Macrobiotics is a Japanese technique for rejuvenation of health which is based on consumption of food that is balanced in ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ elements and lays stress on consumption of locally procured food. It applies the ‘Chi’ philosophy to cooking and as the name itself suggests this system takes a broad and long term view of all problems and stresses on compassion and balance in life. New Delhi based Macrobiotic coach and Founder of Gunaorganics Neha Upadhaya explains the Macrobiotic approach to cooking.
Fundamentals of Macrobiotics
Macrobiotics is a Japanese technique which has similarity to the ancient ‘Chi’ philosophy, It was promoted in Japan during the post war era, during that time radiation levels were very high in Japan. Due to this a large number of children were being born disabled or deformed and this had a cross generational effect as even now children are being born disabled due to the atomic explosion. Macrobiotics is a philosophy and technique to counter harmful effects of radiation and it is potent enough to Alkalise the blood, further freeing us from harmful radiation.
Michio Kushi is regarded as the father of Macrobiotics and his philosophy was to view every problem at the macro level and not in isolation, every problem he said has a macro cause hence the solution also must be found at the Macro level.
What are the principles of Macrobiotic food?
Neha: Michio Kushi stressed on the body’s ph balance he advocated a diet which had ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ in balance. Food must have a balance of sodium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. If one is consuming food that is too salty it means that sodium level rises whereas potassium, magnesium, phosphorus are ignored and the proportion is imbalanced. Due to increased intake of refined sugar sulphur content goes up and again there occurs an imbalance.
Effects of imbalanced diet?
Neha: Several effects of eating an imbalanced diet are evident for example a very high percentage of the women who come to me have calcified sebaceous cysts in their bodies this occurs due to chemical deposition or high alkaline intake, this deposition may occur at various parts of the body like uterus, shoulder, skull, almost every third women in the age group of 21 to 34 women has this problem. PCOS, PCOD – Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome and disorder are very common today amongst women.
Kindly elaborate on the reliance on Whole grains in Macrobiotic cooking?
Neha: Post Green revolution we see too much reliance on grains like rice and wheat, crops such as potato, tomato and lettuce too are being overused. Michio Kushi called these products industrial crops as these have been propagated in recent times during the industrial age, he laid stress on eating locally procured food items and that food which have ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ balance such as millets, round vegetables, whole grains etc. Besides the food inputs the utensils in which these are prepared are important in earlier times Copper utensils were used due to which the body acquired copper automatically. It is better not to use pressure cooking for cooking as the food is simply blasted in that and nutrient loss takes place.
Are Macrobiotic elements present in our traditional Indian cooking?
Neha: Use of whole grain pulses, use of ‘Saindha Namak’ which is low on Sodium, spices grinded by hand and without machines are traditional Indian practices and also form part of Macrobiotics. Macrobiotics also promotes veganism/vegetarianism, though macrobiotics does not outright reject meat eating but it advises to reduce meat consumption gradually to the point when the body itself is not able to digest it. Macrobiotics is a balanced philosophy hence avoids extremes. Macrobiotics also advocates mindful eating as per which we ought to be grateful for the food which is very much part of Indian tradition. Eat with gratitude.
In Macrobiotics we believe that raw food, dry fruits, vegetables, fruits, lemonade, keep a person more alert and active which again is similar to the concept of ‘Satvic Aahar’.
Is macrobiotics simply a way of cooking or a worldview?
Neha: It is much more than merely a way of cooking or eating. Harmony, Balance and developing a compassionate outlook all form part of macrobiotics. As I mentioned earlier outright rejection of anything is not the way but a gradual reduction is prescribed, so stress on balance and avoidance of extremes. Similarly, minimum dependence on animal protein is prescribed here so as to develop a compassionate outlook. Food, too ought to free of any sort of cruelty which can go a long way in fostering compassion.
Milk can be from various sources like Brown rice milk, almond milk, consumption of these not only promote a compassionate outlook but also are good for promoting mental clarity. As the name suggests Macrobiotics takes a broad and a long term view. We cannot look at food in isolation. Food comes through agriculture and how can it be free of pollution, if the ecosystem is polluted so it takes into account the ecosystem and agriculture along with the welfare of the agrarian communities.
The macrobiotics manner of cooking; how is it significant?
Neha: Manner of cooking can make a difference for example many people complain that Rajma gives them gas but the fact that the foam on top of the ‘Rajma’ while cooking it should be removed so that is does not cause gas.
How popular is Macrobiotics in India?
Neha: In India it is still an elite phenomenon, also it has been misunderstood, some have propagated it as a way of acquiring beauty, which is wrong way of looking at it. Some Bollywood celebrities like Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt have taken to it which has possibly accentuated the view that Macrobiotics is about having the proper waist size and glowing skin. These things may follow, but overall Macrobiotics is a grateful and practical approach to one’s diet and life.