer Week

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Beer Week in Philly has caused me to reflect on the history and nature of beer and other alcoholic beverages. I did not like to drink beer or any other alcoholic beverages until after I started to practice macrobiotics. As a teenager I preferred sweets and ice cream to alcohol. Over the years of eating grains, and other complex carbohydrates, I gradually developed a taste and appreciation for well crafted beer, sake or wine as well as miso, sauerkraut and other similar foods. It seems that naturally pickled and fermented foods, whether they contain an appreciable amount of alcohol or not, complement a diet based on grains, beans, vegetables and other complex carbohydrates.

After changing to a healthier diet and lifestyle I became intensely interested in the history of food and it’s various methods of preparation. My studies revealed that pickled and fermented foods are the most unique methods of food preparation in the world. For example, sauerkraut is much more than cabbage and sea salt. In the fermenting and pickling process unique and beneficial enzymes, bacteria, vitamins and other nutrients are formed that were not there before. The preparation and regular consumption of sauerkraut has been an important family tradition throughout China and Europe for more than a thousand years. People have know about it’s wide variety of health benefits for a long time.

Fermented beverages date back to the beginning of recorded history. These beverages have played an important role in religious and cultural ceremonies. There is also a lot of controversy about the the benefits or harms of alcohol consumption from religious and cultural or social viewpoints. When I lived in Japan, while out drinking sake, I often heard that sake is thought of as the king of one-hundred medicines. Later I heard the second and maybe more important part of this saying, sake is also the king of one-thousand poisons. Maybe this is the key to this controversy. It is unfortunate that our nature often leads us to excesses that can prove harmful.

After World War II, naturally pickled and fermented foods have almost entirely disappeared due to the use of modern food preservation techniques. Modern preservation techniques leave us with dead rather than living foods. The action of beneficial enzymes, bacteria and yeasts are destroyed rather than encouraged, the way they are in traditional food processing.

Slowly over the years naturally pickled and fermented foods have reappeared due to the work of the Kushi’s, Aihara’s and other macrobiotic teachers. Pickling and fermentation have been an important part of macrobiotic education since the 1960’s. The introduction of naturally produced and fermented miso, soy sauce, umeboshi plums and sauerkraut has slowly sparked new industries.

Since the 1970’s local micro-brewed beers that are naturally produced and unpasteurized have slowly reached the mainstream. In the same time there has also been an explosion in organic, unpasteurized sauerkraut and other naturally pickled vegetables and foods including miso. It is my hope that these new industries will also create an renewed interest in healthier foods. I hope you enjoy your local micro-brews sensibly this week with healthy vegetarian snacks.

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

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

Sleep, Eat, Lose Weight

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When I wrote my book, The Great Life Diet, I decided to speak from my experience and not try to document anything I said. I knew in time the documentation would appear to me. The most important documentation in recent times has been The China Study by T. Collin Campbell. His research complements the common sense and practical approach of my book. The China Study is a must read for anyone interested in better health be it personal, social or environmental.

I just finished reading this interesting study correlating that late bedtimes and late mealtimes can lead to less healthful diets and to weight gain.

Over the years I discovered that there is a direct connection between how and what we eat. Regulating our sleep and meal times regulates our metabolism; our ability to digest, absorb and eliminate the unused excess from our food. When we sleep, our body cleans and repairs itself. We also gather physical and energetic excess to be eliminated in the morning when we rise. The healthier our diet and activity, the deeper we sleep and also need less time to be refreshed. We can get the most refreshing and healthful sleep when we are in deep sleep by midnight. We also have the greatest ability to eliminate excess close to sunrise. The later we sleep into the day, the more sluggish our metabolism becomes. Most people know this from experience. When you get up late you feel more sluggish and the day does not go the same. During the day we are nourished by solid and liquid foods, at night we are nourished by more subtle vibrational energy from the celestial world. Our body does not have the ability to process the more coarse energy from the sun when we are horizontal. The sun’s energy makes us feel more physically active. This is why we feel sluggish from eating and drinking too much and from sleeping ‘in’ too late.

If our metabolism is healthy, we never need to think about our weight. Being overweight is a symptom of an imbalance in diet and activity. When we adjust our diet, activity and daily schedule, our natural weight and health follow without effort.

Here is a checklist for losing weigh naturally, and of course for maintaing or improving your health. Please check my book for additional details.

Sit down to eat without reading, watching TV or driving.

Sleep before midnight and rise by 7 am.

Eat you meals at regular times, without skipping meals: breakfast by 9 am, lunch by 1 pm and dinner by 7:30 pm

Stop eating three hours before bedtime.

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

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

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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health

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; good food, good activity, and a good 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. Inevitably, frustration and restriction 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.

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