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Macrobiotics Made Simple: Eating in Harmony with Nature

Macrobiotics Made Simple: Eating in Harmony with Nature

Macrobiotics Made Simple:  Eating in Harmony with Nature

 
The Macrobiotic diet gained a lot of popularity in the 1960s and 70s as an anti-cancer diet and is still used to this day as a diet safe for cancer patients.   I figure if it helps slow the growth of cancer, it can't be bad, and so I tried the macrobiotic diet for a year to see how it made me feel.  The traditional macrobiotic diet is a vegan Japanese based diet full of grains, vegetables, seaweeds and fermented foods.  As I learned more about it, I found a lot of flexibility in the diet.
 
What I found is that eating macrobiotics is more of a philosophy about life than it is about  dieting.  In fact, it's not about losing weight or depriving yourself at all.  Let me explain the principles of macrobiotics in a very simplistic way.  
 
Everything in the world has its opposite - yin and yang - like the earth and the sky or hot and cold.  The most balanced place is in the middle: where the earth meets the sky or where hot and cold find a balanced temperature. You already choose to live in the most balanced and happy state by building your house on the ground: where the earth meets the sky as opposed to deep underground or high in the sky.  You also want the air temperature around you to be a good balance of hot and cold.  When it's too hot, we turn on the air conditioner, when it's too cold we turn on the heat.  When yin and yang are balanced we feel comfortable.  
 
When we hit the extremes of too hot or too high in the air, it can make us stressed, unhealthy and has a general feeling of instability.   We see it in Chicago every year, people go nuts when it gets too hot and depressed when it gets too cold.  When the weather drops dramatically in the fall, we almost always catch a cold.  Our bodies like balance, when it's out of balance everything goes a little nuts until we come back into equilibrium.  
 
It's no different with the food we eat.  Sometimes you can see the opposites in the food very clearly.  For instance, as a carrot grows, the hard part underground is called Yang and the leafy green part is called Yin.  The point where the hard carrot and leafy greens come together is similar to living where the earth meets the sky or that perfect 72 degree day.  According to the philosophy of macrobiotics, this point is where the carrot has the most energy.    
 
When we eat in balance with Yin and Yang our bodies stay in a happy state of equilibrium.  When we go to extremes by eating food that make us feel light (like a mixed drink waiting for the table at a restaurant), we feel the need to balance it with something that makes us feel heavy (like a steak) but then we feel the need for something light to pick us up (like desert) and by the time we're home we're craving something salty to bring us back down (like potato chips). In the morning we wake up needing something that brings us up (like a glass of orange juice), but then we need something that settles us down (like bacon and eggs) and the process just keeps swinging out of control.  
 
From my experience with macrobiotics, I learned that my biggest sweet tooth and salty junk food cravings came after eating a very yin or very yang food which my body needed to balance out.  I believe that a lot of sickness and obesity is the result of constantly swinging too widely on a regular basis.  Too many of us find ourselves eating fast food for lunch - a burger and salty French fries (two very yang things) with soda (very yin) and then feeling the need for a candy bar or a cookie 2-3 hours after lunch to keep balance.  By keeping your food choices from swinging too far on either end, you can keep your body in balance and avoid food cravings based on equilibrium and actually hear the food cravings that are based on hunger.
 
Experiement with macrobiotics by paying attention to the way your cravings swing when you eat on the extremes and how those cravings go away when you eat where the yin and yang collide. 
 
Extreme Yang - eggs, chicken, beef, salt
Extreme Yin - Sugar, alcohol, fruit juice, soda
 
Good amounts of Yang - Fish, Root Vegetables
Good amounts of Yin - Leafy greens, lettuce, kale, beans, nuts and seeds
 
The perfect food = Brown rice.  When you look at a kernel of cooked brown rice you can see an expansive and a contracted part. It's considered the ultimate blend of yin and yang in the macrobiotic diet and should make up 40-60% of each meal.  
 
You can easily eat in a macrobiotic way, by having rice bowls on a regular basis.  Rice bowls consist of brown rice, vegetables, a protein and optionally a sauce like teriyaki.  You can buy frozen microwavable rice bowls at the store – look in the organic foods section.  
 
To Create your own Rice Bowl:
 
Prepare Brown Rice according to the package
Add steamed vegetables of your choice - like broccoli, carrots, etc.
Add a cooked protein if you’d like – tofu, chicken, or fish
Season with a small amount of teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, peanut sauce or curry sauce
 
Want to dive deeper into Macrobiotics?  Try these books:  

 

 

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