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Starting a Macrobiotic diet

Macrobiotic philosophy | Acceptable foods  |  Risks

History and origins of the Macrobiotic diet

Macrobiotic diet history

George Ohsawa was originally born Joichi Sakurazawa in Japan from a poor family during the Meiji restoration in 1893. After leaving compulsory school he became the student of Dr. Sagen Ishizuka where he studied the Shoku-yo Kai movement in Tokyo. These are the foundations of his philosophy that he later brought to France. He wrote under many names, but his notoriety developed to the extent that he went back to Japan and after WW2 he created a foundation to promote his ideas.

He had two key disciples that propagated and adapted the Macrobiotics philosophy and way of life, Herman Aihara and Michio Kushi. Michio Kushi arrived in America in 1949 and with his wife founded Erewhom Natural foods. Michio Kushi is considered as the father of Macrobiotics and was awarded both by the united Nations and the Smithsonian institute. The Kushi institute is now a worldwide organisation based in Massachusetts.

Macrobiotic natural healing:   Philosophy is a way of life

As taught to us by Ohsawa the philosophy of macrobiotics focuses on living in balance and being conscious of the the world in its universe. The basis of this old Chinese concept is that the world is balanced between the Ying and the Yang. Emphasised by Michio Kushi, the ying and yang support each others opposites and are the fundamental principle of traditional Chinese medicine Ying and yang are opposites, are interdependent, they consume and support each other and they mutual parts of each other. Many of these balanced principals also compose the Fen shui principals.

People that live the macrobiotic lifestyle generally strive to observe these forces in their day to day  lives and use this as the corner stone for obtaining both physical and mental balance and harmony. This lifestyle entails careful selection and preparation of food, and attention to one's physical activity and social contact.

All foods and ingredients  of the macrobiotic diet are associated with yin and yang elements of natural healing. The goal of the macrobiotic diet is to maintain a balance between yin and yang. Many are attracted to the macrobiotic lifestyle because studies and dieticians claim that it can cure cancer, claimed that it has cured diabetes, hypertension, arterioslerosis, and forms of heart disease. Proponents of the macrobiotic diet believe that degenerative diseases result from a yin and yang imbalance in the body and that the macrobiotic diet can cure this imbalance.

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Macrobiotic foods and preparation

Modern integration of the macrobiotic lifestyle and philosophies

Some of the basic principal learning's of Michio Kushi, the Ying and Yang balance of life can be summarized in today's world as a respect for ourselves, our environment and our diet food. Thus your diet should be based on ecologically . This first principal states that we eat locally. Foods that grow in our immediate surroundings as much as possible, based on seasonality and regional characteristics. This idea of rationality is also linked to foods of similar climates and those foods coming from similar cultures and dietary habits. As naturally as the seasons change, our diets should reflect those differences in climate through the selection and preparation of our daily meals. We should incorporate in our diet those products such as cereal grains, beans, sea vegetables and other staples which are naturally available. This means that each season brings it own lot of different foods and important off season products is of poor value.

Composition of foods in the Macrobiotic diet

 Basic composition distribution is:

* Whole cereals: 50-60%
* Fruit and vegetables: 25-30%
* Beans: 10%
* Soup: 5-10%
* Seaweed: 5%

The rest of the foods is composed of whitefish nuts and  oil,  sea salt and spices

Staple, daily foods in the macrobiotic diet: Green leafy, bok choy, carrot tops, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon greens, dandelion greens, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, spring onions, turnip greens, watercress -  Round: acorn squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buttercup squash, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, hokkaido pumpkin, onion, pumpkin, red cabbage, turnips, shiitake mushroom - Roots: burdock, carrots, daikon, dandelion roots, lotus root, parsnip, radish. Use occasionally Celery, chives, cucumber, endive, green beans, green peas, iceberg lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, salsify, snap beans snow peas, sprouts. Other staple foods include: Azuki beans, black soybeans, chickpea, green or brown lentils. short- grain brown rice, medium- grain brown rice, barley , millet, wheat berries, corn-on-the-cob, whole oats, rye, buckwheat, long-grain brown rice, sweet brown rice pearl barley, Whole wheat noodles, buckwheat noodles, bread, puffed wheat gluten.

Weekly Macrobiotic diet foods: Drink a comfortable amount for thirst Bancha twig tea (kukicha), bancha leaf tea (green tea),
roasted barley tea, roasted rice tea, yannoh (mixed grain coffee) spring water. 1 to 2 cups a week each Seeds Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Fish 2 to 3 times a week. Cooked fruit, tree fruit

Occasional foods to be incorporated in macrobiotic dishes: Black- eyed peas, black turtle beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, Navy beans, pinto beans, soybeans, split peas, whole dried peas, Dried tofu, fresh tofu, Brown rice vinegar, ginger garlic, mirin, tamari, umeboshi plum, Drink a comfortable amount for thirst Bancha twig tea, bancha leaf tea (green tea), roasted barley tea, roasted rice tea,  spring water.

All other foods should be strictly avoided, including all red meats, tropical fruits and products

Preparation technique

Steaming, boiling, raw, ohitashi, nishime, nitsuke, kinpira, sukiyaki, nabe, oven baking, baking in a pressure cooker, tempura, frying.

Calendar influence on diet food preparation

In spring:
* food with decreasingly powerful energy
* wild plants, germs, lightly fermented food, grain species, fresh greens
* light cooking style: steaming, cooking for a short time
In summer:
* food with less powerful energy
* large-leaved greens, sweet corn, fruit, summer pumpkins
* light cooking style: steaming, quick cooking
In autumn:
* food with increasingly powerful energy
* root vegetables, pumpkins, beans, cereals
In winter:
* hot, powerful food
* round vegetables, pickles, root vegetables
* more miso, shoyu, oil, and salt

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Possible benefits and dangers of a  macrobiotic diet

The proponents of the macrobiotic diet believe that it could cure cancer through its natural healing values, that it prevents certain illness, and that it promotes good health. Within the yin-yang ideology, whole-grain foods are considered ideal, not because they are low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie, high-fibre foods, but because they are neutral: neither too yin (female) nor too yang. According to Kushi, cancer is the result of a person's attitude and behaviour, largely due to improper diet but also to his or her thinking and its type of  lifestyle. But the diet has been used as a complement to cancer treatment.

The explanation given for these effects concern energy, vibrations, and yin-yang balance, all abstract notions that cannot be measured or even detected. Because this concept was developed without benefit of physiology, it is fanciful and far from accurate.  Caution is crucial because the diet can be seriously deficient in particular nutrients. In the past five years, several studies of the macrobiotic diet have been reported in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Some of the dangers of the macrobiotic diet shown in each study found serious deficiencies in infants and children who had been on macrobiotic diets. Researchers recommend that children on the macrobiotic diet receive dairy products and eggs to provide the missing nutritional components and produce a safer, balanced diet. Pregnant and breast-feeding women similarly should supplement their macrobiotic diets

The dangers of a macrobiotic diet comes from low in calories - most of the healthy adults reported having lost weight on the diet. Several cases of protein-calorie malnutrition have been documented among infants and children who were fed strict macrobiotic diets. Several cases of nutritional rickets have been documented in macrobiotic children. Intakes of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B, and folate are below the recommended dietary allowances (RDA). Calcium intakes in macrobiotic adults and children were 50-60% below the RDA. Iron intakes of macrobiotic women and children averaged 62-84% of the RDA; those of the men exceeded the RDA.

The current "standard" macrobiotic diet consists of 50-60% whole cereal grains. The danger include , allergic reactions caused by eating cereals may cause gastrointestinal disturbance with vomiting, diarrhoea and bloating, eczema, urticaria, angioedema, asthma or anaphylactic shock. Because of the high fibre content of the macrobiotic diet, there is a risk of complete obstruction in the presence of a narrowed intestinal lumen.

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