A macrobiotic diet (or macrobiotics), from the Greek "macro" (large, long) and "bios" (life), is a dietary regimen that involves 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 address the manner of eating, by recommending against overeating, and requiring that food be chewed thoroughly before swallowing.
According to Macrobiotic proponents, the Macrobiotic methodology was utilized by many of the long-lived traditional cultures, such as the Incas, the Chinese in the Han Dynasty, etc. George Ohsawa drew from Oriental and Japanese folk medicine to create his version of this traditional philosophy of health.
George Ohsawa brought his teaching to Europe from Japan. Ohsawa was a Japanese philosopher, who was inspired to formalize macrobiotics by the teachings of Kaibara Ekiken, Andou Shōeki, Mizuno Namboku, and Sagen Ishizuka and his disciples Nishibata Manabu and Shojiro Goto.
Ohsawa took his macrobiotic teachings to North America in the late 1950s. Macrobiotic education was spread in the United States by his students Herman Aihara, Cornelia Aihara, Michio Kushi and Aveline Kushi, and in turn by their students. Michio Kushi has been the most prominent of these teachers.
Ohsawa coined the term for a natural way of living, macrobiotics, in the late 1950s. Macrobiotics, from the ancient Greek language, means the way of longevity. This term has been used by many authors in describing longevity teachings from the Far East.
"Whole foods, such as brown rice, are central to a macrobiotic diet, and many of the first customers and owners of the alternative food stores were students of macrobiotics. In the 20th century, influential teachers emerged, such as the Kushis (who immigrated to the United States from Japan after World War II), who distilled the wide-ranging ideas and interpreted them for modern, urban, and industrialized life.
One goal of macrobiotics is to become sensitive to the actual effects of foods on health and well-being, rather than to follow dietary rules and regulations. Dietary guidelines, however, help in developing sensitivity and an intuitive sense for what sustains health and well-being.
Macrobiotics emphasizes locally grown whole grain cereals, pulses (legumes), vegetables, seaweed, fermented soy products and fruit, combined into meals according to the principle of balance (known as yin and yang). Whole grains and whole-grain products such as brown rice and buckwheat pasta (soba), a variety of cooked and raw vegetables, beans and bean products, mild natural seasonings, fish, nuts and seeds, mild (non-stimulating) beverages such as bancha twig tea and fruit are recommended.
Nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant; also spinach, beets and avocados are not recommended, or used sparingly at most, in macrobiotic cooking, as they are considered extremely yin. Some macrobiotic practitioners also discourage the use of nightshades due to the alkaloid solanine, thought to affect calcium balance.
Macrobiotics is considered an approach to life rather than a diet. Some general guidelines for the diet are the following (it is also said that a macrobiotic diet varies greatly depending on geographical and life circumstances):
The remainder is composed of fish and seafood, seeds and nuts, seed and nut butters, seasonings, sweeteners, fruits, and beverages. Other naturally raised animal products may be included if needed during dietary transition or according to individual needs.
Macrobiotics holds that some foods are overstimulating and can exhaust the body and mind. These are classified as extreme YIN (stimulating) in their effects:
Foods that are considered to be concentrated, heavy and dense create stagnation. These have YANG (strengthening, but stagnating effects if over-consumed).
Foods that create balance are whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Foods such as these are used in a macrobiotic way of eating.
The above implies that macrobiotics encourages the use of foodstuffs which are themselves balanced, rather than balancing the intake so that the amount of yin and of yang foods balances out.
and any other personal considerations.
There is also a Chinese form of macrobiotics called the Chang Ming or Long Life diet which is very similar to the Japanese system but based upon the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Kushi's methods of diagnosis include pulse diagnosis, visual diagnosis, meridian diagnosis, voice diagnosis, astrological diagnosis, parental and ancestral diagnosis, aura and vibrational diagnosis, consciousness and thought diagnosis, and spiritual diagnosis. Some cancer sufferers, especially in the United States, follow the macrobiotic diet, believing that it will cure or help their disease. Many others turn to macrobiotics in the belief that it will strengthen their physical and mental well-being and quality of life, combining macrobiotic practices with Western and Eastern medicine.
The following nutrients should be monitored especially in children, due to their importance in facilitating growth and function: calcium, protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and energy.All are available in properly planned macrobiotic diets.
Humans synthesise vitamin D with adequate exposure to sunlight. Calcium is available from hard leafy greens, nuts and seeds. Zinc is available from nuts and seeds. Fish provides vitamin B12 in a macrobiotic diet, but bioavailable B12 analogues have not been established in any natural plant food, including sea vegetables, soya, fermented products, and algae Although plant-derived foods do not naturally contain B12, some are fortified during processing with added B12 and other nutrients. Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, is abundant in macrobiotic diets. Adequate protein is available from grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and bean products. Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are discussed in the relevant article, and include soy products, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and fatty fish. Riboflavin along with most other B vitamins are abundant in whole grains. Iron in the form of non-heme iron in beans, sea vegetables and leafy greens is sufficient for good health; detailed information is in the USDA database .
In 1967 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a detailed report of a case of scurvy and malnutrition induced by strict adherence to a restrictive macrobiotic regimen. In 1971 the AMA Council on Foods and Nutrition said that followers of the diet, particularly the strictest, stood in "great danger" of malnutrition [JAMA 218:397, 1971].
The Kushi Institute of Europe Encyclopedia web page states:
Michio Kushi asserts that dairy food and other fatty, mucous-producing, and sticky foods are the primary cause of lung cancer and other smoke-related problems, trapping tar and other tobacco particulates in the lungs and other organsMany contemporary people who practice macrobiotics are critical of smoking. Some now claim that tobacco should be avoided because, like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, it is a variety of nightshade. Even so, Kushi's son Phiya Kushi, had the following to say in on the occasions of Kushi's operation for colon surgery in 2004:
...I would like to mention publicly, having obtained Michio's permission, that in spite of years of his smoking, a fact well-known to many, recent x-rays of Michio's lungs were surprisingly clean, like that of a twenty year old (remarked his physician). This is not meant to be validation of cigarette smoking, but rather an invitation to question, in the spirit of non-credo, "proven" or "predictable" scientific facts (what system logic do you use as evidence?). Furthermore, the Caraka Samhita, ancient text from India's "Father Of Medicine" recommends smoking as curative measure for various symptoms. Again, this is not meant to be in defense of Michio's word's, cigarette smoking or an invalidation of "proven" facts of the "dangers" of smoking or corn oil or whatever the item may be but rather an invitation to be open minded about all possibilties, no matter how improbable or outlandish.