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The Macrobiotic Diet: Macronutrients and Micronutrients Explained

The Macrobiotic Diet: Macronutrients and Micronutrients Explained

 

There are two types of nutrients which we need for our survival:

1. Micronutrients
2. Macronutrients

This division is based on the quantity of a nutrient the body needs. We need micronutrients in small amounts and macronutrients in large amounts. Claimed by macrobiotic enthusiasts, a careful balance of micronutrients and macronutrients need to be present to carry out this way of eating and (many say) spiritual way of life  with respect to yin and yang. Studies have shown that eating a macrobiotic diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, other chronic diseases, prevent and cure some forms of cancer, though long term research studies are still undergoing.

1. Micronutrients


Micronutrients are nutrients that the human body needs in minute amounts so that it can function properly. Although micronutrients are needed only in small amounts, their deficiency leads to critical health problems.

Good nutrition from eating a healthy diet is the foundation of any wellness program. The goal is to get an adequate amount of micronutrients in your diet by eating a large variety of healthy foods at a total caloric rate that will either maintain your present body weight, or achieve your ideal body weight over a reasonably long period of time.

Most of the diseases and conditions that people face today are due to deficiency of micronutrients. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that if we ensure the elimination of micronutrient deficiency, labor efficiency will increase multifold.

Here’s a list of micronutrients

✵ Vitamins

Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and Carotenoids.

✵ Minerals

Boron, Calcium, Chloride, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Phosphorous, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc

✵ Organic Acids

Acetic acid, Citric acid, Lactic acid, Malic acid, Choline and Taurine.

It is better to get these micronutrients from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, as this seems to increase their usefulness.

2. Macronutrients


Macronutrients constitute the bulk of the food we eat. The macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

✵ Proteins

Proteins are called building blocks of life. It is what most of our body is made up of. Proteins themselves are made of amino acids. Some good sources of protein include fish, poultry meat, legumes, soy, eggs, milk and milk products.

✵ Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made up of sugar or starches. They are the main energy providers for our body. Excess carbohydrates are converted into fat and stored in our body. All foods have carbohydrates in some measure.

✵ Fats

Fats are substances that your body stores for future use. Although, most people think that fats are to be avoided altogether, there is a distinction to be made here. There are good fats and bad fats. Bad fats are to be avoided and good fats are to be eaten. Good fats are very much necessary for the proper functioning of the body.

Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are to be eaten in proper proportion. If they are not, lifestyle diseases will affect you.

Bioavailability of Nutrients - The Nutrition of Micronutrients

The bioavailability of food consumed is an important issue in nutrition. But, trying to calculate quantitatively how much of each known nutrient you are getting out of your diet is both a waste of time and impossible to do. It is recommended that you do not try to quantify your intake of specific Micronutrients from your diet.

Highlights of Bioavailability of Nutrients - The Nutrition of Micronutrients:

✶ Good nutrition from eating a healthy diet is the foundation of the biomedical model of natural health.
✶ Any change in your diet, however small, that improves your natural health is a step in the right direction.
✶ Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and water.
✶ Micronutrients do not provide any energy to the body.
✶You improve your nutrition and natural health by choosing to eat healthier foods than you are currently eating.

Poor nutrition is the result of consuming too little, too much, or the wrong kinds of food, on a regular basis. Food science, a root cause of poor nutrition, transforms natural whole foods into garbage that fills the belly while developing excessive human appetites for fat, sugar, and salt. Avoiding poor nutrition simply means refusing to eat junk food.

Nutrients compete with other nutrients for absorption. Some nutrients will enhance/reduce the amounts of other nutrients being absorbed by your body.

Food Processing Related Factors

There is no best way to prepare food. Consuming fruits and vegetables raw enhances the absorption of some nutrients, whereas soaking and fermentation will increase the absorption of minerals in legumes and grains to the detriment of the water-soluble nutrients. Cooking by breaking down fiber generally increases digestibility of many nutrients, while all the oil soluble nutrients require the presence of fat for best absorption.

The Macrobiotic Diet

A macrobiotic diet isn't simply a diet plan. It's a way of life. If you are drawn to the concept of eating a natural, organic, plant-based diet (with a little fish) and embrace a Zen-like spirituality in both your life and food selections, then a macrobiotic diet may be for you.

Originally from Japan, the principle behind the macrobiotic diet combines tenets of Zen Buddhism with a Western-style vegetarian diet. Much more than a list of recommended foods, it is all about a spiritualism that transcends lifestyle, attitude, and diet practices. The word "macrobiotic" comes from the Greek and essentially means "long life" or "great life."

The macrobiotic diet regimen supports an Eastern philosophy of balancing foods to attain a balance of yin and yang. To achieve that balance, foods are paired based on their sour, sharp, salty, sweet, or bitter characteristics.

Yin foods are cold, sweet, and passive while yang foods are hot, salty, and aggressive.  Some foods are prohibited because they contain toxins or fall on the far end of the spectrum, making it difficult to achieve and respect a Zen-like balance.

Early versions of the macrobiotic diet included several stages that became progressively more restrictive and ending with a diet of brown rice and water -- considered the ultimate in yin and yang. Today, the Americanized version is a modified vegetarian plan.

Although not scientifically proven, a macrobiotic diet of wholesome, nutritious foods may protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.

The macrobiotic diet is low in fat and high in fiber. Because of all the soy products, it is also rich in phytoestrogens, which may reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast cancer. There is no scientific evidence that a macrobiotic diet will reduce breast cancer, however eating a diet low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in plant foods containing phytochemicals may offer disease protection.

Focus on healthy foods that are low in fat and high in fiber. Be mindful of your daily intake of vitamins D and B12, iron, protein, and calcium, for people embracing the macrobiotic diet may be deficient in them. Whenever people eliminate food groups, it can create deficiencies and affect their health. Remember to  balance the yin and yang.

The macrobiotic diet focuses on foods typically lacking in most American diets, but brings about a more fundamental and basic way of eating more natural foods, whole grains, vegetables, and beans that is beneficial to most people, anyways. If you're interested in trying a macrobiotic diet, start slowly. First, incorporate just a few concepts, such as eating less unprocessed foods. Then add more whole grains and so on.

What You Can Eat

Practitioners of the macrobiotic diet prefer locally grown, natural foods prepared and eaten in the traditional manner, such as baking, boiling, and steaming. Lots of grains, vegetables, beans, fermented soy, and soups -- supplemented with small amounts of fish, nuts, seeds, and fruits -- are the basis of the macrobiotic diet menu. Other natural products, however, may be included to accommodate individual needs or during dietary transition.

It is essentially a "flexitarian" diet plan -- a mostly vegetarian diet that allows you to eat occasional meat or fish -- with rules governing eating, cooking, and lifestyle practices such as eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly.

Foods should be consumed in their most natural state and processed foods are not recommended. Other excluded foods are fatty meats, most dairy, sugars, coffee, caffeinated tea, stimulating beverages, alcohol, chocolate, refined flour, very hot spices, chemicals and preservatives, poultry, potatoes, and zucchini.

The diet also allows you to consume certain fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in limited quantities. Excluded foods are considered to be extreme, over stimulating, or too concentrated and therefore not capable of achieving balance.

Here's a breakdown of a typical macrobiotic diet:

Whole grains, especially brown rice: 50%-60%
Vegetables (and seaweed): 25%-30%
Beans: 5%-10%
Fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, miso soup: 5%-20%
Soup (made from ingredients above): 1-2 cups/day

How It Works

Followers of the macrobiotic diet believe that food and food quality impact health, happiness, and well-being. Eating natural food that is closer to the earth and less processed is healthier for the body and soul. One of the objectives is to become more sensitive to the food you eat and how it affects your life. Ultimately, this awareness will enhance your life and health.

What you can eat may be adjusted according to the following:

Season
Climate
Activity
Age
Sex

 

Resources: WebMD, Cancer.org, PCCnaturalmarkets.com, altmedicine.com

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