MACROBIOTICS - THE NEW AGE DIETARY APPROACH
"The diet aims at cleaning up your blood structure, then cleaning up your cell structure so that imbalances leave your body. In a nutshell, this diet includes foods to calm the mind and make one energetic," says Shonaalii Sabharwal to Gayatri Peshawaria
"Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Sometime between 460 and 370 B.C., the Father of Western Medicine said these words in an attempt to create awareness in ancient Greece about healthy living. In his essay Airs, Waters and Places, Hippocrates introduced the term Macrobiotics to describe people who were healthy and long lived. Also promoted by classical writers like Aristotle, Galen and Herodotus, this ancient concept of medicine seems to have made its way into the 21st century with a bang. Celebrities like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow have even hired personal macrobiotic doctors.
'Macro' means large and 'bio' means life. It is known to help create a healthier, richer, fuller, more exciting life. In the 1950s, George Ohsawa, a Japanese philosopher, introduced macrobiotics to North America. His most prominent disciple, Michio Kushi with his wife, Aveline, brought macrobiotics into the American mainstream by founding The Kushi Institute in 1978. The aim, according to The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics: A Philosophy for Achieving a Radiant Mind and Fabulous Body by Jessica Porter, is to teach, guide and motivate individuals to greater personal freedom, health and happiness through macrobiotics.
Shonaalii Sabherwal is a product of The Kushi Institute. When her father was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, Shonaalii met a macrobiotic chef in Dehradun and then moved to the United States to study the Macrobiotics Health Food System. Today, she is a certified Consultant and Chef of The Kushi Institute.
"The diet aims at cleaning up your blood structure, then cleaning up your cell structure. Therefore, imbalances leave your body. Weight gain is also an imbalance. Hence, we look at it from a holistic perspective," says Shonaalii who claims macrobiotics is the closest we can get to a saatvic diet which, in a nutshell, includes foods to calm the mind and make one energetic. "It takes us back to eating the way we ate when we first came on the planet. That is not to say you should eat raw food. The whole thing is about the energy of food. We believe that by cooking the food, we actually get the energy out of the fuel, from the fire that you cook it on. But again, it depends. We go by Yin and Yang."
Yes, the two opposing and, at the same time, complementary aspects of the same phenomenon - Yin (expansion) and Yang (contraction) - are naturally closely associated with this idea of balance. In the macrobiotic approach, food is considered to be energy as it affects our minds, emotions, physical states and even spirituality. Every vegetable has its own dynamics. A round vegetable like a turnip, for example, has contracted, gathered energy as opposed to a spring onion which has upward, rising and expansive energy. If you eat a steak which is very Yang or contracted, you will naturally also be attracted to foods with the opposite quality of energy. So you will probably eat the steak with potatoes, alcohol, or a sugary dessert which are extremely Yin.
The size zero brigade may also find relief from starvation! In a macro diet, one may eat the right foods that are assimilated and burn in the right fashion. This produces the right kind of energy in the body which helps the by-product, i.e. weight, to be shed. Weight gain disorders or illness are perceived as the body's way of fighting an imbalance. While this sounds idealistic, is it applicable? What if one feels like a double cheese margherita pizza? Will indulgence just become a distant dream? Shonaalii feels differently, "It's okay to indulge once in a while. Macrobiotics is not about restrictions, it's more about freedom."
Cancer patients may also benefit. "In terms of regimen, it becomes a little strict for cancer patients but for people who are in a generally good health condition, it is an easy routine to follow," explains Shonaalii. To elucidate further, scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the National Tumor Institute in Milan, Italy, report that a macrobiotic diet may help prevent or control cancer. Researchers at the New England Medical Center in Boston report that macrobiotic women process estrogens better than others and this may explain their low incidence of breast cancer. Medical studies have shown that a macrobiotic way of eating is beneficial for improving childhood nutrition, reducing violent and aggressive behaviour among young juvenile offenders, controlling T-cell count in young men with AIDS, improving geriatric and psychiatric health, and reducing multiple chemical sensitivities. At Harvard Medical School, cardiovascular researchers report that people eating a macrobiotic diet for an average of two years have virtually no risk of coronary heart disease.
Macrobiotics is slowly proving to be a catalyst in lifestyle changes the world over. One may also credit this to the popularity of ingredients like whole wheat, soy foods like miso and tofu, organic vegetables, etc. Shonaalii also promises access to brown rice sugar. which is currently unavailable in India. This organic natural sweetener produced by steeping brown rice with a special enzyme preparation is the ultimate substitute to sugar.
Catering to 15 clients for lunch can be a challenge when it comes to health food, but not for Shonaalii who undertakes 'macrobiotics' catering assignments. Apart from savoury Indian lunches, this macrobiotic chef also provides Moroccan, Syrian, Greek and Chinese lunches. "I've been in business six and a half months and I've managed to give them a new meal everyday for six months." The belief in Shonaalii is almost contagious. Quite a promising approach to the new age dieters who want to revamp the way they eat!
Benjamin Franklin's words accurately paraphrase this. "While we may not be able to control what happens to us, we can control what happens inside us." Bon Appetit!!