Macrobiotic diet basics,
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How nature flows between opposites.
The study of this flow, called The Five Element Theory, is 5,000 years old in Oriental Medicine. The elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Tree.
Five Element Theory
Imagine the following Five elements moving clockwise around a circle with FIRE at 12, SOIL at 2, METAL at 5, WATER at 7 pm and TREE at 10.
The elements support eachother in the clockwise direction and control eachother in the following star-shaped pattern: water douses fire, fire bends metal, metal cuts tree, tree break up soil, soil holds water.
(The following categories of the Five Elements contain only a few examples of the foods and elements in each category.)
Taste: Bitter Foods: Bitter greens, Kale, Collards), toasted seeds
Organs: Heart/Small Intestine
Energy direction: Outward
Cooking Method: Stir fry, Dry Roasting
Foods: Winter Squash, Sweeteners
Organs: Stomach/Spleen, Pancreas
Season/Color: Early Autumn/Orange
Energy direction: Downward
Cooking Method: Boiling
Taste: Sharp or Pungent
Foods: Ginger, Garlic, Mustard, raw Onion
Organs: Lungs/Large Intestine
Season/Color: Late Autumn/White
Energy Direction: Inward
Cooking Method: Pressure Cooking/Baking
Foods: Sea Vegetables, Beans
Season/Color: Winter/Blue, Black, Deep Purple
Energy Direction: Floating
Cooking Method: Pickling
Foods: Sprouts, Lemons, Sauerkraut, Vinegars
Energy direction: Upward
Cooking Method: Steaming
The significance for us in cooking and health is:
- Each of these tastes is found on the tongue, so if each is found in the meal, the meal will be satisfying. (For example: Rice with Dulse sprinkle, Fish with Ginger, Winter Squash, Kale, Sauerkraut).
- Each of these tastes influences a different organ system in the body so foods from each category need to be eaten every day to nourish all of the organs.
- If a certain organ needs support, you can make extra sure you eat the healthy foods in that category.
- There are supportive and unsupportive foods for each category:
Unsupportive Foods in each category:
Fire - cigarettes
Soil - white sugar
Metal - baked white flour products
Water - iodized salt
Tree - alcohol
For example, if someone is having a problem with constipation (Metal - Large Intestine) they would want to stay away from baked white flour products. If someone wants to quite smoking (Fire) if they eat more bitter leafy greens it'll probably help. If someone is having problems with their blood sugar balance- insulin and the pancreas, (Soil), they should avoid refined sugars.
Can you 'taste' the taste?
All foods would be classified in one of these elements but only certain ones are used for the distinct 'taste' of the category. Can you 'taste' the different tastes as you think about each category?
Bitter: leafy green vegetables: kale, collards, broccoli, parsley, brussel sprouts, chicory, dandelion greens, endive, mustard greens, cucumber, chard.
Sweet: yellow-orange vegetables: cooked carrots; winter squash (acorn, butternut, buttercup, delicata, hokkaido) sweet corn, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, yams.
Sharp or Pungent: ginger, garlic, mustard, watercress, raw red and white radish, scallions, onions, leeks, horseradish.
Salty: sea salt, miso, shoyu, tamari, umeboshi plum, salty condiments, and sea vegetables.
Sour: vinegars (rice, umeboshi, hato mugi, apple), sauerkraut, sour pickles, lemons and limes.
When cooking, it's very important to season with the 'salt' first. Once the salt amount is correct, (ie. miso in a miso soup) then you season with the ginger or other flavorings. If not enough salt is used, the other flavorings won't show up. If too much salt is added, the other flavorings might overpower the dish and you might need to add something to balance it. Check the chart....ie. if a dish is too bitter, add something sweet or sharp to balance the bitter.
Next: The Acid and Alkaline effect of foods on the body