"In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting my existence."
-A Zen blessing
FREEDOM and FOOD - Part Deux
Yesterday’s post introduced you to Macrobiotics, and the 12 Laws of Change of the Infinite Universe.
Now that you’ve had a day to process and reflect on the above - and hopefully begin to tune in to the Yin and Yang all around you, I will move onto the FOOD portion of the post.
Before I begin, let me just say that I am starting off with a few key points, taken from a very large body of information, in an effort to highlight the basics of Macrobiotics, and enable you to begin to gradually build your own Macrobiotic foundation. Throwing everything at you all at once might seem daunting and impossible.
QUICK INTRODUCTION TO:CHAKRAS OF THE BODY
In The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, Jessica Porter explains that, “On every part of the planet, contracting yang force (also called heaven’s force) is coming in from the cosmos, and yin, expanding force (also called earth’s force) is exiting the earth”.However, “yin and yang not only enter the planet but our bodies as well - also known as CHAKRAS. As heaven’s force rains down upon your head and the earth’s force issues up from the earth, yin and yang collide to make seven spirals along the midline of your body. Each chakra (which means “wheel” in Sanskrit) radiates life force into your body and out to the world. Good health and happiness depend upon the yin-to-yang charge of your body’s spirals being natural and balanced… Macrobiotics is about eating in order to align with this larger reality”.
GRAIN IS KING
The most fitting and simplest place to start your transition to a Macrobiotic lifestyle is through WHOLE GRAINS! Organic whole grains such as brown rice, millet, and oats, provide our bodies with the natural, balanced state that we as human beings strive for constantly. Another way to describe natural and balanced, is comfortable, content, and pain-free - grains help you to fall into your natural rhythm. To explain why that is, what makes whole grains the end all, be all - I turn to Jessica.
To tie in the Chakra talk from above, Jessica explains that, “if contraction and expansion begin with forces yin and yang entering and exiting the earth, you should be receiving those forces easily and in the ratio most suited to human health. It is believed in macrobiotic theory that the human organism is created by a ratio of roughly 7 parts heaven’s force (yang) to 1 part earth’s force (yin). Of course, the ratio is slightly different for everyone, but it is believed that we live in that range. Therefore, the rice plant, which is more like 7 parts earth’s force (yin) to 1 part heaven’s (yang), provides great balance for the human body”. To deepen your understanding, George Oshawa, the founding father of Macrobiotics, suggested a 10-day rice fast for one purpose: SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
For example, I start my morning off with a freshly made bowl of oats, along with miso soup - I will elaborate on the benefits of miso soup in a later post. When I start my day this way, I feel I am at my best. Since my introduction to Macrobiotics, I have tried other breakfast options - toast, fruit, juicing, but nothing prepares me for the day like freshly prepared oats. I feel centered. I skip over the high and crash that comes with sugary jam on toast. I stay fuller longer versus eating, leaving the house, and feeling starved the moment I arrive at my destination. A bowl of oats with brown rice syrup, blueberries, or apple is what serves me best. For the sake of time, and the brevity of this post, I will revisit the benefits of each grain another day. If you want a little more grain info now, please review Quick and Dirty Task 2.
CHEW. CHEW. CHEW.
Aside from introducing whole grains into your lifestyle, CHEWING is probably the most important practice in Macrobiotics. CHEW! CHEW! CHEW! Remember as a child growing up, your grandmother always telling you to ‘Slow down!’ when eating for fear of ‘giving yourself indigestion’… and of course maybe choking. Well there was some merit to that! Thank you G-MAH! Not only will you possibly give yourself indigestion from lack of chewing, or eating too quickly, when you don’t chew sufficiently you miss out on all of the awesome, kick-ass nutrients in your food. So what’s the point in eating then? Rather than swallowing chunks of food, empower yourself by choosing to take the extra minute or two to CHEW (that rhymed) and break down that bite. You’re probably thinking, “But I just don’t have the TIME to do that!” My answer to that is - YES YOU DO!!! I completely understand that in this day and age, it is all about MOVING and just how quickly you can do it. No one stops for anything, of course unless it’s ‘to-go’. But now you know how to get more from it - just chew, chew, chew. Are you ready?!… 50-100 times!!! YES, you read that correctly! Macrobiotic teachings require one bite of food to be chewed 50-100 times before swallowing.
For those science-minded readers, Jessica explains the reasoning behind it: “The digestion of complex carbohydrates (grains and vegetables) begins in the mouth. We secrete an enzyme called ptyalin, which needs to be mixed well with the food. This mixing happens only through chewing. And if the food is not well broken down in the mouth, other digestive enzymes along your gastrointestinal tract cannot work as well. The whole system gets messed up, and you don’t absorb the goodness from the food. Plus, when you chew, you’re actually crushing the food into tiny pieces. As you break down the molecular structure of the food, all the energy, vitamins, and minerals of the food become available to your body. Uncrushed, they get sent down the digestive tracts in their pseudo-whole form, their insides never used by the body.
But wait. We’re not finished yet. One of the greatest benefits of chewing well is that your saliva, which is alkaline, begins to alkalize the food. And one of the whole concepts behind macrobiotic practice is keeping the blood in a slightly alkaline condition.” If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will! The overall ‘chew summary’ - more goodness enters your body, you stay fuller for longer, avoid indigestion and overeating, and alkaline that bod! HELLO!! I’M SOLD!!!
QUICK AND DIRTY TASK 2
Introduce organic whole grains into your diet for the next 30 days and, in Jessica’s words, become a “Chewru”.
Eat organic whole grains at one meal (two if possible) each day for the next 30 days. You do not need to cook it fresh each time. Pick two days of the week - a Sunday and Thursday for example - and cook a large batch of grains that you can store in the fridge.
A list of whole grains includes: Brown rice (short grain for the fall and winter seasons), millet, barley, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, teff, wheat, hato mugi.
* Lundberg Organic Short Grain Brown Rice is my favorite!
During every meal, especially when eating a grain, chew 50-100 times before swallowing - no matter where you are eating, what you are eating, or who you are eating with!
Well, in Jessica’s words, “we need to get this wonderful stuff in you and have you begin to absorb it well. Within 30 days, you should notice some changes. Your mind may feel clearer after chewing well. Perhaps your body’s daily discharges will feel different. You may become less interested in some foods and more interested in others. Regardless of what you register consciously, whole grains are feeding you - pumping minerals, vitamins, fiber, and the amazing, balancing vibes of the natural universe into your body. They are a force to be reckoned with”. Eventually you will become one with whole grains, and turn to them whenever you are feeling out of sorts. And as for chewing, “being truly nourished is not about the amounts, or what we eat, or even the quality. It is how we eat that determines whether the food gets in and does its thing. Try it. You’ll be amazed.”
The above teachings are just the BEGINNING STEPS toward the FREEDOM that was discussed in yesterday’s post. If you are interested, and have the time, I would be happy to take you further down the path with future posts!