{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.

March: Month of Macrobiotics

Hello and happy Tuesday! Thanks for the responses to my French press exposé. I still haven’t decided which machine to get but in the meantime I’m filtering my French pressed coffee. Not the most elegant solution (I’m using paper towels), but it works. No more gunk at the bottom of my mug; I’m hoping that means some of that cafestol is staying out of my mug too.

Onto the topic of today’s post – macrobiotics. Long-time readers may know that I am a huge macrobiotics fan. Give me a plate of simple, traditional Japanese food and I am a happy girl. One of my favorite meals is a simple macro plate (a perfectly balanced mix of macrobiotic foods).

ozu-macro-plate

(One of my favorite macro plates, from Ozu on the upper west side)

What is macrobiotics exactly? Macrobiotics is not just a diet – it’s a lifestyle. The etymology of the word, from etymonline, is:

macrobiotic (adj.)
also macro-biotic, “inclined to prolong life,” 1797, from Greek makrobiotikos “long-lived,” from makros “long” (see macro-) + bios “life” (see bio-). The specific reference to a Zen Buddhist dietary system dates from 1936.

I don’t want to get into too much detail *yet*, because it’s not March yet, and March is going to be a month of macrobiotic-inspired posts and macrobiotic-inspired living. But I wanted to alert you guys that I am going to focus on macrobiotics next month, and if you have any questions about the lifestyle or diet or whatever, please leave them in the comments!

I came across macrobiotics for the first time about three years ago through Meg Wolff, a (two time!) cancer survivor who has by now written several books on macrobiotics. I am certainly not strictly macrobiotic but I love the food and I love the idea of the lifestyle. I would love to be more macrobiotic. 🙂

Anyway, I am going to try to focus on ADDING macrobiotic principles to my life in March. I’m not trying to change or remove anything I currently do, but I’m going to add good things.

(OK I lied – I AM going to try to remove diet soda – I slip up and have it at least 1-2 times a week. It’s totally NOT macrobiotic. Blah!)

So –

What are your macrobiotics questions?

What do you know about macrobiotics? What are the stereotypes you’ve heard?

Have you ever tried a macrobiotic diet or lifestyle?

Care to join me in Macrobiotic March?

If you want to join me, I’ll make a Macrobiotic March tab and put a list of participants. Just let me know! Contribute anything you want.

Happy New Year! 2010 in Review

Happy New Year to all.

I will be back to normal posting soon. In the meantime, here is an overview of wonderful things that have happened this past year…

Last year’s resolutions.

I wanted to learn a new language (didn’t do this), go to Hawaii (yes!), I cultivated patience, I ate more fried rice, ate less meat, I didn’t drink more Kombucha, I did drink less diet soda (overall), and I ended the year on a yoga streak (though I’m not sure I did much yoga throughout the whole year).

The Warrior Challenge (intenSati).

This was a month-long challenge to do 3+ classes a week of intenSati at one of New York’s poshest gyms. I had fun, and learned a lot.

Good conversations with good friends about behavioral change.

jan 30 2010 001

And also about drinking tea (yum) and eating kabocha.

Eating Fats.

The great fat experiment went well overall. I learned a lot about what my body needs. One thing to note is that it needs (a lot of) animal fats, so I will try to include more this year.

Trying acupuncture.

This was for stress and hormone stuff. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t ready to commit to everything that I needed to do for acupuncture to work properly, so I quit after two sessions. I may give this another shot sometime though.

How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

This post was written as a response to anyone who doubts that vegetarians (or even vegans) can get enough protein on an animal-free diet. I don’t know the answer to this – I know that I need animal protein, but maybe not everyone does. My opinion on protein has changed (for the better) since I wrote the post. I’m now more into a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle.

Random favorites.

Including macrobiotic meals and fast food. I try not to limit myself too much.

Trailmaking and Wedding Planning.

Bobby and I went to NJ for the weekend and helped my dad build a trail. Lots of fun – hoping to do more things like that this year.

IBS Management.

I came up with a plan for my IBS – my IBS Management Plan. I didn’t stick to it as much as I would have liked. This year one of my resolutions is to get it under control as much as possible! Recent changes in my eating (eating more fats, fewer grains, more protein) have helped a lot.

Job changes – from full-time to part-time… (And back to full-time again, later in the year.)

Which meant more time to blog, more time to take a class (linguistics), and more time for my favorites like papaya salad and fresh cherries.

Discovery: eating mindfully.

Which later on led to…

And then, oh yeah…

I GOT MARRIED!

We were married in a Quaker meeting house and the reception was in my parents’ (beautiful) side yard. Here is my other wedding recap. (Guest posts listed there – had lots of good ones!)

Then we…

Went to Hawaii!

We had two glorious weeks on the beaches of Maui. Oh how I want to go back.

Walking talk (about how it is awesome).

How to Get Glowing Skin (very popular post).

I turned 24.

Had to have a kabocha scone for dessert on my birthday.

Project Food Blog.

(Didn’t get very far.)

The Hunger Diaries happened.

It died down pretty fast 😉

My Macro Plate Recipe.

Finally revealed it.

College-visiting with my sister.

(She got into her first choice! Not Brown, which is where we went that weekend.)

Highlights of the Fear and/or Sanity Weekend.

We took a weekend trip down to DC – so fun. Love the short hair.

And again… happy new year!

My Lunch in 20 Years

…Will probably be a macro plate. But that is not what this post is about! (If you do want to see another yummy macro plate read yesterday’s post.) Last night I watched part of “The Future of Food“, a documentary on Netflix streaming.

(My lunch in 20 years)

(A McDonald’s lunch that is 20 years old – kidding, but this is probably what it would look like: completely and totally the same. The preservatives will keep it fresh. Maybe it will be a little dry. Source.)

The Future of Food: Some Simple Facts About The Food Industry’s History

Today’s facts are not even so much about the future of food, but of the past (I’ll cover the future in a later post, perhaps). I’ll start with a basic question – where are the farmers?

History of the Farming Labor Force

  • Currently (2010) less than 2% of the U.S. population are farmers.
  • In 1790, 90% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1840, 69% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1900, 38% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1940, 18% of the population were farmers.
  • In 1960, 8.3% of the population were farmers.
  • The numbers decline quickly after that, leading to today’s number (<2%).
  • (Source.)

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the fact that fewer of us make a living working on a farm – it is just an interesting trend to follow. Obviously most of us work in offices nowadays. Onto more facts.

History of Agriculture

  • 12,000 years ago people began to plant and save seeds
  • Agriculture led to a huge boom of civilizations. Not having to spend our days hunting and gathering freed up our time to think, create, and develop complex social systems. Agriculture allowed us to discover wonderful things like calculus and to pursue the arts.

History of Food Variety

  • In China, they used to grow thousands of varieties of rice.
  • There used to be over 5000 varieties of potatoes worldwide. (Today there are 4 main varieties.)
  • There were over 7000 types of apples grown just in the U.S. in the 19th century.
  • About 97% of the varieties of fruits and vegetables that existed at the beginning of the 20th centry are now extinct.

This is another interesting trend. When there are fewer and fewer varieties of a type of plant, that plant becomes more and more susceptible to catastrophes. For example, the potato famine in Ireland killed 1 million people because they only grew a few varieties of potatoes. That same potato blight hit in Peru, but they did not suffer nearly as much because they had more varieties of potatoes and many were resistant to the blight. The blight only affected a few of the crops, and people did not starve.

My Farming History

My family used to be farmers. We still have the farms! But we don’t farm anything anymore. Sometimes I wish that I would have had the choice/opportunity to work on a farm (or even run one). My sister works at an organic farm. I wish I had that job when I was in high school (I worked at a video store instead, and then a restaurant).

Have you seen The Future of Food? What did you think? What do you think about the trends in agriculture currently – fewer and fewer farmers, more and more genetic modifications (more on this later), less variety, and so on…?

Recipe: Maggie’s Macro Plate

Last night I got dinner with Laura, one of my oldest friends (from middle school). She was in town with her boyfriend just for the day and we managed to get together to have dinner. So glad we got a chance to reconnect. We were going to go to Souen, but I decided last minute to take them to Good Health Cafe, which is closer and a little bit less scary for non-macrobiotic people. We talked and talked, and before we knew it it was time for them to grab a taxi to catch the train back to New Jersey.

One thing that Laura mentioned during dinner was the fact that my blog is not so much a recipe blog anymore! I hadn’t realized it, but yes, it’s true – I don’t really cook as elaborately now, but I do make things. So it is time for me to share a macrobiotic re-creation that I’ve been having for lunches recently. It’s called a macro plate, and it is vegan and macrobiotic. I get it all the time when we eat out at macrobiotic restaurants.

My Macro Plate Tips (skip down for recipe):

  • This is very easy to throw together – you do not have to make everything at once; you can prep each ingredient in advance and just toss them together when you need a quick meal.
  • Roasting the squash – you don’t necessarily have to roast it, but I do. You could also steam it. For roasting I like a certain seasoning (oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds – see below), but the way you roast (or steam, etc…) the squash is completely up to you.
  • Beans – sub in any kind of beans you like. I use canned beans because it’s quick, but you could make them from scratch as well.
  • Greens – again, you can use any kind of greens. I use pre-chopped ones from Trader Joe’s because it’s very easy that way.
  • Extras – other typical macro plate ingredients are: hijiki seaweed, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and steamed carrots or daikon. Add as desired!

Maggie’s Macro Plate

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1/3 cup dry brown rice
  • 3-4 cups raw chopped greens (collards, kale, spinach, etc…)
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 2 cups uncooked winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, etc… – this is acorn)
  • for roasting squash: sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seeds (all optional except the oil)
  • ~1/4 cup of my miso-tahini dressing (click for recipe) (about 2-3 times the amount the recipe makes – just double or triple as desired)

Method

  1. Roast the squash: I first mix it with a few glugs of sesame oil, then sprinkle some soy sauce and rice vinegar over it and mix again. Top with some sesame seeds and cook at 375 for 1 hour (or at 450 for about 40 minutes). You can roast or steam the squash with whatever oil/flavorings you desire.
  2. Cook the rice: I cook 1 cup of rice at a time in my rice cooker. It comes out perfectly fluffy. Then I just scoop out about a third of it for my meal.
  3. Steam the greens: if you are lazy like me you can sprinkle them with water and microwave for a minute or so.
  4. Prep the beans: rinse and reheat as desired (I actually like mine cold/room temp so I don’t reheat).
  5. Make the dressing. It is so simple and delicious!
  6. Prep the plate: brown rice, beans, greens, squash, and any other extras (see above for idea under “tips”). Serve with dressing. I like to mix it all up and eat it together.

So that is the “macro plate” that I’m always talking about. I haven’t experimented with different dressings, but I keep meaning to. This plate is supposedly a “perfectly balanced” meal – protein, carbs, and fat, all in the right proportions.

Now here are some other macro plates that I have enjoyed…

Souen’s macro plate (also called the “balanced plate” or the “planet platter”) – kabocha, broccoli, kale, carrots, seaweed, beans, brown rice, and sometimes daikon:

Good Health’s macro plate – steamed squash, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and kale; brown rice; black beans; hijiki seaweed; and tofu:

Ozu’s macro plate (review to come; kudos to reader Maria for guessing this!) – chickpeas, brown rice, carrots, yams, kabocha, and hijiki seaweed:

I love macro plates and macrobiotic meals 🙂

What is your favorite meal? Have you ever had a macro plate? Will you make this one?