This website has been prepared to describe in detail the standard macrobiotic dietary recommendations and to serve as a guideline in everyday meal planning. These health recommendations are based upon the research, training, and personal experiences of the authors and especially reflect the understanding as developed by many doctors from the worldwide experiences in lecturing, writing, and guiding many people toward health and well-being. Over the past forty years, tens of thousands of people throughout the world have benefited from recommendations such as these, including many instances of recovery from cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic and acute psychological and emotional disorders.
Because each person and situation is different, the reader may choose to check with a qualified health professional before using any procedure where there is any question as to its appropriateness.
In addition to eating well, it is necessary to maintain a positive outlook on life and bring into balance our physical and mental activities, all of which work toward creating a harmonious and peaceful life. The decision to follow macrobiotic recommendations is a personal one; therefore, the authors and publisher are not responsible for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the application of any of the suggestions, preparations, or procedures on this site.
The term macrobiotics was used in ancient Greece as the art of health and longevity through living in harmony with the environment. In modern times, the term was recovered by the Japanese philosopher Georges Ohsawa to represent the healthy way of life, reflecting the spirit of what a healthy person should feel: macro, meaning large or great, and bios, meaning life. More specifically, with the proper diet, we can experience a great life, full of adventure, freedom, and creativity. Ohsawa spent the better part of his life spreading macrobiotic philosophy and dietary reform throughout the world. Since his death in the mid-1960s, several of his friends and students have carried on his work, among them Michio Kushi.
The macrobiotic dietary approach is not a specifically defined diet. Since we are all different, live in different environments, have diverse needs, and do different work, individual diets will vary. The macrobiotic approach takes into account the evolution of humanity, our relationship to the environment, and our individual needs. It is not only a preventive approach, aiming to maintain good health and decrease the incidence of sickness; it is also used therapeutically for those who are already ill and wish to employ natural means of healing.
Although the principles of macrobiotic eating are practiced in many traditional cultures, the philosophical basis of macrobiotics is the study of change; namely, the principles of relativity, or yin and yang — the basis of all Oriental philosophies, cultures, arts, and medicine.
The Unifying Principle
By observing our day-to-day thoughts and activities, we can easily see that
everything is in motion — or, in other words, everything changes: electrons spin around a central nucleus in the atom; the earth rotates on its axis while orbiting the sun; the solar system is revolving around the galaxy, and galaxies are moving away from each other with enormous movement, but an order or pattern is discernible. Day follows night; winter changes to summer and back to winter again; during the day we stand up and are active, while at night we lie down and rest.
Starting from this basic understanding, we can classify all phenomena into either of the two categories, yin or yang. Since these are relative terms, however, nothing in the world is absolutely yin or absolutely yang; all phenomena possess both in varying degrees.
Yin and yang are always changing into one another in a continual cycle, reflected in the change from night to day and winter to summer, breathing in and breathing out, etc. Contraction, or yang, produces heat, which eventually results in expansion or yin; while expansion produces coldness, which then results in contraction. As a result, vegetation growing in a more yin, or cold, the climate is usually smaller, while vegetation in a more yang, or hot, the climate is usually larger.
Diet and Health
The importance of proper diet for good health has been largely lost in modern times. Among more primitive societies, this basic fact was well recognized and was used as the basis of medicine. Food is our source of being. Through the vegetal kingdom, all the basic forces of life are combined in a form that can be used by the human organism. Sunlight, soil, water, and air are taken in through the medium of the vegetal kingdom. To eat is to take in the whole environment.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people around the world use these principles to select and prepare their daily diet and restore their health and happiness. Macrobiotic principles now provide the focus for the educational activities of more than five hundred affiliate centers worldwide.
The classification of foods into categories of yin and yang is essential for the development of a balanced diet.
Different factors in the growth and structure of foods can indicate whether the food is predominantly yin or yang. To classify foods, we must see the factors that dominate, since all foods have both yin and yang qualities.
YIN energy creates
Growth in a hot climate
Foods containing more water
Fruits and leaves
Growth high above the ground
Hot, aromatic foods
YANG energy creates
Growth in a cold climate
Foods that are dryer Stems,
roots, and seeds Growth below ground Salty, sour foods
Yin and Yang Growth Cycles
One of the most accurate methods of classification is by seeing the cycle of
growth in food plants. During the winter, the climate is cold (yin); during this time of year, the growing energy descends into the root system. Leaves wither and die as the sap descends to the roots and the vitality of the plant becomes more condensed. Plants used for food and grown in the late autumn and winter are dryer and have a more concentrated quality. They can be kept for a long time without spoiling. Examples of these plants are roots such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbages, etc.
During the spring and early summer, the energy in many plants ascends, and new greens appear as the weather becomes hotter (more yang). These plants are more yin in nature. Summer vegetables are more watery and perish quickly. They provide a cooling effect that is needed in warm months. In late summer, the growing energy has reached its zenith, and the fruits become ripe. They are generally watery and sweet and develop higher above the ground.
This yearly cycle shows the alternation between the dominance of yin and yang as the season’s turn. The same idea can be applied to the part of the world in which a food originates. Foods that find their origin in hot tropical climates, where the vegetation is lush and abundant, are more yin, while foods that come from colder climates are more yang.
We can classify different foods that grow at the same time of year by seeing the general growth pattern. The root system is governed by Yang energy, the tendency to descend. The stem and leaves are governed by Yin energy. This is expressed in the dominant direction of growth.
The Importance of Cereal Grains
For centuries, humanity has looked to the cereal grains as the primary
food. This is especially true of the great civilizations of the world. The importance of the cereal grains in the evolution of humanity cannot be overlooked. Several decades ago, the consumption of whole grains fell sharply and has been replaced by animal quality foods (such as dairy and meat) and refined carbohydrates (such as sugar and white flour). It is now widely recognized that this shift in diet has resulted in many of the major sicknesses to which our technological civilization has become prone.
Cereal grains are unique among our foods. They are both the beginning and end of the vegetal cycle, combining seed and fruit. It is for these reasons, as well as the great ability of cereals to combine well with other vegetables and provide a wholesome diet, that cereals form the most important single food in the macrobiotic regimen.