October 15, 2009

Macrobiotic Week! Part III

Did you miss Part I? Here’s your intro to the macrobiotic diet.

Did you miss Part II? Here’s how macrobiotic might benefit you.

Today I’m just gonna step away from the podium (not that I had any business lecturing in the first place) and bring it on home. Let’s just ask the question at the root of any lifestyle change: Is the macrobiotic diet practical (and convenient) for me?

Critics of this eating style will likely call it too restrictive, but I would argue the opposite. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and refined/processed foods are to be avoided on the macrobiotic diet, but that’s old hat for me by now! I don’t know about you, but chances are that you are similarly-minded if you’re reading this blog in the first place. Or at the very least, it’s not exactly news that processed foods = not ideal. That aside, there is tremendous variety to be had within the macrobiotic guidelines, and all with nary a recipe or fancy cooking technique to be mastered!

The truth is that the macrobiotic diet is not some exotic Japanese-flavored formula to cure disease. It is largely a plant-based, whole foods diet, and the vast majority of recent research supports that kind of lifestyle, whether or not we call it “macrobiotic.” Let’s not get hung up on labels! The fact that there are sea vegetables and miso involved shouldn’t mean the difference between your feeling “normal” versus “alternative” in your dietary choices.

If I were to analyze the most common elements of my meals over the last six months or so, I could probably call at least 75% of it “macrobiotic,” and that’s without even trying! To be actually following a macrobiotic diet would be to make sure your meals comprise a balance of the Five Elements and yin/yang, etc (see Part I for explanation).

But at its most basic, macrobiotic can be as simple as knowing which vegetables, grains, and beans you prefer, then flavoring them to your liking with any number of healthy condiments like miso, soy sauce/shoyu, vinegars, ginger, nut butters, etc.

That is exactly how this meal came together, and in under 10 minutes, for that matter.

noodles 1

While my soba noodles boiled, I spiralized a zucchini and soaked some arame.

noodles 2

I tossed the soba and zucchini noodles together in leftover HEAB tahini dressing, dumped the drained arame on top, added leftover roasted veggies and called it good!

noodles 3

Good it was indeed. If only every meal could be this delicious with so little effort! Granted, I had the leftover dressing and veggies working in my favor, but I wouldn’t have been worse off had I started from scratch. A quick dressing could be whisked together using the magic combo of miso + tahini (both staples in my fridge by now) plus some water for thinning. Nama shoyu (or soy sauce) + brown rice vinegar is also an outstanding combination. Any permutation of such ingredients is just going to taste good, period. As for the veggies on top, keep a bag of your favorite frozen vegetable on hand at all times and you’re covered.

noodles 4

I tend to think of my “macrobiotic” meals as plain until the flavor stage. In other words, the grains and veggies that make up the bulk of it are probably going to be raw, steamed, boiled or baked plain, then “dressed up” to taste good. By contrast, all those ingredients together in a wok or skillet would have ended up cooked in some oil and seasoned with all kinds of spices and/or sauce. My brain just takes a whole different approach to macrobiotic.

noodles 5

Though my knowledge and understanding of the macrobiotic diet is limited, I hope that you’ve been able to see it through my lens and realize how very uncomplicated (yet nourishing!) it can be. Unlike most of the fad diets, macrobiotics are appropriate for many people at varying degrees of health. Furthermore, it requires virtually no chef-type skills or culinary creativity! Want an excuse to cook the low-maintenance way all the time? Macrobiotic might be the answer.

As a food blogger, I take great pleasure in creating my meals to be pleasant to both the eyeballs and the taste buds, but take a look back at my macro meals from Angelica Kitchen and Souen and you’ll see that even restaurant-style macro meals are often served more simply than I serve myself! I have yet to discover a way of eating more basic in its composition than the macrobiotic diet (well, unless you are vigilant about the yin and yang of it, though I find that that comes together fairly naturally).

I realize that I enjoy macrobiotic meals from a privileged position of good health and that people following the diet might not feel at liberty to play with the macrobiotic concept like I do (meaning as it suits me and my ideals). Disclaimer aside, however, I do believe there is something there for everyone, even if it’s a kick in the tuchus towards whole foods and a healthier lifestyle.

This concludes my brief though substantial Macrobiotic Week. It was a great excuse to learn more about the macrobiotic diet and I hope to keep its principles in mind going forward!

And you? Do you unwittingly eat macrobiotic more than you might have thought? Is there intention behind your diet?


VeggieGirl said...

I love the elements involved with macrobiotic cooking; but I wouldn't want to have to stress about the percentages.

The Candid RD said...

Oh goodness, if I thought about my diet REALLY hard I am sure it's not as good as I envision. I eat a lot of whole fruits and veggies, but I know my diet is about 20% processed, without me even knowing (cereal, Laugin Cow cheese, ketchup, frozen meals, etc). I also eat meat, which isn't part of it, right? I don't eat enough beans, but I DEFINITELY get plenty of grains.

Thanks for your macrobiotic series. I enjoyed it!

GF Gidget said...

I think I eat macrobiotically a whole lot and had no clue! Hm... interesting!

fitforfree said...

Excellent recap!

I always feel like I'm not a "foodie" b/c I prefer the tastes of whole, plain, or minimally seasoned things . . . and shy away from complicated recipes. But this reminded me that appreciating good, nourishing food in its whole state is a good thing!!

I really need to get my hands on some arame...

Abby (Abbys Vegan Eats) said...

I think I eat more macrobiotic than I would have normally thought. I would not want the stress, either, of percentages, though.
I eat tons of beans, veggies, and fruit... carbs and whole grains are certainly 50% of my diet.
I also am not a fan of a lot of seasonings and condiments so this is interesting. I need to research more about the macro diet and start eating more sea veggies!
Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

I definitely like a lot of the concepts of the Macrobiotic diet. I've grown up eating very Japanese influenced as well!! I have loved hearing about it!!

That zucchini pasta and soba dish looks absolutely incredible!!!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Diana!!!!!!!!!!

Velva said...

Wow! My hat is off to you.

Anonymous said...

I want to try zucchini noodles so so so bad!!

Jenn said...

I've really enjoyed reading your macrobiotic posts. It's a diet that has always intrigued me. Like VeggieGirl, I think some of the elements involved are great and I would love to incorporate them into more of my meals. I'm not sure if I'd be able to follow the percentages to a T because I've never been able to stick with one thing for too long, but I like the idea of eating with intention - no matter whether it's a specific diet or a particular mindset. I like the idea of eating with a purpose: to fuel myself rather than just eating out of boredom.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

By the way, "Jenn" = eating bender above. I accidentally pressed submit before I could tell you which Jenn I was :o)

RunToTheFinish said...

I read a whole book about macrobiotic and know that the grains portion is so good for how my body deals with food...but I just couldn't figure out the combining and the percentages it felt too hard

elise said...

thank you thank you thank youuuu for these posts. i read this whole series while commuting from SF to my casa in the east bay this past weekend, and i just wanted to say how glad i was to get the deets as this is something ive been "meaning to" look into for a while now. i love your attitude. about how you eat about why you eat and everything in between. labels are for chumps, and im glad you are so open and candid about enjoying whole clean foods but also jsut doing yo thang.

christy said...

Great post! There's a misconception about macrobiotics, that it's a one size fits all kind of diet. It isn't. There are no percentages to follow, it all depends on your condition and what your goals are. If you are healing from a disease you would have a different diet (and %) than if you are young and healthy. The macro cookbooks out there give you a general guideline to follow.

Also, it's WAY more than just a diet. The food part is awesome, but there is a ton of philosophy behind it.

The best new book on macrobiotics that explains all this is Macrobiotics For Dummies, written by Verne Varona. He explains macrobiotics in very easy to understand language and addresses the different paradigms that exist in the world of macrobiotics.