Finding Balance with Macrobiotics

by Marissa Castello

Big Life
The word Macrobiotic comes from the Greek words macro, meaning big or large and bios, meaning life. So we have a term that literally means BIG LIFE! Macrobiotics is more than a funky diet of seaweed and brown rice- it is a philosophy of life, encompassing the physical, spiritual, and mental sides of living in this world and finding one's way. It means understanding the forces and the energy that infuses the entire universe with life. Macrobiotic philosophy stems from the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang which embody the spirit of duality that exists in nature. Yin represents the feminine and yang the masculine. Yin is cold, dark, inward, slower, and more fragile than yang, which represents warm, light, outward, faster, and heavier. These forces are everywhere we look and it is up to each individual to strike a balance between yin and yang qualities.

The Diet
A Macrobiotic diet provides a great foundation for robust health and amazing energy. The foods that comprise the standard Macrobiotic diet are whole grains, vegetables, beans and bean products, seaweed, pickles, soups, condiments, tea, and delicious desserts. Depending on the health of the individual, eggs, fish, fruit, and some alcoholic beverages are included. Someone following this diet will also omit all chemicalized, processed food, refined sugars and flours, dairy products, meat, and nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes. These foods are said to aggravate arthritic conditions and cause an overly acidic balance of the body's PH level. These foods are eaten with caution when following a Macrobiotic diet. Food should also be eaten in season and as organic and local as possible. This is a big part of a Macrobiotic diet.
While the foods mentioned here make up the bulk of a typical Macrobiotic diet, it is important to know that no food is forbidden. This is the point of living a big life! You have the freedom to make choices when it comes to the food you eat. What is important is to know how food affects your body, mind, and spirit, as well as the environment and other sentient beings.

Healing From Disease
Many people become familiar with Macrobiotics as a way to heal themselves from disease. In my own experience I have encountered many people who have healed what ails them by adopting a whole foods diet. For some, cancer will go into remission, diabetes will be eased, arthritis ceases to be a problem, and accumulated fat will melt off
a person's body when they change their diet. I like to think that you change your diet and your life will be changed! In my experience as a young adult adopting a Macrobiotic lifestyle, my eyesight was improved, excess weight vanished from my body, my skin cleared up and glowed with health, and my moods and PMS were greatly relieved. My
mind is clear, sleep more restful, and my life is generally more in balance. It should be noted that caution should be used when trying to heal from disease using a Macrobiotic diet. It is best to consult with a trained Macrobiotic counselor in addition to a medical doctor in the more serious cases of disease.

[Editor's Note: Some of the benefits described above stem simply from eating a diet not as energy dense, with more emphasis on fruits and vegetables with lower kcals, but more nutrients, and certainly a higher intake of antioxidants, vitamins, and other beneficial compounds. Nothing magical here, just an emphasis on wholesome food.]

Cooking Techniques
Macrobiotic cooking techniques vary depending on the foods being cooked and the health of the individual. Most cooking takes place on a gas stovetop with a pressure cooker, cast iron skillet, soup pot, dutch oven, and saucepan. Food retains most of its nutritional qualities when it is blanched, steamed, boiled, and sauteed for short periods of time. The main point is to keep food close to its natural state and avoid disrupting the molecules. That is why a microwave is never used and to heat up leftovers it is beneficial to steam them in a steamer basket. High quality food and oils should always be used to get the most benefits. Baking, deep frying, and raw food consumption can be used in addition to the mentioned cooking techniques.

To live a big life and be fully present and engaged, it is important to live as naturally as possible in this modern world. It is easy to transition into a natural foods diet and also easy to adopt the lifestyle that accompanies it! One can do this by eating organic, locally grown produce and drinking filtered water. Cooking in cast iron or stainless steel
is so much better for one's health than non-stick pans. These pans can off-gas and put harmful chemicals into the air that we breathe. One can try to purchase natural cleaning products and detergents as well as cotton and other natural fibers for clothing and bedding. Practices like meditation and yoga greatly enhance the spiritual and physical aspects of a Macrobiotic life. To see and appreciate the beauty in the earth and all people is so important
in cultivating a spiritual practice. I like to host potlucks where everyone can bring a healthy dish and share and connect with others. This is truly a big life.

Helpful Links
The Natural Epicurean
Macrobiotic Guide
The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics

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