Today Vibrant Wellness Journal is happy to welcome Jin Hirata, a Japanese Macrobiotic chef and nutritionist living in New York City. Chef Jin works as a health counselor, cooking instructor, does shiatsu massage and Reiki healing. Check out more about Macrobiotics and healthy living on his website, Whole Life with Jin.
Know your Uniqueness
Macrobiotics sees everybody as a unique being. Nobody is completely identical, and each of us has own unique constitution and conditions. So when it comes to diet and healing, there is no “one ﬁts for all” in Macrobiotics. One food may benefit some people, but might not be beneficial for all others. Even with the same health condition, one dietary regimen may work wonders for some, but may not for others.
I will share a bit of my own story to demonstrate a practical application of these Macrobiotic principles. I was born and raised in Japan, and grew up eating mainly typical Japanese home cooking, which is centered around rice, miso soup, vegetables, tofu, seaweeds, with some animal foods. I am a 41 year old male, 5’5”, 110lbs, petite and skinny with a small bone structure.
I currently live in New York City. I work for myself, as a health counselor, cooking instructor, and educator, and I also do shiatsu massage and Reiki. I have not had any major illnesses in my life, but I’ve always have had a weak digestion. I am a sensitive type, prone to stress. I changed my diet about 10 years ago, and have been eating Macrobiotically for about eight years. My diet includes plenty of whole grains and vegetables, along with beans, seaweeds, and other plant-based whole foods. My diet is about 70% vegan, but occasionally I eat ﬁsh, cheese and eggs, and enjoy wines from time to time. I walk every morning, do some yoga and moderate exercise at the gym. I sleep about 6 hours each day.
Now, here are some questions. Do I need to take as much water as people whose diet is centered around animal foods? Do I have to take the same amount of calories as those whose life style is physically very active? Do I require the same amount of protein and fat as a heavier Caucasian man? Is it really a good idea for me to drink six cups of coffee or take Aspirin in order to prevent heart diseases and some types of cancers? Bananas and avocados are very nutritious, but would I benefit from them the same way as people living in Hawaii? Raw food does not seem to agree with me, though I know some people who are doing very well on raw food diet. Should I still get on that diet, too? Or green juice diet just to lose weight or “cleanse” ?
The answer, to me, is obvious. It all depends! It changes based on the sex, age, body size, activity level, where you live, and your general constitution. Each person has a different, suitable way to eat for their own bodies. This can be seen in regional cuisines, as each country and tradition (with unique environment and climate) has its own way of eating that generally suits the population. Dietary pattern should naturally be different from New York to Hawaii to Italy to Kenya. For example, thought the “Mediterranean Diet” has contributed to the health and longevity of the Greeks, it does not mean that Asians would also benefit from eating goats milk, as about 80% of the race is lactose-intolerance. Each person, and each culture should have their own way of eating– their own “Macrobiotic Diet”.
So the very first step to take when you are on Macrobiotic path is to know yourself– know your uniqueness. This will help you determine which foods really are the best for you at this moment. Learning about what foods are best for you doesn’t depend on the “super food” you saw on the Dr. Oz show, nor that diet works for your friend. Though these ideas might inspire you to try new things, it may not be a good idea just to copy them. Instead, you learn your best diet by tuning into your own body and how to nurture it well. Learning more about yourself leads you to develop your own Macrobiotic Diet.
Although there is no “one size ﬁts all” dietary rules in Macrobiotics, there are some basic, core dietary foundations that you can follow as a human being. All animals have their own dietary pattern to sustain their unique physical traits. What if, for example, lions declare that they are going to be vegetarian from now on? How about cows? Can they suddenly change their diet and become carnivore? Theyʼd most definitely get sick, of course, and eventually die. Eating against the natural order is just not sustainable. Then what about humans– what is human food ?
In any species, the structure of its teeth shows gives us an idea about their natural diet. So letʼs take a look at our own teeth: we usually have about 32 teeth, and 20 are molars/premolars, which are designed to grind ﬁberous foods such as whole grains, as well as hard vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds etc. Eight of our teeth are incisors, with which you cut vegetables and fruits. Only four of our teeth are canines, to tear animal flesh, including ﬁsh. And that should reflect the ratio of each food category by which we eat as our natural dietary foundation.
The general Macrobiotic diet suggests that we eat whole grains as a principal foods, about 30 to 5 % of meal (by weight), 25 to 30% vegetables, and the rest includes beans (or other plant based protein foods), sea vegetables, oils, nuts/seeds, fruits, and other plant based foods. Only a small amount of animal foods (mainly ﬁsh and seafoods) should be eaten, if you wish.
These days, we know more about nutrition than ever before. We talk about the importance of antioxidants, B complex, omega-3, or essential amino acids. And yet most of us are still at a loss what to eat every day to maintain our health, and we do not seem to be getting any healthier. We seem to eat bits and pieces of “healthy foods”, like ﬂaxseed, chia seeds, acai berry and coconut oil, but most of us have no structure in the daily diet. It is rather… chaotic. Even if you eat all these “Dr. Oz/ Oprah approved superfoods,” if you donʼt have a dietary foundation that supports your health and provide all the essential nutrients, you might be missing out on the best heatlh.
When we live against the natural order, including diet, all sorts of disharmony and disease arise. Though everybody is unique, and the need of each individual is different, as a human species, we have a basic and common diet that we can follow. And with that core foundation, we can make some adjustments depending upon your uniqueness, specific conditions, needs and goals. The Macrobiotic diet is not something new or foreign, but a way of eating that is based upon the tradition and common sense of human being. This is a dietary pattern that many cultures have been practicing for a long time – it is true human food.