Special on Earth Day
By Marivir R. Montebon
The truth is, if you cook at home more often, it won’t empty your wallet as much as you’d think, especially if you spend more on grains and vegetables instead of meat and processed food. – Jin Hirata
Being a healing chef may be the best person one can become at the time when more and more people are troubled by debilitating and fatal diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Jin Hirata, a health counselor, cooking instructor, and educator, born and raised in Japan, has actively advocated for macrobiotic diet in New York. He also does shiatsu massage and Reiki to complete a holistic regimen for those who need to reclaim healthy lives.
People blessed with good health and longevity, he said, are those who eat more of the naturally grown vegetables and fruits. Such is the traditional culture of Jin’s home country where more people live long due to healthy diet. Japan is home to the largest population of centenarians (currently 54,397), with the oldest, 114-year-old Misao Okawa. But even living healthy is being challenged these days with the Japanese youth consuming processed and junk foods.
Jin, who educates people on healthy diet, said one has to become a preparer and consumer of healthy food to start a new, healthy life. The human dental structure is designed to make humans herbivorous than carnivorous, he explains, thus the reason to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Macrobiotics is a dietary regimen which involves eating whole grains as a staple food (about 30-35% of the meal), supplemented with other foods such as local vegetables (25-30%) and fruits, a small amount of animal foods (fish and seafoods), and avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods and most animal products.
The rest of the macrobiotic diet includes beans, sea vegetables, oils, nuts/seeds, fruits, and other plant-based foods.
Macrobiotics sees everybody as a unique being. When it comes to diet and healing, Jin says there is no “one ﬁts for all.”
This 42-year-old health educator has been into macrobiotics himself for about 10 years, and has never had any major illnesses. He did have some health challenges and the revolutionary reversal to healthy diet has bailed him out from diseases.
His lifestyle is doable for many, beginning with a diet of about 70% vegan. “Occasionally I eat ﬁsh, cheese and eggs. I enjoy wine, sake, and beer. I walk every morning, do some yoga and moderate exercise at the gym. I sleep about 6 hours each day,” he shares.
Excerpts of our interview:
1. Everyone wants to be healthy. But choosing healthy foods seems an expensive alternative. Are there more practical and affordable choices of healthy food?
That’s a very important matter. From a societal perspective, the government should subsidize real foods more, so that everyone can afford healthy food choices. “Food desert” issue has to be addressed as well. Having said that, on a personal level, I think it’s a matter of priority in life.
People say we can’t afford organic healthy food but they spend more money on new gadgets, cable TV, expensive shoes and clothing, etc.
The truth is, if you cook at home more often, it won’t empty your wallet as much as you’d think, especially if you spend more on grains and vegetables instead of meat and processed food. Research suggests that for family of 4, cooking at home turned out to be less expensive than eating at McDonald’s.
Consider it as your “health insurance”. Healthy eating overtime could save you a lot on medical bills. One tip is to shop wisely, buy only as much as you use so you won’t waste food.
2. What healthy sources of food (stores) do you recommend in NYC?
I’d suggest everyone go to farmer’s market! Nothing is better than local, seasonal and fresh produce! Also there are many small health food stores around the city. Whole Foods have good stuff, too, if you choose carefully. I suggest you do a healthy food grocery shopping if you don’t know where and how to shop.
For delicious and healthy snacks and lunch, one of my favorites is a cute vegan cafe, MyKitchen in Brooklyn near Williamsburg, where I sometimes do workshops as well.
3. It is said that you are what you eat. Diseases are developed because of unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and stress. What are the basic food to be on the table to maintain good health?
Look at your teeth. Twenty out of 32 are molars and premolars, which are designed to chew and grind whole grains and other fibrous plants. Eight are incisors to cut and shred other vegetables and fruits. Only four are canine for animal foods including fish and sea foods.
Eat close to this ratio, which I call “Human Food Diet”. This is more or less how world’s healthy and long-living population have been traditionally eating. In sum, some whole grains and variety of vegetables should be the center of your daily meal. And to add one more thing, I’d say home-made miso soup!
4. Does a Macrobiotic diet work only when diabetes or cancer are on their early stages? Or does it work all time despite worse conditions?
I cannot say “macrobiotic diet works” for any condition no matter what the stage is. But many thousands of people have actually been healed from serious diseases through this diet even with advance cases such as stage 4 cancers. The human body is so mysterious that you never know what to expect.
Macrobiotic diet is generally designed to restore and maximize the body’s natural healing power. So I’d just say, “Never say never.”
5. What circumstances or who inspired you to choose this holistic health mission in life?
I was a total wreck about 12 years ago and almost died after years and years of abusing my body. A friend of mine from Japan showed me a book on macrobiotics and what it said just made total sense to me. Changing the diet and life style immediately improved my health, and literally turned my life around. Now I barely get sick, and am fully enjoying my life! My passion is to help more people turn their health and life around.
Here’s more on macrobiotic classes by Jin:
Monthly cooking classes on 5/9 Sat and 5/23 Sat, both at 4pm
My workshop series “Human Food Diet” part 2, on 5/27 Wed at 5:30pm.
“Make Your Own Miso” workshops are happening whenever people want to do it (2 ppl at a time).
Check out more details on www.wholelifewithjin.com