Holistic Recipes - A Fine Balance
by Mansi Agarwal
Unlike other diets, this programme works for all," said Tarika Anand confidently at the start of her workshop on macrobiotics. She added, "It is not just about food. Macrobiotics is about living the good life."
We were an assorted group of people from different backgrounds, including a reiki practitioner and a theta healer. Most were here to pick up yet another weight loss diet, but Tarika soon had us yearning for higher things - like good health.
"Health is a having a blissful smile on your face, sparkling eyes, vital energy, a heart full of gratitude and appreciation, a curious mind and a free spirit," she rhapsodised, adding, "the only thing that can get you in this state is nurturing a dream and creating a life you truly are happy with." Looking at her own radiant appearance, it was clear that she was there. If this is what macrobiotics had done for her, hey, I wanted in. She went on, "This dream is what macrobiotics is all about. Since the word macro means large and biotic means life, macrobiotic stands for a large perspective of life." She emphasised the importance of the right diet to achieve this goal, pointing out that we have underestimated the miraculous abilities of our inhouse power factory, namely the kitchen.
Yin and Yang
Macrobiotics, originating from Japan, is based on the Far Eastern concept of yin and yang, two oppositional forces that govern creation. I was aware that women are supposedly more yin and men more yang, but what has this got to do with diet, I wondered aloud. She responded that the food that we eat is also categorised as yin and yang according to their shapes, colour, water content and the way they are grown. "Yin energy (earth's force) is more expansive, inactive, colder, darker, wetter and gentler, whereas the yang energy (heaven's force) is just the opposite, contractive, active, hotter, brighter, drier and more aggressive," Tarika explained with the help of a flowchart.
The manifestation of yin and yang in the human body seems remarkably similar to the chakra system here in India. Tarika explained that the heaven's force (yang) moves down from our head and the earth's force (yin) steams up from the earth, meeting to make seven spirals along the midline of our body. Good health depends upon the yin to yang charge of our body's spirals being natural and balanced.
"I will explain the yin and yang of vegetables with examples," she said, placing a tray of veggies in front of us. "The vegetables are of three types: upward, downward and round. Spinach, definitely upward, one could see it is green and expanded, has to be more yin. Upward growing vegetables vitalises the upward parts of the body - liver, lungs, heart and brain," she said, while holding a bunch of spinach leaves.
More examples followed. Holding a carrot in my hand, I tried to picture the way it is grown while others did the same for other vegetables. Carrot is a downward vegetable, hard, red and tightly spiralled. Therefore, carrot is governed by yang, and is good for the 'roots' of our body - legs and intestines. Round vegetables such as onion and cabbage have a soothing effect on the middle organs of our body, such as stomach, spleen and pancreas, as they are more balanced. I inquired about the composition of the potato and she replied that potatoes grow underground, but they are considered to be swellings in the roots so they are extremely yin, and should be avoided. That was disappointing as I am a potato lover.
The vegetable tray was replaced by a tray filled with numerous whole grains in tiny bowls. As a preamble, Tarika said, "Unrefined whole grains are the super food, they are categorised as the most balanced food, a must-have item in your daily diet." One by one we took each and every grain in our hands and tried to establish their yinness and yangness, which was indeed a difficult task as they all weighed the same, but of course the texture and the colour varied. I curiously eyed brown rice, considered the mother of all balanced foods.
After being done with the practical examples, Tarika placed a yin and yang seesaw chart on a board. Sugar and salt were kept on the extreme sides of yin and yang respectively. Alcohol, spices, dairy products are considered to have a greater yin presence, whereas animal food and eggs are considered to be more yang. Vegetables, pulses, grains, beans and vegetables are considered to be balanced foods. Soups are an excellent supplement and one can make it healthier by adding miso, which is a traditional Japanese food produced by fermenting rice, barley or soya beans, with salt and koji, easily available nowadays.
A weight lifter or an athlete should always go for a stronger yin-yang combination, because the activity requires greater energy. A combination of banana (more yin) and eggs (more yang) would be recommended.
Combinations of extreme yin and yang food, though tempting, must be avoided. An example would be French fries, combining potatoes (very yin) and salt (very yang). Cook food with a gas fire. Microwaving is said to create chaotic energy patterns. Since men are more yang, they should always have more fresh fruits and juices.
The opposite rule is applicable for women, who should have more yang food, like meats and eggs in their diet. Strict vegetarians can achieve balance with light pickles and pressed salads. If you're really craving something that's not on your diet, have a small portion, then go back to your regimen. It's all about balance.
I inquired if following the chart was all that was needed to master macrobiotics. Tarika replied, "More or less, but the cooking method can change the yin-yang property of the food. A balanced diet is more easily achieved if the food is cooked using natural cooking methods, such as stir-frying, boiling or steaming. And no microwaves, ladies." We also learned how to cook brown rice, as the method is different from that of white rice.
Tarika continued, "Traditionally speaking, there are some things that should be used sparingly or avoided even if a person is not going the macrobiotic way, like artificially sweetened beverages, hard liquor, caffeine, tinned food and refined grains. It would be beneficial to keep a few other things in mind like eating only when hungry in a relaxed manner using a good posture, masticating the food properly, and keeping a hygienic home, especially where food is prepared."
The Marcobiotic Lifestyle
o Avoid eating three hours prior to the sleeping time.
o Body scrub. Give your body a five-to-ten minute body scrub to boost your circulation. Soak a washcloth in hot water and wring it firmly. Fold it neatly and scrub the whole body.
o Have enough ventilators in your house to invite fresh air.
o Take a daily walk with nature or indulge in a yoga session
o Be grateful
The workshop was nearing its end. I was eagerly looking forward to the macrobiotic lunch, which we were promised at the end. The table was laid and never before had I seen such a tempting array of healthy food: simply cooked green leafy salads, brown rice, lobia, and a South Indian curry made of onions garnished the table. I had to admit that apart from being a healthier option, the macrobiotic lunch tasted better than a regular meal.
Brown rice is made by eliminating only the inedible outer hull. White rice calls for further refinement, which results in the removal of bran and germ, considered significant parts of the cereal. With the fibre and germ intact, brown rice is not fattening. In fact, the fibre scours the bowels and intestines clean, while the rice germ provides nourishment.
2 cups of brown rice (soaking advisable)
4 cups of water
2 pinches of common salt
Method: Boil the water in a pan on medium heat. Add rice and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover it with a heavy lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
Contact: Tarika Ahuja 9811458456, firstname.lastname@example.org
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