Sorry to bring up an old thread, but I was having a discussion about the macrobiotic diet someone and was wondering what people on this board had to say about it.
Here's my understanding of it: 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.
The term "macrobiotics" comes from two Greek words, one meaning "great" and "bios," meaning life. The macrobiotic diet is believed to have originated in Japan in the nineteenth century with the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka, a natural healer. George Ohsawa (1893-1966), a Japanese teacher and writer, introduced it 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 didn't get much attention in the United States until the mid-1960s, when Ohsawa's book Zen Macrobiotics was published and became a best-seller, especially in the 1960s counterculture.
In the macrobiotic diet, foods are selected more for their metaphysical qualities than for nutritional value. It has, however, many of the same benefits as a vegetarian or vegan diet since it is high in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and soy protein . 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 high-fat foods.
Macrobiotics embraces a holistic approach to life in general, not just nutrition. 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.
-Not eating for at least three hours before bedtime.
-Taking short baths or showers as needed with warm or cool water.
-Using 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 cooking with electricity or microwaves; using gas or wood stoves; and using only cast iron, stainless steel, or clay cookware.
-Avoiding watching television and using computers 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 cheese 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, other whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. The macrobiotic diet is flexible, and allows fish on occasion. The diet's flexibility is one of its key attractions. It allows people to design their own regimen of foods based on their own needs, environment, and medical condition.
One of the principles of the macrobiotic diet is that people should primarily eat organically grown foods native to their climate and area. Foods considered yang (contracted energy) last longer and can come from a wide geographic area. Sea salt and sea vegetables are examples of yang foods and can come from anywhere within the same hemisphere. Whole grains and legumes are also yang and can come from 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. A 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 because the energy of fire is abundant in the form of sunlight and does not need to be drawn from cooked food, according to the macrobiotic philosophy. 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 be light, 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.
The macrobiotic approach is that what dietary standards work for one person may not work for another. These standards may also change from day to day. Therefore, a macrobiotic 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. Others say the diet has cured them of diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and other forms of heart disease. Many of the diet's supporters believe that these and other degenerative diseases result because the body's yin and yang are out of balance and that a macrobiotic diet helps restore this balance.
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 20-30% of the diet. The most highly recommended 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, chickpeas, 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 items allowed 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 one or two times 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.
Just my thoughts on it: I do like the philosophy of food and eating being a spiritual experience. I know for me, trying to eat a vegan diet has everything to do with my spiritual and personal beliefs about God/Goddess/Deity of your choice, and how a person should live in accordance with nature and not abuse it. If some need the more structured macrobiotic diet tailored around their needs, then I see no problem with that. I guess my biggest gripe with the macrobiotic diet, besides the fact that it limits what fruits and veggies one can eat, is that while it focuses on a holistic approach to life and eating, it's still mainly a "for your health" based diet and doesn't address the other problems with eating things like meat, dairy, refined sugars, etc. I think that more people might be interested in it if it emphasized the moral, social and ecological reasons people should abstain from these products. JMHO