Ode to Dandelion
By Edward Esko
The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization last week announced that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the assessment, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has been followed by an immediate backlash from industry groups. —Scientific American
The time: The mid-1960s. The place: the Philadelphia suburbs. The action: Edward Esko Sr., my father, assigns my brother Jeffrey and me to pull dandelions from his lawn. It is spring and prompted by the warm mid-Atlantic sun, bright yellow dandelions dot the perfectly manicured green lawn. (The word “dandelion” is from Old French and means “lion’s tooth.”)
Each spring, after moving to the suburbs, Ed Sr. put great effort into his lawn, planting grass seed, trees, including Japanese maple and dogwood, and evergreen shrubs. A well-manicured lawn was a status symbol in those days. Like millions of other post war suburban dwellers, Ed Sr. probably saw dandelions as unwanted intruders that interfered with the aesthetics of his lawn.
Our first dandelion campaign was decidedly low-tech. Ed Sr. had bought a tool, a metal rod, the length of a screwdriver, with a two- pronged fork at the end. In alternating shifts, we would kneel in front of the dandelions and thrust the prong down into the soil. Upon pushing down on the other end, the plant was forced up and out from its firm place in the soil. It required muscular strength to overcome the dandelion’s tenacious hold on the earth. Once dislodged, the entire plant, including root and soil, leaves and stems, and bright yellow flowers was unceremoniously tossed into a plastic trash bag.
The following year, we escalated our campaign. Not satisfied with a labor intensive approach, Ed Sr. opted for a more convenient chemical solution. He procured from the local hardware store a long plastic tube filled with liquid herbicide.
At the lower end of the tube was a nozzle, something like a needle, that allowed the toxic brew to spray into the earth. At the upper end was handle, like the handle of a garden hose that applied enough pressure to force the spray into the ground.
Tasked with such a questionable mission, Jeffrey and I begrudgingly interrupted guitar practice and took our positions outside on the lawn. We proceeded from dandelion to dandelion, inserting and spraying as instructed. We had an intuitive sense that something was wrong. The dandelions, which were compact, natural, and beautiful, didn’t stand a chance. Once zapped with herbicide, they shriveled into nonexistence. No need to pull them up. Simply spray and go away.
I started macrobiotics at the beginning of the 1970s and grew to appreciate the value of dandelion, burdock, kuzu, sea vegetables, and other wild plants used as food and as medicine. I apologize to the dandelions we sacrificed in the 1960s. Due to the influence of macrobiotics, over the decades, Ed. Sr. became more accepting of a natural way. He began to see the importance of macrobiotics for the future of the world, and supported our macrobiotic activities, including books and lecture tours, until his passing in 2014 at age ninety.
Sauteed Dandelion Greens ( fresh greens also pictured)
Over the years, I learned to prepare and enjoy dandelion greens. They are especially good in the spring. One fine spring morning, a number of years ago, I pulled dandelions from our property in the Berkshires. After a thorough cleaning, I sautéed them in olive oil with a little garlic and shoyu (organic soy sauce) as seasoning. They were nourishing and delicious. Dandelion greens have incredibly concentrated flavor and energy. From time to time I buy organic dandelion greens at the natural supermarket and prepare and enjoy them in the same way.
For centuries, dandelion roots and greens have been considered a spring tonic. Dandelions are chock full of vitamins including vitamins A, C, E, K, niacin, and riboflavin as well as the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. They are a rich source of beta-carotene. The golden flower contains lecithin that helps detoxify the liver.
The milky white liquid that comes out from the stem was traditionally used to ease the pain of bee stings and sores. The roots are used to make tea that strengthens the liver and gall bladder. Dandelion tea can be used as a general detox tea. The benefits of dandelion are too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say that in overlooking such a natural treasure, modern society obviously has blinders on.
Fast forward to the present. The dandelion has become a symbol of organic resistance to society’s war on nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Monsanto’s ad campaign for Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide on the planet. Genetically modified crops such as soybeans, cotton, and corn were invented to increase sales of this product, which is being increasingly linked to a variety of health and environmental concerns.
In the famous Monsanto dandelion commercial, sometimes referred to as Sharp Shooter, a lone dandelion sprouts up through the crack in a cement driveway in suburbia. The homeowner appears holding a large jug of Roundup. The jug has the new “sharp shooting wand” attached to it by a small hose. The homeowner appears irate at the “weed” growing in his driveway. As he declares that the “only good weed is a weed that’s dead,” he points the wand at the dandelion, and “points and shoots,” spraying the toxic herbicide into the plant. Bam! The dandelion shrivels and dies. All the while cowboy style electric guitar plays in the background.
Paradoxically, just as evidence is coming in linking Monsanto’s glyphosate as a possible cause of cancer, evidence is mounting that reveals the anti-cancer properties of dandelion. Studies on dandelion root extract are currently underway at the Windsor Cancer Centre in Windsor, Ontario. In the study, thirty patients with lymphoma and leukemia are incorporating a special dandelion root extract as part of their cancer treatment. (Go to: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-anti-cancer-tea-1.3370691 for information about the dandelion study.)
I propose that people around the world who oppose Monsanto adopt the dandelion as their official symbol. In fact, I propose naming this movement Dandelion Resistance.
Readers who wish to obtain benefit from dandelion can prepare dandelion greens on a regular basis. Organic dandelion greens are available at most natural food groceries. Also, organic dandelion root tea is available in tea bag form. Bring a cup of water to a boil and steep one tea bag (covered) for about ten minutes. Drink the tea hot on a daily basis.
Brown Rice Basics
by Edward Esko
When we cook brown rice, we are utilizing the most fundamental elements that make humanity possible. The first element to consider is the rice itself. For our temperate or four-season climate, we suggest using short grain organic brown rice as your primary grain. Other organic rice can be used for variety or to adapt to seasonal variation. The rice we use mostly is from Lundberg Farms in the Sacramento Valley of northern California. The Sacramento Valley has a unique climate and environment ideally suited for growing rice.
The Sacramento Valley lies between the majestic Sierra Nevada to the east, and the Pacific Coastal Range to the west. Beyond the Coastal Range lies the Pacific Ocean. During the winter, the snow pack builds up along the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. In the spring, the snow and ice melt, sending highly charged pure mountain water cascading down toward the Valley. This water collects high above the Valley in an artificial lake know as Lake Oroville. Lake Oroville is the product of the man made Oroville Dam, the largest earthen dam in the world. From Lake Oroville, pure mountain water streams down into the floor of the Valley through numerous irrigation channels dug by the Lundbergs and other rice farmers. It is this highly charged mountain water that nourishes the rice fields of Lundberg Farms. That is one reason why Lundberg rice is so exceptional.
In cooking brown rice we manage the elements essential to human life. Illustration by Naomi Ichikawa
The second vital element is pure clean water. Water quality has become a huge headache in the modern world. Municipal water is chemically treated and often fluoridated and is not suitable for daily use. Lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams used to be perfect for drinking. Now they are highly polluted. As a result, we recommend using natural spring or well water. When we started macrobiotics decades ago, we would visit a local spring in the countryside and would fill large five-gallon glass bottles with pure clean water. That water was used for cooking brown rice and other foods at the student house where I was living. Later, during the twenty-five years I lived in Becket, near the Kushi Institute, we would visit the spring in nearby Chester, Mass. and fill bottles with its clear natural water. Unfortunately, by that time, the large glass bottles we used in the ‘70s were no longer available, so we were compelled to use plastic bottles. Certainly this was less than ideal, but the quality of the water was so superior that we accepted this compromise.
Incidentally, the Chester spring is part of a network of aquifers that lie under the Berkshire Hills along Mass. Route 8. The water in these natural aquifers is of exceptional quality. There is a spring on the Kushi property behind the Kushi Institute that is part of that network, once again with water of exceptional purity.
When the Kushi Institute moved to Becket in 1983, a gravity fed pipe ran down the side of the mountain to the dormitory and Main House. Water from the spring ran up to the third floor of the Main House where the Franciscans, who occupied the property prior to the K.I., used it for taking showers. The old pipe degraded about twenty years ago, but the K.I. installed a new pipe in the late 1990s. However, the new pipe was sealed off and never used. The K.I. hopes to reconnect the pipe to the dormitory and Main House and to make this pure healing water available to staff and participants. In any case, try to secure the best quality water for cooking your brown rice. Filtered water can be used if natural spring or well water are not available.
Salt is the next essential element for life. Try to locate the highest quality natural sea salt. Grey salt is not recommended as it has too high a content of magnesium. After experimenting with a variety of natural sea salts, we selected Si Salt, processed from the clean Pacific waters off Baja, California as ideal for daily use. Keep in mind that when adding salt to your brown rice, only a tiny pinch is needed.
The fourth element essential for human life is fire. As with water, the quality of fire is often problematic for people in the modern world. Cooking with fire has been replaced with artificial electric ranges and microwave ovens, both of which impart unnatural and potentially harmful radiation and both of which take away the delicate control necessary for healthful cooking. For this reason we recommend cooking over a gas flame. (Note that most gourmet chefs reject electric cooking in favor of gas cooking.)
Keep in mind that our ancestors kept in contact with fire on a daily basis. Fire is essential not only in cooking but also for warmth and shelter. We are the only species that has tamed fire (both for creative and for destructive purposes.) Taming fire was the first step in gaining mastery over our natural environment. I feel sorry for those who are cut off from regular contact with fire because of electric stoves and microwave ovens. The long thread of human tradition, based on the use of fire, has been severed. They are like orphans cut off from their moorings and who are adrift in nature.
I advise all students of macrobiotics to master the preparation of brown rice as a first step toward health and freedom. Please be able to make perfect brown rice on a consistent basis. From there, the rest of your cooking will fall into place in a grand symphony of harmony and balance.
Food is Information
by Edward Esko
All food is information. When you put food in your mouth, the mouth is the information-detecting unit. Normally, when most people process information from food, what is the main thing being received, what is the main information? Taste. The information is highly sensorial. Overwhelming pleasure. Because they are taking food with such hyper enhanced taste, sensory pleasure is the limit of their information. Most people like Hagen Daz. Because the information they get from Hagen Daz is overwhelmingly pleasurable. Something like absolute pleasure. And of course people become addicted to that.
At MacDonald’s they perform all kinds of tricks to make their food very satisfying and very addictive. They have entire divisions of people working to make the food have a certain taste, texture, or feel in the mouth. The majority of people are overwhelmed by sensory information when they eat.
How about macrobiotic people? You start to take information beyond the sensory level. All kinds of new information comes in. When you eat brown rice, what kind of information are you getting, besides wonderful taste and wonderful chew ability? If you visit the rice field at South River Miso, Lundberg Farms, or see any whole grain growing in the field, you see they have tiny hairs coming up from each grain. These tiny hairs are called “awns.” They are beautifully delicate hairs. When the grains are growing they function like tiny antenna pointing to the cosmos.
The antennas conduct signals, energy, and information from the cosmos. When you eat brown rice and other whole grains you are receiving cosmic force from the whole universe. Naturally that conditions your thinking, your view. Your view becomes very whole. You see the whole universe. You are able to see the whole picture. Your thinking is not fragmented or partial but holistic and universal.
Like all grains, barley projects antenna-like awns
What happens when you eat a food such as turkey? I have eaten poultry only a half-dozen or so times in the past forty years. On Thanksgiving of last year I went to my son and daughter-in-law’s house for dinner. They are macrobiotic for the most part. My daughter-in-law’s parents came to dinner. They are very nice people. They brought a turkey, probably because they felt sorry for their grandchildren who were being served a largely vegetarian meal. To be polite and sociable and to join in, I decided to try a small piece. I tried to take the smallest piece possible; meanwhile my in-laws were watching and smiling.
As soon as the turkey entered my mouth, information came instantly. Once again the mouth is our information receiver or information-decoding unit. The information I received was one level above the sensory level. The first bit of data, received in nanoseconds, processed beyond the speed of the highest speed computer, was on the emotional level, above that of sensory input. It was an unbelievable feeling of sadness and misery. Why misery? The sensation of misery arose because that creature endured a very miserable life and suffered a very miserable death. (You can confirm that by viewing YouTube videos documenting the conditions in factory farms.) Modern livestock animals are so sick that it requires antibiotics to keep them alive. They are fed hormones to speed growth and are confined in small dark spaces; never seeing the sun.
How does a sick and miserable factory-farmed turkey compare to a wild turkey that roams freely in the wild including on the Kushi Institute property in the Berkshires? The wild turkey is free, vital, and healthy. Even if hunted, the wild turkey is free up until the moment of death, unlike the confined, sick, factory-farmed turkey.
The second bit of information was the sense of the antiseptic conditions that exist in a hospital or an operating room. That sense arose because of the antibiotics being feed to turkey and other livestock as well as the highly toxic chemicals used daily to clean and disinfect the filthy pathological environment of the slaughterhouse.
The third bit of information that came was the knowledge that, when eaten on a regular basis, the hard tough protein and fatty gristle comprising the turkey would lead to the formation of cysts and tumors in the body. These unnatural growths are largely formed by protein and fat. By that time I wanted to spit the turkey out but my in-laws were watching approvingly so I was compelled to finish it. I learned much from that small piece of turkey. Unlike the positive information received from brown rice and other whole grains, the information received from the turkey was completely negative.
What kind of information are many people channeling today? People are receiving this very unhappy, unhealthy, and often violent information. Modern livestock suffer a very violent death. The word “carnivore’ shares the same root as the word “carnage.” This information is very low grade compared to the information received from whole grains and vegetables. What do we see in our world? We see constant war and violence, even in the age of the Internet and technology, which are capable of unifying our world.
Japanese Character “WA”
When we eat grains we channel information from the cosmos. What type of society does grain-eating produce? Far Eastern people gave us a clue with their character for the word “peace.” The character for peace is pronounced “Wa.” It is a combination of characters that represent “cereal grain” and “mouth.” They were telling us that not only do we gain physical, mental, and spiritual health when we eat grain our entire culture becomes peaceful. That is where Michio Kushi’s idea of One Peaceful World originates. Eating grain equals channeling energy and information from the cosmos. As we saw in the essay The Next Twenty Years, as we approach the spiral arm of the galaxy, every day we are receiving stronger and stronger energy. We have the most incredible opportunity to create an amazing spiritual civilization if we can pass through our current crisis and convince enough people to abandon the current unsustainable diet and way of life and adopt a more sustainable diet and lifestyle.
The most important issue facing us now is to develop the next generation leaders who can guide society into a possible Golden Age. The Golden Age actually means the age of grain. It means grain growing in the fields, or amber waves of grain. The important thing is for all of us to eat grain as our main food and begin channeling the energy and information coming from the galaxy and from the whole universe. That means you can see beyond the immediate world, which is by and large governed by the low-grade unhappy and unhealthy energy and information coming from animal foods. You see beyond into the future and can imagine to where we’re going in the future.
Training the next generation is the primary mission of the Kushi Institute. Our core-training program is known as the Macrobiotic Leadership Program. What does macrobiotic leadership mean? It means people who are eating grains as their main foods and who establish their health and a peaceful mind. Because they are channeling energy from the cosmos, they see the whole view, perceive the peaceful universe as it is, and are able to guide humanity toward the establishment of that peaceful reality on planet earth.
High Energy, Low Energy;
Nine Star Ki and the 2016 Presidential Candidates
By Alex Jack
Donald Trump’s jabs at Jeb Bush for being “low energy” and Ben Carson for being “super low energy” in contrast to his own “high energy” during the 2016 presidential campaign mirror their Nine Star Ki or Oriental astrology signs.
Born in 1946, Trump is a 9 Fire, the most dynamic, volcanic, and charismatic of the nine personality types. Like Bill Clinton, another 9 Fire, he is spontaneous, uninhibited, and dramatic—all qualities associated with intense, fire-like energy. The nine energies, including 1 Water, 3 and 4 Tree, 9 Fire, 2, 5, and 8 Soil, and 6 and 7 Metal, represent character types corresponding with stages of change and transformation in the natural world. 9 Fire accords with the intensity of noon or midday in the daily round and with the blazing heat of summer in the annual cycle—two periods of peak activity. 2 Soil corresponds with early afternoon and Indian summer, the siesta times of the day and year. 4 Tree manifests late morning and late spring—bright but slow, gentle time frames.
Born in 1953, Jeb is a 2 Soil, the more thoughtful, quiet, and methodical of the three Soil types. Marco Rubio, another 2 Soil (but of 1971 vintage) is also reserved and caring. He too has also been blasted by Trump for being lackluster. Chris Christie, also a 2 Soil (class of 1962), is the exception that proves the rule. He is loud, bombastic, and bullying. Ben Carson, born in 1951, is a 4 Tree and has a soft, mild-mannered demeanor. He is also a vegetarian, which contributes to his calm persona. The output of all these candidates pales in comparison to Trump’s fiery wattage.
Ted Cruz, born in 1970, is a 3 Tree, corresponding with early morning and early spring. He is very idealistic, but like many of this sign he is zealous, self-righteous, and pushy to the point of being obnoxious.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, born in 1947, is an 8 Soil, a character type mirroring darkest night and coldest winter. Hers is the most interior, secretive, and penetrating of the nine personality types. She sees into the core, or mystery, of things and often comes up with brilliant solutions akin to the enlightening rays of the dawn or spring equinox.
Curiously, Hillary’s 8 Soil is a more yang, or masculine, energy, while the 2, 4, and 9 energies of most of her male Republican opponents are more yin or primarily feminine. Compared to the leading Republicans, Hillary is more organized, disciplined, and decisive. Her chief Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, born in 1941, is a 5 Soil, who occupies the center of the Ki or energy flow. 5 Soils are natural born leaders that have the ability to connect with all the other energies. This talent has already enabled him to mount a much stronger campaign than expected. As the central energy, 5 Soils are balanced, combining a mixture of male and female strengths and weaknesses.
The nine energies rotate every year, so that one is in the forefront. 2015 found 3 Tree (early morning and early spring) on center stage, and as a whole last year was one of fresh, bright energy. (President Obama is an archetypical 3 Tree personality, embodying change and innovation.) But 3 Tree is governed by the liver, and 2015 also witnessed more anger, frustration, impatience, and violence than usual on the local, national, and global stages. Think the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks and the influx of Syrian, Afghani, and other refugees into Europe.
As a 9 Fire, Trump was in the 2 Soil house for 2015, a position of steady progress, while Bush, Rubio, and Christie were in 4 Tree, the place of rapid growth and development. Carson was in 6 Metal, the house of authority and prosperity, and for a virtual unknown did remarkably well in relating to GOP primary voters. Cruz was in 5 Soil in the center of the Ki flow, experiencing an up and down year as he gradually assumed stage center.
In the 1 Water spot for the past year, corresponding with night and winter, Hillary could do almost nothing right. Overall, she should have taken a sabbatical in 2015, resting, recuperating, and planning for more active times ahead. The Water position is a period of difficulties and hardships, and Hillary had more than her share last year, especially with the scandal over her emails—a river of hidden data. Bernie was in 7 Metal, corresponding with autumn, and he reaped a rich harvest.
On February 4, 2016, the new Nine Star Ki New Year begins. The Iowa Caucus falls on February 1, so the dynamic of 3 Tree could still play a major influence. Hillary’s sharp decline and Bernie’s rapid advance in January 2016—a double 3 Tree month and year—point to a major upset in Iowa in favor of the Vermont challenger. After February 4, Hillary moves into 2 Soil, the place of slow, steady progress, and should fare better. Bernie moves into 8 Soil for the coming year, the wildcard in the deck. Either he could seize a sudden opportunity and win the nomination, or be derailed by an unexpected illness, accident, scandal, or other crisis.
On the GOP front, Trump moves into 3 Tree in 2016, new beginnings, and is ideally situated to win the nomination. Jeb, Marco, and Chris spiral into the center of the Ki flow in 5 Soil, a very challenging position. They will be sorely tested and either hold the middle ground and consolidate their positions or lose their balance and collapse. Ben moves up to 7 Metal, another practical house, where he will be more social, accessible, and communicative. Ted moves into 6 Metal, a position of strength, power, and one ideally situated to override Trump in 3 Tree.
The New Hampshire primary falls on February 9. Curiously, it is also a double date with 2 Soil moving into the center of the Ki flow for the month and year. Hillary should fare better than before. However, given that New Hampshire borders Bernie’s neighboring Vermont and he has been leading consistently, a decisive primary victory could catapult him into the forntrunners position.
Nine Star Ki reflects tendencies, not certainties. In principle, all of the main candidates still have a chance to shine and realize their dream by harmonizing with the energy flow. By observing their characters, their interrelationships, and the change of the seasons, we can anticipate the course the presidential campaign will take and the eventual nominees.
How To: The NSK year begins on February 4 and ends the following February 3. To find your Nine Star Ki, add up the four digits of your birth year, reduce to a single digit, and subtract from 11. For example, if you were born August 21, 1985, add 1+9+8+5 = 23. 2+3 = 5. 11-5 = 6. You are a 6 Metal. If you were born on January 21, 1985, you are part of the 1984 group and a 7 Metal.
Alex Jack is executive director of Kushi Institute. He teaches planetary medicine and offers personal dietary, health, and way of life guidance, including Nine Star Ki counseling.
Book Review by Phiya Kushi
Now available and published by the Kushi Institute is this commemorative book, Remembering Michio with 70 family, friends, and students offering their fondest memories of Michio Kushi resulting in an unparalleled look and insight into the man who changed dietary history, our understanding of food and health, and our relationship with our environment and the cosmos.
Towards the end of his life, I strongly suggested to my father that he write his own autobiography to avoid any future confusion about the details of his life and legacy but he refused to do so. His own modesty would not allow himself to indulge in such a blatant form of self-promotion. Instead he suggested to me to write my own version of his life from my own point of view and to let others also write theirs. With this book, his prophetic wisdom proved correct and I cannot imagine any better way to understand his influence and legacy than through the diverse and combined voices of those he so profoundly touched in so many ways. Any biography by a single author could never include the broad range of narratives offered in this collection.
For those who knew Michio well, this is a warm and emotional book that reads like one is sitting around a cozy fire with old friends reminiscing together about the unique and influential person that he was. For those who never met Michio this book offers eyewitness accounts of an amazing and dedicated man whose knowledge, insight, and abilities seem beyond the scope of any one person.
The book is available now for purchase through the Kushi Store and Amazon. Proceeds will benefit the Kushi Institute tasked with the mission to preserve the legacy and forward the dream and vision of my parents toward creating One Peaceful World through macrobiotics.
We are fortunate to be close enough to take Kushi Institute Level students for a visit to South River Miso to see how miso is made. Below Kushi Associate Director Ed Esko writes about a recent trip.
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In May, a group of students from the Level I Leadership Program and I took a tour of the South River Miso Company located nearby in Conway, Mass. South River has been producing high quality handcrafted organic miso for over twenty years.
Founder, Christian Elwell guided our group on a tour of the facility. Aside from traditional barley and brown rice miso, Christian introduced the students to several new varieties developed uniquely at South River, including chickpea and azuki bean. He explained the process of making miso from beginning to end, and how miso is a living food and an essential part of a healthful diet.
Growing Rice in Massachusetts!
A high point of the tour was when Christian told the group about his success in growing rice on the property. Beginning with rice seeds from Ukraine, Christian has succeeded in planting and harvesting a small plot of organic rice. I had the opportunity to taste the South River rice on a previous visit and can vouch for the fact that it was quite delicious.
Christian explained how the rice paddy is a complete eco-system, home to a myriad of life forms, from dragon flies to tiny frogs. Everyone was inspired by the creativity, commitment to the health of our planet, and harmony with nature exemplified by South River Miso.
Originally published on our site – 6/12/13 – Kushi Library & Resources-Articles. Republished 11/13/15.
Click the link for Michio’s One Peaceful World Prayer: MK prayer
We would like to honor Michio Kushi, macrobiotic educator, natural food pioneer and founder of Kushi Institute. Michio passed away peacefully on December 28, surrounded by his loving wife Midori and sons Norio, Haruo, Phiya, and Hisao. He was 88 years old. On behalf of the students, staff, and faculty of the Kushi Institute, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Kushi family.
Michio was actively involved in K.I. planning and development until just prior to his passing. His vision for the institute was to teach, guide, and inspire individuals towards greater personal freedom, health, and happiness. The Kushi Institute plans to assure his teachings and mission will continue.
Click for a more complete list of Michio Kushi’s achievements
As a result of the hard work and dedication of the K.I. staff, the support of our students and participants, and the generosity of our donors, the Institute ended 2014 on a very positive note. We have been successful in reaching the Institute’s goal of establishing the first Annual Fund and have raised sufficient funds contributing to general operating expenses. The work of K.I. counselors and teachers helped contribute to numerous success stories for individuals and families in their quest for better health and well being.
The Institute’s core programs, the Macrobiotic Leadership Training Program and the Way to Health Program were well attended in 2014. The annual Kushi Institute Summer Conference, held for the first time in Becket MA, was a resounding success, and continues to bring in excitement as we plan for the upcoming 2015 event, July 26 thru August 9. The K.I. also launched several exciting new programs designed to help those with specific conditions, including The Macrobiotic Approach to Psoriasis, Controlling Crohn’s and Colitis thru Diet, and The Natural Approach to Breast Cancer. We are now planning to introduce a variety of new workshops and seminars in 2015 to continue in this work.
The K.I. also has ambitious plans for 2015 and beyond. In our last message, we introduced the Macrobiotic Breast Cancer Study. The Kushi Institute is now in discussion with medical researchers at Tufts University and Johns Hopkins University Medical School to begin the first ever randomized clinical trial on the effects of the macrobiotic diet on advanced cancer of the breast. Our hope is that the Macrobiotic Breast Cancer Study will revolutionize the treatment of this disease, so that a natural plant-based diet becomes a standard part of breast cancer treatment and recovery. The Institute has submitted a detailed proposal for a comprehensive macrobiotic care program for study participants. The K.I. hopes to complete the planning phase and move toward implementation this year. Please check kushiinstitute.org for ongoing developments.
To further Michio’s lifetime work of training a new generation of macrobiotic teachers, counselors, and chefs, the K.I. is planning to introduce the Macrobiotic Internship Program in 2015. Qualified participants will have the opportunity to assist K.I. counselors and teachers in personal counseling sessions, lectures, and cooking classes. More details will be announced on this program shortly.
We ask for your support in helping us continue Michio’s vision of health, peace, and sustainability through the macrobiotic way of life. You can support the K.I. by attending a program, recommending the K.I. to friends and family, purchasing high-quality foods and supplies from the Kushi Store, or making a tax-deductible donation the Kushi Institute Annual Fund. We’d like to thank those who have already contributed. It is with much appreciation and gratitude that we will continue the legacy and further the dream of one peaceful world.
On behalf of the staff, faculty, and students of the Kushi Institute, we wish you a healthy and happy New Year.
Let us honor his wonderful life. We invite you to share below.
Meet Sommer White, MD, Emergency Medicine from California
Since I was a child, I wanted to become a physician so that I could help others. I specifically chose Emergency Medicine because I felt like it was a place where I could immediately help people and feel like I was making an significant difference in their lives. The ability to relieve someone’s acute physical pain and make them feel comfortable is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.
I wanted to learn the macrobiotic diet because I was looking for a cure for my illnesses, a way to feel better without taking medications that would merely mask the symptoms. I had been chronically fatigued for years and had dark circles around my eyes. I suffered from frequent urination and could never sleep through the night because I would get up to urinate 3-4 times. I was also irritable, anxious and would frequently break out in cold sores. Working in the emergency department, I kept odd hours, and would sometimes stay awake for long periods. Even when I wasn’t working the night shift, I would stay up late and sleep late the following morning. I felt like I couldn’t get enough sleep.
Macrobiotics has been a part of my life since I was a child. My mother practiced macrobiotics on and off for years, and used it to overcome breast cancer when she was 48 years old. She had always talked about studying at the Kushi Institute and encouraged me to do so as well.
I have been practicing macrobiotics for about a year and a half. Overall, my fatigue has greatly diminished. I no longer need caffeine to wake up in the morning, and my nighttime urination has improved. My body feels strong and healthy, and my mind is calmer. I am adjusting my lifestyle to be physically and emotionally healthier. I try to go to sleep and get up earlier, which makes my days feel much longer and more fulfilling. I now wake up rested.
Practicing macrobiotics has given me focus, clarity, fulfillment, and direction for my new path as a holistic practitioner. It has given me joy in the kitchen and connection to the food I am preparing. I always wanted to be able to make myself a nice lunch, and now I have the skills to do that! I love being able to go the refrigerator, take out fresh ingredients and make a meal that is delicious, satisfying and healthy. Macrobiotics has taught me to care for myself on all levels–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My studies at the Kushi Institute have taken my practice to a deeper level, and they are teaching me what it truly means to be a holistic practitioner. I’m starting to understand the human body and mind differently and really believe that we can cure our illnesses with diet and lifestyle. The medical system as we know it today is broken. The complexities that surround the attitudes of doctors and patients combined with our fast-paced lifestyles have caused us to look for quick fixes instead of slowing down and really focusing on the root causes of the problems. We fail to see how our diets, lifestyles and emotions impact our health, and more importantly how changing them can cure our illnesses.
“Macrobiotics has shown me how to take my health into my own hands and to facilitate healing. I can only hope that it does this for many others, for this is the power of the practice, and the answer to our broken system.”
After eating macrobiotic food for a short time, I began to feel my body and mind changing. I knew I wanted to learn more about what was happening. I made a decision to enroll in the Kushi Institute’s Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1. During the first two weeks of Level 1, I started to grasp the basic concepts of yin and yang and understand how food affects our bodies. By the end of Level 1, I felt a stronger understanding of the basic concepts, and started to understand why people refer to it as a spiritual diet. I felt such an appreciation for what I was learning and what I was eating. My studies at the Kushi Institute are invaluable and exciting, and I look forward to beginning Level 2 in the fall. My goal is to finish all four levels.
Daily food has the power to heal or make us sick; to keep us healthy or accelerate our decline. The importance of food in health and healing cannot be overemphasized. However, unlike modern nutrition, in which foods are analyzed according to their biochemical effects, the macrobiotic view is based on an understanding of food as energy. Rather than being analytical and partial, the macrobiotic approach is dynamic and whole.
In macrobiotics, we approach food on two levels. In the first, more fundamental level, we apply the principle of yin and yang to balance our daily diet as a whole. Yin and yang help us understand food in terms of energy. Balancing the expanding and contracting energies in our diet is the basis of health and healing. In the second, or symptomatic level, we use food to offset or balance a particular condition or symptom.
A key to health and healing lies in our ability to understand food in terms of yin and yang and energy, and to apply that understanding to the structure and function of the human body. For that purpose, we need to view the body in terms of yin and yang. The inner regions of the body, including the bones, blood, and internal organs, are more yang or contracted, while the peripheral regions, including the skin and hair, are more yin or expanded. The front of the body is generally softer and more expanded (yin), while the back is hard and compact (yang). The upper body is generally more yin, while the lower body has stronger yang energy.
On the whole, the right side of the body is strongly charged with yin, upward energy, while the left side is strongly charged by downward, yang energy. The movement of upward and downward energy in the body is reflected in the structure of the large intestine, and in the function of the brain. The large intestine moves upward on the right side of the body, and downward on the left. The right hemisphere of the brain generates more yin, aesthetic or artistic images, while the left is the source of more yang, analytical and rational abilities. Using these basic classifications, we can begin to make specific correlations between the energy of food and the energy of the body.
Day to day, the atmosphere cycles back and forth between upward and downward, or yin and yang energy. Morning is the time when upward energy prevails. Evening and night are the times when downward energy is strongest. In order to maintain optimal health and well-being, we need to orient our lives in harmony with the movement of energy. In other words, we need to wake up in the morning and be active during the day, and need to get adequate sleep at night. If we go against the movement of atmospheric energy, for example, by sleeping during the day and being active at night, we risk losing our health.
On the most fundamental level, health and healing operate on the same principle. The organs on the right side of the body, including the liver and gallbladder, are strongly charged by yin, upward energy. Those on the left, including the pancreas and spleen, receive a stronger charge of yang, downward energy. Do foods with more expansive energies benefit the pancreas and spleen, or those with more contractive energies? Similarly, what types of foods benefit the liver and gallbladder? As we can see from the daily cycle, we need to go with the movement of energy. Thus, foods that match the energy of a particular organ are the most appropriate.
Symptomatic healing works in the opposite way. Symptoms can be caused by extremes of either yin or yang. In order to neutralize or offset a particular symptom, we use foods that have the a quality of energy that is opposite to that of the symptom. If the symptom is caused by too much yang, we supply the body with yin. When a symptom is caused by excess yin, we need to supply yang.
Constipation offers an example of this principle. Constipation can result from either an excess of yin or yang in the diet. Yang constipation is caused by the repeated intake of meat, cheese, eggs, chicken, and other forms of animal food, and an insufficient intake of grains, vegetables, and other plant foods containing fiber. It occurs when the intestines become overly tight and contracted. To relieve that symptom, we use foods with an opposite, or more yin energy, such as kanten, lightly steamed greens, grated raw daikon, or vegetables that have been lightly sauteed in oil.
Yin constipation occurs when the intestines become loose, weak, and stagnant because of too much sugar, chocolate, alcohol, spices, ice cream, or soft drinks. To restore the intestines to a more normal, contracted state, a slightly more yang preparation, such as ume-sho-kuzu, would be appropriate.
The Five Energies in Health and Healing
As we saw above, the liver and gallbladder are nourished by yin, expanding energy; the pancreas and spleen, by yang, contracting energy. Therefore, according to the principles stated above, if we wish to strengthen the liver and gallbladder, we choose foods that have a slightly more yin, or expansive quality of energy. If we wish to strengthen the pancreas and spleen, foods with slightly more yang energy would be appropriate.
Although whole grains are generally the most balanced among foods, each variety has a slightly different quality of energy. Corn, for example, grows in the summer, and is soft, sweet, and juicy. It has a more yin quality of energy. Buckwheat, on the other hand, grows in cold, northern regions and is very hard and dry. It rapidly absorbs water, and has strong yang energy. Rice has a different quality of energy than barley; millet is different than wheat. Short grain rice is very different than long grain rice. Among the whole grains, therefore, which one is best for the liver and gallbladder, and which one most benefits the pancreas and spleen?
Liver and Gallbladder
Traditional philosopher-healers referred to the upward energy that nourishes the liver and gallbladder as tree energy. The name tree energy implies growth in an upward direction, as well as movement that branches outward. Among the grains, barley has a light, expansive quality and is classified under the tree energy category. Adding it to brown rice produces a lighter, fluffier, and less glutinous dish. The energy of barley is compatible to that of the liver and gallbladder. Hato mugi, or pearl barley, a species of wild barley originally grown in China, is especially charged with upward energy. Both regular and pearl barley can be eaten several times per week, in soup or with brown rice. Barley tea supplies the body with light, upward energy and can be used as a regular beverage.
Pancreas, Spleen, and Stomach
The spleen and pancreas are charged by an opposite quality of energy that traditional philosopher-healers referred to as soil energy. The name soil conveys the image of more compact, downward energy. Millet, a compact grain with a hard outer shell, is a product of soil energy and can be eaten on a regular basis to strengthen the pancreas and spleen. It is helpful in aiding recovery from blood sugar disorders, including diabetes and hypoglycemia. Millet can be cooked with brown rice or used to make delicious millet soup. The stomach is located toward the left side of the body, and is energetically compatible with the pancreas and spleen. Millet is also useful in strengthening the stomach.
Let us now see how the principles of energy balance apply to the selection of whole grains for the other primary organs.
Heart and Small Intestine
Compared to the liver and spleen, the heart has a more dynamic, active quality of energy. The heart is located higher in the body (more yin), and is positioned at the heart chakra, a very highly charged region in the center of the chest. Traditional healers referred to such active movement as fire energy. The small intestine is compatible with the heart, and is charged with active energy. At the center of the small intestine is the highly charged region known as the hara chakra, the primary source of life energy for the entire lower body. Among the grains, corn, a more yin product of summer, is charged with fire energy. It is energetically compatible with the heart and small intestine. It can be eaten fresh in season or used in such traditional dishes as polenta. Whole corn meal or grits can be used as breakfast cereals.
Lungs and Large Intestine
Compared to the heart, the large intestine has more condensed, yang energy. It is located in the lower body, where downward energy is stronger, and although it is large, it is compressed into a small space. The lungs are energetically compatible with the large intestine, and contain many air sacs and blood vessels compressed into a tight space. Traditional healers named this condensed stage metal energy. They considered it to be more yang or condensed than the downward, soil energy that charges the pancreas and spleen. Brown rice, especially pressure-cooked short grain rice, has strong condensed energy that corresponds to the metal stage. It can be used as a main daily grain to strengthen and vitalize these organs.
Kidneys and Bladder
The kidneys lie in the middle of the body; with one on the right and the other on the left side of the body. Traditional healers felt that the energy that nourishes the kidneys is like water, floating between yin and yang, up and down, although on the whole, downward energy is slightly more predominant. Appropriately enough, they referred to this stage as water energy. Beans, which are more yang or contracted than most vegetables, and more yin or expanded than most grains, are a manifestation of floating, or water energy. They strengthen and nourish the kidneys, and their related organ, the bladder. Smaller beans such as azuki and black soybeans have more concentrated energy and are especially beneficial. Beans and bean products can be eaten as a regular part of the diet.
These five stages of energy are actually part of a a continuous cycle. Energy constantly cycles back and forth from yin to yang, moving through the more yin stages tree and fire, and then through the more yang stages soil, metal, and water. The cycle repeats every day and from season to season. Our bodies are comprised of a complex mix of energies that reflect each of these stages, and to maintain optimal health, we need adequate variety in our daily diet.
The five energies can guide our selection of vegetables and other supplementary foods, as well as our choice of cooking methods. In general, leafy greens are charged with strong upward or actively expanding energy (tree and fire), while round vegetables, such as squash, onions, and cabbage are strongly charged with soil energy. Roots such as carrots, burdock, and daikon have even stronger yang energy (metal), while sea vegetables represent floating or water energy.
In cooking, we change the quality of our foods, by making their energies more yin or more yang. Methods such as quick steaming, blanching (quick boiling), and sauteing accelerate upward (tree) and active (fire) energy, while slow boiling, such as that used in making nishime, condenses the energy in food and corresponds to the soil stage. Pressure cooking is a more yang method of cooking that corresponds to metal energy, while soup corresponds to water energy. Once again, we need a wide variety of vegetables and cooking methods in order to provide the body with a wide range of energies.
Whole grains and other foods in the macrobiotic diet work on both the symptomatic and fundamental levels. On the fundamental level, a food such as hato mugi, or pearl barley, supplies the liver and gallbladder with the upward energy necessary for smooth functioning. At the same time, because of its expansive nature, pearl barley acts symptomatically in dissolving more yang, hardened deposits of animal fat and protein, including cysts and tumors caused by the repeated consumption of animal food. Pearl barley tea, for example, is used in Oriental medicine as a beverage to dissolve moles, warts, and other skin growths resulting from excess animal protein.
Food is our best medicine. Balancing the energy of food provides the foundation for achieving good health. Without the foundation of daily diet, our approach is symptomatic and limited. Understanding food as energy lies at the heart of macrobiotic healing.
Source: This essay appeared in Macrobiotics Today, Oroville, Ca, November/December, 1993, © Edward Esko, all rights reserved.
Modern chemical farming has resulted in tragic consequences to the land and natural environment.
From an average depth of 36 inches in pioneer times, America’s topsoil has declined to about 6 inches in depth today. Meanwhile, as a result of hybridization, crop strains have grown weaker. Today there are hundreds of species that are resistant to pesticides, herbicides, and other sprays. Moreover, 70 percent of all folk varieties of wheat and garden vegetables once grown in North America and Europe disappeared. The remaining seeds face rapid extinction from new corporate patent laws favoring hybrid and genetically altered seeds. As a result of modern agricultural practices, the United Nations has estimated that one-third of the world’s remaining arable land will be lost to desertification in the next quarter century. Two-thirds of the pesticides highlighted in Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic, Silent Spring, are still being manufactured and used around the world.
Modern patterns of food consumption have also had a tremendously negative impact on wilderness lands, deserts, and other ecosystems. For example, in Latin America, large areas of the tropical rain forests-which supply much of the world’s oxygen-have been cleared for beef production, much of which is exported to the hamburger and steak market in the United States, Europe, and other modern societies. One-third of the world’s different species of plants and animals are located in these regions and face extinction as a result of modern development. In addition to reducing biodiversity, clearing of the rain forests for pasture contributes to global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. Livestock production also produces methane, another greenhouse gas which contributes up to 10 percent of global warming. If this trend continues, temperature rises over the next several decades will cause tremendous climatic and meteorological changes, including possible melting of polar ice caps, rise of sea levels, and inundation of coastal regions in which hundreds of millions of people live.
By changing to a more natural and organic food and agricultural system, the world’s farmland could be regenerated, the environment could be preserved, and global warming forestalled. Monoculture would gradually be replaced with mixed crops. Heavy mechanical cultivation would give way to small-scale appropriate technological methods, and chemical fertilizers and insecticides would be retired in favor of organic compounds and wastes. These changes would start building up the tilth of the soil, contribute to the return of plants and wildlife, and purify the air and waterways. In time, this approach would help restore thousands of hardy varieties of seed that have adapted over centuries to local climates and soils but which have been abandoned by the modern food production system and its emphasis on uniform size, shape, color, and taste.
Thousands of years ago, Hippocrates taught that food was the best medicine. He used the term macrobiotics to describe a way of eating and living in harmony with nature’s laws. A naturally balanced diet is central to the practice of modern macrobiotics, just as it was in the system of healing developed by Hippocrates. Food is the vital link between our bodies and the environment, and the quality of food determines the quality of our life. A balanced diet is the key to personal health and well-being. It is also a key to solving the environmental crisis.
Life was able to develop and flourish on earth because of the delicate balance of yin and yang, or the energies of expansion and contraction, on our planet. The earth’s large, but structurally compact form (yang) is counterbalanced by the more diffuse, liquid and gaseous envelope that surrounds it (yin). Plants, which are yin, maintain the dynamic balance of the atmosphere. They absorb and utilize more yang carbon dioxide and expel yin oxygen. The oxygen they provide is essential to human and animal life. Animals, which are yang, interact with the atmosphere in the opposite way. They absorb yin oxygen and discharge yang carbon dioxide. Together, plants and animals create a beautiful harmony that sustains life on earth.
Modern civilization is disrupting the natural balance of yin and yang that has existed on the planet for millions of years. On the whole, civilization has become increasingly yang: the speed of change is accelerating daily and we are using more and more intense forms of energy. Rather than slowing down, we can expect these trends to accelerate in the future.
Because of these activities, the atmosphere is changing. Since 1958, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 25 percent, mostly as the result of burning oil and coal. The United States and the former Soviet Union account for about 45 percent of worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, we are systematically destroying tropical rain forests that absorb carbon dioxide.
Increases in carbon dioxide and other gases produced by industry, agriculture, and the modern food system are causing the atmosphere to become yang-dense, thick, and heavy. Ideally, the atmosphere should be light and clear (yin), in order to balance the compact structure of the earth and support life. According to environmental scientists, these changes could lead to problems on a global scale. Proponents of global warming believe that some of the reflected heat produced by sunlight no longer radiates back into space. If we view this theory according to macrobiotic principles, we see that the atmosphere, which has become more yang, causes heat radiation (also yang) to be deflected back to earth, creating what is known as the greenhouse effect.
A growing number of people believe that the greenhouse effect is causing average temperatures on earth to rise, a phenomenon known as global warming. As a result, the polar ice caps could melt, resulting in worldwide flooding, and climatic patterns that have existed for centuries could change drastically. Modern technology has disrupted the natural cycle of carbon in the atmosphere, with potentially far-reaching consequences. Disruption of the carbon cycle by modern technology parallels the inefficient use of organic carbon compounds-or carbohydrates-in the food chain. Before the industrial revolution, the majority of people ate carbohydrates in their most efficient form. Traditional diets were based on whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, and other complex carbohydrate foods.
The modern food system no longer relies on these energy-efficient foods. It is based instead on the highly inefficient conversion of complex carbohydrates, often in the form of grains and beans, into animal protein and fat. Feeding these valuable foodstuffs to livestock and then eating them in the form of animal food wastes a tremendous amount of raw materials and energy. One expert estimated that if the world were to adopt these methods of food production, all of the known reserves of petroleum would be exhausted in thirteen years.
Modern food production contributes a great deal of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Cattle ranching, for example, is the single largest source of methane, a leading greenhouse gas. Whole grains, beans, and vegetables are far more energy-efficient than animal products. Corn or wheat return 22 times more protein per calorie of fossil fuel expended than does beef produced on the modern feedlot. Soybeans are 40 times more energy efficient than modern beef.
In Diet for a New America, John Robbins describes the energy savings that would result from a shift toward whole grains, beans, and vegetables. He cites a report by economists Fields and Hur:
•A nationwide switch to a diet emphasizing whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables-plus limits on export of nonessential fatty foods-would save enough money to cut our imported oil requirements by over 60 percent. And, the supply of renewable energy, such as wood and hydroelectric, would increase 120 to 150 percent.
In order to slow the expected rate of global warming predicted to occur because of the greenhouse effect, scientists estimate that fossil fuel emissions would have to be cut by about 60 percent. Unfortunately, however, as the modern diet and way of life spread around the globe, economists predict that these emissions will actually double over the next forty years.
Destruction of forests, including tropical rain forests, can be traced to the modern diet. Forests are being cut to make room for grazing livestock or for growing livestock feed. According to one estimate, if deforestation continues at the present rate, there will be no forests left in the United States by 2040. Moreover, countries in Central and South America are systematically destroying tropical rain forests that contain up to 80 percent of the world’s land vegetation and provide a substantial amount of the planet’s oxygen.
The refining, processing, refrigeration, and other techniques used in the modern food system waste a tremendous amount of energy and contribute to global pollution. Sugar refining, for example, is a highly mechanized process that utilizes fossil fuels, as does the production of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in modern agriculture. Nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas, is largely a product of chemical fertilizers.
In the human body, the intake of animal foods causes saturated fat and cholesterol to build up in the blood and eventually clog the arteries and blood vessels. If the accumulation of excess continues unchecked, it can lead to collapse of the body due to heart attack or stroke, or to accumulation of fats and toxic substances in the organs leading to cancer. A similar situation is developing in our environment, due to the inefficient use of carbohydrates in the form of animal protein and fat. Pollution caused by industry and the modern food system is contributing to the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and toxic chemicals in the environment. The buildup of these substances threatens the earth’s ecosystem with collapse.
Depletion of the Ozone Shield
At the outer reaches of the atmosphere is found a very thin envelope of gas, ozone, that acts as a natural screen for the sun’s rays. Solar radiation polarizes into more yin ultraviolet and more yang infrared rays. Ozone is a very yin gas made up of three atoms of oxygen. Because like repels like, it blocks or repels ultraviolet radiation while letting infrared rays pass through. Now, however, because of the modern diet and lifestyle, we are punching holes in the delicate layer of ozone high in the stratosphere. According to Newsweek:
•The problem is a close as the air conditioner in your window or the fast-food container at your feet. Both can release chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. Once free, these chemicals float toward the heavens. About 15 miles up they encounter the ozone layer, a paper-thin (three millimeter deep) sheet that envelops the planet and shields it from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Under the right conditions, the CFCs destroy ozone.
Ultraviolet light can weaken or damage the cells of the immune system. Cells that initiate the immune response are more yang and are especially vulnerable. At the same time, UV radiation causes the body to accelerate production of more yin suppressor cells that shut down the body’s immune response. Depletion of the ozone layer could lead to an increase in immune deficiency diseases, including leukemia and skin cancer, especially when extreme yin foods and beverages such as sugar, tropical fruits, and oils and fats are weakening the immune response from the inside.
When our diet is based on a high intake of animal foods that contain plenty of fat, and when these foods are cooked with modern energy intensive methods, such as grilling, broiling, or deep frying (as they are in fast food restaurants), our body temperature rises and we become less able to tolerate warm weather. This increases our need for air conditioning, and our desire for iced foods and beverages that require constant refrigeration. CFCs are used as coolants in refrigerators.
Diet and the New Ecology
Eating whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables and other whole natural foods is the first step toward restoring the environment. By eating energy-efficient foods in harmony with climate and season, especially those grown organically, we are supporting a system of farming and food production that will preserve the soil, water, and air for a countless number of future generations.
Changing to a diet of whole grains and vegetables produces immediate and practical benefits both for the environment, and for our individual health. Planetary ecology begins in the kitchen. Below are some basic principles to consider as you move toward a healthful, ecological lifestyle.
1. Eat Lower on the Food Chain
•As we move up the food chain from plant to animal foods, the amount of energy required to produce, transport, and store foods increases dramatically. Grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, and other plant foods are lower on the food chain and require much less energy to produce. Researchers at Ohio State University compared the amounts of energy required to produce plant and animal foods and discovered that the least energy-efficient plant food was still nearly ten times as efficient as the most energy-efficient animal food. Eating a plant-based diet reduces the use of fossil fuels and eases the pollution burden entering the environment, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all of which are greenhouse gases.
2. Reduce or Avoid Extreme Foods
•Foods, like everything else in our environment, can be classified into yin and yang. Eggs, meat, chicken, hard cheese, and other animal products, and foods high in sodium, are extremely yang or contractive; while refined sugar, tropical fruits, spices, coffee, chocolate, ice cream, artificial sweetners, soft drinks, nightshade vegetables, and foods high in postassium are extremely yin or expansive.
•Centrally balanced foods include whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, sea vegetables, non-stimulant beverages, non-spicy seasonings and condiments, and other whole natural foods. These foods have a more even balance of yin and yang, or expansive and contractive, energies.
•Centrally balanced foods are highly energy-efficient. They were humanity’s staples before the industrial age and when grown organically, are the product of non-polluting, self-sustaining agriculture. On the other hand, extremes of yin or yang are often the product of modern industry. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef. Only 2 calories of fossil fuel are needed to obtain 1 calorie of protein from soybeans.
•However, simply reducing or avoiding the intake of animal foods is not enough to reverse the disruption of the environment. Extreme yin foods such as refined sugar, tropical fruits, processed soft drinks, and others require a great deal of energy to produce, store, and transport. It is also helpful to reduce or avoid using them.
3. Eat Foods From Your Climatic Zone
•Today, people in the temperate zones eat a “polar-tropical” diet. They have replaced the whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, and other foods appropriate to their region with meat, eggs, cheese, poultry, and other foods more suited to cold, polar climates, and with sugar, chocolate, spices, coffee, tropical fruits and vegetables, and other foods more suited to equatorial zones.
•A tremendous amount of energy is required to maintain this unnatural dietary pattern. It is far more economical and energy-efficient to base your diet around foods that are naturally abundant in your immediate environment or in a climate that is similar to the one in which you are living.
4. Vary Your Diet with the Seasons
By eating foods that are naturally available in season, we take advantage of the cycles of nature. During the winter, dishes that are strongly seasoned and well cooked help us generate and retain heat. In summer, lightly cooked dishes, including salads, keep us cool. These natural adjustments help us stay in touch with nature and make it easier to adapt to climatic changes without excessive heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. Eating fresh seasonal foods helps minimize the need for refrigeration and other artificial methods of food preservation or storage.
5. Select Organically Grown Foods
A great deal of fossil fuels are used in the production, transport, and storage of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and other artificial substances used in modern chemical agriculture. Moreover, these substances enter the environment and pollute the air, water, and soil. Nitrous oxide, produced by nitrogen-based fertilizers, is a major greenhouse gas. When you select organically grown foods, you do not contribute to pollution of the environment, the unnecessary use of fossil fuels, or to the buildup of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.
6. Start a Backyard Garden
Growing organic vegetables in your own garden reduces your reliance on foods that require fossil fuel to transport. Moreover, many garden vegetables can be left in the soil until they are ready to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated. If you don’t have space to begin your own garden, look for an organic farm or cooperative in your area. Rather than being thrown away, uneaten food can be recycled as compost in your garden.
7. Base Your Diet on Naturally Storable Foods
Whole grains, beans, sea vegetables, and other complex carbohydrate foods don’t require refrigeration or artificial methods of storage or preservation to keep them fresh. They can be kept as is in your pantry or cupboards. On the other hand, meat, eggs, cheese, chicken, and other animal foods rapidly decompose into toxic bacteria and compounds and therefore require artificial preservation. Tropical fruits, vegetables, and other extremely yin foods or drinks also decompose rapidly and thus require refrigeration, canning, or other artificial methods to preserve or keep them fresh.
8. Eat Whole Foods
Eating foods in their whole form saves energy and makes use of the nutrients that are naturally available. The process whereby brown rice is milled into white rice, or whole wheat flour into white flour, represents an unnecessary waste of energy. The outer coat of cereal grains contains beneficial fiber and other valuable nutrients. When whole grains are refined, these valuable nutrients are lost. The green tops of vegetables such as daikon, carrots, and turnips and the roots of scallions are also a good source of nutrients and can be cooked and eaten rather than discarded.
9. Restore Home Cooking
A great deal of disposable waste, including paper products, Styrofoam containers, and plastic utensils is generated by restaurants and public eating places. Cooking and eating at home helps reduce the use of the fossil fuels that go into producing these products as well as the buildup of inorganic waste in the environment, including the CFCs contained in plastic foam containers. Moreover, for optimal health, and to mimimize electro-pollution, it is better to cook on a gas flame, rather than on the artificial energy of electric stoves or microwave ovens.
10. Make Your Own Snacks and Specialty Foods
Whenever possible, bake your own whole grain breads, and make foods such as tofu, tempeh, amasake, noodles, pasta, seitan, pickles, and others at home. A great deal of fossil fuels are used in the processing, packaging, and transportation of processed foods. Home processing saves energy. Homemade foods are also fresher and more delicious than those bought at the store.
11. Chew Well
Thorough chewing allows for the efficient digestion and absorption of foods. When you chew well, you obtain more nutrients from your foods and can get by with a smaller volume of food. Your diet becomes more energy-efficient. Both for health and vitality, and to minimize waste, try not to eat for three hours before sleeping, except in unusual circumstances. Also, you might find that your energy levels are higher if you eat a light breakfast or skip breakfast on occasion.
12. Practice an Ecological Lifestyle
As much as possible, use natural, chemical-free fabrics and body care products, as well as biodegradable soaps and cleaning materials in your home. Minimize the use of electric devices, in order to conserve energy, for example, by turning off the lights when you are not using a room or watching less television. Buy your foods in bulk, rather than in individually packaged containers. Recycle paper, glass, and plastic. Recycle leftover food by including it in new dishes rather than throwing it away. Keep physically active, and rely less on automobiles, elevators, central heating, and air conditioning. Finally, learn to appreciate our planetary environment. Develop gratitude and appreciation for the earth, water, ocean, and air. See your foods as the condensed essence of nature, and offer thanks before and after each meal.
Our internal and external environments are intimately related. Personal health is equivalent to planetary health. The principles of natural living that underlie the macrobiotic way of life apply as much to healing our planet as they do in restoring our personal health.
Source: The Pulse of Life, © 1994 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.
“No illness which can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means.” – Maimonides
There is now an increasing volume of evidence linking the way we eat with our physical and mental health, leading to a widespread and growing interest, among both medical professionals and the public at large, in applying diet as a solution to the modern health crisis.
There is no question that our health needs have changed over the last eighty years. At the turn of the century, the most important diseases in the United States were infectious diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Since then, the incidence of infectious disease has declined. However, during the same time, the rate of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, has risen substantially.
During the 20th century, a profound change took place in the way people eat, leading many to believe that modern dietary habits are the leading cause of the increase in chronic illness. That was the conclusion of the landmark report issued in 1977 by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, entitled Dietary Goals for the United States, and of reports issued by public health agencies around the world.
To date, more than a dozen international health organizations have issued reports that implicate the modern diet in the rise of chronic disease. Most of these reports make dietary recommendations aimed at prevention. There are signs that preventive dietary guidelines issued over the last decade are producing positive results. For example, the rate of heart disease in the United States and several other countries has declined somewhat over the past ten years. There is evidence supporting the view that this may be due to health conscious dietary changes.
Although many of us have had direct experience with degenerative illness – either personally or through family members or friends – we tend to think that on the whole, those of us in the affluent nations have the best medical care and the most abundant diet, and are thus healthier than ever before. Consider, however, that of the ten leading causes of death in the United States, six-heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and arteriosclerosis-are degenerative diseases. These disorders are directly linked to diet. In 1977, about 75 percent of all deaths in the U.S. were from one of these causes, a clear indication that our population is not as healthy as we would like to believe, despite the increasing deployment of medical technology and the convenience of the modern food system.
It is commonly believed that this degenerative epidemic is due to our lengthened lifespan-that the conquest of infectious diseases and consequent lowering of infant and child mortality, in other words, have actually allowed more people to grow older, and that more old people naturally means more degenerative disease. In fact, an increasing proportion of younger persons are suffering from chronic disease. Cancer, for example, is the number one cause of death, excepting accidents, of children under fifteen. According to the Summer 1978 issue of Working Papers, “The percentage of people under seventeen years old limited in activity due to chronic ailments nearly doubled from 1968 to 1974.” Degenerative disease is not an old people’s disease, nor is it a necessary result of gains in child survival rates. It affects all people, at all ages, in virtually all populations.
The Changing Modern Diet
Studies of overall patterns of food consumption during the 20th century reveal a number of interesting trends: (1) there has been a substantial increase in the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, due largely to rising meat and poultry consumption; (2) there has been a substantial increase in consumption of refined sugar, resulting largely from the addition of sugar to processed foods and increasing soft drink consumption; (3) there has been a tremendous increase in the consumption of chemicals, additives, and preservatives, and a variety of artificial or highly fabricated foods; and (4) there has been a substantial decrease in the consumption of complex carbohydrate foods such as cereal grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables.
In the early part of the 20th century, Americans derived about 40 percent of their caloric energy from complex carbohydrates-cereal grains, beans, and vegetables. This percentage has declined to less than 20 percent. Whole unrefined grains and grain products are practically nonexistent in the modern diet. At the same time, the consumption of fats and simple sugars has risen so that these items now comprise over 60 percent of the diet.
From 1889 to 1961, the ratio of complex to simple carbohydrate dropped more than three times. In 1976, the average person in the United States ate about 120 pounds of refined sugar, compared to less than 40 pounds per person in 1875; an increase of over 300 percent. A large portion of the sugar consumed in the U.S. is eaten in processed foods and beverages, including soft drinks, canned foods, bread, candy, cake, ice cream, breakfast cereals, and others. Soft drink consumption doubled in the United States between 1960 and 1975; increasing from an average per-person intake of 13.6 gallons to 27.6 gallons. In 1975, the average person drank about 295 12-ounce cans of soda, containing 21.5 pounds of sugar.
In 1976, the average person ate nearly 165 pounds of red meat (pork, beef, mutton, veal). The rising popularity of beef is largely responsible for the overall increase in meat consumption. For example, in 1910, the average person ate about 55 pounds of beef. In 1970, this figure had risen to over 113 pounds.
These changes in diet parallel the rise of chronic illness in the 20th century. The connection between diet and disease becomes even more apparent when we review evidence linking diet and cancer.
Cancer and Diet
Much of the scientific evidence linking cancer and diet has come from two sources: (1) epidemiological studies, such as those of overall cancer incidence and changing dietary patterns in the United States, Japan, and other countries; and (2) animal studies such as those which suggest that a restriction of caloric or protein intake has an inhibiting effect on the development of tumors.
Examples of the epidemiological links between diet and cancer are presented below.
The decline in cancer incidence in Holland following World War II food shortages. Between 1942 and 1946, the incidence of cancer in Holland dropped 35 to 60 percent, depending on the region of the country. A Dutch epidemiologist, Dr. F. De Waard, has correlated this decline with the changes in diet that occurred as a result of the German occupation of the country. During the occupation, the Germans took most of the cheese, butter, milk, eggs, and meat in the country, leaving the Dutch to live on home- grown vegetables, bread, whole grain porridge, and other basic staples. With the return to normal conditions after the war, the cancer rate jumped back to its pre-war level.
Changes in cancer incidence among Japanese migrants to the United States. The rates of colon and breast cancer in Japan have, until now, remained rather low, while the incidence of stomach cancer has been high. The opposite is true in the United States. Within three generations, however, Japanese immigrants in the U.S. shift from the cancer incidence patterns common in Japan to those common in the United States. This shift correlates with a change from the standard Japanese way of eating to the modern American one, with a corresponding increase in the intake of meat, chicken, cheese, and dairy food.
The worldwide correlation between meat and fat intake and a high incidence of breast and colon cancer. In countries where the intake of meat and animal fat is high, such as Scotland, Canada, and the United States, the mortality rates from colon and breast cancer are high. Countries such as Japan and Chile, where meat and fat consumption are low, have correspondingly low incidences of these diseases.
The difference between the high incidence of these illnesses in the United States and their low incidence in Japan is consistent with the differences in fat intake between these two countries, and correlates with the increase in the incidence of colon cancer in Japanese migrants to the United States following their adoption of Western dietary habits.
Evidence from specific population groups in the United States reinforces the connection between fat consumption and cancer. Groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists, who generally follow a semi-vegetarian regime with a limited fat and meat intake, have a much lower rate of some forms of cancer, especially breast and colon. These diseases have been found to correlate with a low intake of cereal grains which contain dietary fiber. For example, certain African populations who, like the Japanese, have a low-fat, high- fiber regimen, have been found to have correspondingly low incidences of colon cancer. The same appears true for the Seventh Day Adventists.
The correlation between the incidence of breast and colon cancer in the United States and increasing consumption of meat and saturated fat, and the declining consumption of grains. The rising incidence of these illnesses correlates with significant changes in the American diet since 1900, especially the rising consumption of meat and saturated fat, and the declining consumption of grains and their products.
The increasing incidence of breast and colon cancer in Japan following Westernization of the Japanese diet. The rising consumption of milk and milk products, meat, eggs, oil, and fat that has occurred in Japan since World War II correlates with an increase in the incidences of breast and colon cancer over the past several decades. According to the National Cancer Institute, this increase is “consistent with the Westernization of the Japanese diet during recent decades, particularly with an increased intake of fat.
While epidemiological evidence has been accumulating, animal studies have reinforced the link between cancer and diet. Examples quoted below are from the 1977 Status Report of the Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer Program of the National Cancer Institute.
Studies showing that a restriction of calories inhibits the development of tumors. A number of animal studies have shown that of all dietary modifications tried so far, the restriction of food intake has had the most regular influence on the development of tumors. A restriction in overall caloric intake has been regularly found to inhibit the formation of tumors and increase life expectancy of experimental animals. Similar trials have shown that among rats fed identical diets, the incidence of tumors is consistently higher in heavier animals.
Studies showing a higher incidence of tumors in animals fed high-protein diets. According to the NCI report, a lower protein intake inhibits the development of spontaneous or chemically induced tumors. Comparisons of a 5 percent and a 20 percent casein diet on aflatoxin induced tumors showed rats on the higher protein diet had a 50 percent greater incidence of cancer. All of the high protein rats developed tumors or precancerous lesions, while those on the lower protein diet had no tumors or precancerous lesions.
Studies showing a relationship between a high-fat diet and a higher incidence of breast and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that an increase in the amount of fat in animal diets produces an increase in the incidence of certain cancers, and that the cancers tend to develop earlier in the life of the animal. According to the NCI report, “Tannenbaum has shown that an increase from 25 percent to 28 percent fat in the diet of mice results in a double incidence of spontaneous mammary cancers.
Studies suggesting that a natural foods diet contains “protective factors” against cancer. In one group of studies mentioned in the NCI report, irradiated mice consuming a natural foods diet had a markedly lower incidence of tumors than similar mice receiving a highly refined diet. According to the report, these studies suggest “the presence of a protective factor in natural food diets.
Together with scientific evidence, a small but significant number of case histories and personal accounts have been gathered and publicized, pointing to the use of the macrobiotic diet in the prevention and control of cancer and other chronic illnesses. Although much of the evidence is anecdotal, and has come from outside the realm of official research, many of these accounts begin to seem plausible when considered together with mounting scientific evidence linking diet and cancer.
Since 1975, the East West Foundation has compiled and published case histories which show that a balanced macrobiotic diet can aid in the recovery from cancer. These published case histories (such as those in the book Cancer-Free, Japan Publications, 1992) represent only a small number of the thousands of similar experiences that have yet to be documented and published.
Toward a Preventive Nutrition
As we saw in our study of changing dietary patterns in the United States, the modern diet has become much more extreme. Overall consumption of humanity’s traditional, centrally balanced staples-whole grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables-has declined, while more extreme foods, such as meat and sugar, chicken and tropical fruit, eggs and chocolate, have become the mainstay of the diet. The modern shift in dietary patterns has had a disastrous effect on human health, and is the underlying cause of the rise of degenerative illness in the 20th century. Regardless of whether we approach the modern decline in health from the more traditional, macrobiotic perspective, or through modern epidemiological studies, our conclusion is similar. In order to secure health, both individually and as a society, we must return to a more naturally balanced way of eating in harmony with our environment and with our dietary traditions.
Source: The Pulse of Life, © 1994 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.
In its structure and function, the brain and nervous system is a masterpiece of complementary balance. The cells in the nervous system, known as neurons, come in a variety of forms, but share the same basic structure. The sections of the neuron include branched dendrites, which receive incoming impulses; the yang or compact cell body, where impulses gather and are processed, and the yin, extended axon where impulses are dispatched to neighboring cells.
On the whole, each cell in the nervous system functions as a spiral made up of incoming and outgoing impulses and energy.
When nerve impulses arrive at the end point, or terminal of the axon, they travel across the synapse, a narrow space that separates the axons of nerve cells from the dendrites of others. When impulses reach the terminal, they stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, substances that determine the way that the message will affect the neighboring cell. More yang, activating transmitters cause nerve cells to become excited and generate impulses at a higher rate. More yin, inhibiting transmitters slow or block the production of nervous impulses.
Foods such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables rich in complex carbohydrates increase the brain’s supply of serotonin, a more yin neurotransmitter that is believed to induce calm and relaxed mental states. Eggs and other animal food increase the levels of acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter. That may help explain why persons who consume grains and vegetables and little or no animal food often seem calm and even-tempered in comparison to persons who consume plenty of meat and other animal foods.
The low levels of serotonin that result from a diet high in animal foods may contribute to impulsive behavior. In studies of prison inmates conducted in Finland, those with the most impulsive behavior patterns were found to have the lowest levels of metabolized serotonin in the spinal fluid when compared to non-impulsive prisoners and controls. The impulsive inmates were also found to have low blood sugar levels. The researchers found that 81 percent of repeat offenders had abnormally low blood sugar levels. Low levels of serotonin, together with low levels of blood sugar, characterized 84 percent of the repeat offenders studied.
Diet affects the body’s secretion of hormones, and these influence behavior. In a study conducted at Yale, the intake of refined sugar was found to dramatically increase blood levels of adrenaline in children. In children who were tested after being given an amount of sugar equivalent to two cupcakes, levels of adrenaline increased ten times. Adrenaline, secreted by the adrenal glands during times of stress, initiates the “fight or flight” response. It produces such effects as rapid heartbeat, quick shallow breathing, and nervousness.
High adrenaline levels lead to anxiety and difficulty in thinking clearly. Parents often notice that children behave in an aggressive, hyperactive, and erratic manner after eating plenty of sugary foods, and this study offers a possible biochemical explanation for this reaction. Researchers are becoming aware that diet has a profound effect on the the brain and nervous system, and thus on our mental and emotional condition.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 5 percent of the American population suffers from major depressive illness. Milder forms of depression are much more common. Suicide is often the outcome of severe depression, and about 75,000 people commit suicide every year in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, and the rate is increasing among young people.
Bouts of depression often occur in cycles. A bout of depression may last for one or two days or for several months or longer. Researchers have begun to observe a correlation between episodes of depression and natural rhythms such as the 24-hour daily cycle and the cycle of the seasons. Depression tends to be more severe in the afternoon and evening, and during the autumn and winter, times when the energy of the earth’s atmosphere becomes more yang or condensed.
In many cases, depression is the by-product of a condition known as hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is produced by an extreme or unbalanced diet, especially the regular intake of cheese, chicken, eggs, and other forms of animal food. These more yang or contractive items cause the pancreas to become hard and tight, and inhibit its secretion of glucagon, or anti-insulin, the more yin pancreatic hormone that raises the level of glucose in the blood. When the pancreas becomes hard and tight, it cannot secrete glucagon properly, although insulin, the more yang hormone that lowers blood sugar, keeps being secreted. The result is hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia creates the desire to consume sugar, soft drinks, chocolate, alcohol, or drugs, all of which raise the level of sugar in the blood.
The brain is utterly dependent on glucose for its functioning, and when a deficit arises, the higher brain centers, including those governing imagination and creativity, shut down in order to conserve more fundamental brain activity essential for survival. The result is a sinking feeling or a feeling of being boxed in by circumstances. A person becomes unable to imagine a solution to whatever problems he may be experiencing, and, because of a lack of blood sugar, may not have enough energy to change his circumstances. The result is depression and a sense of hopelessness.
The principle of yin and yang can help clarify the biochemistry of depression and other mood disorders. When the blood sugar becomes elevated (yin), the pancreas secretes insulin (yang), in order to make balance. In the brain, production of more yang neurotransmitters–those involved in arousal and motor activity–is stepped up. Conversely, when blood sugar becomes low (yang), the pancreas reduces the output of insulin, while accelerating production of glucagon (yin). In the brain, production of activating neurotransmitters is reduced, in some cases, to the point of undersupply. The resulting shortage can lead to depression.
A naturally balanced, macrobiotic diet can help correct these imbalances in the internal chemistry of the body. A diet based on complex carbohydrates, such as those in whole grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables helps stabilize the metabolism of glucose, and can help relieve conditions such as depression, fear, and anxiety. Mind and body are one. The application of diet to the relief of mood disorders represents a new frontier in the field of psychology.
Blood sugar imbalances also play an important role in schizophrenia, a more severe form of mental illness. Chronic low blood sugar leads to cravings for refined sugar, alcohol, chocolate, drugs, and other extreme forms of yin. The repeated consumption of extreme yin items can cause the cells of the brain and nervous system to become chronically overexpanded, producing an eventual deterioration of mental functioning. The result can be schizophrenia.
Our mental processes depend on the brain’s ability to concentrate and simplify information. The concentration of information is more yang. In The Healing Brain, Robert Ornstein and David Sobel describe this process as follows:
Since the world is constantly changing, the brain is flooded with information. How would it know which of all these changes are important and which are irrelevant? A strategy emerged in which the brain and nervous system evolved to radically reduce and limit the information transmitted to the brain.
The nervous system organizes information so that a few actions, the appropriate actions, can take place. Much of the intricate network of receptors, ganglia, and analysis cells in the cortex serve to simplify. Senses select only a few meaningful elements from all the stimuli that reach us, organize them into the most likely occurrence, and remember only a small organized sample of what has occurred.
When brain cells become chronically yin or expanded, they easily become overly sensitive to yang stimuli, including activating neurotransmitters such as dopamine. According to a popular hypothesis, oversensitivity to dopamine produces chronic overstimulation in the brain. The patient becomes hypersensitive to stimulation from the immediate environment and loses touch with vibrations coming from greater distances. This leads to cognitive overload and a decline in more refined thinking abilities. A person in this condition has difficulty organizing the world by going beyond the immediate information he receives.
Coordinating the varied functions of the brain requires strong yang, or centripetal power. Ornstein and Sobel
describe these varied functions as follows:
The brain is divided into very many independent and well-defined areas, each of which possesses a rich concentration certain abilities. In this view, which is becoming more and more established, the brain is seen not as a single organ, but as a collage of different and independent systems, each of which contains component abilities.
In schizophrenia, the yang power of coordination and control breaks down. The various centers of the brain may start to act independently. The spiral of coordination begins to spin out of control. Loss of control is due to an overly yin condition in the brain and nerve cells. People with schizophrenia often show signs of excess sugar consumption. Refined sugar disrupts the balance of vitamins and minerals in the body. A common symptom of schizophrenia is numerous white spots on the fingernails, a sign of mineral deficiency resulting from the repeated consumption of simple sugar. Many schizophrenics have a sweet odor on their breath, also the result of consuming sugar. A variety of mineral deficiencies and imbalances are common among schizophrenics, especially deficiencies in zinc, manganese, magnesium, and sodium, and these result primarily from the repeated consumption of sugar.
The regular intake of simple sugars depletes B-complex vitamins that are necessary to smooth mental functioning. More than fifty years ago, it was discovered that vitamin B deficiencies were related to mental illness. About 10 percent of the people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to mental hospitals in the South were found to be suffering from pellegra, a vitamin B deficiency. When they were placed on corrective diets, their previously diagnosed “schizophrenia” cleared up.
A naturally balanced, macrobiotic diet, rich in B vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients, could help many patients with schizophrenia. Restoring the brain and nervous system to a more normal balance of yin and yang is the first step toward the recovery from mental illness.
Source: This essay is from persnal notes and lectures, including research for the book, Crime and Diet: The Macrobiotic Approach, Japan Publications, Tokyo and New York, 1987, © all rights reserved.
The practice of macrobiotics is based on the understanding of food as energy. Electrons and protons are not solid particles, but condensed packets of energy. Everything is actually energy, everything is composed of vibration. There is no unchanging or fixed substance in the universe. Therefore, our understanding of food incorporates, but is not limited to, theories of modern nutrition. In modern nutrition, food is viewed as matter. In reality, there is an invisible quality to food (and to life itself) that cannot be measured scientifically. We must perceive that invisible quality directly through our intuition.
In macrobiotics, we employ a very simple tool for understanding the movement of energy. We understand food in terms of yin (expansion) and yang (contraction). All foods are made up of varying degrees of these two basic forces. We use this understanding to see how food affects us in a very dynamic and practical way. By understanding food as energy, we see that it affects not only our physical condition, but our mind, emotions, and even our spirituality. These invisible aspects of life are a function of the quality of energy we manifest.
If we eat a food such as steak, which is very yang or contracted, we are naturally attracted to foods with the opposite quality of energy. So we eat the steak with potatoes, alcohol, or a sugary dessert such as ice cream. All of these foods are extremely yin. In order to balance extremes, we have to add many things that we don’t need. We wind up taking in excess fat, excess protein, excess carbohydrate, and excess water. Our body is constantly being challenged.
However, what happens when our main food is more balanced? If you look at a nutritional analysis of whole grains–brown rice, barley, millet, whole wheat–you discover that their ratio of minerals to protein and protein to carbohydrate approximates one to seven. Short grain brown rice comes closest to the one to seven ratio, that, nutritionally speaking, represents the balancing point between expansive and contractive energies on the planet. If you eat whole grains every day, your main foods are balanced in themselves. It is much easier to balance yin and yang in your diet as a whole. Eating whole grains as your primary food makes it much easier to maintain optimal nutritional and energetic balance.
Macrobiotics recommends that our foods be as natural as possible. Today, however, people are using poor quality table salt, treated city water, animal protein instead of plant protein, saturated animal fat instead of vegetable oil, chemically processed rather than organic foods, and plenty of simple sugars instead of complex carbohydrates. It is no wonder that modern people’s health is suffering, because the quality of each of these nutritional factors is poor.
The understanding of food as energy can guide us not only in creating an optimal diet, but in the use of simple home remedies for the relief of illness. For example, suppose someone has a kidney stone. What type of energy does that represent, more expansive, yin energy or more condensed, yang energy? A kidney stone is condensed, something like hard, frozen energy. In order to offset that, we need to apply something with the opposite, activating energy. Should we apply heat or cold? We should apply heat. Heat will activate this frozen energy and make it melt and break down. A hot ginger compress can be applied for that purpose.
Fever represents the opposite type of energy. Fever is an example of hot, overactive energy. What would balance that? Something with cool, inert energy. Ice is too cold for this purpose. Ice is so cold that it makes the body contract, so that the excess that is trying to come out through the fever will, instead, be held inside. Something a little milder is needed. Also, our body is part of the animal world, so something from the plant kingdom helps to make balance. A simple macrobiotic remedy for fever is to apply a cabbage leaf or another leafy green directly to the forehead. Another remedy is to take raw tofu, which is cool and inert, mash it, and apply it to the forehead. This application, known as a tofu plaster, draws heat out of the body. It can lower a fever in a matter of minutes. The principle of energy balance can help you manage a variety of minor conditions at home without aspirin or other medications.
Macrobiotics also teaches that we respect biodiversity, or the tremendous proliferation of life on earth. Many people are concerned with preserving the wealth of species on our planet because biodiversity is now being threatened by civilization. Many species, including those in tropical rain forests, are disappearing. Others are in danger.
Scientists have discovered that amphibians such as frogs and salamanders are diminishing, perhaps because of ozone depletion or acid rain. The tiger, the symbol of power and beauty, is vanishing from the wild. However, in nature, biodiversity is the rule, not the exception. To reflect this in our eating, we need to practice what I call dietary diversity. There is a wide proliferation of life on earth, a wide range of species, and to translate that into our day to day eating, we need plenty of variety in our selection of foods, and also in our cooking methods. Macrobiotic eating is not narrow or strict. Through macrobiotics, we discover a wide range of healthful new foods.
We also need to respect the endless diversity of individual needs. Although we share certain fundamental things in common, each of us is different. If we are active, we should eat a certain way for physical activity. If we are sitting behind a desk, our diet should be somewhat different. Men and women also need to eat differently. Between men and women, who can eat more animal food? Men. Who can eat more raw salad and sweets? Women. Children and adults also need to eat differently. Babies are already yang–small and contracted–so their diets need to be more yin–soft and sweet-tasting, with little or no salt. If you have eaten plenty of animal food in the past, in order to restore balance, you need to base your diet on plant foods. Or if you have a health problem caused by your past way of eating, you can emphasize certain foods in order to offset that.
Benefits of Macrobiotics
Now, what are the benefits of macrobiotic living? Eating this way can help us maintain optimal health and achieve longevity. People such as the Hunza in Kashmir, known for their good health and longevity, eat grains and vegetables as their main food. They were eating more or less a macrobiotic diet adapted to their mountainous terrain and climate. The first benefit of macrobiotic eating is physical health and longevity.
A second benefit is peace of mind. That peace of mind comes from the awareness that we are living and eating in harmony with the universe. We are living in harmony with the movement of energy. That is the source of inner peace. Our mind and emotions are very much conditioned by what we eat. If you feed your child plenty of sugar, what kind of mind or emotions result? Children become hyperactive or cry a lot, and become overly emotional. If we eat plenty of meat, what kind of mind and emotions are produced? We become aggressive or in the extreme, even violent. What happens when we eat plenty of nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes or potatoes? We become depressed. Incidentally, these vegetables have recently been found to contain nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and that may explain why many people find it difficult to stop eating these vegetables.
As your mind and emotions become more stable and peaceful, you naturally develop a sense of family and community. Modern values–such as competition, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, etc.–have all arisen from a carnivorous diet. Grain-eating people develop a completely opposite view. Instead of seeing scarcity on the earth, we realize that we live in a universe of abundance. Rather than fighting over resources, the issue becomes how to share the tremendous natural wealth on our planet. Meat-eating tends to produce isolation, something like the lone hunter or lone wolf, rather than a sense of community. Hunters such as lions and hyenas are constantly fighting with each other. Grain-eaters develop a completely opposite way of thinking based on cooperation.
Meat-eating also leads to a more nomadic lifestyle, following the herd, and we tend to become unsettled, rather than stable or settled down. Grain-eating agricultural life is more stable, more settled. Which way of life encourages more stable family life? When the men are off hunting all season, or if the entire village has to constantly be on the move, it is difficult to maintain stability. Macrobiotic living strengthens our community and family life. People naturally desire to help and support each other. Through macrobiotics, you become friends with everyone. As we continue to eat this way, our concept of family expands to include all of humanity. We reconnect with our human family on planet earth.
Macrobiotic living can also help us gain spiritual understanding. Do you think it is easy to meditate if we eat hamburgers, or if our mind is very angry or upset, or if we are always stressed out? Or if we are eating sugar or drinking Coke all the time, so that our mind is often hyperactive and scattered, can we really stabilize and center our energy? These conditions make if very difficult to enter into deep, tranquil, and peaceful meditation. In order to allow spiritual energy to smoothly channel through us, and to use that energy, macrobiotic eating –grains and vegetables– is ideal.
We should not forget that all great spiritual traditions included some form of dietary discipline. In the Orient, the cooking in Buddhist and Taoist monasteries was called shojin ryiori, or “cooking for spiritual development.” These traditions were based on the understanding that food accelerates our spiritual consciousness. By selecting the proper food, we develop our spiritual quality. In these traditions, do you think animal food was a part of their diets? No. They were completely vegetarian. However, in traditional times, vegetarian eating, especially in cooler climates, meant eating cooked brown rice, daikon and other vegetables, tofu and bean products, etc., rather than a lot of raw fruit or salad.
Finally, as we achieve good health, peace of mind, a sense of family and community, and spiritual understanding, we gain the ability to play and have a big dream or adventure in this life. Macrobiotics is based on change or transmutation. In other words, we try to gain the ability to change things into their opposite according to our free will. So if we are experiencing difficulty, using macrobiotic understanding, we try to change that into pleasure or enjoyment. Or if we are experiencing sickness, we self-transform that into health. Or if the world is in danger of war, as our adventure, as our play, as our challenge, we transform that into peace. You can even gain the ability to transmute or transform any type of food into your health and vitality. In other words, you embrace your antagonist and turn it into your friend. As George Ohsawa said, ultimately there are no restrictions. The realization of total freedom, or the freedom to play endlessly in this infinite universe, is the ultimate benefit of macrobiotic living.
Source: Basics and Benefits of Macrobiotics, Copyright 1995 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.
One of the most basic principles of macrobiotics is to eat an ecological, environmentally – based diet. That means to rely primarily on foods native to the climate and environment in which we live. Until the modern age, people were more or less dependent on the products of their regional agriculture. Foods that grew in their area formed the basis of their daily diet. It was not until modern technology that it became possible for people to base their diets on foods from regions with far different climates.
Today, it is common for people to consume bananas from South America, sugar from the Caribbean, pineapples from the South Pacific, or kiwi from New Zealand. However, our health depends on our ability to adapt to the changes in our environment. When we eat foods from a climate that is very different from ours, we lose that adaptability. As society moved away from its traditional, ecologically-based diet, there has been a corresponding rise in chronic illness. Therefore, for optimal health, we need to return to a way of eating based on foods produced in our local environment, or at least on foods grown in a climate that is similar to ours.
Foods with more yang, or contracted energy remain viable longer and can come from a greater distance than foods with more yin, or expansive energy. Sea salt and sea vegetables are examples. They are rich in contracted minerals and can come from the oceans around the world, provided these waters are within your hemisphere. Grains, especially with the outer husk attached, remain intact for a long time, even thousands of years, and can come from anywhere in your continent. Beans also travel well and can come from a similarly wide area. However, vegetables and fruits are more yin or expansive; they decompose more rapidly than grains and beans, and unless they are naturally dried or pickled, are best taken from your immediate area.
Changing with Our Environment
It is also important to adapt our cooking and eating to seasonal changes. The modern way of eating does not do this, as people eat pretty much the same diet throughout the year. High temperatures and bright sunshine produce a stronger charge of upward energy in the environment. Water evaporates more rapidly and plants become lush and expanded. Spring and summer are times of upward, expansive energy. Then toward the end of summer, energy starts to change, moving downward and inward. In colder and darker conditions, such as those of autumn and winter, downward or contracting energy is stronger.
How can we adapt to these changes? During spring and summer, we can make our diet lighter and fresher, meaning that we use less fire in cooking. We do not need as much fire in our cooking because fire is already there in the form of strong sunshine. When it is hot, we do not need warmth from our food. As we move into autumn and winter, with cooler temperatures and stronger downward energy, we make our food hearty and warming by using more fire in cooking.
As the seasons change, we also need to utilize the natural products of our environment. Our gardens are filled with vegetables and other foods during the spring and summer, so we can naturally eat plenty of fresh garden produce during these times. For example, summer is the time when corn is readily available, so it is fine to eat plenty of fresh corn in that season.
From season to season, atmospheric energy alternates as part of the daily cycle. Upward energy is stronger in the morning, while downward energy is stronger in the afternoon and evening. In order to eat in harmony with this cycle, breakfast should be light, not heavy. A breakfast of eggs and bacon is dense and heavy, and goes against the movement of energy. Breakfast grains can be cooked with more water, so that they become lighter and more easily digested. Dinner can include a greater number of side dishes, and we normally eat more in the evening, since at that time, atmospheric energy is more condensed and inward-moving. Lunch can also be quick and light, since at noon, atmospheric energy is very active and expansive. Quick light cooking, such as that in which we reheat leftovers, can be done at that time.
Respecting Human Needs
Another important principle is to eat according to our distinctive needs as a species. Our teeth reveal the ideal proportion of foods in the human diet. We have thirty-two adult teeth. There are twenty molars and premolars. The word molar is a Latin word for millstone, or the stones used to crush wheat and other grains into flour. These teeth are not suited for animal food, but for crushing or grinding grains, beans, seeds, and other tough plant fibers. There are also eight front incisors (from the Latin, to cut) and these are well-suited for cutting vegetables. We also have four canine teeth. The canines can be used for animal food, not necessarily meat, but foods such as white-meat fish. The ideal proportion of foods as reflected in the teeth is five parts grain and other tough fibrous foods, two parts vegetables, and one part animal food. The ideal ratio between plant and animal food is seven to one.
The modern diet does not reflect this pattern. Rather than whole grains, meat or other types of animal food are the primary foods. Vegetables are often used as garnish to the main course of animal food. Cereal grains are eaten almost as an afterthought, and are eaten in the form of white bread, white rolls, and other highly refined products. Refined bread or rolls are used simply as a vehicle to carry a hot dog, hamburger, or some other type of animal food. Grains are an incidental part of the modern diet.
Today, people are eating the opposite of what they should be eating. That is why so many health problems exist in the modern world. One of the clearest messages I received from the books of George Ohsawa was that plant-based diets are superior to animal-based diets. When Ohsawa presented that idea many years ago, Western doctors and nutritionists laughed. They believed that animal protein was superior to plant protein, and that cultures in which animal protein formed the basis of the diet were more advanced than cultures that relied on grains and other plant foods.
However, that view is changing. The vanguard of modern nutrition now agrees that plant-based diets are better for our health. If we compare the health patterns of people who are eating plant-based diets with those who are eating animal food, the grain- and vegetable-eaters have far lower rates of chronic disease. There is an exception to this of course. If you would like to eat animal food, it would be better for you to move to the Far North, above the Arctic Circle. Then you can eat plenty of animal food. But if you live in Houston, where it is a hundred degrees in the summer, then it is out of order to eat barbecued steak. It does not fulfill our biological needs nor does it make our condition harmonious with our environment.
Macrobiotics also recommends respecting dietary tradition. In the Bible we read, “give us this day our daily bread.” Bread is symbolic of grain itself. Wheat, barley, and other grains were considered the staff of life. In the Far East, rice was considered the staple food, the staff of life. Native Americans respected corn as their staff of life. Wherever you look, no matter what your tradition is, if you go back far enough, you find that your ancestors were eating grains as their principal foods. They used local vegetables and beans as secondary foods. They were eating much less animal food than at present.
Nightshade vegetables, especially tomatoes and potatoes, were originally not a part of the diet in Europe. These vegetables were brought to Europe from Peru. The original Italian diet did not include tomato sauce. It was very close to a macrobiotic diet. Originally they did not use much meat, they used more seafood, because Italy is a peninsula. They did not use butter, but used olive oil in cooking. Instead of umeboshi plums, they used pickled olives. The basis of the diet was whole grain pasta and rice. As people abandoned these traditional eating patterns in favor of the modern diet, their rates of degenerative disease, especially heart disease and cancer, increased dramatically.
Source: Basics and Benefits of Macrobiotics, Copyright © 1995 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.