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Macrobiotics for Healthy Living and Delicious Eating

by Anna Freedman(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 189 - December 2011


Beautiful Food
I would like to take the mystery out of macrobiotics and demonstrate that this ancient approach to food and well-being is of paramount significance to us all right now.



Wholefood Harmony Brown Rice Sush
Wholefood Harmony Brown Rice Sushi

When I first encountered macrobiotics, I was overcome by most beautiful food and cooking. The essence of eating such pure, whole foods and creating delicious natural flavours felt completely right. I enjoyed widening my diet and restocked my kitchen with all manner of natural ingredients.  I began experimenting with recipes and creating a multitude of dishes. I started feeling nourished. My energy, skin, digestion and in fact, all my cells thrived on this natural way of eating.

What is Macrobiotics?
Macrobiotics brings delicious, vitalizing and seasonal foods together with Eastern medical wisdom that emphasizes natural body balance. The style is about enjoying pure, unrefined foods that enhance the body's health and harmony.

Macrobiotic is a Greek word meaning 'the big life'. Macrobiotics originated from a traditional Japanese wisdom, which embraces a truly holistic approach. The concept is not only about enjoying whole, natural foods and nurturing balance in the body, but also touches other areas of life. Macrobiotics promotes a balanced diet, with plenty of plant based foods across an array of whole grains, beans, seasonal vegetables and vegetables of the sea. The ingredients are cooked for a perfect medley of flavour, texture and colour.

Macrobiotic History
In the late 1800s Sagen Ishizuka, a Japanese army doctor cured himself of tuberculosis using a traditional oriental diet. At this time Japan was heavily influenced by western medicine. Ishizuka established a theory of traditional nutrition and medicine and began successfully treating hundreds of patients a day. George Oshawa and later Michio Kushi spread macrobiotics to the wider world.

Embracing Life
Macrobiotics is about balancing your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self in order to embrace life fully. Food and diet permeate through each area. On a physical level, food is the body's fuel and makes our blood. Food determines the quality of the blood and the nourishment each cell receives. So food has a great and direct effect on our energy levels and metabolism, on our digestive systems and organs, health and vitality.

Macrobiotics can foster inner peace, balance, clarity and fulfilment. The wisdom helps connect to your truth and unique qualities, and also transform desires for unhealthy foods. The kitchen may be seen as a platform for spirituality. Here cooking is not only an art, it may become a daily ritual, an opportunity for intuition to develop and cater for what the body really needs.

What are the Benefits?
Natural and unprocessed foods bestow powerful benefits to health and mitigate against disease. A macrobiotic style of eating acts by cleansing and detoxifying, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and healing and strengthening the body.

Whole foods have not been afflicted by processing or tarnished by additives, preservatives and sugar. Whole and natural foods are therefore of the highest quality and they provide all the minerals and nutrients the body requires for full health.

Macrobiotics raises awareness of the effects of food on the body, of the energetic qualities foods and cooking styles bestow on the body. The oriental understanding of yin and yang, the expansive and contractive energies and the five elements are applied practically to develop health.

Food and Health
There is a plethora of evidence of the powerful and beneficial impact of plant based diets on health. There are numerous personal tales of people expanding their health through natural food and overcoming chronic disease.[1,2]

There are also countless scientific studies of people and populations which connect the proliferation of modern degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer with typical western eating habits. The research concludes that those enjoying a natural plant based diet are the healthiest and tend to avoid chronic disease.[3, 4]

Food and Mood
Have you noticed how stimulating foods affect your moods? If you are tired, you may have a coffee, which makes you alert for a short time only. If you want a hug, you may eat some chocolate. Now you feel comforted, but then later; perhaps a little low and have the desire for more sugary foods!

Unlike these extreme foods, plant foods have more subtle effects. If you are tense or frustrated, upward growing vegetables like celery, pak choi or cucumber can help you relax. If you are sensitive or emotional, root vegetables can help you feel more grounded. Therefore altering what you eat, can change how you feel within yourself and how you interact with others.

Ideal Eating
Macrobiotics recognizes each person's individuality and uses a bespoke and flexible eating style to anchor and expand health.  I love to craft food plans which are ideal to the individual, tailor-made to peoples' health, lifestyle, goals and tastes. I am delighted to see people develop their digestive health, ease skin conditions, improve allergy sensitivities and energy levels and manage weight. With the introduction of whole grains and other natural ingredients, I see significant positive change in peoples' lives. Clients too recognize their fresh vitality, bright eyes, centred calm and grounded clarity which infuses beneficially into their lives and interactions with others.

Recipe for Health
Here are my tips for embracing a natural, healthy and tasty style of eating:

Eat Whole Foods
Enjoy a variety of whole grains and beans. Use different ingredients, colours, flavours, textures and cooking styles.

Add Some Greens
Delight in seasonal, fresh, local, organic fruit and vegetables where you can. Such foods are aligned to the environment and vibrant, carrying pure live energy for complete nourishment and a healthy radiance.

Integrate Flavours to Combat Cravings
Integrate the five different flavours into your main courses. Keep the flavours pure by using natural seasonings and taste the salty, sour, pungent, bitter and savoury sweetness of your dishes. A balance of flavours within a meal will help you feel nourished and satisfied after the meal, and not give rise to cravings!



Wholefood Harmony Garden Berry Jelly
Wholefood Harmony Garden Berry Jelly

A Spoonful Less Sugar
Sugar is found in all manner of foods from baked goods and chocolate to fizzy drinks and processed foods. However sugar is a very highly refined substance, lacking in any minerals and can cause an over acid condition of the blood. Sugar can prevent sustained, stable energy levels and has in fact been linked with a multitude of illnesses and diseases.[5] Be careful about sugar by staying away from processed foods, sugary drinks, biscuits and ice cream! Switch to using rice syrup and other delicious sugar free alternatives.

Take a Seat, Feel Relaxed and Chew Well
Being relaxed and chewing your food are really important for effective digestive functioning. Your gut can respond to how you are feeling, and the action of chewing begins the digestive process activating key enzymes.

Case Study
Michelle came to see me as she wanted to improve her digestive system and manage her weight. She was suffering from several digestive complaints and had tried many different eating styles. Through coaching sessions and her attending cooking workshops, Michelle now feels like a new person. She is enjoying far greater health, energy and mental clarity, and has left previous harmful eating habits far behind. Her digestion has improved and she has a fresh radiance. She has discovered a love for cooking and is relishing her new eating style and way of life.

Ingredients for Vitality
Macrobiotic eating spans a great variety of natural ingredients. I respect that food choices are personal and at the same time I like to encourage people to enjoy an abundance of the following health promoting foods:

Gorgeous Grains
Whole grains have not been refined through milling; this means that the grains' bran (outer layer) and germ (part that germinates) are still intact and these components are rich in both nutrients and fibre. The complex carbohydrates are broken down by chewing, and digested slowly by the body, and this creates a peaceful, steady rise in blood sugar levels.

Grains bestow qualities including calm, intuition and inner strength, and their complete structure fosters clarity and holistic thinking. Grains also help strengthen and heal internal organs.

  • Whole grains: short grain brown rice, basmati rice, millet, oats, buckwheat, barley, corn, rye;
  • Other grain products: noodles (wheat, buckwheat, rice, spelt, corn etc), cous cous, bulghur wheat, polenta, quinoa.

Plant Proteins
Beans are rich in protein. This plant protein is easy for the body to breakdown and use, unlike animal protein, which must be worked on by the organs and converted to ammonia and uric acid and removed from the bloodstream. Beans have healing and nourishing properties and they are especially nourishing to the kidneys. To avoid gas, soak and cook beans with a small piece of kombu sea vegetable.

  • Aduki beans, chickpeas, lentils (green, brown, red), black turtle beans, kidney beans, split peas, black-eyed peas;
  • Use bean products too - tempeh (made from the fermented soy bean), seitan (rich and meat like, made from the gluten of wheat), tofu, natto, fu.


Wholefood Harmony Pumpkin Soup
Wholefood Harmony Pumpkin Soup

Vegetable Heaven
Green Vegetables
Upward growing vegetables are full of minerals and are strengthening for your blood and great for cleansing the liver and uplifting your energy.

  • Pak choy, leeks, Chinese cabbage, carrot tops, kale, watercress, parsley.
  • Round or Ground Vegetables
  • Sweet round vegetables have a soothing and centring effect on the body. They appeal to and relax the middle organs - the stomach, spleen and pancreas.
  • Broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, kohl rabi, squash, string beans, pointed cabbage, Hokkaido pumpkin, onion.

Downward Growing Vegetables
These vegetables carry a grounding energy and white root vegetables especially aid the lungs and the digestive functioning.

  • Carrots, daikon, burdock, parsnip, turnip, swede, radish, lotus root.

Vegetables of the Sea
Sea vegetables are very rich in minerals and vitamins from the sea. They are alkaline and help balance over acidic blood conditions. They also bind radioactive substances and heavy metals and expel them from the body.

Nori is probably the most commonly known seaweed - it's the delicate, paperlike seaweed used to wrap sushi. Wakame is a lovely, tender seaweed, delicious in soups. Kombu is used when cooking beans to make the beans more digestible and nutrient rich. Agar agar is a natural gelatine and used in making tasty jelly dishes and puddings.

  • Wakame, nori, kombu, agar agar, hiziki, arame, dulse, mekabu, sea salad.

Fermented Foods
Fermented products offer enhanced nutrition by developing good intestinal flora, aiding digestion and they help cleansing by removing heavy metals from the body.

  • Shoyu, miso, tempeh, home made pickles, pressed salads.

Super Soups
Thick soups are very nourishing for the middle organs. The spleen, stomach and pancreas respond well to a sweet flavour and soft, creamy texture. Broth-like soups are healing particularly for the kidneys and bladder. These organs like mineral rich liquids to assist their functioning and harness the body's energy.

Sugar Free Sweetness
Rice syrup and barley malt are made in a natural process from whole grains and still contain vitamins and minerals. Using the complex sugars from grain malts and syrups is so much better for you, since not only do you avoid all the ill effects of simple sugar intake, but these complex sugars are broken down and released into the blood stream more slowly giving you more sustained energy as well as easier digestion.

  • Rice syrup, barley malt, amazake.

Cooking with the Seasons
Our digestive systems and metabolisms are tuned to the seasons. Perhaps you have noticed that you feel more energized in spring and need more sleep during winter and that you can put on more weight in winter?

Cooking, eating and living in harmony with nature bestows balance on the body. Macrobiotics gives attention to the seasons and the connections with the natural elements, the body and its organs, feelings, flavours and foods. For example, summer resonates with the Fire element and fire energy nourishes the heart, which is the bearer of joy and laughter. In summer, stir-fries and quick cooking styles are appropriate to maintain that fiery energy and desserts rich with berries and other fruits of the season are great to enjoy.

Empowering Delicious Health
Macrobiotic cooking is delicious and the dishes are easy to create! I work to ensure that macrobiotic eating styles are sustainable, realistic and can be integrated with ease. I enjoy building peoples' repertoires of delicious, healthy dishes through private coaching workshops or public classes, such as the 'Love Food Nourish Life' Cooking course taking place this Autumn term.

For me, macrobiotics is a powerful and holistic approach to life, which facilitates health, nourishment and vitality. The approach empowers self-responsibility to explore and develop your own health, to prioritize and value pure food and to cultivate your inner talents and qualities for the benefit of all.

I invite you to taste this delicious wisdom.  

References
1. Wolff M. Becoming Whole. Lulu. United States. 2006.
2. Sattilaro AJ. Recalled By Life. Avon. New York. 1982.
3. Campbell TC and Campbell TM. The China Study. Benbella Books. Dallas. 2006.
4. Jack A. Let Food Be Thy Medicine: 750 Scientific Studies and Medical Reports Showing the Personal and Planetary Environmental Benefits of Whole Foods. One Peaceful World Press. Becket. 1999.
5. Dufty W. Sugar Blues. Grand Central Publishing. New York. 1975.

Further Information
The "Love Food Nourish Life" cooking course this Autumn guides participants through a repertoire of delicious healthy dishes that integrate the wisdom of natural macrobiotic food.  There are seven packed classes each including themed teaching, hands on cooking and enjoyment of a full macrobiotic meal. Classes cover Vitalising Breakfast, Natural Luncheon, Wholegrain Wonders, Vegetable Heaven, Plant Proteins, Healthy Treats & Snacks and Pure Puddings. Further information at www.wholefoodharmony.com

Photo Credit: Images courtesy of Petra Exton. Front cover image Issue 189 supplied by Wholefood Harmony.

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About Anna Freedman

Anna Freedman is a qualified and accredited Macrobiotic Cook and Health Coach. She underwent a professional training for four years at the International Macrobiotic School, studying macrobiotics, natural ways to expand health and life counselling. Anna set up Wholefood Harmony in Spring 2009 to inspire health through delicious natural cuisine. She offers Health Coaching, Cooking Workshops, Events and Catering.

Anna runs Flavour The Seasons cooking workshops on behalf of the Macrobiotic Association of Great Britain. The current season's “Love Food Nourish Life” cooking course guides participants through a repertoire of delicious healthy dishes that integrate the wisdom of natural macrobiotic food. There are seven packed classes each including themed teaching, hands on cooking and enjoyment of a full macrobiotic meal. Classes cover Vitalising Breakfast, Natural Luncheon, Wholegrain Wonders, Vegetable Heaven, Plant Proteins, Healthy Treats & Snacks and Pure Puddings.

Anna also holds private Food and Health Coaching and Kitchen Impact Workshops to cultivate and integrate clients’ wellbeing through a bespoke and natural healthy eating plan and practical private cooking classes.

You can find recipes and further details about Wholefood Harmony events and Health Coaching at www.wholefoodharmony.com. Anna may be contacted on Tel: 07957 313 187; anna@wholefoodharmony.com  www.wholefoodharmony.com

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