The word macrobiotic comes from "macro," which means large, and "bio," which means "life." Practitioners of a macrobiotic diet generally seek a way of eating that incorporates physical and spiritual health. Rich in soy and phytoestrogens, which are a diverse group of nonsteroidal plant compounds found in food such as nuts, oilseeds and flaxseed, the macrobiotic diet is predominately vegetarian and emphasizes whole grains and vegetables.
"The real spirit of macrobiotics is about freedom," says Jessica Porter, author of The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics. "One eats healthy foods most of the time so that one can eat more extreme foods some of the time. People in good health can go out and play, having a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate cake. They return to their regular macro foods in order to maintain their health and eventually play again."
Porter says the philosophy in macrobiotic thinking is explained through the lens of yin and yang. "We eat foods that are whole, local and in season [so] that our bodies get perfect yin-ness and yang-ness needed for the natural environment in which we live. When we harmonize with nature, we experience strength, flexibility, freedom and happiness." For example, she says those who live in New York City and eat what she calls "yin foods" like bananas, yogurt and sugar on a daily basis become weakened and lose touch with the natural world.
Cooking macrobiotic food takes time. Porter suggest people start by cooking and eating whole grains on a daily basis, which can take up to an hour to cook. "Just make some brown rice and chew it well," she says. "In my experience, after people begin to eat whole grains daily, [they'll] want to cook an hour a day."
Though it can be expensive, Porter says certain items such as sea vegetables and miso last a long time and the elimination of meat and dairy in exchange for grains and beans balances out any high costs on a grocery bill.
"These days, with muffins, cappuccinos and microwave dinners making up our daily fare, we're eating in a way that weakens our bodies and minds over time," Porter says. "When we end up depressed or anxiety-ridden, we're told it's all in our heads, when very often, it's all on our plates."
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