Macrobiotics, Simplified: 6 Keys to Life

16 Oct

Written by Andrea Scalici

In today’s over processed, under nourished, one-step, two-bite, quick and easy food world, it’s no wonder something like the Macrobiotic Diet seems strange and complicated. But the truth of the matter is that it’s the root of eating.

The term comes from Greek, “macro” meaning “large” or “long”, and “bios” meaning “life”, and was first coined by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine. The diet as we know it today comes philosopher-writer George Ohsawa who adopted the term and drew from Chinese and Japanese folk medicine to create his version of this traditional philosophy of health. His teachings came by way of Japan then Europe to North American in the 1950’s where his most prominent student, Michio Kushi spread its wings.1

At first glace, the ever-knowledgeable Wikipedia, describes macrobiotics as:

“Eating grains as a staple food supplemented with other foodstuffs such as vegetables and beans, and avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods. Macrobiotics also addresses the manner of eating, by recommending against overeating, and requiring that food be chewed thoroughly before swallowing.”1

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the way we humans are supposed to eat? Westernization brought with it a resistance of the traditional Eastern beliefs of the Orient but it seems now they may have been onto something all along. Rather than just another diet fad, macrobiotics concentrates also on a way of living, of maintaining a yin and yang in all we do. Aren’t people in America always striving for balance?

If so, simply follow these rules:
1. Chew your food! Breaking up the groups between 25-30% whole grains, especially brown rice, 30-40% vegetables, 5-10% beans and legumes, and the remaining percentage comprised of an assortment of fish, miso soup, nuts and seeds, fruits, and naturally processed foods.

2. Cook seasonally, with lighter dishes featured in the warmer months and richer dishes in colder months.

3. BALANCE: Avoid over stimulating the body (YIN) through things like sugar alcohol and coffee, while staying away from stagnant (YANG) foods like meat, poultry, eggs, and refined salt.

4. It is believed that, according to a proponent, if one “eats foods that are whole, local and in season, that the body get the perfect yin-ness and yang-ness needed for the natural environment. In harmony with nature, one can experience strength, flexibility, freedom and happiness.”2

5. On the surface Macrobiotics appears similar to the vegan diet. The main differences being that most meats and fishes aren’t ruled out and macrobiotics encourages an active and positive life and mental outlook with its diet as well. Indulgences are allowed since healthy eating on a daily basis is the norm. Further, macrobiotics has ties in alternative healing. Many believe the restrictive diet is helpful to ailments and diseases like cancer, though this has never been proven. One of the elements that is a little outdated, however, is the promotion of tobacco, said to be helpful as a part of this diet, but something we know by now to be harmful.

6. As a cook and “foodie” (I try to avoid those words but can’t yet call myself a chef), I don’t like to rule anything out of my repertoire, especially “nightshade” vegetables which macrobiotics warns against, including tomatoes, eggplant, beets and avocado, all things essential to my personal diet. But I appreciate the essence of macrobiotics and embrace the idea that we are what we eat. In the midst of the attention food is getting these days with laws against trans-fats and a return to organic, healthy eating habits, it is no wonder Macrobiotics is once again drawing crowds. My hat goes off to those that have been able to maintain this lifestyle all along while the rest of us were stuck with deli sandwiches and fast food. I guess there’s a reason this diet is over 5000 years old.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: