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Macrobiotics is a lifestyle philosophy with its origins in early 20th century Japan. A high-ranking Japanese army doctor named Sagen Ishizuka is said to have cured himself of kidney and skin disease, later publishing two important texts on what was to become the Macrobiotic movement: Chemical Theory of Longevity (1896) and Diet for Health (1898). Ishizuka maintained that a basic diet of whole foods could correct imbalances that lead to illness and suffering. One of his students, George Ohsawa, was largely responsible for the development of Macrobiotics in the West, popularizing the dietary and philosophical principals through his writings and lectures.
Macrobiotics as a diet emphasizes locally-grown, organic whole grain cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruit, seaweed, and fermented soy products, combined into meals according to the principle of balance between yin
properties. Followers of macrobiotics believe that food, and food quality, affects our lives more than is commonly thought. Dietary choices are thought to affect our health, well being and happiness. They claim it is better to choose food that is less processed, more natural, and use more traditional methods of cooking for family, friends, and oneself.
Grains are emphasized, particularly brown rice, which, when chewed thoroughly, has a good balance of yin and yang properties. The added vegetables make the diet more alkaline, which is achieved by chewing well. Foods which are either extremely yin in nature (e.g. very sweet foods, dairy products) or extremely yang in nature (e.g. very salty foods, red meat, coffee) are consumed very rarely if at all. The yin/yang properties of food are determined by a number of properties: the acidity of the food, where the food grows (root vegetables versus fruit from tree tops), as well as the location where the food natively grows (Morocco vs. Scotland), and the color, shape, flavor and moisture content of the food. Special attention is also put toward eating appropriate foods in line with the season.
The classic Macrobiotic diet consists of 5060% whole grains, 30% vegetables, 5% soups like miso, and small portions of beans, nuts, seeds, seasonal fruit or fish. Nightshade vegetables are avoided or used sparingly. Squashes, root vegetables, and flowering plants (broccoli, kale, etc.) are emphasized as well.
Some followers try to extend the diet into a Macrobiotic lifestyle or philosophy. People who practice a Macrobiotic lifestyle try to observe yin and yang in everything they do. They strive for balance and happiness in their daily lives and living in harmony with nature and their physical surroundings.
Author: Christopher Holder, ND Candidate '07