NATIVE AMERICAN DIET
The native peoples of North America traditionally ate a diet centered around corn, beans, and squash and used food as medicine. A gruel of parched cornmeal was commonly used for fever and other sicknesses. Many Indians avoided the use of salt and fresh meat during illness. Nursing mothers took a light soup or broth made of flint corn during the first three days after delivery in order to produce nourishing milk for their babies. See Agriculture, Diabetes, Incan Diet, Osteoporosis, Paleolithic Diet, Peace, Tarahumara Diet.
Source: Virgil J. Vogel, American Indian Medicine (Norman, Ok.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).
• Use of Native Healing Increases - Traditional healing methods are being recognized and integrated into mainstream health care in the American Southwest and Midwest. In its hospitals and clinics, the Indian Health Service sets aside rooms for patients to see traditional healers along with medical doctors. In one survey, 38 percent of patients surveyed said that they had seen a healer and 86 percent said they would consider seeing one.
“My patients come in with their own remedies, from a community healer or organized or nonorganized traditional healing,” Dr. Christopher Urbina, vice chairman of the department of family practice and community medicine at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine, reported. Growing up in a Mexican-American family, Dr. Urbina learned dietary remedies and external applications from his mother.
Dr. Helmut Wiedenfeld, a chemist at the University of Bonn who works with the WHO in Mexico, said he has considerable respect for traditional Indian healers. Without training or equipment, they are able to detect blood glucose levels, identify classic symptoms of diabetes, and treat the disease with an herbal tea brewed from “cola de caballo” (equisetum myriochaetum). Because of an influx of fast food, especially sugar and sugary drinks, he reports, diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions and 8 percent of Mexicans will have the disease by 2005.
Source: Catherine C. Robbins, “In Southwest, Doctor Meets Medicine Man,” New York Times, September 15, 1998.
• Zuni Cuisine - In the late 19th century, anthropologist Frank Cushing studied the Zuni native people of the American Southwest. Adopted into the community, he lived with the tribe for many years and preserved their traditional customs, especially cuisine and recipes.
Source: Frank Cushing, Zuni Breadstuffs (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979).
Natto, fermented soybeans that clump together with long sticky strands, is beneficial for the intestines and digestion. High in isoflavones, its antibiotic and antitumor properties are now being investigated by medical researchers. See Isoflavones, Miso, Phytoestrogens, Soy Foods.
• Natto Inhibits Staph Infection - In a study of the effects of natto on staph infection, researchers in Yokohama reported that adding natto to cooked rice contaminated with a toxic strain of staph bacteria was effective in neutralizing its toxicity.
Source: R. Osawa and K. Matsumoto, “Digestion of Staphylococcal Enterotoxin by Bacillus Natto,” Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 71(4):307-11, 1997.
• Natto Effective for Hangovers - In studies of the effect of a fermented natto product on blood alcohol, Japanese researchers reported that the substance decreased alcohol concentrations by a maximum of 23 percent 1 hour after drinking whiskey in 21 healthy volunteers. The breath alcohol concentration in the natto group was 44 percent lower than in the control group. The investigators concluded that the natto product was “a reasonable, safe, and useful anti-hangover agent.”
Source: H. Sumi et al., “Effect of Bacillus Natto-Fermented Product (Biozyme) on Blood Alcohol, Aldehyde Concentration After Whisky Drinking in Human Volunteers and Acute Toxicity of Acetaldehyde in Mice,” Arukoru Kenkyuto Yakubatsu Ison 30(2):69-79, 1995.
• Natto as a Cancer Inhibitor - In cell tissue experiments, Japanese researchers reported that natto contained antitumor promoters.
Source: C. Takahasi, “Possible Anti-Tumor-Pomoting Activity of Components in Japanese Soybean Fermented Food, Natto,” Carcinogenesis 16(3):471-76, 1995.
• Natto Prevents Osteoporosis - In a study of 238 healthy postmenopausal women in Japan, a researcher reported that those who ate natto, high in vitamin K, had higher bone mineral density and other bone metabolic markers. “Natto may contribute to the prevention of osteoporosis,” the scientist concluded.
Source: T. Hosoi, “Recent Progress in Treatment of Osteoporosis,” Nippon Ronen Igakkai Zasshi 33(4):240-4, 1996.
• Natto Prevents E. Coli Food Poisoning - After a series of E. coli O-157 food-poisoning outbreaks in the Kansai region of Japan in 1996, scientists discovered that the bacteria in the fermentation process of natto can prevent the multiplication of this deadly toxic strain.
Source: “Can’t Stand Natto? Too Bad, It’s Good for Your Health,” Yomiuri Shimbun, spring 1998.
In addition to avoiding synthetic ingredients, some natural body care products include soy and wheat vegetable proteins instead of lanolin and other animal quality ingredients. However, with the introduction of genetically engineered foods, transgenic natural shampoos began to appear on the market in the late 1990s. Since they are unlabeled, consumers do not know whether the soy or other plant-quality ingredients in the products are natural. According to one manufacturer who produces soy extract for the natural foods industry, genetically altered ingredients were not used in the past, but in 1998 they started to be used.
One high quality line of natural cosmetics that is free of genetically altered ingredients is Ki Essentials, which markets several varieties of soap made with nuka, or rice bran, which is traditionally used in the Far East to beautify and heal the skin.
Source: Wendy Esko, "Transgenic Shampoo," One Peaceful World Journal 32:12, Autumn 1997.
Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and other nightshade plants, have toxic properties that may contribute to weakening or disease if consumed regularly, especially arthritis, rheumatism, and diabetes. Tobacco is also a nightshade plant. See Arthritis, Diabetes, Potato, Prostate Cancer.
• Tomatoes, Potatoes Linked to Arthritis and Rheumatism - Common nightshade vegetables may be associated with rheumatism and arthritis. In an experiment in which 5000 arthritis patients avoided white potatoes, peppers, tomato, eggplant, and tobacco, 70 percent reported progressive relief from aches and pains and from some disfigurement over seven years.
Source: N. F. Childers, “A Relationship of Arthritis to the Solanaceae (Nightshades),” Journal of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine, November, 1982, pp. 31-37.
• Potatoes Increase Risk of Diabetes - Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, published a study linking diet and diabetes, showing that consumption of potatoes caused a big surge in blood sugar, or glucose, leading to secretion of high levels of insulin and increased risk of diabetes. In an interview, he said that refined carbohydrates and especially potatoes should not be eaten as staple foods.
Source: J.Salmeron et al., “Glycemic Load, and Risk on Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus in Women,” Journal of the American Medical Association 277(6):472-477, 1997.
Nori (known in the West as laver) is a thin, dark green sea vegetable used to wrap sushi rolls and rice balls. High in protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, it is especially beneficial for the kidneys and urinary function, reproductive organs, and like other sea vegetables helps reduce cholesterol and improve circulation, offset tumor development, and protect against radiation. It is used especially in macrobiotic cooking and health cares. See Nuclear Radiation, Sea Vegetables, Vitamin B-12.
• Nori Suppresses Salmonella - In a study of the antimutagenic properties of seaweeds, Japanese scientists reported that nori showed a suppressive effect on the spread of induced Salmonella. The researchers noted that the nori contained pigments that were similar to beta-carotene, chlorophyll, and lutein in land plants.
Source: Y. Okai, "Identification of Antimutagenic Supstances in an Extract of Edible Red Alga, Porphyra Tenera," Cancer Letters 100(1-2):235-40, 1996.
With the beginning of the atomic age in 1945, nuclear energy became a major personal and planetary health issue. Atmospheric atomic and hydrogen bomb testing, as well as nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl in the 1970s and 1980s released radioactive particles into the envi-ronment that have been associated with causing leukemia, lymphoma, and other cancers; birth defects; anemia; and other diseases. Several foods, especially miso and sea vegetables, have a strong neutralizing effect on radioactivity and can help the body release Strontium-90 and other particles from the body. See Fluoridation, Irradiation, Miso, Seeds.
• Macrobiotic Diet Prevents Radiation Sickness Among A-Bomb Survivors in Japan - In August, 1945, at the time of the atomic bombing of Japan, Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., was director of the Department of Internal Medicine at St. Francis’s Hospital in Nagasaki. Most patients in the hospital, located one mile from the center of the blast, survived the initial effects of the bomb, but soon after came down with symptoms of radiation sickness from the fallout that had been released. Dr. Akizuki fed his staff and patients a strict macrobiotic diet of brown rice, miso soup, wakame and other sea vegetables, Hokkaido pumpkin, and sea salt and prohibited the consumption of sugar and sweets. As a result, he saved everyone in his hospital, while many other survivors in the city perished from radiation sickness.
“I gave the cooks and staff strict orders that they should make unpolished whole-grain rice balls, adding some salt to them, prepare strong miso soup for each meal, and never use sugar. When they didn’t follow my orders, I scolded them without mercy, ‘Never take sugar. Sugar will destroy your blood!’. . .
“This dietary method made it possible for me to remain alive and go on working vigorously as a doctor. The radioactivity may not have been a fatal dose, but thanks to this method, Brother Iwanaga, Reverend Noguchi, Chief Nurse Miss Murai, other staff members and in-patients, as well as myself, all kept on living on the lethal ashes of the bombed ruins. It was thanks to this food that all of us could work for people day after day, overcoming fatigue or symptoms of atomic disease and survive the disaster free from severe symptoms of radioactivity.”
Sources: Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., Nagasaki 1945 (London: Quartet Books, 1981); Tatsuichiro Akizuki, “How We Survived Nagasaki,” East West Journal, December 1980.
• Macrobiotic Diet Heals Atomic Bomb Survivor in Hiroshima - In 1945, Sawako Hirago was a ten-year-old school girl in Hiroshima. In the atomic bombing on August 6, she was exposed to severe radiation that burned her face, head, and legs. The burned parts swelled up nearly three times normal. In the hospital, doctors feared for her recovery because one-third of her body was burned. Her mother gave her palm healing therapy over the abdomen every night, and she ate the only food available, two rice balls and two daikon radish pickles each day. Inside the rice balls was umeboshi (pickled salted plum).
Although the medical doctors gave up on her, Sawako survived, “My mother didn’t show me a mirror until I was cured. However, I was able to see my hands and leg which were very dirty and had a bad, rotten smell. On the rotten spots there were always flies. When the skin healed, I broke it because it was itchy; finally it became a keloidal condition. I didn’t see my face until it was finally cured. However, sores remained on my nose and pus remained on my chest. My hands and chest had masses of skin which remained until I was 20.”
Because of her disfiguration, she was ridiculed, nicknamed “Hormone Short,” and told she could never marry or have children. After completing school, she became a high school physics teacher and met a young chemistry teacher who ate very simply. The couple married and attended lectures by George Ohsawa, the founder of modern macrobiotics in Japan, and he said that only people practicing macrobiotics would survive a future nuclear war.
After talking with Mr. Ohsawa, Sawako gave up the modern, refined food which she had been eating since her survival and started eating brown rice and other foods. To her surprise, her problems started to clear up, including anemia, leukemia, low blood pressure, falling hair, and bleeding from the nose. Within two months, she was elated, “My face became beautiful.”
Sawako went on to have seven healthy children and raised all of them on brown rice, miso soup, vegetables, seaweed, and other healthy food.
Source: Sawako Hiraga, “How I Survived the Atomic Bomb,” The Macrobiotic, November/December 1979.
• Seaweeds Protect Against Nuclear Fallout - Scientists at the Gastro-Intestinal Research Laboratory at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, reported that a substance derived from the sea vegetable kelp could reduce by 50 to 80 percent the amount of radioactive strontium absorbed through the intestine. Stanley Skoryna, M.D., said that in animal experiments sodium alginate obtained from brown algae permitted calcium to be normally absorbed through the intestinal wall while binding most of the strontium. The sodium alginate and strontium were subsequently excreted from the body. The experiments were designed to devise a method to counteract the effects of nuclear fallout and radiation. Source: S. C. Skoryna et al., “Studies on Inhibition of Intestinal Absorption of Radioactive Strontium,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 91:285-88, 1964.
• Seaweeds Protect Against Nuclear Fallout - Canadian researchers reported that sea vegetables contained a polysaccharide substance that selectively bound radioactive strontium and helped eliminate it from the body. In laboratory experiments, sodium alginate prepared from kelp, kombu, and other brown seaweeds off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts was introduced along with strontium and calcium into rats. The reduction of radioactive particles in bone uptake, measured in the femur, reached as high as 80 percent, with little interference with calcium absorption. “The evaluation of biological activity of different marine algae is important because of their practical significance in preventing absorption of radioactive products of atomic fission as well as in their use as possible natural decontaminators.”
Source: Y. Tanaka et al., “Studies on Inhibition of Intestinal Absorption of Radio-Active Strontium,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 99:169-75, 1968.
• Miso Protects Against Radiation - People who eat miso regularly may be up to five times more resistant to radiation than people not eating miso. This is the conclusion of scientific studies conducted by Kazumitsu Watanabe, professor of cancer and radiation at Hiroshima University’s atomic bomb radiation research center.
In laboratory experiments, he tested the cells in the small intestine of mice. These cells absorb nutrients and are particularly sensitive to radiation. They are easily destroyed by radiation. The victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered from severe cases of diarrhea after the atomic bomb because of massive destruction of these cells.
Forty-nine-week-old mice were given miso as 10 percent of their food for seven days prior to exposure to radiation. Mice were exposed to full body X-rays 1400 to 2400 times stronger than a regular medical X-ray (7-10 curies). Three days later their cells were examined. The loss of cells was less severe in the miso-eating mice than in regular mice. When 9 curies were administered, the gap between miso-eating and regular mice’s loss of cells became greater. Ten curies is a lethal dose for humans. When 10 curies were given to miso-eating mice, 60 percent survived, compared to only 9 percent of the mice which did not eat miso.
“I don’t know specifically what element in miso is effective,” Professor Watanabe told the South Western Japan Conference on the Effects of Radiation. “The small intestines of mice and humans are quite similar. Therefore this study indicates that miso is a preventive measure against radiation.”
In other tests at Hiroshima University, it has already been shown that miso has the property of eliminating radiation from the body and can help relieve liver cancer. Plans for further studies include how miso affects cancer of the large intestine and stomach as well as the effect of radiation on blood pressure.
Sources: “Miso Protects Against Radiation,” Yomiuri Shinbun, July 16, 1990; “People Who Consume Miso Regularly Are More Resistant to Radiation,” Nikan Kogyo Shinbun (Daily Business and Technology Newspaper), July 25, 1990.
• Doctors Treat Radiation Sickness in Russia with Macrobiotics - In 1985, Lidia Yamchuk and Hanif Shaimardanov, medical doctors in Cheljabinsk, organized Longevity, the first macrobiotic association in the Soviet Union. At their hospital, they have used dietary methods and acupuncture to treat many patients, especially those suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, and other disorders associated with exposure to nuclear radiation. Since the early 1950s, wastes from Soviet weapons production were dumped into Karachay Lake in Cheljabinsk, an industrial city about 900 miles east of Moscow.
In Leningrad, Yuri Stavitsky, a young pathologist and medical instructor, volunteered as a radiologist in Chernobyl after the nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. Since then, like many disaster workers, he suffered symptoms associated with radiation disease, including tumors of the thyroid. “Since beginning macrobiotics,” he reported, “my condition has greatly improved.”
Source: Alex Jack, “Soviets Embrace Macrobiotics,” One Peaceful World 6:1 Autumn/Winter, 1990.
• Diet Helps After Chernobyl Accident - Russian scientists reported that beta carotene-rich foods and dietary therapy helped people suffering from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine.
Source: L. M. Iakushina et al., “The Effect of Vitamin- and Beta-Carotene-Enriched Products on the Vitamin A Allowance and the Concentration of Different Carotenoids of the Blood Serum in Victims of the Accident at the Chernobyl Atomic Electric Power Station,” Vopr Pitn (1):12-15, 1996.
• Nuclear Radiation and Thyroid Cancer - Nuclear tests in the 1950s and early 1960s exposed millions of American children to large amounts of radioactive iodine, especially through milk, resulting in up to 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer around the country of which 2500 would be expected to be fatal. According to a National Cancer Institute study, the releases of fallout were larger than earlier estimates and at least 10 times larger than those caused by the Soviet nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986. Vast regions of the country were affected by the nuclear radiation, especially the West, Midwest, and New England.
Source: Matthew Wald, "U.S. Atomic Tests in 50's Exposed Millions to Risk," New York Times, July 29, 1997.
• Radioactive Food Tested on Retarded Children - More than 120 mentally retarded children, as young as ten years old, were given breakfast cereals injected with radioactive substances in federally sponsored nutrition studies in Massachusetts in the 1940s and 1950s. Supervised by MIT scientists, the children at the Fernald School in Waltham were enrolled in a special "Science Club" and given the contaminated food without their knowledge or consent or that of their parents. The program was part of a Cold War experiment on the effects of radioactive iron and calcium. The results were published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1950, 1954, and 1956.
Source: “Radiation,” MIT Archives, 1994; Boston Globe, December 26, 1994.
Over the last 25 years, the nutrients in food appears to have steadily declined, primarily as a result of the environmental crisis, the use of new, high-yielding hybrid seeds, and marketing methods that emphasize shelf life over freshness. See Cropland Loss, Organic Farming, Organic Food.
• Vitamins and Minerals Decline 25-50% in Many Foods - In an analysis of new U.S. Department of Agriculture food composition tables, a nutritional researcher reported a sharp decline in minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients in many common foods between 1997 and 1975 when the last comprehensive survey was published.
A random sampling of 12 garden vegetables found that calcium levels declined on average 26.5 percent, vitamin A dropped 21.4 percent, and vitamin C fell 29.9 percent. Whole grains and beans also showed sharp fluctuations. The amount of calcium and iron in millet fell 60 percent and 55.7 percent, and thiamin and riboflavin declined 42.3 percent and 23.7 percent, but niacin rose 105.2 percent. Brown rice also showed mixed results, with slight decreases in calcium and riboflavin and mild increases in iron, thiamine, and niacin. Overall, green leafy vegetables appeared to have lost the most nutrients, while root vegetables, beans, and grains lost the least.
The food composition tables are widely used in determining dietary guidelines, menus, recipes, and food labels. The new tables, known as the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 11-1, are posted on the Internet and replace Handbook #8, originally published in 1963 and revised in 1975, along with 21 subsequent sections and four supplements.
“Decline of the natural environment appears to be the major reason for the widespread loss of nutrients. . . . This suggests a steady deterioration in soil, air, and water quality, as well as reduced seed vitality, that is depleting minerals and other inorganic components of food,” the study concluded.
Asked to comment on this trend, David Haytowitz, the USDA nutritionist in charge of investigating the nutrient composition of vegetables, said he was unaware of any loss of nutrients and noted that the USDA does not track nutrient trends.
Asked whether the changes could be due to new methods of measurement, he said that testing methods had improved over the last 20 years, but the basic formula for calculating mineral and vitamin content had not changed.
“The sharp decline in food quality, as pointed to by the newly posted food composition tables and a growing number of environmental studies, poses a national and international threat. Reversing this trend and ensuring the availability of wholesome, nutritious food are of vital importance to human health and the future of our planet,” the study concluded.
Source: Alex Jack, “Nutrition Under Siege,” One Peaceful World Journal 34:1, 7-9, 1998.
A holistic approach to diet takes into account the energy of the food as well as its nutritional composition. For example, fortified white rice may contain the same amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals as brown rice. Yet the energy of the two types of rice is entirely different. White rice—especially if eaten on a regular basis—may contribute to low energy and vitality, increase moodiness, and lead to cloudy and unfocused thinking, while brown rice may give strong energy and vitality, stabilize the emotions, and bring clarity and depth. Food energy is not considered in modern nutritional science or medicine, but is an essential part of traditional, macrobiotic, and holistic ways of eating. See Protein, Vitamins.
• Modern Nutrition - Modern nutrition developed in the mid-19th century in Prussia and is based on standards for people eating a modern diet high in meat, sugar, and refined, highly processed foods. There are no universally agreed upon standards for proper human nutrition. The U.S. RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) for protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals have changed considerably in recent years. The Food Guide Pyramid has replaced the Basic Four Food Groups. The nutritional standards of the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ highest medical organization, are significantly different than those of the U.S. scientific and medical community. They tend to be based more on plant-eating populations and so their recommendations are considerably lower and healthier than the U.S. RDAs. See Food Guide Pyramid, World Health Organization.
Source: Alex Jack, Evolution at the Dinner Table, (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1999).
• Macrobiotic Nutrition - Educator Michio Kushi discusses the problems of modern nutrition including meat and dairy products, calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and acid and alkaline.
Sources: Michio Kushi with Alex Jack, The Book of Macrobiotics (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1986) and Michio Kushi and Aveline Kushi and Alex Jack, Editor, Macrobiotic Diet, (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1993).
• Holistic Nutrition - A health researcher offers a comprehensive guide to the healing properties of food and a critique of modern nutritional standards. The author takes an approach influenced by Oriental medicine and vegan principles.
Source: Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1996).
Nuts are a traditional human staple. The flour from acorns has been used for baking by native peoples in North America and Asia. In Turkey, archaeologists excavated a 10,000-year-old village and found evidence of an economy centered around the harvest of pistachios and almonds. High in protein, fat (mostly unsaturated), dietary fiber, and several vitamins and minerals, nuts are enjoyable, relaxing, and give variety to the diet. See Fruit, Paleolithic Diet, Peace.
• Nuts Protect Against Heart Disease - In a dietary intake study of 65 foods consumed in California, nuts had one of the strongest protective relationships against having a heart attack or dying from heart disease. People who ate nuts from one to four times a week had a 25 percent less risk of dying from coronary heart disease, while those who ate nuts five or more times weekly had 50 percent less risk. In a case-control study, men who ate walnuts as the principal source of fat in their diet lowered their total cholesterol by 12 percent and LDL cholesterol by 16 percent compared to controls. Nuts also contain vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, and copper, all of which help protect against heart disease.
Source: M. L. Dreher et al., “The Traditional and Emerging Role of Nuts in Healthful Diets,” Nutrition Reviews 54(8):241-45, 1996.