{Macrobiotic March} CHEWING!

First, thanks so much for all the enthusiasm about Macrobiotic March! I am just as excited to learn as you guys are. This is a great excuse for me to really dive into the theory of macrobiotics and learn as much as I can.

Here are 2 Macrobiotic March posts from participants so far:

  • Top 3 Macrobiotic Ingredients (Macro Mondays @ The Dainty Pig). I’ll tell you one of them because I love it so much – seaweed.
  • Grains & Veggies (@ Heather Eats Almond Butter). Heather and I share a love of butter that would prevent either of us from going full on macrobiotic.

If you post about Macro March and I miss it please let me know.

Onto today’s topic… It is an important one…

supersize

(I hope he chews that before swallowing!)

Macrobiotic CHEWING

When I first started talking about macrobiotics a few years ago, everyone I mentioned it to started asking me about chewing. I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow I’d missed the main macrobiotic principle – you have to chew everything really really thoroughly. Like, 100 bites per mouthful thoroughly.

No, I’m not exaggerating. And yes, when I found out, I was shocked.

  • Jessica Porter recommends between 50-100 times per mouthful.
  • This article also says a minimum of 50 times, with 100 being the ideal.
  • Souen recommends chewing at least 30 times per mouthful.
  • The Kushi Institute recommends chewing at least 50 times per mouthful.
  • Mama Tomiko says to chew 100 times per mouthful.

Benefits of Chewing Your Food Thoroughly

  • Savor, taste, and enjoy the food you have been so lucky to receive.
  • Digestion starts in the mouth. The better you chew, the better your digestion will be. Suffer from bloating or cramps after eating? Maybe you are wolfing your food. I know I am a quick eater and probably get only 5-10 chews per mouthful – no wonder I have a tummyache all the time.
  • Maximize the nutrition you get out of your food. Again, because digestion begins in the mouth (grinding the food but also the enzymes in saliva start to break down starches), the more you can do with chewing, the more easily your body will get nutrients out of foods (especially grains).
  • Reduce digestive stress by chewing more. Again… the more digestion you can do in the mouth, the less work your stomach and intestines have to do. Chew chew chew (x50-100).
  • If you tend to overeat, you may start eating more moderately if you chew more. It will get too annoying to chew 100 times per mouthful and instead of continuing to eat, you might get bored when you are full and just put the fork (or chopsticks) down.
  • Chewing is the most important part of digestion for grains. (Meats require stomach acid to be fully digested, though meats are discouraged on a macrobiotic diet.) To get all the nutrients you can out of grains you have to chew them well.
  • Chewing activates your brain – it can improve alertness and activates at least 8 areas of the brain.
  • You’ll eat more slowly. It’s polite.
  • Chewing activates your salivary glands, and saliva actually does more than just help start digestion. Saliva can remineralize teeth and it keeps your mouth healthy.
  • Chewing relaxes the muscle at the bottom of your stomach (the pylorus) and helps food move as it should through your digestive system. For more on how chewing impacts the digestive system, I suggest reading this article.
  • Thorough chewing can promote and cultivate better self-awareness and a sense of calm. Chewing is like doing yoga in your mouth.

teeth

(Keep those teeth healthy – chew more! More saliva –> healthier teeth.)

How to Start Chewing More & Chewing Better

  • Begin by chewing at least 15 times per mouthful. Do this for 3-4 days.
  • Increase to 20-25 times per mouthful. Again, do this for 3-4 days.
  • Slowly keep increasing every 3-4 days by 5-10 chews per mouthful. Eventually you’ll get to 50. For what it’s worth, I think 50 chews per mouthful is plenty.
  • Soon you will be a macrobiotic chewing champ!

For good health, how you eat is just as important (or more important) than what you eat.

In Japanese, the word for chew is kamu (to bite, to chew): かむ. The noun form of kamu is kami (かみ), which  also means spirit, or god. In Shinto buddhism, the deities (spirits) are called kami. (Kami can also mean ‘above’, ‘hair’, and ‘paper’.) We can see the word kami in other Japanese words and phrases – kamikaze (divine+wind, but later meaning the suicide pilots). More on the etymology of kami {HERE}.

How many times do you chew each mouthful of food? Are you going to try to chew more thoroughly? Do you have any chewing tips?

Like I said above, I am a 5-10 chew person (normally). However, this month I’ve been trying to chew more. It’s so hard to remember, and it’s hard for me to get anything above 30. There’s just nothing left by the time I get to 30 chews.

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.‘ –Swedish proverb.

Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.‘ –Horace ‘The Great Masticator’ Fletcher (1849-1919)

{Macrobiotic March} Are Nut Butters Macrobiotic?

Happy March! Here in NYC we are starting to warm up… a little!

To jumpstart the month of macrobiotic posts, I have 2 things for you.

1) I made a Macrobiotics page for the blog. I went through ALL my posts and recipes and put links to the relevant ones there. Please check it out if you have time.

2) I wanted to answer a common question:

Is nut butter macrobiotic?

peanut-butter

This is a toughie – the basic answer is YES, nut butters can be macrobiotic.

But the caveat is that nuts (and nut butters) should be eaten in moderation: maybe 2-3 times a week. The most specific measurement I found was no more than 1.5 cups of nuts in a week. I am not sure how much nut butter 1.5 cups of nuts would amount to. Probably 3/4 of a cup of nut butter? That is a little less than 2 tablespoons of nut butter a day.

Any nut butter with added sugar is not macrobiotic, so macrobiotic nut butters are the natural kind – nuts should be the only ingredient. No added sugars, no added oils.

Get freshly ground nut butter, if possible.

Some nuts are not macrobiotic: peanuts are not (much as I love them), pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews (another love!), filberts (aka hazlenuts) and macadamia nuts – these are all not allowed.

Why are some nuts avoided on a macrobiotic diet?

The simple reason is that macrobiotics encourages eating in harmony with your climate. The disallowed nuts are likely not native and could not grow in the temperate climate where most of us live (I am in the northeast US). I think these nuts listed above are only found in tropical climates.

The other reason for avoiding certain foods, like these nuts, is that (according to macrobiotics) foods can have either yin (expansive, cooling, moist) or yang (contractive, warming, drying) energies. Likely these nuts to avoid are very yin or very yang (probably too yin). Macrobiotics tries to help you strike a balance, and it’s easiest to get this balance if you are not eating either of the extremes (far on the yin or yang side of the spectrum). But more on this later.

Note that peanuts are a different story – most peanuts and peanut butters have fungus on them/in them (yep, I know – sounds gross – they still taste great). The amount of fungus allowed in peanuts/peanut butter is small (15 or 25 parts per billion I believe) but that is too much for macrobiotics to be okay with.

However – don’t lose hope! There are lots of macrobiotic nuts and seeds: walnuts, sesame seeds (to make tahini or sesame butter), pumpkin and squash seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, coconuts, and chestnuts (are these really a nut?).

walnut

chestnuts

I like fresh almond butter, coconut butter, and I adore tahini and sesame seeds in general.

Another note – if you’re following a strict healing macrobiotic diet for a specific ailment, you’ll probably be avoiding all nuts + nut butters, at least until you are healed from whatever your illness is. Then you would slowly add nuts and nut butters back in, as your body allows.

I hope this answered any questions you might have about macrobiotics and nuts / nut butters.

What is your favorite nut? What’s your favorite nut butter? How much do you eat in a week?

  • My favorite nut is the cashew (not macrobiotic)
  • My favorite nut butter is tahini (macrobiotic) or peanut butter (not)
  • It depends on the week – some weeks I probably eat 2-3 cups of nuts; other weeks I don’t have any at all.