The Macrobiotic Diet
The Macrobiotic approach to health reflects thousands of years of experience, observation and research in Asia and other traditional approaches to healthy living from around the world. The medicine of the Far East understood that the body has a powerful capacity for self-healing when treated well. The Macrobiotic Diet is designed to stimulate this self-healing by reducing nutritional stress. Rather than attacking the symptoms of disease the Macrobiotic Diet describes an approach to nutrition that reflects individual needs depending on the state of health, environment and lifestyle. In this process of self-generated healing every aspect of life is considered to play a part. The type of physical activity, the emotional state, family relationships and spiritual out-look are all-important aspects of the healing process.
Diet plays a special role since it is essential to blood quality and can be easily controlled. Macrobiotics has become closely associated with the use of diet to establish and maintain health as well as conforming to modern wisdom regarding the prevention of disease. The macrobiotic dietary principles are closely aligned to the kind of nutritional requirements prescribed by the World Health Organization and many governmental agencies. The diet conforms to the modern need for eating in a way that is low in saturated fats, simple sugars, refined carbohydrates and animal protein while supplying adequate calories, unsaturated fats, vegetable protein, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins.
The philosophy of Yin and Yang is used to classify foods according to the season of the year, specific nutritional qualities, patterns of their growth; the environment of their origin and how they respond to cooking. This understanding enhances modern nutritional analysis and allows for a more creative approach to food selection. It is this dynamic method of classification that makes Macrobiotics so unique. The system has the flexibility to meet personal needs regardless of age, sex, activity, environment or physical condition.
Foods to Use Regularly for Better Health
Whole Cereal Grains
Since the human development of agriculture cereal grains have been the principle food for humanity. In Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas´ grain has been the staple food. The advantage of whole grains is that they have a broad range of nutrients and combine well with other vegetable quality foods to provide the best variety of human nutritional needs. It is only in the past seventy years that diets in the affluent countries have decreased the consumption of whole grains and increased meat, dairy and refined foods; a change that has contributed greatly to most of the degenerative diseases in modern society. Whole grain rice, Wheat, Barley, Oats, Kasha, Rye, Quinoa and varieties of Wheat are all members of the grain family.
Fresh vegetables are an essential of a healthy diet. They are rich in a wide range of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Since many vegetables loose nutritional content once picked it is important that they are used as fresh as possible. A good diet contains a variety of vegetables defined by shape, colour, season of growth and nutritional content. It is always best to buy vegetables that are grown without herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers (usually referred to as organic or biologically grown depending on your country). It is also preferable to eat foods that are locally grown whenever possible.
Beans and Bean Products
Protein is a nutritional requirement but it does make a difference where it comes from. One fact is becoming very clear; most people in modern society are eating too much animal source protein. The nutritional companion to whole cereal grains in most cultures have been the legumes. Beans supply some of the essential amino acids that grains lack and are a perfect addition to a diverse and healthy diet.
Foods originating in the semi-vegetarian cultures of the Far East can be important in this regard. Fermented soya products such as Miso, Natural Soya Sauce and Tempeh as well as moderate use of Tofu can be an important addition to a healthy diet.
Sea Vegetables have been used in many parts of the world as a supplemental food. They are a rich source of many trace minerals. In Japan Sea vegetables have been used to the best effect incorporated into soups, stews and as side dishes and condiments. Include these foods in small quantaties on a daily basis unless otherwise indicated
Fruits are an important element of a healthy diet in small quantities. It is best to choose fruits that are grown in the local environment as a first choice. They may be used raw or in cooked desserts. Refer to the food list at the end of this document for my suggestions regarding fruit choices.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and Seeds are an excellent source of healthy oils and help to compliment grains and beans for the full range of amino acids needed to meet protein needs and the metabolism of many vitamins. They may be used as condiments with grains or vegetable dishes or roasted as a snack. See the food list at the end for detailed listing of preferred seeds and nuts.
Vegetable oils such as sesame oil and olive oil are an excellent source of dietary fats and an essential part of cooking. For some therapeutic diets oil may be excluded. Choose the best quality cold pressed oils and use them with moderations.
One of the keys to eating well on a consistent basis is having food that is well prepared, delicious and fills nutritional needs. Good cooking is an important part of the macrobiotic way of life. If you are new to cooking in this way invest in several good cookbooks to help and guide you or discover a qualified macrobiotic cooking teacher who can teach you. It will make all the difference in your enjoyment of the diet and the proper use of unfamiliar foods.
Cooking is not only an issue of taste and presentation. Good cooking maximizes the digestion of your food. While some nutrients are lost in cooking, many foods do not digest well if not properly cooked. Cooking in the macrobiotic way assures that the food you select is used to its greatest nutritional impact.
When preparing meals it is good to consider the way that foods combine. This is a simple process and easily understood. Certain foods need particular digestive factors that may inhibit the digestion of other foods eaten at the same meal. To get the full benefit of your foods follow these simple rules:
- Whole Grains combine well with all vegetables, beans and seeds. They do not combine well with starchy foods such as potato and are best used in only small portions when combined with fish or animal foods.
- Beans and fish or animal foods are not a good combination.
- Fish combines best with larger portions of vegetables and even partially refined grains such as bulgur, couscous or polenta.
- It is advisable to combine both root and leafy vegetables in every meal.
- Baked goods that incorporate large amounts of fruit or dried fruit are difficult to digest.
- Raw fruit is best to use between meals or an hour or so after any meal that contains whole grains. This also generally true with cooked fruits or other sweet items as well.
Cooking and Nutrition
Using a variety of vegetables, preferably in their season of growth is always good in getting a full range of nutrients. If there are a colourful variety of vegetables, you are getting a better range of nutrients since colour is an indicator of nutrient diversity.
Simple Cooking and Preparation Styles
- Raw Salads are used throughout the year but are best when the weather is warmer. Salads are refreshing and provide nutrients often lost in cooking.
- Steaming or blanching vegetables are techniques used for light cooking and provide better digestion while preserving the freshness of the food.
- Boiling or Pressure Cooking is most often used for grains and beans. These styles provide long heating of the foods and penetrate the outer layer of beans and grains allowing the inner core to soften and become more digestible. Both grains and beans should be cooked until soft. Beans often require soaking, longer cooking and are often better when reheated the following day.
- Sautéing food involves a quick exposure to heated oil that seals the outer surface of the vegetable allowing keeping nutrients within. The vegetables are then allowed to simmer in a small amount of water to cook to the desired texture.
- Pickling vegetables is simple and can be done in the kitchen in a day or two for quick pickles. Sauerkraut and other pickles made without additives can be purchased in natural food stores. These foods are a great assistance in full digestion is eaten in small quantities with meals.
The best results come with the best quality ingredients. Find the most reputable distributors of macrobiotic foods in your area and always try to use those foods that have been grown organically. The increased use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers has introduced toxic elements in the food chain, reduced the nutritional quality of the food, and contributed to poor health and environmental damage.
Foods To Reduce Or Avoid For Better Health
Avoid all Highly Processed Foods with Chemical Additives: Chemical food additives are commonly found in the processed foods purchased in the supermarket. It is wise to read the labels of any food you purchase. Some food additives are known to be dangerous to human health and the long-term effects of many are simply unknown. They provide no health benefits, are potentially dangerous and best avoided in a healthy diet.
Avoid all Cheese and Dairy products for a period of at least four weeks. You may want to slowly reduce these over a two-week period but complete avoidance is best.
During the past century, dairy product consumption has risen sharply due to pasteurisation and the increased ability to preserve and transport them. The idea that milk products were essential foods in a healthy diet has proven to be wrong in the past thirty years. Excessive consumption of the highly saturated fats in dairy has been proven to contribute of heart disease and some cancers. These products include Cheese, Butter, Milk (buttermilk, skimmed milk), Yoghurt, Kefir, Ice cream, Cream, Sour cream and Whipped cream. They are best left out of a healthy diet. If these products are used they should be used sparingly and always from organic sources. The body generally better manages Goat’s milk products and fermented dairy (such as yoghurt) is easier to digest.
Avoid all Red Meat, Pork, Chicken, Fish and Eggs. The over consumption of meat is and other high protein animal source foods is associated with several types of cancer and heart disease. Even when meat is lean and organic is places great stress on the digestive system. For optimum health, we recommend that individuals refrain from eating these foods for at least six to eight weeks and increase sensitivity to effects of eating a diet rich in animal products.
Sugar is toxic, avoid it completely: Refined sugar is one of the most harmful aspects of the modern diet. Its’ use has a close correlation with the development of diabetes, obesity and a number of other serious health problems. As a simple sugar, it leaches valuable minerals from the body and produces lethargy and long-term nutritional imbalances. Sugar and the foods that use it as an ingredient should be removed from a healthy diet. The use of grain based sweeteners such as rice and barley malt or whole fruits are a better choice. Aside from cookies, candy, soft drinks and pastries sugar is often added to refined foods and canned foods. While honey is a natural product, it is very concentrated and should be used in moderation if at all. It is best to avoid refined corn syrups, fructose and artificial sweeteners.
Tropical Fruits: Eating with the seasons is a basic principle of the macrobiotic approach to diet. Tropical fruits are often very high in sugars and acid that can compromise the digestive system and disturb the balance of the body.
Coffee and Black Teas accelerate heart rate it is best to avoid them completely. It is better to use pure water, simple green teas and herbal teas when thirsty.
Avoid all Deep Fried Foods: Deep frying foods are sometimes used in macrobiotic cooking mostly in the cold months when they can be helpful in warming the body. Most commercial deep-frying is done with poor quality oil that used repeatedly and often past the state of rancidity. They are unhealthy for regular use.
Reduce Refined Grains: Refined grains fall into two categories: flour products and refined whole grains or their products. White flour products are difficult to digest and often lead to digestive stagnation and weight gain. Whole grain flour products lack the nutritional value of whole grains but can be used when made into naturally fermented breads or in other baked products.