Congratulations on your “not recommended” rating by Jeanne Goldberg on the Tufts University Navigator Website. This tells me that the Foundation is on the right track in its goal of restoring nutrient-dense foods in the diet. I intend to continue reading Wise Traditions for many years to come. Please keep up the good work.
San Gabriel, CA
Change Can Be Painful
The supplanting of native diets with the typical Western diet of white sugar and flour, vegetable oils and highly processed foods is indeed tragic. However, I am encouraged that there are local groups promoting a return to native diets, albeit with limited success.
The Western diet is so attractive and fits right in with the Western life-style of corporate ladder-climbing and all the stress and competitiveness that go along with it. I believe that the Western life-style feeds the need and desire for the Western diet, and once addicted to it the diet then allows the time to pursue the Western life-style, an interesting cycle that is so difficult to break out of.
Of necessity, most of us are caught up in the life-style that pervades our society, and when we seek to change our diet to more traditional ways of eating, we still have to go to work everyday and compete to make enough money to support the way of living we have chosen and become accustomed to.
Change is painful, but anything worth changing requires a little discomfort, like starting to exercise muscles which have atrophied from disuse. I believe that a more traditional life-style, in the midst of our modern-day world, is still possible, but not easy. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. There’s a big difference.
Regarding the recent article by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig entitled “Inside Japan,” I would like to comment on several statements that I felt were misleading or incorrect:
1. “As long as the diet is rich in fat-soluble vitamins from fish and organ meats, and minerals from broth and seaweed, white rice can be consumed without ill effects.” I know of no research data that supports this statement directly. Where’s the evidence? It goes without saying that any diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals will be more healthy than a diet lacking those elements–all other things being equal. But wouldn’t it be better to consume a diet “rich in fat-soluble vitamins . . . and minerals,” plus have the additional nutrients found in brown rice? Sally Fallon’s own book Nourishing Traditions states, “Brown rice is highest of all grains in B vitamins, and also contains iron, vitamin E, and some protein. These nutrients are almost completely missing in white rice.” Why would anyone want to go without the essential nutrients found in properly prepared brown rice, and instead, consume nutrient-deficient white rice that is the product of modern refining techniques? Is this in line with Weston A. Price’s teachings that the traditional way is best? I think not! Using the authors’ rationale, we could also say that white flour has no “adverse effects” as long as it is consumed with a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Will we find that the next edition of Mrs. Fallon’s book recommends white flour as well as white rice? Dr. Price would turn over in his grave!
2. “Macrobiotic proponents claim that the traditional (Japanese) diet was based on whole brown rice, not refined rice.” The macrobiotic proponents are correct. According to the Encyclopedia Britanica: “The Chinese and East Indians, who ate brown rice for centuries, began to suffer from widespread malnutrition after the British introduced white rice.” In regards to Japan, “Not too long ago the daily meal of the farmers in this area consisted of rice and barley with miso and pickled vegetables . . . . The traditional brown rice-and-vegetable diet of the East is very different from that of most Western societies” (The One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka, a former Japanese agricultural customs inspector who pioneered sustainable “natural” farming techniques in Japan.).
3. “The Japanese prefer . . . white rice, and this may reflect a profound intuition that when brown rice is consumed on a daily basis, it should be refined not whole, unless a long and careful preparation (of soaking and cooking) is observed.” In fact, the Japanese did soak their brown, whole rice. “In Japan, where there is an almost mystical aura surrounding the planting, harvesting and preparation of rice, it is believed that soaking rice before cooking releases the life energy and gives the eater a more peaceful soul” (Marie Simmons, Rice the Amazing Grain). The Japanese had the same intuitive wisdom that led the Indians and the Europeans to soak their whole grains. It is also fair to assume that the Japanese now prefer white rice for the same reasons that the Indians prefer white rice and the Americans prefer white flour products. Let’s not suggest that the use of white rice is some kind of Asian intuitive wisdom.
5. “But is the macrobiotic diet actually representative of the Japanese diet? Not really.” And that’s a good thing! The modern Japanese diet featuring white rice is as undesirable as the modern American diet that uses white flour products. Both are not traditional diets, because they do not use whole grains. Also, it should be pointed out that macrobiotics does suggest the soaking of brown rice. (See The Complete Guide To Macrobiotic Cooking by Aveline Kushi, once the world’s foremost macrobiotic cooking instructor.)
6. “Macrobiotic cookbooks contain recipes for broth and pickled foods, but the importance of these is not stressed . . . .” Unfortunately, this is more misinformation about macrobiotics. The Aveline Kushi cookbook mentioned above devotes an entire chapter to both soup/stocks and fermented pickles. Kushi says of pickles, “Pickles increase the appetite, aid digestion, and strengthen the intestines . . . . In Japan, almost every family made their own pickles and enjoyed them daily at each meal. We customarily ate pickles at tea time in the mid-afternoon, as well as for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
In conclusion, I am sorry to say that the authors appear to have a negative bias regarding Asian foods and macrobiotics. They suggest that people eat whole grains, such as wheat, buckwheat, rye, etc., yet at the same time they recommend that people eat refined rice; they suggest that people consume a traditional diet in the spirit of Weston A. Price’s discoveries, yet they recommend that people eat white rice as is found in the modern, non-traditional Japanese diet; and finally, they unfairly criticize and misrepresent macrobiotics, which is the one popular dietary discipline that recommends truly traditional food practices similar to their own teachings. While I do not agree with macrobiotics 100 percent, and I think a few of Fallon’s and Enig’s criticisms of macrobiotics are accurate, let’s give credit where credit is due.
Former editor of Spectrum Magazine
Editor’s Response: The question we are trying to solve is whether white rice is a traditional part of the Japanese diet or something that was only brought in with modern milling machines. Reference to white rice was made as far back as Confucius, so hand-milled white rice has been available since ancient times, if only for the wealthy. What modern machinery did was make white rice broadly available to consumers of lesser income. The milling companies now keep the bran which formerly was fed to chickens, ducks, pigs and carp, with the nutrients returning to the human diet via the animals and their meat.
Soaking does indeed make brown rice more digestible, but is soaking a sufficient processing technique in cultures that consume rice with every meal? The Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods describes rice preparation methods in India and the Philippines. In both regions, the rice was wet ground and soaked for at least 22 hours, with the addition of an inoculum to encourage the fermentation process. It would be interesting to know whether such preparation methods were used in ancient Japan. We question whether overnight soaking of the intact grains is adequate for antinutrient neutralization when rice is consumed as the main source of calories.
Many macrobiotic books do indeed contain recipes for broth and pickles, but only small portions of fish are recommended and many teachers encourage students to consume mostly brown rice as a way to spiritual enlightenment. This is a far cry from the healthy traditional Japanese diet with high levels of animal foods. A typical meal will contain several servings of fish or meat with a single serving of rice–not the reverse.
Given the evidence presented here, it seems safe to conclude that rice in Japan was consumed both whole and refined, with many gradations in between. White rice was consumed by the wealthy who would also have been able to afford a wide variety of animal foods that provided plentiful nutrients to offset the empty calories of the rice. But the rice was valuable, nonetheless, in serving as the raw material for the body to make saturated fat. The peasant diet of soaked (but not fermented) whole brown rice and lacking in animal foods presents the distinct possibility of many deficiencies, particularly zinc.
Or White Rice?
In 1979, my wife Jan and I studied miso-making at the Onozaki family miso shop in Yaita, Japan, which is about 100 miles north of Tokyo. The Onozakis are a very traditional family and live in a 300-year-old house that looks and feels like an historic museum. During our stay we took lots of notes and asked many questions. The Onozakis had an 800-year-old record of their family history and documents that dated back centuries. One night I asked Mr. Onozaki whether he ever heard of Japanese people eating brown rice. Although he was aware of modern health fads recommending brown rice, he said that, as far as he knew, traditionally the Japanese never ate brown rice. He said before the advent of manual and electric milling equipment, rice was milled using a very labor-intense process. Since it took so much time and energy to mill rice to pure white, poor people often ate barley or only partially milled rice. However, this was for economic rather than health reasons. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that even today, Japanese people can go to their local rice miller and get brown rice milled to any degree they want, from 10 percent milled to 100 percent white rice. Mr. Onozaki went on to say that traditionally brown rice was considered hard to digest and not very good tasting.
When we asked the Onozakis to try making amazake from sweet brown rice, however, they first milled it to take off about 50 percent of the bran. To our surprise they liked the taste and began selling it to local people along with their miso and miso pickles.
We also noticed what a small part unfermented soy food products play in the traditional Japanese diet. Although we were served fermented soy foods, such as soy sauce, miso and natto every day, Mrs. Onozaki only served tofu about once a week and never soy milk. When we asked about this, we were simply told that unfermented soy is “bad for digestion.”
More on the Rice Debate
In response to your questions about the Japanese diet, I do not really know much about the brown versus white rice eating habits. I think people used to eat brown rice more often than now, in general. It was somebody’s job (usually women) to pound the brown rice with a stick to make it white. But peasants 150 years ago probably could not afford to eat rice daily, but ate other grains, such as millet, barnyard grass and so forth. During World War II and right after the war, many could not have rice as much either (or adequate amounts of food, for that matter), and had very thin rice soup with potatoes, for example. Right after the war, people were starving. Purchasing rice and other food illegally from farmers was very common, and the police were busy arresting those who did. These was a judge who died of hunger who was in charge of dealing with those who did illegal purchasing and trading. He did not buy food outside of the amount that was provided by the government, which led him to die from malnutrition. Lately there is this “health” fad, and people are eating more brown rice than, say, ten years ago.
The Right Snack
I have a brother who is married to a Japanese girl. They live in Singapore but have come to visit three times. Their daughter, my niece Emily, has pretty much been raised on a Japanese diet. In the US, we see children wandering around snacking on Cheerios that are held in a little Tupperware container. Emily has a little Tupperware container too, but hers is filled with tiny dried anchovies that she eats like potato chips! I drove my sister-in-law to a local Asian food market to buy groceries and she bought a bag of these things (they are kept in the freezer). The package label lists an enormous amount of calcium and iron!
And when Keiko, my sister-in-law, made miso soup, I got to see her make what is apparently a “fast food” version of fish broth. She took the little dried anchovies and put them into boiling water and boiled them for awhile. She said you could either leave them in or fish them out (which she did). She then added the miso, cabbage and other ingredients (she added a little bit of tofu). So, I can vouch for the fact that vegetarians are greatly mistaken when they think that Japanese eat miso soup that is entirely vegetarian.
As an experiment lately, I have tried adding a handful of these little dried anchovy fish to the chicken broth I was making. On Sunday, I boiled the broth for a few hours and then put it into my crockpot, on low, and then cooked the broth overnight. When I strained the broth the next day, I couldn’t find anything that I recognized as remains of the anchovies, so apparently they must have dissolved. The broth has a bit of extra tang to it, but it doesn’t taste fishy and doesn’t smell fishy at all. If anything, it simply enhances the vinegar flavor.
Lafayette Hills, PA
Our family would like to thank you for getting the “real” information out there. More than fourteen years ago, my husband was the first macrobiotic teacher to bring to light the dangers of a lack of protein and fat and too much phytic acid in the macrobiotic diet. Needless to say, this caused a lot of waves and was frowned upon by many of the religious adherents to macrobiotics while at the same time receiving a very positive response from the public.
Much of the damage we witnessed was from excessive amounts of grain, particularly brown rice, along with a lack of animal proteins and fats. Various symptoms of malnutrition were not unusual among both the adult populations as well as the children. On the macrobiotic diet I developed hypothyroidism and must rely on Armour thyroid to this day, despite years of acupuncture, homeopathic and herbal treatments. I was also infertile and it wasn’t until I started to eat small amounts of red meat that I conceived and now have four healthy children all born at home with quick and easy labors.
Our first two children, twin girls, were conceived on a liberalized macrobiotic diet, but still limited in animal fats. They have always been healthy and cavity free. However, both of them will need to get braces on their teeth. Our next two children have robust constitutions with broad faces, ears flat to the head and wider dental arches and nostrils than our twins. I know that these qualities are the result of a balanced and varied diet of grains, beans, vegetables and sufficient amounts of quality animal products and fats.
It is a shame when I see children with weak constitutions that are always sick, especially when it could have been prevented if only the parents had known where to educate themselves about these matters. My heart truly goes out to these children and that is why, like you at Wise Traditions, my husband and I will continue to educate people about the dangers of soy foods and the benefits of a healthy diet and life-style. Thanks again!
North Ferrisburg, VT
The China Study
Thank you for your wonderful work. I am so happy to find people who think just like I do. You should do a review of Colin Campbell and the so-called “Cornell China Study.” Having worked in China with several researchers, I feel this whole study may be a fraud. No original data is published anywhere, just Campbell’s extremely biased conclusions that the Chinese are healthy because of their plant-based diet. The Chinese coauthors publish on their own very different papers. One published a paper that concluded that the assumed superiority of Chinese health could be attributed to greater consumption of antioxidants particularly green tea. (And let’s not forget that their sugar consumption is 10 percent of ours.)
I say “assumed” superiority because the number of crooked teeth in China is just beyond belief. No one would want to trade a quality Western diet for an average Chinese diet. My biggest fear is the Chinese will be influenced by our agribusiness interests to take their new spending power and waste it on Coca-Cola instead of increasing consumption of animal protein and animal fats.
Editor’s Response: We have posted just such a review on our website, in the article on China under Traditional Diets. You are right. The claims that Colin Campbell makes about his findings in China just do not hold up when one reviews the actual data from his study. There is no evidence that the high consumption of vegetables, legumes and rice is associated with better health in China. (Addendum: Read also Chris Masterjohn’s review of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.)
Broth as Medicine
A month ago, I was with a friend while she was having her fourth home birth. She had asked me beforehand to make her some chicken soup for after the birth which I did (the broth for it was made from chicken backs and simmered for 10 hours). During labor, her contractions diminished in intensity and the midwife told her a slightly scary story about a woman who had not had enough fluids during her labor, so my friend decided that the chicken soup smelled really good and that she would like some of the broth. After a while her contractions began to increase in intensity again. At one point she said she thought the broth was doing it because every time she had a gulp she would get a contraction. She experimented a while longer and even the midwife began to feel there was something to it. Then I remembered reading an article on your web site about minerals, electrolytes and labor, and realized the abundant and easily assimilated minerals in the long-cooked broth were doing just what the supplements would. (I’m also currently taking a college human biology class, and realize the huge amount of sodium, potassium and calcium all those muscle contractions use up.)
After the relatively quick and successful birth of the beautiful nine-pound boy, the midwife asked me for the recipe of the “magic broth.” It seems she’s always interested in ways to move through a stalled labor. And now my friend has gotten into making broth every week. Broth truly is beautiful.
New Milford, CT
Editor’s Response: See Kaayla Daniel’s article “Why Broth Is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin”
Broth as a Magic Ingredient
Your work has motivated me to find real milk. With determination I found a farm where I could get it. Although I must travel 80 miles to get milk I consider it worth the time and money. The farmer follows pasture-grazing and is organic.
I have enjoyed making fermented foods and stock. One day my mother-in-law joined us for a roast dinner and commented that the gravy tasted like her mother’s. Though she had learned from her mother she could never duplicate the taste of her gravy. It was the stock that made the difference.
I am very encouraged by the response you are receiving and your courage to speak out. You are making a difference and making inroads against a powerful industry whose strength is based 100 percent on public ignorance.
Long Prarie, MN
Lowfat and Cataracts
I followed the John McDougall and Dean Ornish diets for most of the 1990s because I have high blood pressure. I believe those diets were the cause of me developing cataracts at the age of 46. The reason I started to suspect the diet-cataract connection was the following: the medical group I was in had a nine-month waiting list for cataract surgery. When I did see the surgeon, he said to me: “Ten years ago all my cataract patients were on Medicare. Now we are seeing more and more people in their 30s, 40s and 50s with cataracts.”
During the 1990s, we had a big push for lowfat from McDougall, Ornish, the USDA Food Pyramid and the new nutrition labels with fat content. There was a huge increase in lowfat products, everything from lowfat potato chips to cookies and ice cream. There was a big increase in Type II diabetes. There seems to be an increase in cataracts but it is blamed on the hole in the ozone layer. But I do not have an outdoor job, I did not take steroids and I don’t have diabetes. I have given up my lowfat diet and my blood pressure is actually lower.
San Diego, CA
More Soy Woes
I’m an over-50 natural bodybuilder who was always looking for a good source of protein. I also shied away from all fat except some olive oil. I won the Mr. Oregon over-50 title and of course thought I knew what i was doing. I reached a point where I had changed my protein intake to pure soy protein isolate, because it was inexpensive and at first made me feel good. I was also drinking soy milk and my wife and I were both eating a lot of fake soy foods.
In the spring of 1998, I spent three months away from home in Hawaii, running a gym and testing whether we wanted to move there. I was eating what we are told is the “perfect” diet, oatmeal, nuts, raisins, some fish and a lot of soy protein isolate. When I came home, I had reached a point where my energy levels were so low I would often spend a day or two doing nothing. My libido was also at an all-time low, and this was unusual and depressing. I didn’t have a clue what was wrong, until my wife accidentally ran across your articles on soy foods. She followed up by visiting the Weston Price website. We decided that we had been following the wrong drummer. Far from doing everything right, we had been doing a lot that was wrong.
We quit soy cold turkey! We adopted the principles of eating advocated by the Weston A. Price Foundation. Today my old self is back: energy levels, libido and thought processes. I am a personal trainer who now preaches the traditional ways of eating, including a lot of natural saturated fats (with no increase in body fat or cholesterol levels!). We have started a local Weston A. Price chapter and we have discovered that many people, when presented with the facts, are very open to the idea of traditional foods. Most people simply have no clue what the processed foods industry is doing to us.
This information is vital, and I have no problem walking up to perfect strangers in the supermarket and healthfood stores, and telling them to stay away from soy. In fact, I have one healthfood store owner very upset with me. Young mothers and fathers have even put soy milk back on the shelf and asked me about alternatives. I’ve given them my card and told them how to find the Weston A. Price website. After attending the seminar in Portland, Oregon, I’m even better informed, giving me more credibility. Or it could just be my silver hair! Keep up the good work!
Editor’s Response: Thank you for your courage in speaking out to parents who are buying soy milk for their children. We encourage our members to arm themselves with our 28-page brochure, or our Soy Alert! pamphlet. It’s easier to speak out when you can provide one of these.
Protein Powders Nixed
I am a weight-training specialist. For some time I have had great concerns regarding the overuse of whey, soy and various protein powders in the exercise industry. Many lifters and exercise enthusiasts these days almost exist on these powders. I am concerned about whey protein because it is produced from cooked milk which, according to the Pottenger’s Cats study, can only provide inferior protein, no matter how you market it! This same group of people has been trained to fear saturated animal fat, which I feel only makes the whole issue of high protein powder consumption worse.
In my lectures, I often tell people to simply look at what nature provides in natural meat sources in the form of fats, proteins, enzymes and other nutrients such as vitamins and trace minerals and compare that with what you get in “designer protein.” I have calculated that the manufacturer produces such proteins for about $1-$3 per gallon container. That same gallon container will comfortably hold about $170 worth of organic free-range eye fillet of beef. How could one actually expect to find a protein source that can compete with $170 worth of nature’s best for $1-$3?
Paul Chek, Founder, CHEK Institute
Babes in Soyland
I’m currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa. Soy is a part of our program here in Togo, and I believe all over West Africa. There are four programs here in Togo: Girls Education/Empowerment, Health, Small Business, and Environmental Protection. All four of these programs incorporate soy use in their training (that’s over 60 volunteers). Volunteers are trained to teach local people how to make soy milk, soy porridge, soy cheese and a soy snack. The preparation varies, though, depending on which volunteers you talk to or which training manual you use. For example, one claims a source says trypsin inhibitors are rendered inactive by 10 minutes of boiling (100 °C), another says 45 minutes. The directions for soy milk are to soak the beans over night, crush the beans, boil the slurry for 45 minutes (this time varies), pour the liquid through a cloth to catch the cous cous-like substance, and then you take the milk and reboil it for 10 more minutes. For porridge you simply grill soybeans for 10-15 minutes, grind them into powder, add water to the powder and boil this for 15 minutes or so. The snack is to grill the soybeans for 15 minutes and then add salt. You can see where I’m going with this–with all the variations they can’t all be right. All these inconsistencies sent me searching the internet and that’s how I found your information on soy.
It is somewhat disconcerting to me that while our hearts may be in the right place, we are teaching local people a technique that might be harmful to them. Also, it’s interesting because a common volunteer refrain is that the local people here have this great source of nutrition, in particular this great source of protein, right under their noses, and they don’t even use it; they don’t eat it. Currently, I’m reading the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by an evolutionary biologist. He recounts numerous anecdotes involving how foods make their way into local diets–this is a process that has taken place over thousands of years. My thought is that while soy may have been under their noses all this time, maybe there is a reason why they haven’t been eating it.
Peace Corps Volunteer
Raw Milk Results
Just wanted to let you know that my family and I have been drinking raw milk for about the last three weeks. My husband has had the most noticeable results. He’s had a problem with diarrhea for at least the last two years and since drinking the raw milk, this has pretty much stopped.
I recently visited to a new doctor to whom I don’t think I’ll return. Since I told her I might be getting pregnant within a year or two, she wanted me to take prescription prenatal vitamins. I told her I was happy with my vitamins (which are whole food vitamins) and wouldn’t need them. This concerned her, so she told me to make sure I was getting enough folic acid and that I should be careful to keep vitamin A out of my diet. She even told me to avoid foods that might contain vitamin A. Keep vitamin A out of my diet?? I wonder how many doctors tell their patients this?
Editor’s Response: See our articles on Vitamin A under ABCs of Nutrition.