The macrobiotic diet comes from the Eastern world, primarily Japan, and places a strong emphasis on a truly balanced diet of grains, beans, vegetables, soups, ferments, with some nuts, seeds, and fish, too. Practitioners of the diet report improved health and well-being, and many cancer-afflicted persons who adopted the diet claim that it helped eradicate their disease. In addition to cancer, the macrobiotic diet has been attributed to healing many other physical ailments, and it is said to help balance mental and emotional problems, too. It is a dietary method of bringing balance and harmony into one’s life through a conscientious, balanced, healthy diet.
The term macrobiotic means “long-life.” It was coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in ancient Greece. He and other classical writers used the term to describe a healthy lifestyle inclusive of a balanced diet and its importance to a long, healthy life. From there, a German doctor named Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland is responsible for introducing the concept and term macrobiotics into the modern world in the late 18th century. However, it is the Japanese who are most strongly attributed to having adopted and promoted the macrobiotic diet. Sagan Ishizuka and George Ohsawa from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively are the original Japanese macrobiotic philosophers and practitioners. Michio Kushi is the Japanaese macrobiotician who helped spread the practice to the Western world.
The macrobiotic diet is all about balance. It draws from the Chinese philosophies of yin and yang and applies them to food. Yang foods are foods that have more contracting, heavy, and concentrated characteristics – like grains, meats, and dairy. Yin foods are foods that have a more expanding and light character – like fruits, sugars, and caffeine. In the macrobiotic diet, meat are the most yang, and sugars the most yin – these foods should be explicitly avoided. The true macrobiotic diet consists of the following:
40-60% grains – brown rice, buckwheat, millet, barley, oats, quinoa, etc.
25-30% vegetables – collard greens, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, etc.
5-10% beans and legumes – lentils, green peas, adzuki beans, etc.
5% ferments – miso soup, tofu, etc.
5% seaweed – wakame, kombu, norie, etc.
5% nuts and seeds – pumpkin seeds, etc.
It is also emphasized in the macrobiotic diet that foods are eaten in season and in accordance with local availability as much as possible. Eating foods that are in season and local is in keeping with the natural balance and flow of nutrition. And lastly, chewing food well is another basic tenet of macrobiotics – it is recommended that practitioners chew their food from 50-200 times for each bite. Usually the 200 times per bite is reserved for those with serious health ailments like cancer. The excessive chewing helps to fully develop enzymes in the digestive system and help with the digestion process so that as many nutrients as possible are absorbed. Fish can be eaten at times in the macrobiotic diet, too.
The macrobiotic diet is not for everyone. Usually it is health-conscious individuals or people with severe health ailments who turn to the macrobiotic diet. It is often best to have consultation with a macrobiotic expert who can tailor the diet specific to one’s health and lifestyle needs when beginning the practice of a macrobiotic diet.