I thought it would be a good time to publish here the main ideas of what we learnt 12 years ago with Andrei, my first late husband and what we followed since in the family foodwise (or at least we tried to follow).
The Macrobiotic Way is a school of thought and action, based upon the use of natural (non-synthetic) materials in our fabrics, our homes and our food.
Even many naturally occurring ingredients can be hazardous to our health (e.g. hemlock, opium, sodium, lead); therefore, to determine the correct applications for natural materials, they are classified in accordance with the "Unique Principle".
The Unique Principle was introduced to the Western world by George Ohsawa (Yukikazu Sakurazawa), a Japanese businessman, teacher and writer.
As a teenager, Ohsawa was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was deemed to have little chance of surviving, by the Japanese medical doctors. However, by following the teaching of Sagen Ishizuka, a natural healer who was famous in Japan near the beginning of the 20th century, Ohsawa was able to heal himself.
He traveled from Japan to Europe in 1929 and, soon thereafter, began teaching the Unique Principle.
The "Principle", itself, employs the ancient oriental practice of Yin and Yang theory, to determine the quality of the materials in our universe.
Though all aspects of the environment are important in the macrobiotic way of thinking, there is a special emphasis on food. This is because the food we eat becomes our bodies.
Food turns into us. Therefore, special attention is paid to the quality of that portion of the environment which we consume. All things, including food, can be classified into a "more yin" or a "more yang" category.
Generally speaking, yin (pronounced 'yeen') foods tend to be more sugary and/or watery and/or cold and/or tropical in origin. Yang (pronounced 'yahn') foods tend to be more meaty and/or dry and/or cooked and/or polar, in nature. Very yang food (e.g. mammal meat, poultry, table salt, ginseng) is generally avoided, as well as very yin food (e.g. sugar, euphoric drugs, strong alcoholic beverages).
These foods are often called "extreme food". Balanced foods, which are not so "extreme", compose the standard macrobiotic diet. Cereal grains, reside at the balance between yin and yang, but even they are involved in the yin and yang classification (everything has yin and yang components; nothing is "neutral").
Therefore, whole grains and their derivatives (pasta, bread, hominy) are considered the mainstay of the diet. (No ancient civilization has ever been built that did not include a grain-based diet!)
Along with whole grain, the diet is comprised of bean and bean products, a wide variety of vegetables, kelp and other sea vegetables, many excellent soups and condiments, nuts and occasional fish and fruit. Macrobiotic people pay close attention to their personal condition and they adjust the yin & yang quality of their diets, as required to maintain a healthy life and happiness.
In addition to classification by type, the quality of the food is also considered. Vegetables should be organically grown. Fish and sea vegetables should be harvested from deep, clean water or from coastal areas located far from city & industrial pollution.
Also, genetically engineered foods, even grains and beans, are to be avoided (disturbed ki and more extreme). Organic food grown from traditional, open-pollinated seed is best. To some individuals, this entire process may sound unlikely or farfetched.
In that case, it would be important to know that the Macrobiotic diet has healed thousands of individuals; some, from very life threatening illnesses, such as cancer & heart disease and has even enabled diabetics to wean themselves off of insulin.
There are many well documented case histories of people who have healed themselves through macrobiotic procedures. Macrobiotics is not a religion.
It is a very valuable tool that is being used to improve health, clarify thinking, sharpen the senses and elevate consciousness, by thousands of individuals in the United States and around the world. It utilizes the same fundamentals as Feng Shui (composition in space) and 9 Ki (composition in time).
But, in this case, we apply these basic principles directly to our physical bodies and our lives. We "Feng Shui" our body / mind / spirit. As such, the macrobiotic approach is very potent.
Philisophy Though Macrobiotics is not a religion, it has common roots with several ancient, spiritual philosophies. Of these, the principles of Taoism and Macrobiotics are interwoven in a sublime tapestry. Do these two Ways spring from the same foundation? Or, does one precede the other? A subject for interesting discussion! "Exploring the Tao with Fun" provides an excellent introduction to Taoism, traditionally and as applied to daily life. Visit and enjoy!
Recipes for Life and Diet (courtesy of website: www.macrobioticcooking.com)
The Seven Essential Components Beginning with the basics, we see that according to Western Nutritional Theory, the human body needs seven components for health and vitality: carbohydrates, proteins, fats/oils, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and water.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body.
Simple carbohydrates (commonly referred to as simple sugars) include white sugar, honey, corn syrup, and fructose. Simple sugars are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This quick absorption might give a burst of energy, but it's often followed by an energy 'crash'. Over time, the demand for insulin -the hormone that regulates blood sugar balance- can stress the pancreas. Insulin is also known as the 'fat storage hormone' so the consumption of sugar, demanding the release of insulin, has been linked to obesity.
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains and vegetables. These are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream, giving the body consistent energy and not stressing the pancreas with immediate demands for insulin.
Proteins form the major solid matter of our muscles, organs, glands, bones, teeth, skin, nails, and hair. Protein, in fact, is necessary for the building and repairing of all body tissues. Proteins are made up of twenty-two building blocks called amino acids. Nine amino acids are called 'essential' because the body can not produce them. They must be absorbed from food.
Animal proteins have all of the essential amino acids. However, besides the very controversial issues of how commercial animals are fed antibiotics and steroids, mass-produced under questionable conditions and environmentally inefficient as a food source, excess animal protein can cause the body to become over-acidic and commercially-grown meat is often high in saturated fats. Over-acidity and saturated fats can contribute to health challenges. If you do choose to eat animal proteins, please balance the acidity with alkaline-producing foods and choose organic, grass-fed animals from a company that has a conscience about their farming methods.
Plant proteins have different combinations of
amino acids which, when combined (i.e. grains and beans), complement
each other and are considered 'complete' proteins. These complementary
proteins do not necessarily have to be combined at the same meal
because the body stores amino acids and then draws upon these
reserves/pools to make the protein complete. In excess, plant proteins
can make the body over-acidic so they also need to be eaten in balance
with alkaline-producing foods.
Fats and Oils
act as major structural components in the membranes which surround the
body's trillions of cells. They are an important source of energy for
the body and have important functions in the building and maintenance
of healthy cells. Fats and Oils are separated into two main
Saturated fats are found
mostly in animal products. These fats tend to stick together and deposit
within the cells, organs, and arteries. If eaten in excess, this
clumping of saturated fats can cause numerous health problems.
fats are found mostly in nuts and seeds and vegetables (i.e. corn,
olives). These fats are fluid in the body. They allow the molecules
within the cell membranes to make and break contact with one another as
they fulfill their important chemical and transport functions. Excess
intake of these unsaturated fats, however, can also cause health
regulate the acid-alkaline balance, the hormonal activity, the
enzymatic activity, the electrical movement in the nervous system, and
the oxygen transport in the body. They are also necessary for
developing and maintaining the bones, teeth, muscles, and all body
parts. Minerals cannot be made by the body so they must be obtained
are responsible for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and
carbohydrates. They are also responsible for building body tissues and
for cellular energy exchanges. It's very important to eat a wide variety
of foods to get adequate amounts of all vitamins.
regulate the chemical activities in all living organisms. They do this
by accelerating, stimulating or catalyzing some change in another
substance. They are necessary for the breakdown, digestion and
assimilation of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Enzymes are found in
fresh foods and in pickled foods (raw foods that have been preserved
with salt and not pasteurized). Microwaving, cooking and irradiating
can destroy the enzymes in food.
is vital to all the body functions, including movement, digestion and
temperature regulation. Eighty percent of our body weight is water!
It is essential for metabolic functions, the transport and burning of
fat and the elimination of toxins from the body. It's important to use
the purest water available for drinking, cooking and bathing to
prevent the absorption of pesticide residues, heavy metals (including
lead from old plumbing) and chlorine and fluoride.
The Seven Essential Components are found in these Food Categories:
According to recent studies from archeologists, anthropologists, and comparative anatomists, for thousands of years, human beings ate mostly vegetable foods including wild grains, roots, beans, nuts, tubers, fruits and wild game. The vegetables grew in mineral-rich soil in harmony with the growing seasons and the wild game was very lean (with eight to ten times less fat than modern domesticated animals). The ratio of vegetable quality foods to animal foods was three-to-one and disease was rarely caused by diet.
We see these vegetable-based diets in the traditional diets of many cultures. For example:
Asia - rice, aduki and soybean products, vegetables and fish;
Latin America - corn, beans, vegetables and chicken;
Middle East - cous cous, Hummus (chickpeas) vegetables and lamb;
North America: wild rice, corn, baked beans, vegetables and fish.
The percentage of deaths linked to these traditional vegetable-based diets is still relatively low.
However, in the United States, especially since the Industrial Revolution, the ratio of vegetables to animal foods has reversed, now being one to three. Instead of following a whole foods, vegetable-based diet, our food choices are dominated by: fast food restaurants that focus on animal meats; huge commercial growing farms that use pesticides and depleted soils; over-processed grains that have few nutrients and no fiber; and excess dairy products and sugar. The ratio of vegetables to animal foods is one to three, and hundreds of diseases are casually linked to this modern diet.
The traditional vegetable-based diets are recognized and encouraged by national and international health organizations as the most health supporting, because they are high in nutrients and fiber and low in fat.
When choosing a whole foods diet, it's very important to consider the quality of the food. It's important to choose organic foods to get the most nutrients, to support the organic farmers, and to not support the use of pesticides because of the negative effects on the body, wildlife and the environment.
A Partial List of the Foods in Each Category:
Organic Whole grains and whole grain products: Whole grains are 'live' foods with active enzymes that enable the grain to sprout if it is soaked in water. Compared to processed grains, which are often refined and bleached by chemicals, whole grains are rich in complex carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Organic Beans and Bean Products: In general, the body requires more carbohydrates than proteins because carbohydrates are used for daily activity and protein is used for maintenance. This ratio, however, is dependent upon one's level of activity, age, climate, health condition, body 'goals' and other factors so it must be determined individually.
Beans: adukis, black-eyed peas, black turtles, black soybeans, garbonzos, great northerns, kidneys, lentils, limas, navies, pintos, split peas;
Organic Nuts and Seeds: Excellent sources of protein and fat, nuts and seeds are plentiful. When un-shelled they are easy to store for a long time. Once shelled, however, they are susceptible to rancidity if left at room temperature unless preserved with salt or shoyu.
Knowing that the food components necessary for health are available in a whole foods diet, how do we adapt the diet to meet personal health conditions, activities for the day and climate variables? I've found it wonderfully helpful to understand and use the distinctions of the Expansive (Yin) and Contractive (Yang) forces found everywhere in Nature.
Research shows that people who are sick usually have an acidic blood condition. This can lead us to believe that the delicate balance of the acidity or alkalinity of our blood plays a critical role in our health and vitality. Blood is rarely too alkaline because the modern diet focuses on acid-forming proteins and most bodily functions create acid in the body.
We naturally balance this acidity/alkalinity in the body by breathing. The breath removes acids from the body before they can build up and cause pain, inflammation or dis-ease. However, if we're not exercising and breathing deeply on a regular basis, and if we eat an overly-acidic diet, the acids build up and the body tries to balance on its own or the body creates a dis-ease.
The answer is in understanding which foods have an acidic effect and which foods have an alkaline effect and balancing them from the get-go.
The following chart by Herman Aihara categorizes foods in both Acid/Alkaline and Yin/Yang categories. This is a shortened version of the list and it is not to scale. Some of these foods are not recommended in a daily diet but they are listed for demonstration purposes
Yin Acid most chemicals and drugs sugar beer nuts and nut butters cooking oils beans pasta
Yang Alkaline kuzu millet/quinoa/teff root vegetables sea vegetables miso/tamari salt
As you can see, the foods we eat in a whole foods diet are found in each of these categories. The important piece is to know how to balance each food category, ie. acid grains and proteins are balanced with alkaline vegetables, sea vegetables, and 'salt' condiments.
A problem with the Standard American diet, is there isn't an understanding of this balancing. If there is balancing, it's usually balancing with extremes, ie. too much red meat with too much wine, or too many sugary pastries with too much coffee, or too much coffee with too many eggs. Each of these extreme foods can have negative effects in the body, physically or emotionally.
So, we maintain the balance in our diets by: 1) accenting either a grain or a protein at a meal with a lot of vegetables; 2) chewing well - saliva is very alkaline-forming so chewing every bite 20-40 times is ideal; 3) breathing deeply throughout the day; 4) exercising regularly to actively move the acids out of the body. 5) not eating a lot of dairy products. Although dairy products are both alkaline (calcium) and acidic (protein), when eaten in excess, they tend to cause stagnation in the body. Sweet dairy products like ice cream can possibly stagnate in the breasts and salty dairy products can possibly stagnate in the reproductive organs.
Menu Planning The components of a complete menu include:
Vegetables: long cooked short cooked/raw
To get an idea of this structure that incorporates the Seven Components, the Food Categories, the Expansive and Contractive Forces, the Five Element Theory, and Acid and Alkaline, here are four menu suggestions for the different seasons. Can you feel how each menu feels appropriate for the season? (Note the 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and sharp and the three textures: creamy, crunchy and chewy.)
Summer: G: Polenta with fresh Corn (sweet) P: Creamy Red Lentils (bitter & creamy) S: Arame with Sunflower Seeds & Chives (salty, sharp & chewy) V: Fresh Salad with Carrot flowers P: Quickly-pressed Chinese Cabbage, Red Radish & lemon (sour) D: Mulberry Kanten
Autumn: G: Broiled Millet Squash Loaf (sweet) P: Deep Fried Seitan Steaks with Mushroom/Basil Gravy (crunchy & creamy) S: Hiziki with Mustard & Scallions (salty & sharp & chewy) V: Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage (sweet & sour) Collard Greens (bitter) P: Takuan pickle (salty) D: Dried Fruit Compote
Winter: G:Rice (chewy) P: Fried Fish with Ginger (crunchy & sharp) S: Shio Kombu (salty) V: Sweet and Sour Red Beets (sweet & sour) Kale with creamy dressing (bitter & sour) P: Takuan pickle (salty) D: Winter Squash pudding
1) Clean and organize your kitchen before and while you cook. Tie your hair back and wear a clean apron.
2) Leave your worries behind and stay focused on preparing strong food with the intention of nourishing your loved ones. Please remember - when cutting your vegetables, guide the knife against the knuckles of the opposite hand, imagining you are holding a golf ball in that opposite hand.
3) When planning the menu, decide on the protein first and build the menu around that.
4) If preparing fish, it's unnecessary to prepare a sea vegetable as both are high in minerals.
5) Do you have something Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Sharp in the menu plan? Very simply ....usually the vegetables are sweet (i.e. squash), the salad dressing is sour, the leafy greens are bitter, the sea vegetable is salty and the protein is sharp (i.e.. fish with ginger or mustard...or a stew seasoned with ginger).
6) Sometimes the long-cooked vegetables are combined with the protein in a stew.
7) The leafy greens can be either steamed, quickly boiled, pressed or raw....depending on the weather.
8) The pickle might be a long-term pickle, a quick pickle, or an organic, un-pasteurized store-bought pickle.
9) Usually if preparing a whole grain, a fruit based dessert is prepared because two grains at the same meal would be too acidic.
10) Dessert is ideally eaten after the kitchen is cleaned....maybe a walk has been taken so the fruit dessert doesn't upset the grain/protein digestion.
11) Please begin the meal with some sort of prayer, acknowledgment of gratefulness, or a moment of intention.
12) Chewing and no stress at the table please.
13) Everything in moderation. The human body's ability to adapt and repair is truly miraculous. We need to eat basic healthy food and drink clean water and enjoy meals and laughter with friends...no matter what they're serving. Just 'bless it' and chew well!
Burdock root: a root vegetable rich in minerals that promotes physical vitality.
Chives and scallions: helpful for a soar throat when simmered in water for 5 minutes. Drink as a tea and eat the greens.
Daikon radish: a root vegetable that helps break up fats in the body. When grated and eaten raw, it breaks up new fats as in tempura. When dried it breaks up fats deep in the body.
Dandelion: a root that can be harvested from your unsprayed yard, it revitalizes and strengthens the stomach and intestines. The bitter taste also nourishes the heart and small intestine.
Gomashio: made from sesame seeds and sea salt, it neutralizes acidity and relieves tiredness. It also strengthens the nervous and immune systems.
Jinenjo: a root vegetable that increases vitality and nourishes lubrication in the body. It is useful for anemia and general tiredness.
Mugwort mochi: Sweet rice that has been combined with the herb mugwort and pounded into mochi. This food is useful for pregnant and nursing mothers and conditions of anemia. Sweet rice is higher in protein and fat than regular brown rice.
Pearled barley: a whole grain that helps discharge animal quality proteins and fats. Found in home remedy books: for appendicitis - eat as a soft gruel; for yang tumors such as warts or moles caused by the excessive use of animal proteins and fats - eat every day and as tea.
Sea vegetables: nourish and alkalinize the body with the high mineral content; purify the body by removing heavy metals; and dissolve fat and mucus deposits.
Shoyu, miso, tamari: contain living enzymes and stimulate the secretion of digestive liquids; neutralize extremes of acid and alkaline; contain amino acids which supplement the amino acids found in whole grains; and strengthen the immune system.
Tekka: a condiment made from root vegetables and miso that is rich in minerals; strengthens weak blood; helps cure asthma and diarrhea; and can relieve migraine headaches caused from consumption of 'expansive' foods.
Ume-sho-ban: An umeboshi, shoyu, bancha tea concentrate added to hot water that is helpful in the case of stomach troubles, tiredness, anemia, weak blood, and headaches caused by excessive consumption of expansive foods. It is extremely alkalinizing for the body.
White Sugar: strongly not recommended because it weakens the body by: 1) causing over acidity. The body neutralizes acidic-causing sugar by using mineral reserves of calcium and magnesium from the bones;
2) "robbing" the body of B vitamins that are needed for calcium absorption; 3) blocking the absorption of magnesium which is necessary for the 'fixing' of calcium in the body; 4) weakening the immune system by neutralizing white blood cells. In one study it was found a healthy white blood cell can kill 14 bacteria. But after 6 tsp. of white sugar it could only kill 5 bacteria and after 18 tsp. only 2 bacteria. With the U.S.A. , Great Britain, and Switzerland averaging 50 kilos of sugar consumed each year, this study might show a link to the high rate of infectious diseases, AIDS, and other immune system related illnesses; 5) weakening the ability of neurons to transmit effectively; 6) stressing the pancreas because of its continuous demands for insulin' 7) contributing to obesity by demanding the secretion of insulin which is considered the 'fat storage hormone'.
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