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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Essays

Giorgio Bosso is a macrobiotic consultant, Qi-gong instructor, and a certified nutritional adviser based in Los Angeles. His book on macrobiotic Italian cooking will be released later this year. You can contact Giorgio at healingfoods@comcast.net

Those who desire further information on macrobiotics, especially recipes, should read Georgio's A Blessing from Heaven previously published in Vegetarians in Paradise.

Macrobiotic Principles

On different occasions I hear people complain about how confusing the subject of macrobiotics is. The confusion can come from people who have embraced macrobiotics by reading a book, taking a few cooking classes, or by those teachers who don't correctly explain the definition of macrobiotics.

Embracing macrobiotics can be like returning to a natural state of being: simple life, simple food, no wasting, no artificial dyes, no pesticides in our food, cooking based within your climate, your health condition, etc.

But before clarifying the subject further, I will share with you the meaning of macrobiotics as defined in the Dictionary of the American Language.

Macrobiotics "the art of prolonging life, as by special diet"
Another definition - " big or large life" or "great life"

Now I would like to move on, and don't get fixed on the terms, even though it is important to understand the context of what we are talking about. Most of you who are reading this article may have coined some definitions of the term "macrobiotic diet." Some may refer to it as the " brown rice diet" or "starving diet" or " tasteless diet." When I hear those terms I know that it is usually from those who know very little about macrobiotic principles. Giorgio Bosso

You can't get the whole picture of the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle just by reading a couple of books or taking a few classes. You have to live it, taste it, and feel it before you can form an opinion.

The way it should be defined is " a diet based in grains and fresh vegetables," and for me, it is a practical tool that I use for my own benefit. Below you can read my article- that has had great results on my life.

"The superior medication is daily food with which one can achieve perfect health and happiness." George Ohsawa

Macrobiotics is a way to:

  • improve immunity
  • promote body, organ, and tissue regeneration
  • harmonize with nature
  • bring happiness
  • boost stamina
  • bring simplicity in one's life
  • increase intuition
  • increase life span
  • change your destiny
  • appreciate life
  • detox the body
  • develop unconditional love
  • When I came in contact with the macrobiotic diet it was around 1990. I was vegetarian, and I was looking for a little more from life. I searched and found that the macrobiotic diet had the tools I was looking for to create my foundation to health and education about food and its effect on the body.

    It brought me close to my roots by understanding the basics of eating according to climate, environment, health condition, sex, and activity level. The goal of macrobiotics was freedom. Freedom at that time of my life was eating regardless of what I was feeling, Or I may say, the more I was feeling, the more I was eating. So I re-defined that term " freedom" and understood that was a point to reach during my journey. Today the way I cook for myself and family is more intuitive rather than following recipes.

    " Macrobiotics is a set of philosophical and dietary principles used for one's benefit, physically, mentally and spiritually." Carl Ferré, Macrobiotics Today, January/February 2002

    Remember that macrobiotics is not a mere narrow diet with Japanese ingredients. It is a great way to restore one's health by using tools that will bring you to the spirit of food, and food will bring you close to your spirit.

    We often forget that we are essentially a product of nature--mother earth and father heaven--that influences us all to different degrees. But what really interferes with human evolution is the mechanical, industrial, fast growing lifestyle that insulates us from the essential life forces and alienates us from our true nature. I don't have anything against evolution, but when the fast growing society is losing its roots and trying to sell me more synthetic, pesticide, and microwave foods, I stand up and yell, "No Way!" Below is a simple explanation of how macrobiotic principles can be applied and understood in any type of diet.

    You can approach macrobiotics from four different points:

    1. Theoretical macrobiotics was characterized as gaining a good foundation to improve and understand one's judgment. Today few people teach this type of lineage, which comes from Ohsawa's teachings.
    2. Intuitive macrobiotics gives you the tools to be free and happy.
    3. Dietary macrobiotics which deals with a list of foods, basic principles of yin and yang, energy in food, control of fire, salt, and water in cooking, also includes life suggestions and a list of foods to avoid for better health.
    4. The healing diet, which is a more narrow path to follow (from point three), is for those with serious health issues. Keep in mind that flexibility in approaching this healing path needs to be applied for a successful program.

    " The natural way of macrobiotics is not limited to the relief of symptoms. It is equally concerned with educating people toward an understanding and practice of a way of life in harmony with nature and the universe." Michio Kushi

    Point three is our focus, and we will talk about it next:

    Principle #1. Eat Along Traditional Dietary Principles.

    Do you know where your roots come from? What is your tradition? Can you adapt yourself and family to it? Are you cooking along your grandmother's way of cooking, or do you lean more to the American way of eating?

    The answer to these questions can lead you to understand if you are in balance or living a chaotic lifestyle. This is a basic problem with all people who emigrate from one part of the world to the other. With this change of location they also leave behind some of the most precious elements: THEIR TRADITIONAL COOKING.

    In the Far East, rice was a staple food. Native Americans respect corn as a main grain. Italians use more olive oil rather than butter and use olives and pickles instead of umeboshi plums.

    Macrobiotics teaches us to get in touch by incorporating whole grains and vegetables, which were considered the staff of life. If you look way back, you will find that your ancestors were eating grains as principal foods and using vegetables and beans as secondary foods. I say, it worked for thousands of years; respect that, and don't let the fast growing city lifestyle dictate your choices.

    Principle #2. Don't Waste Anything.

    "If you peel a carrot, eat the skin too," Ohsawa taught.

    When I teach cooking classes, sometimes students are surprised when I cut very thin the stem of collards or other greens, and they question why I include them. I softly say, "This is a class about whole foods. Why should I throw away the stems? We need them. They represent our spine and legs as they support the whole vegetable to grow straight. They play an important role in our life, too." The students look at me with wide-open eyes and smile. But I learned from my own experience that waste does not only apply to food; we should apply it to our daily life.

    "Finding usefulness in uselessness is a macrobiotic principle." Macrobiotics Today, January/February 1998.

    Principle #3. Eat Locally Grown and in Season.

    One of the most common principles in macrobiotics is to base the diet primarily on foods native to the climate where you live. People used to relate to foods that grew in their area and were part of their primary choices until modern technology spoiled us with more varieties from other climates. It is common for people to eat bananas from South America, pineapples from the South Pacific, kiwis from New Zealand, etc. I do it sporadically.

    When we eat foods from other climates that are very different from ours, we lose adaptability. For optimal health and harmony with the environment, it is wise to return to locally grown foods.

    Principle #4. Adapt Your Cooking to Season

    In macrobiotics we teach students to follow the seasonal changes along with the type of cooking, seasoning, and types of vegetables available in that season. The modern way of eating does not respect seasonal changes, causing people to eat pretty much the same diet all year round.

    Spring and summer are influenced by upward energy. A lot of sun energy is in the earth, and we need to balance it with light dishes, light oil, and some strong, long-cooking dishes here and there to keep our energy up. Then, toward autumn and winter we need more fire in our bodies to keep us warm. We use a little more oil and salt and use more stew type of cooking and more root vegetables. This is to create the perfect internal environment to adapt to the seasonal changes. In the end, all this adaptability makes our immunity work better.

    The use of fire in macrobiotics is an art. When we cook our food, we are transmuting the sun from the foods into our cells and tissues by assimilating the chlorophyll through the process of digestion in the small intestines into hemoglobin. This is the art of cooking.

    Principle #5. Yin and Yang

    Nothing in life is completely yin (expansive energy) or yang (contractive energy). Both of these energies have some elements of each other in order to exist and manifest. These two words are very often used in relation to classification of vegetables, grains, seaweeds, fish cookery, seasonal changes and influences, type of cutting, etc When you eat a steak, which is very yang or contractive, we naturally balance it with the opposite type of energy, like mashed potatoes, or alcohol, or ice cream all in one meal.

    If we eat too many sweets, we will be craving salty foods to balance the sugar. Extreme foods need extreme balance, which at the end is a shock to the body. Yin and Yang principles are very important to feel confident and successful in your macrobiotic practice.

    Principle #6. Water, Fire, and Salt

    With the control of fire, water, and salt in various degrees we can control our mental, emotional, and physical condition and quality.

    I know that this is a brief introduction to you, but I feel that it can lead you to more curiosity to explore further reading and questions. I still feel I am a student and am very curious about what my clients have to teach me. I learn a lot from them.

    I want to thank all those who are no longer with me. They were the true inspiration in my path, and I thank them all. I will leave you with one thought: The more we separate ourselves from our roots, the more we set ourselves against nature, and we suffer. To find peace within, choose to be simple in the way you live.

    Suggested Macrobiotic Reading

    Aihara, H., Acid and Alkaline, G. Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1986

    Colbin, Annemarie, The Book of Whole Meals, Ballantiine Books, 1983

    Esko, Edward, Contemporary Macrobiotics, First Books Library, 2000

    Ferré, Julia, Basic Macrobiotic Cooking, G. Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1987

    Kushi, Aveline and Wendy Esko, The Good Morning Breakfast, Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1991

    Kushi, Aveline and Wendy Esko, The Quick and Natural Macrobiotic Cookbook, Contemporary Books, 1989

    Ohsawa, George, An Invitation to Health and Happiness, G. Ohsawa

    Macrobiotic Foundation, Sixth ed. 1984

    Ohsawa, George, Ohsawa Essential, Avery Publishing Group Inc., 1994

    Pirello, Christine, Cooking the Whole Food Way, HP Books, 1997

    Turner, Kristine, The Self-Healing Cook Book, Earthtones, 1987

    Verona, Verne, Nature's Cancer Fighting Foods, Rewards Books, 2001

    Click here for past Words from Other Birds Articles

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