Macrobiotic Foods List A-Z

Macrobiotic Foods List A-Z


Food is our Future

Making change quick and easy is explained in depth in both of my books Macrobiotics for all Seasons and Go Vegan. Many of the ingredients listed below have been used in various cultures for many, many years.  Some of these ingredients may be new to you so this list will give you a general guideline on their usage. When you follow a diet that does not create nutritional stress you energy and vibrancy will soar. Our clients cannot believe the increase in energy that they experience in such a short time switching from a meat and dairy based diet to a wholefood plant based vegan diet.

Is a fermented sweet rice drink with the texture of milk!  It is a creamy base for custards, puddings and frostings, not to mention a wonderfully satisfying drink and good source of complex carbohydrates on its own.

A large leafy sea vegetable, arame is finely shredded and boiled before drying and packed for selling.  Since it is precooked, it requires far less cooking time than other sea vegetables and can be marinated for salads with no cooking at all.  One of the milder tasting sea plants, it is a great source of protein and minerals, calcium and potassium.

Azduki Beans
Azduki beans are small and very compact, with a deep reddish-brown colour.  These tiny beans are a staple in the Far East.  They are revered in Japan for their healing properties, and are low in fat and reputed to be more digestible than most other beans as well as rich sources of potassium and iron and B Vitamins (not B12)

Bancha (Kukicha)
A Japanese tea made from the stems and twigs of the tea bush has no caffeine or chemical dyes and is packed with antioxidants.  Is high in calcium and aids in digestion.

Barley is the oldest cultivated grain.  Barley serves to make everything from malted whisky to tea to miso.  Barley is a great low-fat grain full of nutrients and helps the body in breaking down fat.  Delicious when cooked with other whole grains and in soups and salads.

Barley Malt
A sweetener or grain honey made from sprouted barley that is cooked into sweet syrup.  The syrup contains dextrin, maltose, various minerals and protein.

Black Soybeans
Black Soybeans are renowned in Asia for their restorative effects on the reproductive organs.  Incredibly sweet and rich, but requiring roasting and long cooking time.

A fibre rich layer just beneath the hull of whole grains that protects the endosperm or germ.  Bran is a good source of calcium, carbohydrates and phosphorous and is the main reason for eating grains in their whole form.

A cereal plant native to Siberia, buckwheat has been a staple food in many European countries for several centuries. It is frequently eaten in the form of kasha, whole groats, or soba noodles.

(Cracked Wheat) Made from whole wheat berries that are cracked into pieces enabling it to cook quite quickly.  Nice change from porridge occasionally..   Bulgur is most commonly associated with tabbouleh, a marinated grain salad combining tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and olive oil dressing.

A wild, hearty plant from the thistle family.  This long dark brown root is renowned as one of nature’s finest blood purifiers and skin clarifiers.  A strong dense root vegetable, burdock has a very centering, grounding energy, and is most commonly used in stews and long simmered sautés.

Cannellini beans
Creamy white oval beans most commonly used in the Italian dish pasta e fagiol. Their creamy texture makes them ideal for purees, dips and creamy soups.

Their rich texture and taste belie the fact that chestnuts are low in fat, making them an ideal ingredient in many recipes.  At their peak in the autumn, fresh chestnuts are a wonderful addition to soups, stews and vegetable dishes and their natural sweet taste makes them a great desert ingredient.  As a complex carbohydrate they release energy slowly into the bloodstream.

Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
Their rich texture and creamy taste when cooked or for making hummus, a creamy spread, combining chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice and a bit of garlic tastes wonderful.  Also fantastic for using in bean dishes combined with sweet vegetables or corn as well as in soups and stews

A long, white radish root with a peppery taste. Used in soups salads and stews as well as medicinal drinks.  It is reputed to aid in the digestion of fat and protein as well as to help the body assimilate oil and cleanse organ tissue.  Also available in dried, shredded form.

Dried dulse is another great sea vegetable and has a rich red colour and is high in potassium.  It adds depth of flavour to soups, stews, salads and bean stews.

EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids)
Fats that we must obtain from our diet and include omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9.  Omega-6 and 9 are found in most foods, but omega-3 is is found in certain nuts, seeds and vegetables.

Richer than soybeans in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in Vitamin E, they have a sweet, nutty flavour.  On their own, flaxseeds can have a laxative effect on the body.  Many vegans enjoy them daily for the omega-3 benefits.

A meat substitute developed by vegetarian Buddhist monks, fu is made of dried wheat gluten.  A good low fat source of protein, fu can be used in various soups and stews by simply reconstituting it in water.

A golden coloured, spicy root vegetable with a variety of uses in cooking.  It imparts a mild, peppery taste to cooking and is commonly used in stir-fries, sautés, sauces and dressings.  Shaped like fingers of a hand, ginger has the reputation of stimulating circulation with its hot taste.  A very popular remedy in Oriental medicine for helping with everything from joint pain to stomachaches and acid indigestion.

The protein found in wheat, although it is also found in smaller amounts in other grains like oats, rye and barley.  When kneaded in dough, gluten becomes elastic and holds air pockets released by the leavening, helping bread to rise.
Gluten is also used to prepare Seitan, a meat substitute made from wheat gluten.

Also known as sesame salt. Gomashio is a table condiment made from roasted, ground sesame seeds and sea salt. It is good sprinkled on brown rice and other whole grains

Grain Coffee:
A non-stimulating, caffeine-free coffee substitute made from roasted grains, beans and roots. Ingredients are combined in different ways to create a variety of different flavors. Used like instant coffee.

Green Nori Flakes:
A sea vegetable condiment made from a certain type of nori, different from the packaged variety. The flakes are rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin A.  They can be sprinkled on whole grains, vegetables, salads, and other dishes.

Sold in its dry form, hijiki resembles black angel hair pasta.  It is one of the strongest tasting of all sea plants, soaking it for several minutes before cooking can gentle its briny flavour.  It is one of the richest sources of useable calcium in the plant kingdom with a huge amount of calcium per half cup.  It has no saturated fat and is great for weight loss programmes.

Hokkaido Pumpkin
There are two varieties of Hokkaido pumpkin. One has a deep orange color and the other has a light green skin similar to Hubbard squash. Both varieties are very sweet and have a tough outer skin.

A sea vegetable packaged in wide dark, dehydrated strips that will double in size when soaked and cooked.  Kombu is a great source of glutamic acid, a natural flavour enhancer so adding a small piece to soups and stews deepens flavours.  It is also generally believed that kombu improves the digestibility of grains and beans when added to these foods in small amounts.

Is a high quality starch made from the root of the kuzu plant.  A root native to the mountains of Japan.  Kuzu grows like a vine with tough roots.  Used primarily as a thickener, this strong root is reputed to strengthen the digestive tract due to its alkaline nature.

Sautéed root vegetables cut into matchsticks, usually burdock or burdock and carrots seasoned with soy sauce. This hearty dish is warming and vitalizing, making it ideal for autumn and winter use.

A grain, usually semi-polished or polished rice, inoculated with bacteria and used to begin the fermentation process in a variety of foods, including miso, amasake, tamari, natto and sake.

A large plant family including beans, lentils, peanuts and peas.

An ancient legume that comes in many varieties, from common brown-green to red to yellow to lentils le puys (a tiny sweet French variety, which is also great in salads.  Very high in protein and minerals and with a full-bodied peppery taste, lentils are good in everything from stews and soups to salads and side dishes.

Maitake mushrooms
Medical researchers have been studying the anti-tumour activity of mushrooms. Simply put, they can turn on the immune systems T-cells, which travel the bloodstream seeking and destroying cancer cells.  Maitakes are considered the king of mushrooms, because they are so delicious and have a reputation as a very powerful healing food.  Enjoy them in soups, stews, and teas.

Millet is a tiny grain native to Asia.  An effective alkalizing agent, it is the only whole grain that does not produce stomach acids, so it aids spleen and pancreas function as well as stomach upset.  Its very versatile, making delicious grain dishes, creamy soups, stews, and porridges.  With its sweet nutty taste and beautiful yellow colour it complements most foods but goes best with sweet vegetables like squash and corn.

A Japanese rice wine with a sweet taste and very low alcohol content.  Made by fermenting sweet brown rice with water and koji a cultured rice), mirin adds depth and dimension to sauces, glazes and various other dishes and can be used as a substitute for sherry in cooking.

A fermented soybean paste used traditionally to flavour soups but prized throughout Asia for its ability to strengthen the digestive system.  Traditionally aged miso is a great source of high quality protein.  Available in a wide variety of flavours and strengths, the most nutritious miso is made from barley and soy-beans and is aged for at least two years. Miso is rich in digestive enzymes which are delicate and should not be boiled.  Just light simmering miso activates and releases the enzymes, strengthening qualities into food.

Mochi is made by cooking sweet brown rice and then pounding or extruding it to break the grains, a process that results in a very sticky substance.  Mochi can be used to make creamy sauces, to give the effect of melted cheese or simply cut into small squares and pan-fried, creating tiny turnover like puffs, a rich source of complex carbohydrates.  Delicious when dipped into malt barley syrup or rice syrup.

Mung Beans
Tiny pea-shaped deep green beans, these are most popular in their sprouted forms, although they cook up quickly, making delightful soups and purees.  Mung bean sprouts are a delicious addition to any salad or stir-fried dish.

Mu Tea
Tea made from a blend of traditional, on-stimulating herbs. A warming and strengthening beverage, mu tea is especially beneficial for the female reproductive organs.

Soybeans that have been cooked, mixed with beneficial enzymes and allowed to ferment for twenty-four hours. Natto is high in easy-to-digest protein and vitamin B12.

Natto Miso:
A condiment made from soybeans, barley, kombu, and ginger; not actually a miso.

Nori (Sea laver)
Usually sold in paper-thin sheets, nori is a great source of protein and minerals like calcium and iron.  Most well-known as a principal ingredient in sushi, nori has a mild sweet flavour, just slightly reminiscent of the ocean.  Great for strengthening grain and noodle dishes or floating in soup or adding to stir-fries.

Nut Butters
Thick pastes made from grinding nuts.  While rich in fiber and protein nut butters are also excellent sources of good quality fat.  Nut butters have intense, rich flavours and are great in sauces, dressings and baked goods.

Nuts are true powerhouses of energy.  Bear in mind, that in most cases, nuts have the strength to grow entire trees, so imagine what impact they have on us, giving us great strength and vitality.  They are wonderful in small amounts for taste and richness (they are calorically dense) and for a lift of energy.

Pressed Salad:
Very thinly sliced or shredded fresh vegetables, combined with pickling agent such as sea salt, umeboshi, brown rice vinegar, or tamari soy sauce, and placed in a pickle press. In the pickling process, many of the enzymes and vitamins are retained while the vegetables become easier to digest.

A tiny seed like grain native to the Andes Mountains, pronounced (keen-wah) this small grain packs a powerhouse of protein and numerous amino acids not normally found in large amounts in most whole grains, particularly lysine, which aids digestion.  Quiona grains are quite delicate, so nature has coated them with an oily substance called saponin.  If the grain isn’t rinsed well, it can have a bitter taste.  Quinoa has a lovely nutty taste and cooks quickly, qualities that make it a great whole grain addition to your menus.

The staple grain of many cultures, rice is low in fat and rich in vitamins, amino acids and minerals, like calcium, protein and iron and B vitamins.  Rice as we know it was reportedly cultivated in India, spreading from there to Asia and the Middle East.
In its whole form, rice is a near-perfect food.  High in moisture, rice acts like a gentle diuretic, balancing the moisture content of the body and encouraging the elimination of any excess.  Brown rice should be used as the staple grain.
There are limitless uses for rice in daily cooking.  It can be pressure-cooked, steamed, boiled, fried, baked, roasted, sautéed and used in breads, sushi, casseroles, sautés, pilafs or stuffing’s.

Rice milk
A creamy liquid made by cooking ten parts to one part rice for one hour, the resulting rice is pressed through a cheese-cloth, creating ‘milk’  It is also packaged commercially.

Rice syrup
(Brown rice syrup, rice malt, yinnie)
The Japanese call this ‘liquid sweetness’ Rice syrup is a thick, amber syrup made by combining sprouted barley with cooked brown rice and storing it in a warm place.  Fermentation begins and the starches in the rice covert to maltose and some other complex sugars, making this syrup a wonderfully healthy sweetener.  Complex sugars release slowly into the blood stream, providing fuel for the body rather than wreaking havoc on the blood sugar.  Rice syrup’s wonderful, delicate sweetness makes it ideal for baked goods and other deserts.

The quality of salt we use is important, the best to use is white unrefined sea salt with no additives.  Unrefined salts are rich in the trace minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium that are destroyed in processed salt.

Sea vegetables
The exotic vegetables that are harvested from the sea coast and nearby rocks are high in protein and rich in minerals.  Readily available in dehydrated from in natural foods stores, sea vegetables are not yet widely used but are growing in popularity for their nutritional benefits and interesting taste.

In a word, seeds are powerhouses.  Remember that they are the source of entire plants, even trees in some cases.  That’s a lot of energy in a little seed.  They are good sources of protein and calcium but because of their high oil content, seeds spoil relatively quickly and keep best refrigerated.  The most popular seeds in natural foods cooking include pumpkin, poppy, sunflower and sesame.

Seitan (Wheat gluten)
Most commonly called ‘wheat meat’ Seitan is made from wheat gluten. Made by kneading the bran and starch out of flour, raw Seitan is rather bland, so most commercial brands are simmered in savoury broth before sale.  A wonderful source of protein, it is low in calories and fat and is very popular in Asian ‘mock’meat’ dishes as well as in hearty stews and casseroles.

Sesame tahini
A thick, creamy paste made from ground hulled sesame seeds, it is used for flavouring everything from sauces to salad dressings to dips, spreads and baked goods.

Shitake Mushrooms
Are loaded with nutrition and very powerful to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to cleanse blood.   Scientists have recently isolated substances from shitake that may play a role in the cure and prevention of heart disease, cancer and AIDS.   Shitake mushrooms can be found in natural food stores.  They have an intensely earthy taste so a few go a long way.  It is necessary to soak the dried ones until tender, about 20 minutes before cooking.  Use the soaking water.    Trim off the stems as they can be bitter tasting.  They are wonderful in soups, stews, gravies sauces and medicinal teas.

A lovely herb with large reddish leaves.  A popular staple in Japan, shiso is often used in pickling, most commonly in Umeboshi plum pickling.  Shiso is rich in calcium and iron.

Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
A confusing term because it is the generic term of Japanese soy sauce as well as the term for a specific type of traditionally made soy sauce, the distinguishing characteristic of which is the use of cracked wheat as the fermenting starter, along with soybeans.  The best shoyu is aged for at least two years.  This is a lighter seasoning than tamari.  Shoyu is high in glutamic acid, a natural form of monosodium gultamate (MSG), which makes it an excellent flavour enhancer, great for marinating, pickling and sautéing.

A noodle made from buckwheat flour.  Some varieties contain other ingredients like wheat flour or yam flour but the best quality soba are those made primarily of buckwheat flour.

The base for many natural foods products, from miso to soy sauce to tofu and tempeh to soymilk to soy flour.  On their own, soybeans are rather bland and hard to digest, so are more commonly used in other products.  However, when cooked on their own, long and slow cooking is the only way, soybeans are most delicious.

Soy foods
A catchall term for the wide range of foods that have soybeans as their base, including soymilk, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, tamari, Shoyu, miso, soy cheese, soy oil etc.,

Soy sauce
Traditional soy sauce (the same as Shoyu) is the product of fermenting soybeans, water, salt and wheat.  Containing salt and glutamic acid, soy sauce is a natural flavour enhancer.  The finest soy sauces are aged from one to two years, like Tamari and Shoyu, while commercial soy sauce is synthetically aged in a matter of days, producing a salty artificial flavoured condiment

A fermented soy sauce product that is actually the liquid that rises to the top of the keg when making miso.  This thick, rich flavour enhancer is nowadays produced with a fermentation process similar to that of Shoyu, but the starter is wheat free.  Tamari is richer, with a full-bodied taste, and contains more amino acids than regular soy sauce.

A traditional Indonesian soy product created by fermenting split cooked soybeans with a starter.  As the tempeh ferments, a white mycelium of enzymes develops on the surface, making the soybeans more digestible, as well as providing a healthy range of B Vitamins.  Can be used for everything from sandwiches to salads to stews to casseroles.

Toasted (dark) sesame oil
An oil extracted from toasted sesame seeds that imparts a wonderful nutty flavour to quick sautés, stir-fries and sauces, but should not be cooked over high heat for a long period

Tofu (Soybean curd)
Tofu is a wonderful source of protein and phytoestrogens, and is very versatile.  Rich in calcium and cholesterol-free, tofu is made by extracting curd from coagulated soymilk and then pressing it into bricks.  For use in everything from soups and stews to salads, casseroles and quiches or as the creamy base to sauces and dressings.

Flat noodles, much life fettuccine.  Udon comes in a variety of blends of flours, from all whole wheat to brown rice to lotus root to unbleached white flour.  I use the whole wheat variety.

Umeboshi plums
Japanese pickles (actually green apricots) with a fruity salty taste.  Pickled in a salt brine and shiso leaves for at least one year (the longer the better) ume plums are traditionally served as a condiment with various dishes, including grains.  Ume plums are reputed to aid in the healing of a wide array of ailments from stomach aches to migraines, because they alkalize the blood.  These little red plums (made red from the shushi leaves) which adds vitamin C and iron make good preservatives.

Umeboshi paste
A puree made from Umeboshi plums to create a concentrated condiment.  Use sparingly as it is quite salty but it is a great ingredient in salad dressings, sauces, or spread on corn on the cob.

Umeboshi Vinegar (Ume Su)
A salty liquid left over from pickling Umeboshi plums.  Used as a vinegar, it is great for salad dressings and pickle making.

Vinegar (Brown rice)
A fermented condiment.  While lots of vinegars exist, they can be very acidic, I use brown rice vinegar made from fermented brown rice and sweet brown rice, Umeboshi vinegar (above) balsamic vinegar. Great for reducing lactic acid in the body.

A very delicate member of the kelp family, wakame is most traditionally used in miso soups and salads.  It requires only a brief soaking and short cooking time and has a gentle flavour and is a great way to introduce sea vegetables to your diet.

Called the ‘staff of life’ has been the mainstay of foods in temperate climates since the dawn of time.  There are many strains of wheat, classified according to hardness or softness, which reflects the percentage of protein.  Hard winter wheat is high in gluten and is best for breads, while softer wheat’s work best in pastries.

Whole wheat flour
A flour ground from whole wheat berries that is high in gluten.  Good stone-ground flour retains much of its germ and bran and thus much more of its nutrients than its unbleached white counterpart making it a healthier choice.

In macrobiotics, energy or movement that has a centripetal or inward direction.

In macrobiotics, energy of movement that has a centrifugal or outward direction and results in expansion.

Also called the peel, the zest is the thin, coloured layer of skin on citrus fruit which imparts a fragrant essence of the fruit into cooking.

In good health