Updated: Feb 11, 2021
Had you ever thought that eating mangoes, pineapples, avocados or bananas in winter is not the most appropriate choice?
According to Macrobiotics tropical fruits cool you down and disperse your energy. If you take them daily in winter they will weaken your system.
However, if you only eat a small amount of vegetables and your diet is primarily based on meat, cured meats, eggs, salt, bread and highly concentrated foods, which generate a lot of heat and tension, then perhaps it makes sense to compensate by eating some mango or pineapple.
Perhaps this gives you an idea of what macrobiotics is about. We try to follow ‘the middle way’. The ideal is to have 90% of seasonal plant foods, such as whole grains, pulses, seeds and vegetables, leaving extreme foods such as fruits and those from animals for occasional consumption.
But what are extreme foods?
In order to explain you this, we will have to talk to about energy.
And I can tell you that what you will discover is very interesting. So keep on reading
We live in a world of duality. Everything arises from the interaction of two basic forces or energies that oppose and complement each other. You might have heard of this, what the ancient and wise Chinese called Yin & Yang.
Yin is an expansive, a centrifugal force that disperses energy and therefore cools and slows down activity. The yin force creates cold, dark, dilated forms, large, and growing vertically.
An example of Yin force is the centrifugal force generated by the Earth when rotating on itself. This yin force is captured by plants with greater intensity, so we can say that the plant kingdom is yin.
Yang is a centripetal, a contractive force that concentrates energy and therefore both heats up and speeds up movement or activity. The yang force creates heat, light, it is compact, it has small shapes and horizontal growth.
An example is the influence or action of the sun on the Earth. An energy that animal species and humans capture better. So we can say that the kingdom animal is yang.
The moon is yin and the sun is yang. The cold seasons are yin and the warm yang. The night is yin and the day is yang.
In fact yin and yang are always present in every phenomenon. It creates the pulse, the beat of life. This pulse is observed in the heartbeat, the tides, the alternation between day and night, the seasons
Yin and yang applied to food
But how does Macrobiotics apply yin and yang to food? These concepts allow us to have clear understanding of how to boost and balance our energy.
As we have already pointed out, vegetables are yin and animals yang:
1. Plants are anchored to the earth, growing in the same place (passive-yin), while animals are independent and mobile, capable of covering a large space with their activity (active-yang).
2. In plants the energy of the earth predominates (expansive-yin), to which they are connected and closely linked. On the other hand, in animals the energy from the sky (contractive-yang). That is why vegetables have more expanded shapes, like leaves and branches, growing outward, while animals develop more inwardly, with internal organs and compact cells.
3. The temperature of plants is colder than most of animal species of warmer temperature.
Exceptions will always occur, because yin and yang are not concrete phenomena or beings. They are two tendencies or relative forces in constant interaction. In each being or phenomenon there is a different combination and proportion of these two forces. That’s why there are no two identical beings on Earth.
Macrobiotics recommends eating 90-95% foods from the plant kingdom, for the following reasons:
1. Vegetables are complementary to us: we belong to the animal kingdom, therefore our predominant energy is yang energy. The foods that will bring us balance are yin, this is, the vegetables.
2. The plant kingdom, being less evolved, is made up of more simple structures, therefore the digestion of plant foods generates less waste, which is easier to remove.
3. When we base our diet on foods from the animal kingdom, then sooner or later we will get sick. The digestion of animals generates more waste and toxicity, which is more difficult to eliminate. So over the years we will go accumulating waste, which will be responsible for the degeneration of our cells, tissues and organs.
This is confirmed by the information we have about some exceptionally healthy and long-lived cultures: all without exception based their diet on foods from the plant kingdom.
The energetic approach of Macrobiotics
The energy approach of Macrobiotics is to base our daily menus primarily in wholegrains, pulses and vegetables. What you eat daily will create your physical, mental and emotional state.
Although for a Westerner yin and yang are strange concepts, they are basic to understand how what we eat affects us: each food captures these two vibrations in different proportions and intensities, and when we eat it we absorb the energy. Depending on which of the two energies predominates in food, they are classified into three large groups:
1. EXPANSIVE FOODS: extreme yin
They are foods in which yin energy strongly predominates. Therefore eating them disperses our energy, having one or more of the following effects:
To refresh, cool, dilate, swell, open, relax, weaken (when taken daily and / or in excess).
They are light foods, which have trophism towards the upper part of the body and towards the surface of the body. Therefore its effects are more noticeable in more superficial tissues and organs, including the skin, and the area of the chest and head.
If we base our daily diet on extreme yin foods, or these predominate in our menus, physically we will tend to weakness, cold, fatigue. We may have a tendency to suffer from diarrhea and it may be difficult for us to sleep at night.
Mentally and emotionally we can have concentration problems,
mental dispersion, difficulty achieving our goals and projects, difficulty in organizing ourselves, feeling overwhelmed by problems or feeling that we do not have the courage to face them, excessive idealism, always thinking in the future, a tendency to melancholy, easy crying ...
List of extreme yin foods, from most extreme to least:
- drugs and medications
- sugar, cocoa, chocolate, cakes and sweets in general
- tea, coffee, mate ... and other stimulating drinks
- milk and yogurt
- tropical fruits
- tropical vegetables
- aromatic herbs
- natural sweeteners: cereal honeys, apple concentrate, carob, whole cane sugar, agave
- temperate fruits
- cereals and refined flours
2. CONTRACTIVE FOODS: extreme yang
When we eat foods where this energy predominates, our own energy gets concentrated, having one or more of the following effects: Heating, drying, contracting, closing, tightening (consumed daily), strengthening (occasionally consumed in small amounts) .
They are dense foods, with a trophism towards the lower part and towards the inside of the body. They have more impact in innermost organs and tissues.
If we base our daily diet on extreme yang foods, or these foods predominate in our menus, over time we will accumulate tension and we can have a tendency to overheating, developing tightness, overweight, early morning insomnia (waking up around 3 in the morning), constipation, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Mentally and emotionally, controlling behaviours, aggressiveness,
impatience, intolerance, rigidity, stubbornness. We will always want to be right or take the initiative, we will tend to focus on the material and cling to the past.
List of extreme yang foods, from most extreme to least:
- salt and salty seasonings (miso, soy sauce, umeboshi ...)
- baked bread and flour (biscuits, toasts ...)
- rabbit and game meat
- red meats and sausages
- cured and salty cheeses
3. CENTERING FOODS: gently yin or yang.
It may seem that because they are centering they are neither yin nor yang, that they are neutral.
In fact centering foods can also be classified into expansive and
contractive, only that its effects are less strong than those of extreme foods.
They are, from yang to yin:
- fish and shellfish
- whole grain cereals
- cereals in the form of semolina and pasta
- seeds and nuts
- vegetables according to the season
- vegetable oils
If we aspire to find balance through what we eat, our diet should be based on centering foods, with small amounts of the more extreme foods, which will give variety and "spark" to our dishes.
Important to note that extreme is not synonymous with bad, its effect is simply more intense, and that is why they are not foods to be used in large quantities or daily. Its use is complementary, it is not about removing them completely, but reducing the amount consumed and making sure they are of high quality.