Al Gore Goes Vegan-It’s Not Stopping Meat, It’s How You Stop It

Posted on by Denny Waxman
Earth as Viewed from Apollo 17

Earth as Viewed from Apollo 17

Food choices, diets and our relationship to the production of food are becoming more and more prevalent in national discussions. People are becoming more openly aware of food personally, socially and environmentally.  A recent article in The Washington Post about Al Gore’s choice to become vegan came out a couple of weeks ago. Eliminating meat is the most environmentally healthy decision an individual can make. I’d like to congratulate Al Gore on making this decision and reinforcing his dedication and practice as an environmentalist. I hope that as a result, people will better understand the urgency necessary to make a dietary choice in relation to personal and environmental health.  At the same time, however, I believe there is a right way to move forward in the direction towards sustainability regarding diet and lifestyle.

With recent insights and evidence mounting in support of a whole-food plant-based diet as demonstrated by T. Colin Campbell, I believe it is important to go beyond looking at what we eat as a single, mechanically separated facet of our lives, and begin to consider food as an integral part of our entire lifestyle and approach to life. Learning how to make informed, dietary choices and developing healthy habits that will last over the course of a lifetime is a real kind of sustainability that is attainable by every individual who makes the choice to lessen or stop meat.

As our modern environments are largely unhealthy, it is up to individuals to take the initiative to create environments where health thrives. Health craves health and as we develop habits that foster healthier and healthier choices, the environment will reflect that. Our relationship with our environment and health are reflections of each other that in turn affect each other exponentially.

The most basic and real sustainability that we have control over is in our food choices. In order for food choices to be sustainable for our health and well-being, they must be delicious and satisfying. Although this may require from us the time and dedication to learn to cook, prepare and eat, as our knowledge of the food grows, so does our satisfaction over time.  Furthermore, we also have the ability to learn how to make better food choices in restaurants or in any other circumstance. And over time, these skills and habits we form with our food become easy in the long run, when we look at the scale of a lifetime.  Our food choices should center around what nourishes us and in turn, brings out our best. Most often, these foods happen to be those that are indigenous to our unique climates and ecosystems. Although eating “local” is important, eating foods native to our climatic zones fosters the connection we have to the environments where we live. For example, eating local foods in season helps make us more aware of the changes of the seasons themselves, for starters.

There is more to changing one’s diet than lessening/stopping meat; it is how you go about it. As the topics of the sources of our food and seed, our agricultural practices, our environments and our dietary/health patterns become more prominent in our cultural awareness, it would not be surprising to me if more and more people decide to lessen or stop their consumption of meat.  As much as I support this choice, I would also like those to be aware of the enormous potential to drastically change the course and quality of one’s life this kind of choice has. The potential to become in control of one’s direction towards health, towards a lifestyle that fosters sustainable and local communities and nourishes both the body and the mind.

 

No Comments | Tags: Articles and Research

Bill Clinton’s Invitation to Macrobiotics

Posted on by Denny Waxman

A recent article in AARP The Magazine: “Bill Clinton Explains Why He Became A Vegan” caught my attention. The article explains President Clinton’s mostly vegan diet, and gives readers a glimpse of what he may eat on any given day. I have been in practice as a macrobiotic educator, seminar leader and counselor since the early ’70s, enabling people to rebuild their health when dealing with issues of weight loss, life threatening diseases, heart attacks and other maladies. I do this using food and lifestyle as the basis for health. Macrobiotics is an orderly approach to life where we learn how to make healthy, balanced choices in diet and lifestyle. I enjoy working with people who want to be empowered through their health by realizing the difference food can make in accomplishing this goal. I often see people when everything else they tried has failed and witness them regain and maintain wellness without the use of a vitamin or supplements. This is possible through learning what balances the body, and what it takes to establish the kind of homeostasis that builds health. Several of my cases were documented on the show The Incurables and in published books and articles.

 

The article on President Clinton brings into focus the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet many people undergo in order to solve a health problem or improve overall wellness. However, I notice in some instances that the adoption of a vegetarian or vegan diet does not necessarily improve health and in some cases, worsens health. People are generally on the right road with this choice, but they simply need a bit more insight about food and lifestyle. Some people give up and go back to ill health and old habits when just a few small changes would have helped them to reach their goal. I witness time and again how the combination of eating habits and complete, balanced meals creates lasting health. It is my goal in this article to bring to light what makes a balanced and healthy plant-based meal and lifestyle.

 

Many now believe that a good diet is essential to health, but know little about what constitutes a good diet. In order to build and maintain health on a plant-based diet, balance is essential. A balanced diet in the practice of macrobiotics is one that is composed of complete meals. A complete meal in my approach to macrobiotic practice consists of a grain and a separate, seasonal, regional vegetable dish. For example, rice and separately steamed kale is a complete meal, whereas a vegetable cooked with rice (although a wonderful combination) is still a grain dish.

 

Let me explain further. There are three main categories of plant-based foods: grains (some cultures eat grains and beans together), vegetables, and soups. Anything prepared with a grain constitutes a grain dish. Anything cooked in soup constitutes a soup. This means, for example, that lentils, barley and vegetables can be cooked in soup, but it is still a soup. The diversity between the food categories promotes a dynamic interaction of the foods we prepare, which enhances the nutrition of each dish. It is like having a conversation; when different people join a conversation, it becomes richer and more dynamic. It is the same way with a meal. Because grains, beans and soups are powerful, they encompass the foods that accompany them; vegetables do not possess this same power.

 

We are led to think that we need to get complete chains of amino acids to be well nourished. Modern nutrition insinuates that these complete amino acid chains are primarily in animal and dairy foods, which is simply not true. A varied plant-based diet also provides complete proteins.

 

A grain is the seed and the fruit of a plant literally merged into one. Different types of vegetables complement the grain. The interaction between vegetables and grains provides the most complete balance of all nutrients, not limited to proteins. Beans are a further nutritional complement to grains and vegetables, which combine well with a lunch or a dinner and help us to feel more satisfied.

 

When dining out or away from home, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants usually serve meals and dishes that follow the format suggested. Italian food features soups as well as pasta and vegetable dishes. Middle Eastern food often features rice with lentils, or couscous, and vegetable dishes. Falafel with pickles and lettuce on a pita is a complete meal! Consider Mexican meals also without the meat or dairy; another good choice is a vegetarian burrito without the cheese. Whether at home or away, following this format is the most important, especially if we can integrate a bean dish or a soup as well. It is better to lower the standard on food quality than to compromise the format of complete and balanced meals. White rice and broccoli conform to the format of a complete meal. These formats for a meal are by far the healthiest and are the ways the world’s civilizations have been eating for thousands of years. My wife and I went out recently and had the following meal without a soup:

 -Grilled polenta with sautéed broccoli rabe

-Cannellini beans in a light tomato broth

-I had pappardelle pasta with porcini mushrooms

-And my wife had capellini pasta with broccoli rabe and a few fresh tomatoes

         This meal had a nice arrangement of grains, vegetables and bean dishes. The soup would have likely been too much! Polenta and pasta both grains, the broccoli rabe, the vegetable and the beans made the meal even more satisfying. We accompanied the meal with a nice red wine.

 

No doubt many are watching our former President as he embraces a new way of eating to enhance his heart health and longevity. I, for one, want to see him succeed! To our beloved former President Clinton and to all of those observing and embracing his diet, I would like to suggest the following additions and changes.   Because we live in a fast paced world, people often look for a quick and easy breakfast. The answer to this need is often a smoothie.  President Clinton(and many others) often starts the day with a smoothie. I do not recommend smoothies for a variety of reasons.

 

Smoothies weaken our health because our blood absorbs the sugars so quickly that they can upset our balance of blood sugar. By adding a protein supplement to a smoothie, we run a further risk of upsetting our nutritional balance since all foods in a balanced diet already contain the proper proportion of proteins.

 

Smoothies are not the best way to start the day because they weaken rather than strengthen digestion. Good digestion is crucial for good health, well-being, and energy. The fiber in whole foods such as grains, beans, and vegetables activates digestion through the process of chewing and moving through our digestive system. Liquefying the fiber in a food can have the opposite effect because it dulls the digestive process. The fiber in food promotes regularity, absorbs toxins, and helps cultivate beneficial bacteria. Additionally, I observe in my counseling that iced beverages can shock our kidneys and digestive system. I do not recommend cold drinks for this reason. Drinks are best at room temperature or warmer.

 

Remember, healthy, balanced meals are based around a whole grain and vegetable. An excellent breakfast: miso soup followed by oatmeal and steamed greens. Miso soup aids digestion, and furthermore strengthens and nourishes the body. Miso soup is one of the two most unique probiotics on the planet(the other being naturally fermented sauerkraut). Naturally fermented miso soup, prepared with wakame seaweed and vegetables, eaten often or daily, regulates and maintains healthy digestion. Substituting miso soup for a smoothie is better for a vegetarian diet in the long term. Miso soup followed by a grain and vegetable dish is not only delicious and satisfying, but it is the best way to receive the most nutrition possible. The soup can be made in a batch to last for a few days. It can then be heated and taken in a thermos to accommodate an on-the-go lifestyle.

 

You may not know that quinoa, although a wonderful food is a wild grass and not a grain– like that of rice or barley.  Although high in protein, quinoa does not provide the same nutritional balance within the body as do grains. So, eating and incorporating quinoa into a diet is healthy, but quinoa is no substitute for a vital whole grain. That is, it could be the base of a dish with other vegetables, but it does not complete the meal.

 

Apart from primarily focusing on what to eat, considering how and when we eat is equally important. Many clients report that one of the most profound and immediate effects–even from those without vegetarian diets– is that of having regular and consistent meal times. Our digestive system is not “on call” as our lifestyles may like it to be, but eating when the digestive system is most active helps us to be more satisfied.

 

Honoring the relationship between the body and mind by having meals at the same time everyday regulates digestion, hormones and stabilizes blood sugar. Starting breakfasts no later than 9 a.m., starting lunches no later than 1 p.m. and starting dinners no later than 7:30 p.m. works best and even accommodates a diverse or varied schedule. If we have a couple of hours after our last meal before we sleep, sleeping becomes easier too. Developing these habits promotes long-term health for the vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike. I have clients that have lost weight and improved their health simply by adhering to regular meal times and taking the time to eat slowly and chew until the food is liquid in their mouth and then swallowed.  This liquefying also helps to maintain or improve health.

 

For a vegetarian or vegan diet that promotes health, it is not simply a matter of eating vegetables and cutting out dairy and meat. It involves developing health-supporting habits. We get much more benefit from the habits we practice than the habits or behaviors we abstain from. In the short term, we benefit from avoiding animal and dairy foods, but the habits we form are what promote long-term health. My concern is that President Clinton’s current diet will not nourish his health and vitality in the long run, nor allow him to operate at full potential. I am concerned that he is using up his reserve nutrition to keep going and is not replenishing himself with meals that are complete and balanced nutritionally. I encourage President Clinton to start having grain and vegetable based meals while also trying to include a bean dish and a soup on a daily basis as well. Savory soups condition our digestive system and help to absorb the maximum nutrition from our foods. I believe smoothies compromise digestion and interfere with overall absorption of nutrients.

 

The combination and interaction of grains, beans, vegetables and soups not only satisfy more, but also nourish us much more deeply on all levels. Even just one meal a day with this combination will yield health-enhancing results in a short period of time–in a matter of days or weeks.

 

If you are choosing to become vegan or vegetarian in an effort to have optimal health, I want this blog to serve as an encouragement to you and provide the information to take you to the next step for optimal health. You have given up meat and dairy and I support this choice. I now invite you to embrace the right combination of plant-based foods to give you a healthy life with sustained energy, vitality and balance.  Take my challenge and try eating for one or two weeks based on the menus below. I promise you will feel wonderful, operate at full capacity and fulfill your destiny to eat healthy.

 

Compiled and designed by Susan Waxman, this sample menu is for those who enjoy cooking and demonstrates the variety of grains, vegetables and flavors possible in one week. There is further direction on how to use leftover dishes in future meals, whether incorporated or as a separate dish. If you follow a gluten free diet, there are minimal substitutions necessary to tailor the menu. The versatility within this week can also be modified to fit the pace of your lifestyle and modifications for vinegars or vegetables where appropriate. I’ve provided links to some of the foods that may be unfamiliar. Check out more recipes on Susan’s blog called “Taste with Integrity”. Have fun, enjoy, and let me hear about your experience of the challenge!

photo-2

Day 1

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 * Soft millet cooked with sweet vegetables - onions and cauliflower                                                                                                                                      

 * Quick steamed leafy greens (collards or kale) with fresh squeezed lemon juice

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

* Brown rice cooked with pearled barley

* Miso soup with naturally fermented miso  (wakame sea vegetable, dried shitake mushrooms, daikon radish, napa cabbage; finely chopped scallion garnish)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Sautéed and simmered sweet root vegetables using toasted sesame oil (carrot, onions; seasoned with shoyu(natural soy sauce),fresh grated ginger  juice)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Blanched vegetable salad (bok choy, broccoli, and red radishserved with brown rice/cider vinegar condiment)

 

Mid-afternoon snack -Fresh carrot, apple and celery juice

 

Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 * Farro with sautéed vegetables and white beans (red onions, baby kale and navy beans)                                                                                            

Steamed sweet potato

* Fresh arugula salad with tofu cheese

* Poached pear in a balsamic barley malt reduction

 Day 2

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 * Soft cooked rice and barley using the leftover rice

* Blanched vegetable salad (napa cabbage, broccoli and carrots)

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

* Leftover farro with sautéed vegetables and white beans

* Miso soup made with naturally fermented miso (wakame sea vegetable, onions, turnips and turnip greens; scallion garnish)                      

* Leftover steamed sweet potatoes

Quick-sautéed leafy greens (baby bok choy, and collards greens)

 

 Mid afternoon snack – Warm apple cider with fresh lemon

 

 Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Pan-fried millet croquettes using the left over millet and corn meal flour with vegan tartar sauce (tahini based with horseradish and fresh herbs)

* French lentils cooked with onions and leeks and fresh herbs

* Quick-steamed kale with fresh lemon

* Sauerkraut or kimchi

*Fresh fruit kanten(agar)

 Day 3

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

*Steel-cut oats with maple syrup

*Blanched vegetable salad(collards, green cabbage, and carrots)

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 *Brown rice cooked with sweet brown rice with a condiment of lightly toasted chopped walnuts                                                                                

*Miso soup made with naturally fermented miso(wakame sea vegetable,  dried hen-of-the-woods mushroom, onion and watercress)                  

*Leftover French lentils*Quick Steamed mustard greens with mustard dressing

 

Mid Afternoon snack -Fresh Carrot apple and orange juice

 

Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

*Udon style noodles with sautéed vegetables and creamy tofu sauce(onions, baby kale, feather like carrot matchsticks and tofu cream cheese)     

*Special Vegetable Dish – Nishime Style(long-steamed vegetables) cooking(onions, green cabbage, hard winter kabocha or buttercup squash, and parsnip)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

*Fresh salad(Hearts of Romaine lettuce, cucumbers and pickled red onion)Served with a light vinaigrette dressing

*Amasake lemon pudding

Day 4

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

*Leftover steel-cut oats with a condiment of ume-shiso sprinkles

*Quick-steamed napa cabbage

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 * Vegetable sushi roll using your leftover brown rice and sweet rice (fried tempeh, sauerkraut, blanched carrots and cucumber, or keep it simple using cucumber, fresh shiso leaves and umeboshi paste) Susan’s special sauce made with roasted tahini, umeboshi paste and mustard; wasabi is optional                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

* Leftover Nice

* Quick-sautéed leafy greens using extra virgin olive oil (baby bok choy and bok choy)

 

Mid – afternoon  Pick me up – Warmed apple cider with fresh lemon

 

Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Couscous with sautéed vegetables (red onion, carrot and green peas)                                                                                                                                

* Chickpea stew (onion, burdock root, sweet potato and spices)                                                                                                                                            

Fresh arugula and Belgium endive salad

* Red grape fruit kanten

Day 5

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 * Steamed sourdough bread with apple butter or your favorite fruit spread

* Blanched vegetable salad (cabbage, kale and red radish)

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

* Leftover couscous

* Leftover chick pea stew

* Quick steamed collard greens with fresh lemon

* Quick pickles made with umeboshi vinegar

 

Mid-afternoon snack – fresh carrot and leafy greens juice

 

 Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 * Brown rice cooked with quinoa – toasted sesame seeds

* Leftover cream of cauliflower soup with fresh herb garnish

* Sautéed broccoli using olive oil

* Fresh iceberg lettuce and hearts of romaine salad (cucumber, radicchio and  tofu cheese)                                                                                                 

Leftover red grape canteen

 Day 6

Breakfast

* Soft corn grits (make extra, pour into a pyrex dish and let sit to use the next day)

* Water-sautéed baby kale

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

* Leftover brown rice and quinoa

* Miso soup (wakame sea vegetable, turnips, turnip greens and chopped scallions)                                                                                                         

* Arame sea-vegetables with onions, carrots, fresh tofu

* Quick-steamed collard greens with fresh lemon

 

Mid- afternoon snack – warmed and diluted amasake

 

Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Penne pasta with sautéed broccoli rabe and sun-dried tomatoes

* White beans with sautéed escarole

* Fresh arugula salad with pickled red radish, poached pears and toasted pine nuts

 

Day 7

Breakfast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

* Soft rice porridge

* Quick-steamed watercress

 

Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

* Pan fried polenta

* Leftover white beans

* Blanched vegetable salad (napa cabbage, broccoli)

* Quick umeboshi vinegar pickles

 

 Mid-afternoon pick me up – Fresh tangerines

 

Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

* Brown rice cooked with lentils and sautéed onions

* Miso soup (wakame sea vegetable, dried shitake mushrooms, daikon radish and leafy greens)

* Leftover Arame sea-vegetable dish

* Pressed salad with Tahini dressing (green cabbage, celery and cucumber and red radish)

* Baked apple stuffed with toasted walnuts and currants

To a great life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment | Tags: Articles and Research, Macrobiotics

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. 


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

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