eating in harmony with nature
The solution is simple. Start right now eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, raw nuts and seeds. As you replace your industrial-chemical foodlike substances with real foods, your life will change amazingly. It may take you weeks or months to do this—to transition to a healthy life—and to eliminate toxic addictions from your diet and break bad old habits. But the results will shock you: no more constipation, no more horrible itching from hives, no more stomach upsets, no more headaches, no more need for all your over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Sleep will improve; your moods will lighten; anxiety and depression will lessen; you will feel strong and energetic.
Weight will drop away with no big effort, no calorie counting and no special packaged diet foods. When that weight falls off, your knees and ankles will feel better, less pounded on by gravity.
Take the plunge. Walk the walk. Join us on the other side of the energy highway where real hunger reigns (not that addictive craving for junk that drives you now). Why be sick when you can be well? There are millions of us smiling, waiting for you to join the Food and Movement Revolution.
Japan, with its thousand-year-old vegan culinary tradition called “Buddhist temple cookery” (shòjin ryòri), is the place to start when thinking about food therapy. While it is true that several ancient medical traditions—Hippocrates (the Greek father of Western medicine), Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurveda from India—all use food as medicine, the Japanese system has evolved into a modern worldwide movement: macrobiotics (see Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions, by Elizabeth Andoh, 2010). The Western doctors you will meet in our forum—the ones who use “plant-based whole foods” to heal instead of using drugs—have either learned a lot from macrobiotics or still have much to learn from there.
In macrobiotic thinking, there is a ratio of food groups you should eat:
- 50% whole grains
- 20% vegetables
- 15% beans, miso, tempeh, tofu
- 15% seaweed, seeds, nuts.
In the macrobiotic system, little or no oil is used; fruit is also used sparingly. Meat and dairy are thought to be harmful. Fish can be eaten once a week or so.
This tradition celebrates “abundance—of grains, legumes, roots, shoots, leafy plants (aquatic and terrestrial), shrubs, herbs, berries, seeds, tree fruits and nuts—not abstinence (doing without meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy). It is about nourishing ourselves with what nature provides, cleverly and respectfully applying human technique and technology in the process,” (Kansha, p. 1).
This system reverses the way almost all Americans approach eating. Foods that are on the periphery for us need to come to the center. Americans eat a lot of bread, for instance, but, for optimum health, we should be eating the whole grains themselves rather than crushing them down to flour. And these whole grains become the center of the meal rather than a platform for animal products.
Rachel Hedrick, as a nutritarian chef (with years of experience at a famous Austin, Texas macrobiotic restaurant), has discovered that most foods fall into two categories: building and cleansing. The standard American diet stresses building foods, such as meat, dairy, eggs, and refined carbs. When you have an excess of building foods, you are going to build something. In the current American lifestyle, what gets built is fat and tumors and clogged arteries and insulin resistance. There is no doubt that our public health trends are dangerous and lead to drastic imbalances that eventually cause chronic diseases, obesity and the breakdown of our immune systems.
Cleansing foods, such as radishes, turnips, onions, and shitake mushrooms, have a unique effect on human physiology. These vegetables dissolve fat, lower bad cholesterol and excess mucus, and lead to weight loss. A diet based on whole grains is also cleansing. When the grain is eaten in its entirety, with the outer cortex intact (germ and fiber and bran), the nutrients are absorbed into us gradually, and the fiber flushes out fats, toxic chemicals and waste products.
Leading American doctors—the few courageous ones who are pioneering a new health care revolution—focus on a system of eating that closely resembles the macrobiotic template. There is one place, however, where most of these doctors seriously diverge from the macrobiotic way—on the consumption of fruit. Macrobiotic thinking holds that fruit is an extreme food that shouldn’t be consumed often; most of these doctors, on the other hand, believe that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (“eat the rainbow”) is the way to lasting health. They especially recommend berries because of the slow absorption of their sugars into our bodies.
Each doctor has a slightly different approach, but all agree that plant-based eating (centered on high-nutrient-density foods) is the way to become or stay healthy. These doctors are Dean Ornish, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard, Mark Hyman, Andrew Weil, David Servan-Schrieber and Daphne Miller. Using whole foods, they have prevented and reversed heart disease, treated cancer to shrink tumors, cured diabetes, balanced the hormonal system, and helped millions of people lose weight and recover their health. One scientist, T. Colin Campbell, with a lifetime of nutrition research at Cornell University (The China Study, 2006), is the George Washington of this medical and food revolution. Without his brilliant scientific studies (and without the clinical work of his adherents), it would not be possible to confirm the unity of ancient Japanese Buddhist culinary wisdom and this new direction in modern Western medicine.
Eating the standard American diet (high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods= “building foods”) takes the body quickly from imbalances to disease. There are three stages. Stage 1 is a series of imbalances: fatigue, aches and pains, nervousness, tension, itchiness, feeling chilled, fidgety, low sexual drive, and indigestion. Stage 2 shows signs of accumulation and discharge: sinus congestion, oily or dry skin, constipation or diarrhea, skin eruptions, recurring headaches, damp hands and feet, recurring infections, stiff joints and spine, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Stage 3 is when the troubles become chronic and, therefore, much harder to eliminate. Remember it takes many years for cancer to develop from isolated cells into full-blown tumors! Stage 3 troubles include migraine headaches, persistent infections, cataracts, long-standing digestive upsets, eating disorders, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, impotence, infertility, kidney and liver diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and heart disease.
Just because a person has reached stage 3 conditions does not mean that things are hopeless or that she needs a drastic medical intervention like drugs or surgery or radiation. Most of the pioneering doctors mentioned above have used food and movement therapies, as well as stress reduction and relaxation techniques, to overcome even the most debilitating diseases. But patients in such dire circumstances have to be willing to radically remake their lifestyles and reject longstanding habits that have brought them to the verge of death.
You have to realize that most of the foods you think “taste good” have been engineered to do so in food industry laboratories. First, these foodlike substances have been made addictive (“tasty”) in labs by the complex manipulation and combination of salt, sugar and fat molecules, with the addition of sensory-pleasing chemicals (flavorings and dyes). Second, these foodlike substances are tested on animal and human subjects to make sure they are addictive enough. Third, the foodlike substances that work best at “pleasing” these subjects are given seductive names and packages to further attract consumers. Fourth, the quality of the ingredients in these foodlike substances is constantly being downgraded as cheaper chemicals come on the market; this is done because what matters to the food corporations is profit not health. Fifth, they add chemical minerals and vitamins back into the foodlike substances to “fortify” them, replacing the real nutrients they have removed; these added chemicals have a longer shelf life than real nutrients, so again they are more profitable for the corporations making them; the problem with this replacement strategy is that the chemical nutrients are not accepted by our bodies and are mostly just flushed out; this has been shown multiple times in unbiased scientific studies. Sixth, and lastly, the food industry pays dietitians (to promote these foodlike substances) and scientists to do studies that lie about the true nutritional value of their products. In the world of corporate PR, these industry shills are called “independent” scientists, when, in fact, they are the exact opposite.
The human digestive system and our genes have evolved to function smoothly by eating whole foods grown in nature. When, instead, we throw into our bodies the industrial foodlike substances and chemicals stocked on the shelves of our supermarkets, we throw our whole complex biological system out of whack. That’s why obesity, diabetes, chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases have skyrocketed in the past fifty years. That’s why people in poor (less developed) countries that can’t afford our “luxuries” are much healthier than us; they eat real whole foods; we don’t. That’s why the African diet is so much healthier than the African-American diet. That’s why 50% of African Americans will suffer from diabetes in their lifetimes.
We live in the USA in a bubble of illusion, imagining ourselves strong and healthy and modern, when, in fact, we are dying from “diseases of affluence” that come mainly from “the bitter harvest of the toxic American diet,” (Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, 2007, p. 95).
A number of doctors and scientists, including “two-time Nobel prize-winning chemist Dr. Linus Pauling,” believe that “you can trace [almost] every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency” (Dr. Pauling quoted in Thrive Foods, by Brendan Brazier, 2011, p. 34).