Friday, February 12, 2010

Substituting coffee, thinking macrobiotic

As I was moving towards the end of my practice today, my teacher came over to adjust me. Please don’t ask me about my coffee detox, please don’t ask me about my coffee detox.

“So how’s the coffee thing going?” he asked as he pushed on my back.

I can’t lie to him!

“Ummm….well…. Ok I cheated. But just a little! It was a really small cup! Green tea was making me sick!”

He smiled, “That’s ok!”

He’s so nice. Then he said, “I forgot, I didn’t tell you what to replace it with. You need to have good substitutes.”

He said to get Dandyblend or Roma (made from malted barley and chicory) at Essene Market where I happened to be heading right after practice to meet my wonderful new friend, Teresa. Teresa has battled breast cancer for over 10 years, both with conventional treatment and many additional holistic therapies.

Several people I greatly admire are on the macrobiotic diet, including both David (my yoga teacher) and Teresa. I keep going back to the idea. If anything, I think this will be a slow and progressive process. I’ll start by making some small additions to my diet: miso soup, vegetables with sesame oil, and steel cut oats.

Caitlin and my miso soup attempt – pretty good!

My main concern with the macrobiotic diet is having to limit my fruit and avocado intake... my favorite foods. I asked both David and Teresa about this today. David said, “No, don't eat much fruit. Maybe in the summer.” And avocados? “Well you can’t be too strict! If you want avocado, not a problem.”

Teresa eats fruit… and lots of it. “I’ll eat a whole carton of blueberries!” she said smiling.


  1. Does a macrobiotic diet encourage limiting one's consumption of organic blueberries? Shouldn't we all be eating more fruits like organic blueberries? Surely David is wrong on this point, and Teresa right!

  2. It seems like the core principles of a macrobiotic diet are 1) eating whole foods (not parts of foods or processed foods), and 2) eating foods that are appropriate for your geographic location and season. Both these principles make a lot of sense. Science has tried to break down food into its most basic units (i.e. vitamins, minerals, proteins), but how perfect is this science? Why do we think that "Fruit2day" fruit flavored water could have the same nutritional benefit as a grapefruit, an apple, or a kiwi? It also seems plausible that food grown in a particular area might have more nutritional value for people living in that area. Should we really have access to fresh mangos in Philadelphia during a February snow blizzard? Following this 'eat local' aspect of a macrobiotic diet could have positive environmental repercussions as well.

    I have not completely embraced a macrobiotic diet because it is so strict, and also because it is largely based off a Japanese diet (miso soup, seaweed, daikon). However, I try to apply these two principles to the food I eat (somewhat imperfectly). Although it has required some sacrifice - I have significantly cut down my fruit consumption this winter (I eat an occasional apple or grapefruit) and I cook almost everything I eat from scratch, I feel healthier and my food is more tasty. I do not plan on strictly limiting myself from eating fruit in the summer. (and I still eat avocados all the time)

  3. Christina and the major concern about fruit its origin of growth and the level of sugar?

  4. Rebecca, my thought is that you are exactly right - even though fruit is healthy and contains important nutrients/antioxidants, because of its high sugar content its consumption should be limited. I think that fruit sugar is definitely superior to refined sugar (because it is digested with fiber, which slows the release of simple sugars into the blood stream, and because it is from a natural source), all sugar should be consumed in moderation. Additionally, the environmental impact of importing foods from over the world makes me prefer eating fruit when it is grown here in the northeastern US.

    According to my understanding of macrobiotics (and I am by no means an expert), all aspects of life are classified as either 'yin' or 'yang' energy, and a balance between the two is ideal. The staple macrobiotic foods: whole grains, brown rice, miso soup, beans, vegetables and barley tea, are inherently balanced in their yin/yang properties and should be a large component of the diet year-round. The cold winter months (yin) should be balanced by supplementing the staple dishes with foods that have yang properties (contractive, dry, dense foods such as ginseng, root vegetables, herbs, bread, cheese, seafood, salt). However in the hot summer months (yang), one should supplement staple dishes with foods that have more yin properties (light, expansive, juicy foods such as fruits, nuts, yogurt, butter).

    So, in summary of my long-winded answer, I think macrobiotics classifies limited fruit consumption more according to balanced energies, and less in terms of sugar and location, but intuitively I prefer the logic of the latter. (though the macrobiotic theory does explain why I crave potato soup and hearty bread in the winter, and watermelon in the summer) hope this helps!

    I'd be interested in knowing David's explanation of all this :)

  5. Hey christina, I know it sounds trite, but I think the simple "everything in moderation" diet is the way to go. That's what women in my family follow, and (knock on wood), they are healthy. Also, are you looking at the sodium content on the miso soup? I feel like there is a ton of salt in miso soup, but maybe it's just in restaurants!

  6. Caitlin, thank you for that great explanation of the sugar question! I've started thinking about this yin and yang idea... it's useful to have another way of classify/make distinctions, in an effort to stay balanced. I like it!

    Lizzie, thanks for your comment and yes, I completely agree with your point about moderation! You are absolutely right about the sodium content of miso -- one serving (2 tsp) has 450mg (19%) daily value... definitely something to keep an eye on. Thank you!!

  7. Caitlin...thank you so much for your awesome post.