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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Macrobiotic Diet Avoids Inflammation: Incorporating cooked beans and legumes, whole grains and leafy vegetables helps support one's diet, says Tracy Minton-Matesz.

Feb 26, 2017 08:23PM ● By Tracy Minton-Matesz

Many people feel confused about diet these days and wonder if they should eat a low or a high carbohydrate diet; low-fat, oil-free diet; coconut oil, butter and bacon; lots of animal foods; lots of fruits; or a raw diet. There is so much conflicting information about what foods are best for human health. The macrobiotic principles of Chinese medicine can help clear this confusion. The term is derived from its Greek roots makros, or great, and biotikos, or life.

Animal foods contain blood, and the iron, zinc and copper found in meat are more bioavailable than the same nutrients found in plant form. Plants do not bleed, but they contain non-hemoglobin iron, which is less bioavailable than the animal form. A diet lacking sufficient bioavailable iron can lead to symptoms of deficiency, including poor memory and inability to concentrate, while a diet containing too much can cause oxidative damage and inflammation, which promotes age-related cognitive decline. Balance is key.

Because animal foods contain highly assimilable nutrients, they are considered rich. If they are overeaten, they can cause a build-up of excess fat, phlegm, acid and minerals in the body, leading to symptoms of excess such as excess body fat, atherosclerosis or inflammation. Excess intake of rich foods will thicken and sludge up the blood, promoting myriad diseases. Someone that has accumulated excesses from eating this diet for a long time will find at least temporary balance with a diet that is higher in fruit and raw foods.

On the other hand, someone that has eaten a vegan or raw food diet for a long time may have developed a weak and depleted condition. This person will need to eat a diet fortified with more cooked, nutrient-dense and protein-rich foods, whether plant or animal, in order to restore balance.

Macrobiotic diets are based on a balance of cooked beans and legumes, whole grains and a variety of vegetables, especially leafy greens. Animal foods, sea vegetables, some fermented foods and certain condiments are supplementary to the diet. As noted by Dr. Rudolph Ballentine in his book Diet and Nutrition: A Holistic Approach, this macrobiotic dietary pattern has characterized the foodways of successful populations around the world.

For example, among traditional Europeans, that pattern includes lentils, bread, vegetables, some local animal products, wine and beer, while in Latin America, it includes rice, beans, tortillas, vegetables, fruits, salsa, local animal products and beers. From place to place, the foods may have varied, but the pattern remains similar.

Whole cooked grains, beans and legumes, lots of dark leafy greens and a variety of vegetables tend to be among the most centering of foods. Diets that highlight them are generally more alkaline and anti-inflammatory, which is best for healing from diseased states. From a Chinese medical macrobiotic perspective, our dietary direction should be based on our current condition and imbalances, the region in which we live and the season.

Chinese medicine and macrobiotic principles can help us become more self-confident in our choices, directing us to choose the best foods for our unique needs. Having a guidance system to help us wade through the many options and conflicting ideas about what foods are best to eat can help us maintain have a good relationship with food, and peace of mind that is priceless.

Tracy Minton-MateszTracy Minton-Matesz is a macrobiotic counselor, certified clinical hypnotherapist, and author of The Macrobiotic Action Plan. For more information, contact Barefoot Acupuncture Clinic in Scottsdale, at 602-954-8016 or BasicMacrobiotics.com.

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