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Macrobiotic Food

MACROBIOTIC FOOD

MACROBIOTIC FOOD. Macrobiotics is a way of eating and living in accordance with the natural order of the universe. This simple way of life has been practiced for thousands of years, originating with the ancient Far Eastern theory of yin and yang energies, a never-ending continuum where opposites change into one another to complement, balance, and form a union; for example, the sun (yang) and moon (yin), night (yin) and day (yang); summer and spring (yang), winter and fall (yin). All things on earth are created and held in balance by these two complementary forces, a fundamental understanding that governs the whole universe. The human body is included in the universal cycle of the endless harmonious motion of change. All the major organs and functions within the body have a cycle of yin and yang movement. For example, when we inhale (yin), we must also exhale (yang); the body needs both rest (yin) and activity (yang). Foods and liquids restore and maintain the body. Therefore, the macrobiotic way of living and eating is about understanding how to live simply and choose and prepare food in conjunction with the natural order of the universe, creating physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The sidebar at right lists yin and yang characteristics.

The History and Development of Macrobiotics

The word "macrobiotics" comes from the Greek makros meaning 'large', 'a great' and bios meaning 'life'. Hippocrates first used the term in the fifth century b.c.e. in his essay "Air, Water, Places," about a group of people who lived long and healthy lives. Even to this day, his famous quote, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food," continues to be acknowledged and respected. Hippocrates emphasized that life itself depends upon what foods are consumed and how they are prepared. He suggested that healing takes place when foods are eaten in their most natural form.

While Hippocrates coined the term, macrobiotics was practiced hundreds of years earlier in the Far East. Around 500 b.c.e. one of the world's oldest medical books was written, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, a compilation of the medical wisdom of ancient China. The book states that people who lived in harmony according to the laws of nature, balancing yin and yang energies, lived long and healthy lives. This wisdom is believed to go back even several thousand years earlier. "Macrobiotics" became a common term used in early Western literature, including the Bible, to describe patriarchs such as Abraham as "Macrobiotic people." In 1797 Dr. Christopher W. Hufeland, a German philosopher and physician, challenged medical practices by becoming a macrobiotic spokesman in Europe. His publication of Macrobiotics or the Art of Prolonging Life warned against popular foods like meat as well as foods containing refined sugars in favor of a simple vegetable and grain diet.

The development of macrobiotics as it is known today is credited to George Ohsawa (18931966; formerly Yukikazu Sakurazawa), who overcame tuberculosis in 1909 by rejecting Western medical treatment in favor of a simple diet of whole cooked grains such as brown rice, earth and sea vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts, and miso soup. The source of the information that relieved his illness was A Method for Nourishing Life Through Food: A Unique Chemical Food-Nourishment Theory of Body and Mind, written by Japan's Sagen Ishizuka in 1897. Ishizuka's vision consisted of eliminating a diet of meat, dairy products, potatoes, eggs, white bread, simple sugars, and the other highly refined foods of modern civilization. He contended that eating this way goes against the natural order of the universe and humans' immediate environment, thus causing people to lose their physical, psychological, and spiritual

Food Classification According to Yin and Yang
Extreme Yang Foods Moderate Foods Extreme Yin Foods
Some Chemicals, Drugs, and Roots Fish and Seafood Whole Grains and Grain Products Beans and Bean Products Sea Vegetables Vegetables Fruits Beverages Tropical Foods Stimulants
Refined salt Carp Brown rice Azuki beans Agar-agar Root: Fresh and Dried: Reguals use: Asparagus Black tea
Iodized salt Clams Millet Black-eyed peas Alaria Beets Apricots Bancha twig tea Avocado Green tea
Crude gray sea salt Crab Barley Black soybeans Arame Burdock Blackberries Bancha stem tea Bananas Mint tea
Ginseng Cod Whole wheat Black turtle beans Dulse Carrots Blueberries Roasted rice tea Brazil nuts Other stimulating aromatic teas
Insulin Flounder Oats Broad beans Hijiki Daikon Cantaloupe Roasted barley tea Cashews  
Thyroxin Haddock Rye Chickpeas Irish moss Dandelion roots Grapes Roasted grain tea Coconut Coffee
Various others Herring Buckwheat Great Northern beans Kelp Jinenjo Honeydew melon Kombu tea Coconut oil Decaffeinated coffee
  Iriko Corn   Kombu Jerusalem artichoke Lemon Spring water Dates Cola
Eggs Lobster Sorghum Kidney beans Mekabu Lotus root Mulberries Well water Eggplant Soft drinks
Chicken eggs Octopus Wild rice Lentils Nekabu Parsnip Nectarines   Figs Chocolate
Duck eggs Oysters Amaranth Lima beans Nori Radish Olives Occasional Use: Grapefruit Cinnamon
Caviar Red Snapper Quinoa Mung beans Wakame Rutabaga Oranges 100% grain coffee Green peppers Curry
Other eggs from poultry or fish Scallops Other cereal grains Navy beans Others Taro Peaches Amazake Kiwi fruit Nutmeg
  Scrod Sweet rice Pinto beans   Turnip Pears Dandelion tea Mango Other spices
  Shrimp Mochi Soybeans Seasonings Others Plums Lotus root tea Palm oil  
Meat Smelt Bread Split peas Unrefined sea salt   Raisins Burdock root tea Papaya Processed Foods
Beef Sole Chapatis Whole dried peas Tamari soy sauce Round/Ground: Raspberries Other traditional, nonstimulant, nonaromatic natural herbal teas Plantain White rice
Lamb Trout Tortillas Other beans Real tamari Acorn squash Strawberries   Potato White flour
Port Other white-meat fish and seafood Soba Miso Miso Broccoli Tangerines   Red peppers Refined grains
Ham   Udon Natto Rice vinegar Brussels sprouts Watermelon   Spinach Instant foods
Sausage   Somen Okara Brown rice vinegar Buttercup squash Wild berries   Sweet potato Canned Foods
Bacon Condiments Noodles and pasta Tamari soy sauce Umeboshi vinegar Butternut squash Othertemperateclimate varieties   Tomato Frozen foods
foodsVeal Gomashio   Tempeh Sauerkraut brine Cabbage   Infrequent Use: Yams Sprayed foods
Wild game See vegetable powders Couscous Tofu Mirin Cauliflower   Fruit juice   Dyed Foods
    Bulghur Other bean products Amazake Cucumber Garnishes Cider Dairy Foods1 Irradiated foods
Poultry Tekka Fu   Barley malt Green beans Grated daikon Dyed foods Butter Foods produced with chemicals, additives, artificial coloring, flavoring, emulsifiers, preservatives, stabilizer
Chicken Umeboshi plum Seitan   Rice malt Green peas Grated radish Soy milk Cheese  
Duck Shio kombu Oatmeal Pickles Grated gingerroot Hubbard squash Grated horseradish Vegetable juice Cream  
Goose Shiso leaves Corn grits Bran Grated gingerroot Hokkaido pumpkin Chopped scallions Barley green juice Ice cream  
Pheasant Green nori Cornmeal Brine Grated daikon Mushrooms Grated ginger Sake Kefir  
Turkey Yellow mustard Arepas Miso Grated horseradish Onions Red pepper Beer, natural Fermented Milk Vitamin pills
  Green mustard Popcorn Pressed Rice flour            
  Food Classification According to Yin and Yang
Extreme Yang Foods Moderate Foods Extreme Yin Foods
Some Chemicals, Drugs, and Roots Fish and Seafood Whole Grains and Grain Products Beans and Bean Products Sea Vegetables Vegetables Fruits Beverages Tropical Foods Stimulants
Fish and Seafood Cooked nori Other grain products Salt Horseradish Patty pan squash Other traditional garnishes Wine, natural Fermented Sour cream Mineral supplements
Bluefish Roasted sesame seeds   Salt and water Umeboshi plum Pumpkin     Whipped cream Other food capsules, tablets, and similar products
Salmon   Seeds and Nuts Sauerkraut Umeboshi paste Red cabbage   Other grain-and fruit-based mild alcoholic beverages of natural quality Yogurt  
Swordfish Other traditional condiments Almonds Takuan Lemon juice Shiitake mushrooms        
Tuna   Chestnuts Tamari soy sauce Tangerine juice Snap beans     Sweeteners2  
Other red-meat and blue-skinned varieties   Filberts Umeboshi Orange juice Summer squash     Aspartame Some Chemicals and drugs
    Peanuts Other traditional types Fresh black pepper Swiss chard     Blond sugar  
    Pecans   Red pepper Wax beans   Sweeteners Brown sugar Amphetamines
    Pinenuts   Green mustard Zucchini   Amazake Cane sugar Antibiotics
    Pistachios   Yellow mustard Others   Barley malt Carob Aspirin
    Poppy seeds   Sesame oil     Rice syrup Corn syrup Cortisone
    Pumpkin seeds   Corn oil White/Green Leafy:   Maple syrup Chocolate Cocaine
    Sesame seeds   Safflower Oil Bok choy   Fruit juice Dextrose LSD
    Squash seeds   Mustard seed oil Carrot tops   Cooked fruit Fructose Marijuana
    Sunflower seeds   Olive oil Celery   Dried fruit Glucose Others
    Walnuts   Sake Chinese cabbage     Honey  
    Other temperateclimate varieties   Sake lees Chives     Molasses Seasonings
        Other natural seasonings Daikon greens     Nutra-Sweet Margarine
          Dandelion greens     Raw sugar Soy margarine
          Endive     Saccharin Lard
          Escarole     Sorbitol Shortening
          Kale     Turbinado sugar Animal fats
          Leeks     White sugar Refined vegetable oils
          Lettuce     Xylitol Herbs
          Mustard Seeds       Spices
          Scallians       Wine Vinegar
          Sprouts       Mayonnaise
          Turnip Greens       Hot Pepper
            Watercress        
          Wild Grasses        
          Others        
1 Brie, Roquefort, and several other salted cheeses that have aged for a long time are classified as yang rather than yin.
2 Soft drinks, candy, pastries, desserts, and other items containing these sweeteners should also be avoided.

vitality and harmony. According to Ishizuka, the ability to experience the highest levels of spirituality is controlled by food. He emphasized that the great sages and saints all lived on whole cooked grains and vegetables cooked with salt. Ishizuka was also concerned with the way eating patterns determined how families and societies functioned. His philosophy and scientific studies echo the macrobiotic way of living and eating in the early twenty-first century. He emphasized balancing Na-dominance (sodium) and K-dominance (potassium) in foods, which is also known as the acid-alkaline balance. Ohsawa amended Iskizuka's theory by imposing yin and yang forces onto the acid-alkaline balance, contending that these energies make up the mystery of life. Iskizuka's work sparked Ohsawa's passion to study, write, and extend his own version of macrobiotic practice and teachings to American, Asia, and Europe.

Macrobiotic Foods

A macrobiotic diet is defined as eating in balance between extreme yin and yang energies. For example, animal meat is considered an extreme yang food and creates natural strong cravings for extreme yin foods, such as refined sugar in cookies and cakes. Extreme foods create sickness and are the body's warning that there is an imbalance. The imbalance causes the blood to become too acidic, creating an environment in which diseases can thrive. Human organs, especially the kidneys, need to work harder to buffer the acids and maintain a normal pH alkaline blood condition of 7.357.45. Scientific studies have shown how a sustained acidic condition can cause normal cells to change to cancer cells. (The sidebar below illustrates foods in relation to acid and alkaline.) If extreme foods continue to be consumed, the body starts accumulating and storing toxins in the form of mucus, fats, cysts, and tumors.

To avoid these undesirable conditions, the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods grown without pesticides and other chemicals is recommended. These consist of earth and sea vegetables, whole cooked grains such as brown rice and millet, bean products, seitan (a wheat-based food), nuts, seeds, and occasionally fish. Seasonings and condiments are used to add nutritional value and to enhance flavor. These include miso, made from soybeans and sea salt commonly flavored with fermented barley or brown rice, which strengthens the blood; umeboshi, a salty plum that neutralizes extreme foods and conditions; sea vegetable flakes, which are high in minerals such as dulse and nori; tekka, a powder made from hatcho miso, sesame oil, burdock, lotus root, carrots, and gingerroot that is simmered for several hours and gives strength; gomoshio, a mixture of sesame seeds and sea salt high in calcium; and shoyu soy sauce to help with digestion. Kuzu, a white starch made from the deep root of a wild vine that helps digestion, thickens sauces. These condiments and seasonings have a variety of medicinal uses and can also maintain normal levels of blood alkaline. Eating these foods, seasonings, and condiments balances the body without causing cravings for extreme foods; thus, the transition of foods from yin to yang and vice versa is smoother, thereby creating internal balance and promoting health.

In a temperate climate, macrobiotic foods do not include nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. These foods are high in alkaloid content and contrary to the healing process. By eating nonpollutant food, the body has a chance to clean out stored chemicals, increase nutrient absorption, and improved health.

Cooking Techniques

Cooking processes also have a yin and yang quality. For example, cooking meals, such as beans, longer involves more heat, which indicates yang energy, and this way of cooking complements cooler seasons such as winter, which is yin. In contrast, lighter meals, such as salads, and quicker cooking methods are yin, which complements warmer seasons such as summer, which is yang. This style of cooking and eating promotes remaining in balance with the changing seasons, supporting the natural order of the universe.

A gas stove is recommended for cooking macrobiotic foods because the heat comes from natural energy. Also urged are cooking with natural spring water when needed and using stainless steel, glass, cast iron, and porcelain cookware to keep the food away from possible contamination that may occur with aluminum and synthetic coatings. Ideally, foods are locally grown in season to promote internal balance and harmony with the environment.

Food and Behavior

There is also a cause and effect relationship between food and behavior. For example, eating mostly extreme yang foods usually leads to irritability and anger, while eating mostly extreme yin foods usually leads to depression and reduced energy; however, soon after eating extreme yin foods, such behavior as explosive anger has been noted. Eating foods that are balanced with yin and yang energies without extremes maintains a normal alkaline blood level and leads to vitality and a peaceful, more comfortable state of mind. Table 1 illustrates foods associated with certain behaviors and moods.

Yin and Yang foods associated with behaviors
  Foods Behaviors
Extreme Yang Refined salt Aggressive
  Meats Overactive
  Poultry Angry, irritable
  Fish (blue and red skin) Attacking, intolerant
  Hard salty cheese Self pride
    Voice too loud, tense
    Tense muscles
    Dry skin
Balanced Grains Assertive
  Vegetables Active
  Sea vegetables Content, patient
  Miso Positive outlook
  Beans Satisfied with life
  Seeds Voice pleasant
  Nuts Relaxed muscles
    Smooth, clear skin
Extreme Yin Sugar Passive
  Honey Overly relaxed
  Molasses Depressed, sad
  Coffee, caffeine Negative, retreating
  Milk Self-pity
  Ice cream Voice too soft, timid
  Yogurt Loose muscles
    Moist skin

The standard macrobiotic diet consists of 30 to 50 percent whole cooked grains and whole grain products, such as sourdough bread and pasta (including udon noodles made with wheat flour, brown rice, and sea salt and soba noodles made from buckwheat flour); 20 to 30 percent locally grown organic vegetables; 5 to 10 percent beans such as adzuki and lentil (including tofu made from soybeans, nigari, and water and tempeh made from split soybeans, vinegar, and water); 5 to 10 percent soups, including miso and vegetable; and 5 percent condiments, such as umeboshi plum, gomashio, and sea vegetables, including wakame and kombu. Macrobiotic foods are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that provide the balance of proper nutrition that the body needs.

A very basic balanced macrobiotic meal may consist of: one cup of miso soup made with onions, carrots, and sea vegetables such as wakame; one cup of whole cooked grains, such as brown rice seasoned with a pinch of sea salt; one-quarter cup of cooked beans, such as adzuki mixed with a small amount of the sea vegetable kombu and a sweet vegetable such as butternut squash seasoned with shoyu soy sauce; one cup of cooked green and yellow root and leafy vegetables; a pickled vegetable; and a garden salad. Fish can be eaten occasionally along with soy products such as tofu and tempeh to substitute for beans to provide protein. For dessert, a recommended dish may be couscous cooked with apple juice and apples. Also used for sweeteners are barley malt and brown rice syrup. In addition, kukicha bancha tea, which has a pleasing taste, is used as a daily beverage that has virtually no caffeine, alkalizes the blood, has a beneficial effect on digestion, and relieves fatigue.

Recommended macrobiotic foods and their portions vary according to a person's physical and mental condition, climate, and age. For example, someone with a slower metabolism may benefit from eating fewer grains and more vegetables. Macrobiotic counselors throughout the United States help people adjust the diet to their specific needs.

The Spread of Macrobiotics

Macrobiotics owes much of its contemporary popularity to George Ohsawa and his wife, Lima. His students Aveline and Michio Kushi developed the Kushi Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, which helped spread macrobiotic teachings and practices in the eastern United States. Cornelia and Herman Aihara, also Ohsawa's students, developed the study and practice of macrobiotics in the western United States. Macrobiotic food may be found in health-food stores, and macrobiotic cookbooks are available there and in major bookstores throughout the United States. In the early twenty-first century, there are over five hundred macrobiotic centers throughout the United States whose advocates stress the advantages of this way of eating and living. The more common benefits experienced are increased vitality, better sleep, a stronger immune system, reduced fatigue, and improved memory. There are also scientific and medical studies which indicate that following a macrobiotic diet can prevent or relieve cancer and other terminal illnesses. These benefits are said to result from a body cleared of chemicals and toxins. Practicing the macrobiotic way of life moves beyond physical health to also revitalize the true nature of mental and spiritual well-being.

See also Eating: Anatomy and Physiology of Eating; Health and Disease; Health Foods; Natural Foods; Organic Food; Preparation of Food; Soy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aihara, Herman. Basic Macrobiotics. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1985.

Esko, Edward, and Wendy Esko. Macrobiotic Cooking for Everyone. Tokyo: Japan Publications, 1980.

Kushi, Aveline, and Wendy Esko. The Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook. Wayne, N.J., Avery Publishing Group, 1985.

Kushi, Michio. Doctors Look at Macrobiotics. Edited by Edward Esko. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1988. See the forward by Lawrence H. Kushi.

Kushi, Michio. How to See Your Health: The Book of Oriental Diagnosis. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1980.

Kushi, Michio. Macrobiotic Home Remedies, edited by Marc Van Cauwenberghe. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1985.

Kushi, Michio. Natural Healing through Macrobiotics. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1979.

Kushi, Michio, with Stephen Blauer. The Macrobiotic Way: The Complete Macrobiotic Diet and Exercise Book. Wayne, N.J.: Avery Publishing Group, 1985.

Kushi, Michio, with Alex Jack. The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness, and Peace. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1986.

Kushi, Michio, with Alex Jack. The Cancer Prevention Diet. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Roberta Bloom


Characteristics of Yin and Yang
Yin Yang
Colder Hotter
Darker Brighter
Longer Shorter
Larger Smaller
Softer Harder
More inactive, slower More active, faster
More expansive, hollow More contractive, solid


Acid and Alkaline in Foods

Too much alkaline Too much acid

Refined salt Meat, eggs, fruits, sugars

Lower alkaline More Balanced Lower acid

Miso/shoyu Sea/land vegetables Grains, beans soy sauce


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Macrobiotic Diet

Macrobiotic diet

Definition

A macrobiotic diet is part of a philosophy of life that incorporates the ancient Oriental concept or theory of yin and yang. The diet itself consists mainly of brown rice, other whole grains, and vegetables. It requires foods to be cooked over a flame, rather than by electricity or microwave.

Origins

The term macrobiotics comes from two Greek words; macro (great) and bios (life). The macrobiotic diet is believed to have originated in nineteenth century Japan, with the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka, a natural healer. George Ohsawa (18931966), a Japanese teacher and writer, introduced macrobiotics to Europeans in the 1920s. Ohsawa claims to have cured himself of tuberculosis by eating Ishizuka's diet of brown rice, soup, and vegetables. The diet did not attract much attention in the United States until the mid-1960s, when Ohsawa's book Zen Macrobiotics was published and became a best seller, especially among the 1960s counterculture. The diet's popularity heightened in the 1970s when the macrobiotic philosophy was embraced by former Beatle John Lennon (19401980) and his wife, Yoko Ono (1933 ).

Benefits

In the macrobiotic diet, foods are selected for their metaphysical qualities rather than their nutritional value. The regime, which is high in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and soy protein , has many of the same benefits as a vegetarian or vegan diet. Numerous scientific studies have shown that a diet of this type can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke , and various cancers. The macrobiotic diet is rich in vitamins, high in dietary fiber, and low in fatty foods.

Description

In addition to its holistic approach to nutrition , macrobiotics applies these beliefs to life in general. Its philosophy recommends the following behaviors:

  • eating two or three meals a day
  • chewing each mouthful of food approximately 50 times to aid digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • avoiding food for at least three hours before bedtime
  • taking short baths or showers as needed, with warm or cool water
  • consuming only organic foods
  • using grooming, cosmetic, and household products made from natural, non-toxic ingredients
  • wearing only cotton clothing and avoiding metallic jewelry
  • spending as much time as possible in natural outdoor settings and walking at least 30 minutes daily
  • doing such aerobic or stretching exercises as yoga , dance, or martial arts on a regular basis
  • placing large green plants throughout the house to enrich the oxygen content of the air, and keeping windows open as much as possible to allow fresh air circulation
  • avoiding food preparation with electricity or microwaves; using gas or wood stoves; and using only cast iron , stainless steel, or clay cookware
  • avoiding television viewing and computer use as much as possible

The macrobiotic diet assigns yin and yang energies to foods. Yin and yang are opposite energies that are complementary and harmonious, such as day and night. Yin energies are directed outward while yang energies are directed inward. In this ancient Asian philosophy, everything in the universe is assigned a yin or yang quality. Balance, harmony, order, and happiness are achieved when the forces of yin and yang are in balance.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and hard cheeses are considered yang, while milk, cream, fruit juice, alcohol, and sugar are yin. The macrobiotic diet consists mainly of foods in the middle, such as brown rice and other whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. The diet is flexible, and allows fish on occasion. Its flexibility enhances its appeal. The macrobiotic diet allows people to design their own food regimens based on their personal requirements, environment, and medical conditions.

One of the principles of the macrobiotic diet is that people should primarily eat organically grown foods native to their climate and area. The theory is that human health depends on the ability to adapt to the changes in the environment. When people eat foods from a climate that differs from where they live, they lose that adaptability. Propronents of the macrobiotic diet claim that as society has moved away from its traditional ecologically based diet, there has been a corresponding rise in chronic illness. Therefore, for optimal health, the belief is that people need to return to a way of eating based on foods produced in their local environment, or at least grown in a climate that is similar to where they live.

Foods considered yang (contracted energy) last longer and can originate from a wide geographic area. Sea salt and sea vegetables are examples of yang foods. They can come from anywhere within the same hemisphere. Whole grains and legumes are also yang, and can originate anywhere within the same continent since they keep for a long time. Fresh fruits and vegetables are considered yin (expansive energy). Since they have a relatively short shelf life, they should be chosen only from those types that grow naturally within one's immediate area. According to macrobiotic beliefs, balance between yin and yang in diet and food helps achieve inner peace and harmony with one's self and the surrounding world.

Another aspect of the macrobiotic diet is that the type of foods eaten should change with the seasons. In the spring and summer, the food should be lighter, cooler, and require less cooking. This change is necessary becauseaccording to the macrobiotic philosophythe energy of fire is abundant in the form of sunlight and does not need to be drawn from cooked food. In the autumn and winter, the opposite is true.

The time of day also plays an important role in the macrobiotic diet since it relates to atmospheric energy levels. In the morning, when upward energy is stronger, breakfast should include light foods, such as a whole grain cooked in water. In the evening, when downward energy is stronger, the meal can be larger. Lunch should be quick and light, since afternoon energy is active and expansive.

In macrobiotics, it is believed that the dietary standards that are effective for one person may not work for another. These standards may change from day to day. Therefore, this diet requires a change in thinking from a static view of life to a dynamic one.

Many people are attracted to the diet because of claims that it can prevent or cure cancer . While no scientific studies support these claims, there are many people who believe the diet helped rid them of the disease when such conventional treatments as chemotherapy and radiation failed. Others use the diet to help treat diabetes, hypertension , arteriosclerosis, and other forms of heart disease. Many of the diet's supporters believe that these and other degenerative diseases occur because the body's yin and yang are out of balance, and that a macrobiotic diet helps restore this balance.

Macrobiotic foods

The primary food in the standard macrobiotic diet is whole cereal grains, including brown rice, barley, millet, rolled oats, wheat, corn, rye, and buckwheat. A small amount of whole grain pasta and breads is allowed. Grains should comprise about 50% of the food consumed.

Fresh vegetables should account for 2030% of the diet. The most highly recommended vegetables include green cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, carrots, parsnips, winter squash, bok choy, onions, parsley , daikon radishes, and watercress. Vegetables that should be eaten only occasionally include cucumber, celery, lettuce, and most herbs. Vegetables that should be avoided include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, spinach, beets, and summer squash.

About 10% of the diet should consist of beans and sea vegetables. The most suitable beans are azuki, chick-peas, and lentils. Tofu and tempeh are also allowed. Other beans can be eaten several times a week. Sea vegetables include nori, wakame, kombu, hiziki, arame, and agar-agar. Another 10% of the diet should include soups made with regular or sea vegetables.

Other permitted items include sweeteners such as barley malt, rice syrup, and apple juice; such seasonings as miso, tamari, soy sauce, rice or cider vinegar, sesame oil , tahini, and sea salt; occasional small amounts of seeds and nuts (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and almonds); and white-meat fish once or twice a week. Beverages allowed include tea made from twigs, stems, brown rice, and dandelion root, apple juice, and good-quality water without ice.

Items not allowed include meat; dairy products; fruits; refined grains; anything with preservatives, artificial flavorings and colorings or chemicals; all canned, frozen, processed, and irradiated foods; hot spices; caffeine ; alcohol; refined sugar, honey, molasses, and chocolate.

Preparations

There are no specific procedures involved in preparing for the diet, except to change from a diet based on meat, sugars, dairy products, and processed foods, to one based primarily on whole grains, vegetables, and unprocessed foods. Some advocates of the macrobiotic diet recommend making the switch gradually rather than all at once.

Precautions

The macrobiotic diet does not include many fruits and vegetables that are important sources of nutrients and antioxidants , such as vitamin C and beta carotene . If followed rigidly, the diet can also be deficient in protein, calcium, vitamin B12 , folate, and iron. Persons accustomed to a diet high in fat can experience sudden and drastic weight loss if they switch to a rigid macrobiotic diet. In its original form, the macrobiotic diet required foods to be slowly eliminated from the diet until only rice and beans were consumed. Carried to this extreme, the diet lacks significantly in necessary vitamins and nutrients.

A macrobiotic diet may worsen cachexia (malnutrition, wasting) in cancer patients. It is not recommended for people who have intestinal blockages, gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease ), or cereal grain allergies . Children, pregnant women, and persons with intestinal disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney disease, or malnutrition should consult their physician before starting a macrobiotic diet.

Side effects

There are no negative side effects associated with a macrobiotic diet in adults, other than such minor problems as dizziness in some people who experience rapid weight loss.

Research & general acceptance

Like many alternative therapies, the macrobiotic diet is controversial and not embraced by allopathic medicine. Most of the controversy surrounds claims that the diet can cure cancer. These claims stem from anecdotal reports and are not substantiated by scientific research. The American Medical Association opposes the macrobiotic diet. The allopathic medical community is also concerned that people with such serious diseases as cancer may use the diet as a substitute for conventional treatment.

Scientific studies in the United States and Europe have shown that a strict traditional macrobiotic diet can lead to a variety of nutritional deficiencies, especially in protein, amino acids , calcium, iron, zinc , and ascorbic acid. These deficiencies can result in drastic weight loss, anemia , scurvy, and hypocalcemia. In children, a strict macrobiotic diet can cause stunted growth, protein and calorie malnutrition, and bone age retardation.

Training & certification

No special training or certification is required. There are, however, several institutes in the United States that offer courses in the macrobiotic philosophy and diet.

Resources

BOOKS

Aihara, Herman. Basic Macrobiotics. Oroville, CA: George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1998.

Dente, Gerard, and Kevin J. Hopkins. Macrobiotic Nutrition: Priming Your Body to Build Muscle and Burn Body Fat. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications, 2004.

Kushi, Michio, and Alex Jack. The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health: A Complete Guide to Naturally Preventing and Relieving More Than 200 Chronic Conditions and Disorders. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2004.

Kushi, Michio, and Stephen Blauer. The Macrobiotic Way: The Complete Macrobiotic Lifestyle Book. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Penguin Putnam, 2004.

Kushi, Michio. The Macrobiotic Approach to Cancer: Towards Preventing and Controlling Cancer With Diet and Lifestyle. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Penguin Putnam, 2003.

Bliss-Lerman, Andrea. Macrobiotic Community Cookbook. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Penguin Putnam, 2003.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002.

PERIODICALS

"The Balance of Macrobiotics." Natural Life (January-February 2003): 9.

Kushi, Lawrence H., et al. "The Macrobiotic Diet in Cancer." The Journal of Nutrition (November 2001): 3056S-64S.

Kushi, Michio, and Alex Jack. "Cancer, Diet, and Macrobiotics: Relieving Cancer Naturally." Share Guide (September-October 2002): 1819.

"Macrobiotic Diets Can be Healthful, but Not a Cancer Cure." Environmental Nutrition (November 2002): 7.

Priesnitz, Wendy. "Macrobiotics for Health." Natural Life (January-February 2004): 18.

ORGANIZATIONS

George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation. P.O. Box 3998, Chico, CA 95927. (800) 232-2372. <http://www.gomf.macrobiotic.net>.

Kushi Foundation and Institute. P.O. Box 7. Becket, MA 10223. (800) 975-8744.

OTHER

Macrobiotics Online. [cited June 14, 2004]. <http://www.macrobiotics.org>.

Macrobiotics Today. P.O. Box 3998, Chico, CA 95927. (800) 232-2372. <http://www.gomf.macrobiotic.net/Newsletter.htm>.

Ken R. Wells

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Macrobiotic Diet

Macrobiotic Diet

George Ohsawa (18931966) coined the term macrobiotic to describe a philosophy towards life, health, and healing. Macrobiotic means "way of long life." Macrobiotics is best described as a way of living according to the principles of yin and yang. Ohsawa, in his book, Zen Macrobiotics, describes twelve principles of yin and yang. On the simplest level, it means that individuals eat foods that keep them in balance with their environment (i.e., in a hot (yang) climate, more cooling (yin) foods are eaten, and vice versa). Oshawa outlined a ten-stage "Zen" macrobiotic diet in which each stage gets more restrictive. The diet is alleged to overcome all forms of illness. At the "highest level," the diet is nutritionally inadequate and has resulted in several deaths. Oshawa devoted much of his time trying to understand the "Order of the Universe," and eventually succumbed to the efforts of his experimentation.

More recently, macrobiotics has come to mean a dietary regimen used to prevent and treat many diseases. The macrobiotic diet is actually several diets ranging in restrictions from severe to moderate. The severe diet consists exclusively of whole cereal grains, while the moderate diet consists of whole cereal grains and certain types of vegetables, fruits, and soups. Today's leading proponent is Michio Kushi, who reformulated and popularized macrobiotics in the United States.

The standard macrobiotic diet avoids many foods including meat, poultry, animal fats, eggs, dairy products, refined sugar, and foods containing artificial sweeteners or other chemical additives. All recommended foods are preferably organically grown and minimally processed. Consumption of genetically modified, irradiated, processed, canned, and frozen foods is discouraged. The diet consists of five categories of foods (with a recommended weight percentage of total food consumed):

  • Whole cereal grains (40%60%).
  • Vegetables, including smaller amounts of raw or pickled vegetables (20%30%).
  • Beans and sea vegetables (5%10%).
  • Soups (which may be made with vegetables, sea vegetables, grains, or beans).
  • Beverages including any traditional tea that does not have an aromatic fragrance or a stimulating effect and spring water or good-quality well water, without ice. Not recommended are tropical or semitropical fruits and fruit juices, soda, artificial drinks and beverages, coffee, and colored tea.
  • Occasional foods include fruit, white fish, seeds, and nuts.
  • Foods to eliminate from the diet include meat, animal fat , eggs, poultry, dairy products, refined sugars, chocolate, molasses, honey, vanilla, hot spices, artificial vinegar, and strong alcoholic beverages.

Although the range of intakes varies, macrobiotic diets are generally low in energy , protein , and fat. They are also likely to be inadequate in vitamin D , folic acid, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium , and iron . Clinical cases of malnutrition and growth failure in children have been reported.

Proponents of the macrobiotic diet recommend it for cancer patients. It is alleged to slow progression of cancer by starving the rapidly reproducing cells responsible for the disease. Many patients with HIV/AIDS also turn to a macrobiotic diet to help combat the disease. However, these patients and others with immune-suppressed diseases are already losing alarming amounts of weight, and they also have other medical and nutritional complications. The macrobiotic diet may only exacerbate their problem and cause more nutritional deficiencies .

Delores C. S. James

Bibliography

Bowman, B. B.; Kushner, R. F.; Dawson, S. C.; Levin, B. (1984). "Macrobiotic Diets for Cancer Treatment and Prevention." Journal of Clinical Oncology 2(6):702711.

Kushi M. (1987). The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health and Happiness. Tokyo: Japan Publications.

Internet Resources

Horowitz, J., and Tomita, M. (2002). "The Macrobiotic Diet as Treatment for Cancer: Review of the Evidence." The Permanente Journal 6(4). Available from <http://www.kaiserpermanente.org/medicine/permjournal>

Kushi Institute. "What is macrobiotics?" Available from <http://www.kushiinstitute.org/whatismacro.html>

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macrobiotic diet

macrobiotic diet A system of eating associated with Zen Buddhism; consists of several stages finally reaching Diet 7 which is restricted to cereals. Cases of severe malnutrition have been reported on this ‘diet’. It involves the Chinese concept of yin (female) and yang (male) whereby foods, and even different vitamins (indeed, everything in life) are predominantly one or the other and must be balanced.

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