A Macrobiotic Diet in Cuba

Alfredo Fernandez 

Bethania Store.

Macrobiotic diets are winning more followers every day in Cuba since it turns out that simultaneously feeding and maintaining one’s health is the premise of this eating regime created by the Italian sculptor Mario Pianesi.

Eating so as to lose weight, stabilize one’s blood pressure, control diabetes and even free one of terminal cancer are the objectives of this “unorthodox approach to food.”

The macrobiotic diet is marking ten years since it first came to Cuba.  Sponsored by the Finlay Institute, specifically by the eminent scientist Dr. Concepcion Campa, the result is that today there’s beginning to exist a culture of healthy eating in Cuba.  Notwithstanding, along with this incipient community were born inescapable vicissitudes required to eat strictly in accordance with the demands of the diet.

Bethania, macrobiotics at boutique prices.

Bethania is the only store in Cuba that officially sells macrobiotic products.  The problem is that these go for unaffordable prices.  Indispensable products for macrobiotic diets include ones like brown rice (500g cost around $5 USD) and bancha tea (50g also sells for around $5 USD).

Also indispensable to the diet is Azuki (a bean that is harvested on the hillsides of volcanoes, thereby giving it substantial healing properties), as well as sesame oil, both sold at “boutique” prices at Bethania (located on Amargura and San Ignacio streets in Old Havana).

The upshot then is that Bethania turns out to be far too expensive for Cuban workers or their family members who need to follow this diet for health purposes.

This situation is ethically worsened when patients find out from one of the doctors associated with the project — called “a macrobiotic point for Cuba” — that the diet’s creator Mario Pianesi sells his products at cost to the Cuban government.

Bethania Store.

I don’t know if it’s the government or the city historian’s office who’s charging prices for these products at up to six times their value.

Why is the government trying to make money off something designed to promote health?  Why don’t they instead try to make it easier for people who need macrobiotic diets to these access foods, facilitating them to at least obtain brown rice and bancha tea at affordable prices?

The current prices leave almost abandoned those people for whom the diet is a hope for resolving their ills.  The high costs also frustrate those who would otherwise follow the diet as a way of conserving their health through these food-medicines that are not so invasive with respect to the human body.

Where are we going to find the generosity and humanism that is always talked about in the official Cuban media?


Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

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5 thoughts on “A Macrobiotic Diet in Cuba

  • Would also like to get in touch with Alfredo or anyone in Cuba interested in learning more about Macrobiotics. My family is Cuban, and I am the author of “Nature’s Cancer-Fighting Foods” (Perigee Books/Penguin) and “Macrobiotics for Dummies” (Wiley Pub.) from the famed Dummies series of books. I have been teaching macrobiotics for over four decades. I first wrote Dr. Concepcion about seven years ago, but never received a reply back. As Jeffrey Reel articulated, a macrobiotic diet is not about aduki beans or Japanese foods. All beans are relatively low in fat, however, Cubans have a distinct lead genetically since their traditional diet has been rice, beans and vegetables. Only in the last 75 years has animal protein been increasing, as a result of greater food refinement and an increase in sugar consumption. I had also written the Cuban government about seven years ago when I first heard of Cuban interest in macrobiotics, but again, no reply. This is an affordable, proven and dramatically powerful, tasteful and economic way to restore Cuban health at a fraction of the cost for current food prices. People like Jeffrey and myself can be of enormous help to the Cuban community if we can find sponsors for our visit and introductions. This is the real revolution waiting to happen. Please write me in care of: [email protected] Salud!, Verne Varona

  • This article states: “the diet’s creator Mario Pianesi”

    I hope you understand that Mario Pianesi did not create the macrobiotic diet. Either the author does not know that or Mario Pianesi is not being honest. Mr. Pianeis is not even well known among people practicing macrobiotics.

    Also, the article mentions the need for people to eat adzuki beans. Adzuki beans are recommended as a general part of the diet, they are recommended mainly because they are low in fat compared with other beans. They are not a necessary part of the diet. I am quite sure their are beans native to Cuba that are low enough in fat to be eaten on a regular basis.

    It is also important to understand that recommendations like adzuki beans are part of the “medicinal” diet for people who are ill. The general principles guiding macrobiotics in general are much more flexible, with lots of variety in terms of food choices. It is important to study the foods that have been traditionally grown in Cuba in order to discover the best diet for people living there. yes, some foods will need to be exported, but you will be surprised at what is available on Cuba.

    Some recommended foods like miso paste might need to be imported (from the US I imagine in terms of cost. but nothing needs to come from Japan or Europe.

    I would love to be of help i establishing general recommendations for the Cuban people if there is a way for me to travel and live there for a wile to study native plants and food crops. Together, we can create a Cuban Macrobiotic Diet. perhaps I can also appeal to food manufacturers here in the United States to sell some products at cost.

    The very best to you.
    Jeffrey Reel
    [email protected]
    413-717-1017 (phone)

  • Thanks. I have been practicing macrobiotics for over 30 years, and writing extensively on the subject. I’d like to be of some help if I can.

  • We will send Alfredo your e-mail address.

  • How do I get in contact with Alfredo Fernandez? I would like to communicate with him regarding macrobiotic-quality foods in Cuba. Thank you. – Jeffrey Reel (Becket, Massachusetts)

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