The Tarahumara Indians are the healthiest native community in North America. The Tarahumaras live in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in north central Mexico and eat a traditional diet of corn, beans, and squash. Meat is seldom eaten, and eggs are taken only occasionally. The 50,000 Tarahumaras use no mechanical energy in farming, travel only by foot, and engage in marathon running and kickball competitions.

• Disease Unknown Among the Tarahumara - Researchers report that high blood pressure and obesity are absent and death from heart and other degenerative diseases are unknown among the Tarahumara and attribute this largely to their diet and way of life. To test the effects of food, experimenters introduced test subjects to modern diet. The cholesterol and weight of Tarahumara Indians who ate a typical standard American diet for five weeks shot up rapidly. Cholesterol levels rose 31 percent, triglycerides went up 18 percent, and weight increased by 3.8 kilograms.
Source: W.  E. Connor, “The Plasma Lipids, Lipoproteins, and Diet of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 31: 1131-42, 1978;  Martha P. McMurray et al., “Changes in Lipid and Lipoprotein Levels and Body Weight in Tarahumara Indians after Continuation of an Affluent Diet,”New England Journal of Medicine, 325:1704–08, 1991.

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage around the world after water. Tea is high in lignans (but low in isoflavones), naturally occurring plant substances that have antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, and antioxidative properties. Medicinal teas include lotus root tea, Corsican seaweed tea, wild dandelion tea, and mu tea. These teas are now available in many natural foods shops and from mail order companies.

• East Meets West in a Teacup - In The Book of Tea, a Japanese curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and student of the classics offers a meditation on the art of brewing and drinking tea throughout history.
Source: Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea (Boston: Shambhala).

Tempeh has spread from its native Indonesia around the world and become a staple in many communities and households. It can be made at home from soybeans and a special starter or obtained fresh in the natural foods store. High in phytoestrogens, tempeh helps protect against heart disease, cancer, and other serious diseases. Its antimicrobial, antidiarrheal, cholesterol-lowering, and immune func-tion regulating effects are coming under increased medical investigation. See Cholesterol, Infectious Diseases, Isoflavones, Phytochemicals, Phytoestrogens, Soy Foods.

• History of Tempeh - Two soy foods researchers present an encyclopedia of tempeh history, lore, and preparation, including its health benefits.
Source:  William Shurtleff and Aikiko Aoyagi, The Book of Tempeh  (Lafayette, CA: Soyfoods Center, 1980).

• Protective Effects of Fermented Foods - Fermented foods, especially tempeh, miso, shoyu, natto, and other soy products, but also traditionally made pickles and sauerkraut, offer many health benefits such as better food assimilation and the establishment of a beneficial intestinal microflora. A medical researcher at East Carolina University reports that the Lactobacillus in these foods can inhibit the action of pathogenic bacteria in the intestines. For example, during World War II, prisoners of war in the Pacific who ate tempeh were observed to be less affected by dysentery, a tropical disease. By reducing harmful bacteria in the digestive tract, fermented foods can reduce the risk to colon cancer and a variety of intestinal disorders. “The inclusion of these fermented foods into one’s diet adds a variety of delicious tastes and flavors that complement a vegetable based diet and are excellent sources of many nutrients,” the investigator concluded.
Source: W. W. Truslow, “Lactobacillus and Fermented Foods,” Journal of Holistic Medicine 8:36-46, 1986. See also D. Karyadi et al, “Beneficial Effects of Tempeh in Disease Prevention and Treatment,” Nutrition Reviews 54(11 Pt. 2):S94-98, 1996.

• Tempeh High in Vitamin B-12 - In 1977 researchers found that the Vitamin B-12 content of typical samples of tempeh sold commercially in North America ranged from 1.5 to 6.3 micrograms per average 3.5 ounce serving. The adult RDA for B-12 is 3 micrograms, so the tempeh contained 50 to 210 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Further testing showed that using the bacterium Klebsiella in the starter used to make tempeh could raise the B-12 levels as high as 14.8 micrograms, at which level a 1-ounce serving would supply the RDA.
Source: I. T. H. Liem et al, “Production of Vitamin B-12 in Tempeh, a Fermented Soybean Food,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 34:773-76, 1977.

• Tempeh Kills Cancer Cells - Tempeh contains a potent antioxidant that has the potential to kill human cancer cells, Japanese scientists reported. The substance, 3-hydroxyanthran-ilic acid (HAA), eliminated free radicals and inhibited the formation of fatty acid hydroperodixide in vitro, suggesting that it would serve as an antioxidant in lipid metabolism and inhibit malignant cell growth.
Source: M.  Matsuo et al., "Antioxidative Mechanism and Apoptosis Induction by 3-Hydroxyanthranilic Acid, an Antioxidant in Indonesian Food Tempeh, in the Human Hepatoma-Derived Cell Line, HuH-7," Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 43(2):249-59, 1997.

• Tempeh Lowers Cancer Risk - In a  randomized, controlled trial of the effects of consuming soy products, researchers reported that consumption of tempeh significantly increased the availability of isoflavones, phystoestrogens associated with reduced cancer risk, more than unfermented soy products.
Source: A. M. Hutchins et al., "Urinary Isoflavonoid Phytoestrogen and Lignan Excretion After Consumption of Fermented and Unfermented Soy Products," Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95(5);545-51, 1995.

Tofu, or soybean curd, is widely available in natural foods stores and supermarkets or may be made at home.  Tofu is traditionally made with nigari, the sediment from sea salt, but natural calcium sulfate or lemon juice may be substituted. Tofu made with refined calcium sulfate, vinegar, or alum is low quality. Tofu is high in phytoestrogens and like other soy foods has been shown to be protective against breast cancer and other malignancies, heart disease, and other serious disorders. See Breast Cancer, Children’s Lunch Programs,  Cholesterol, Estrogen, Isoflavones, Phytochemicals, Phytoestrogens, Prostate Cancer, Soy Foods.

•  History of Tofu - In The Book of Tofu, two soy foods researchers offer an encyclopedia on the history, health benefits, and home and community production of this versatile food.
Source: William Shurtleff and Aikiko Aoyagi,  The Book of Tofu (New York: Ballantine, 1992 ).

• Tofu Protects Against Breast Cancer - British researchers reported that natural phytoestrogens found in whole grains and soybean products, such as tofu, may protect against breast cancer. Nick Day, director of the Institute for Public Health at Cambridge, explained that components found in these foods appeared to work in the same way as tamoxifen, a drug used in conventional therapy. “Certainly 50 grams of soya protein daily has a major effect on hormonal activity in premenopausal women,” said Dr. Day. Tamoxifen has been associated with harmful side effects, while a diet high in tofu and whole grain products may prove as effective, he concluded. More research is planned as part of a European study.
Source: “Tofu May Be a Weapon Against Cancer,” London Times, October 24, 1993.

• Tofu Reduces Risk of Stomach Cancer - Japanese cancer researchers found that people who regularly ate tofu were at less risk for stomach cancer than those who did not.
Source: T. Hirayama, “Epidemiology of Stomach Cancer,” in T. Murakami (ed.), Early Gastric Cancer. Gann Monograph on Cancer Research, 11 (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, pp. 3-19), 1971.

• Tofu Reduces Cancer Risk - Asian-American women typically have higher rates of breast cancer than women born in Asia. Researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles reported that the risk of this disease decreased with increasing frequency of intake of tofu after adjusting for age, study area, ethnicity, and migration history. "The protective effect of high tofu intake was observed in pre- and postmenopausal women," the scientists concluded.
Source: A. H. Wu, "Tofu and Risk of Breast Cancer in Asian-Americans," Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prev. 5(11):901-06, 1996.

• Tofu Reduces Risk of Breast Cancer - In a case-control study of 140 premenopausal women with breast cancer and 222 healthy sisters of the women, researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland reported that tofu reduced the risk of the disease, as well as other foods low in fat, foods containing monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, and foods containing oleic or linoleic acid. Consumption of simple sugars and sweetened beverages was associated with an elevated risk.
Source: J. S. Witte, “Diet and Premenopausal Bilateral Breast Cancer,” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 42(3):243-51, 1997.

Triglycerides are particles of fat and glycerol that are transported through the bloodstream and are produced from ingested fats or converted in the body from carbohydrate. Elevated triglycerides in the blood are a major risk factor for heart disease.  See Heart Disease, Sugar, Tarahumara Diet.

• Safe Triglyceride Levels Lowered - The 200 milligram per 100 milliliters of blood standard that has long been accepted by the medical community as the marker between normal and abnormal triglycerides is too high, according to researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center. New studies suggest that the levels over 100 milligrams are unsafe. In the Baltimore study, men and women with levels above 100 (as measured after a 12-hour fast) were 50 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks, need bypass surgery or angioplasty, or die from heart disease than those with triglycerides under 100.
Triglyceride levels rise from consumption of saturated fat in meat and dairy food, sugar (including fruit sugar), alcohol, and refined carbohydrates, including white flour and white rice, and reach a peak about four hours after the meal. Higher caloric meals raise levels, as do being overweight or sedentary.
Source: Jane E. Brody, "Yet Another Reason to Fight the Fat," New York Times, July 28, 1998

Ulcers have also been associated with frequent milk consumption, hot spicy foods, alcohol, and sugar.

• High-Fiber Diet Benefits Ulcers - In a random case-control study of 73 persons with recently healed duodenal ulcers, the group put on high-fiber diet consisting of whole grain bread, soft oats, barley, or wheat, and plenty of vegetables experienced about half as much relapse after six months as the group eating the usual diet. Researchers in Oslo, Norway, reported that 80 percent of the persons who ate the least amount of whole grains, cereal products, or vegetables developed new ulcers. “A diet rich in fiber may, therefore, protect against duodenal ulceration,” the investigators concluded.
Source: A. Rydning et al., “Prophylactic Effect of Dietary Fiber in Duodenal Ulcer Disease,” Lancet 2:736-39, 1982.

• Fiber-Rich Foods Protect Against Ulcers - In an examination of the risk of duodenal ulcer in a cohort of 47,806 men, Harvard researchers reported that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in vitamin A was associated with one-third lower risk of the disorder, while higher intake of fiber from whole grains and other sources lowered the risk by up to two-thirds.
Source: W. H. Aldoori et al., “Prospective Study of Diet and the Risk of Duodenal Ulcer in Men,” American Journal of Epidemiology 145(1):42-50, 1997.

Umeboshi plums are one of the most important foods in Far Eastern medicine and macrobiotic health care. Salted, aged, and naturally processed a year or more, umeboshi impart a tart, tasty flavor to cooking and neutralize acidity and assist digestion.

• Benefits of Umeboshi - A medical doctor describes the virtues of the plum from both a medical and holistic perspective. He reports that the citric acid in umeboshi serves to neutralize and eliminate lactic acid in the body and that picric acid in the umeboshi stimulates the liver and kidneys to cleanse the blood.
Source:  Dr. Ushio, M.D., translated by Jacques DeLangre, The Ume Plum’s Secrets (Magalia, CA: Happiness Press, 1988).

• Umeboshi Relieves Migraine Headaches - A former medical consultant for the Department of National Health and Welfare in Canada successfully treated her own migraine headaches with diet. Dr. Helen V. Farrell reported that she suffered from classical migraines since she was eleven, experiencing scintillating scotomas, dysplasia, transient parasthesias, and vomiting. As she grew older, the headaches were less frequent, and when she discontinued dairy food and exercised regularly they began to disappear altogether. However, in July, 1987, she began to experience a recurrence and decided to treat it with a macrobiotic home remedy.
“By the time I got home twenty minutes later,” she reported, “I could barely see, and the pounding migraine pain was just starting. I headed straight for the pantry and the umeboshi plum paste. I had been reading about this condiment and its ‘contractiveness,’ so I thought I would experiment and see if it worked or not. After about two teaspoons and within two minutes, the visual symptoms disappeared dramatically. I couldn’t believe it!” Every 20 minutes, she continued eating a little more umeboshi and within two hours she “got up, feeling completely normal with no headache, nausea, or tingling.”
Dr. Farrell, who specializes in treating female complaints, has successfully introduced many of her patients to a macrobiotic diet. She reports that it is particularly effective in treating premenstrual syndrome.
Source: H. V. Farrell, “PMS Is Not PMS,” in Doctors Look at Macrobiotics (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1988), pp. 177-91.

In 1979 the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report that suggested degenerative disease could be relieved as well as prevented by dietary means and called for substantial increases in the consumption of whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit and reductions in meat, eggs, dairy food, sugar, and other processed foods. The report stated: “A good case can be made for the role of high intake of cholesterol and saturated fat, usually of animal origin, in producing high blood cholesterol levels which are associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases.
“Animal studies have shown that reducing serum cholesterol can slow down and even reverse the atherosclerotic process.
“And, in man, certain studies have shown that people in countries where diets are low in saturated fats and cholesterol have lower average serum cholesterol levels and fewer heart attacks; and that Americans who habitually eat less fat-rich diets (vegetarians [macrobiotics] and Seventh Day Adventists, for example) have less heart disease than other Americans; and that atherosclerotic plaques in certain arteries may be reversed by cholesterol-lowering diets.”
The report concluded that while individual nutritional standards would be hard to establish because of varying conditions and personal needs, Americans would probably be healthier, as a whole, if they consumed:
• Only sufficient calories to meet body needs and maintain desirable weight (fewer calories if overweight).
• Less salt.
• Less sugar.
• Relatively more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
• Relatively more fish, poultry, legumes (e.g., beans, peas, peanuts) and less red meat.
The Surgeon-General further warned against the processing of modern foods. “The American food supply has changed so that more than half of our diet now consists of processed foods rather than fresh agricultural produce. . . . Increased attention therefore also needs to be paid to the nutritional qualities of processed food.”         
Source: Healthy People: The Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979).

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Tarahumara Diet






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U.S. Surgeon-General's Report