The history of macrobiotic
George Ohsawa sought to integrate Zen Buddhism, Asian medicine, Christian teachings, and some aspects of Western medicine: he believed that simplicity is the key to optimal health: he namely recommended ten progressively restrictive stages, the last of which was consisted of only brown rice and water. His version of the macrobiotic diet is very restrictive and is not widely recommended by macrobiotic diet counselors.
On the other hand, Michio Kushi expanded on Ohsawa's macrobiotic theory and opened the Kushi Institute in Boston in 1978. He brought macrobiotic diet somewhat closer to the masses or let's say at least he is the one responsible for popularization of macrobiotic in Western world. He is the leader of macrobiotic lifestyle: according to his teachings, macrobiotics is not just a diet and not just a type of therapy- macrobiotics is a way of living.
Just like most people that eat 'ordinary' diet, follow food diet, so exists the macrobiotic pyramid, recommended by Kushi institute.
50-60% of each should be consisted of whole grains. Whole grains include: brown rice, whole wheat berries, barley, millet, rye, corn, buckwheat, and other whole grains. They are best eaten cooked. On the other hand rolled oats, noodles, pasta, bread, baked goods, and other flour products can be eaten occasionally.
Vegetables represent 25 to 30% of daily food intake. It is best if up to one-third of the total vegetable intake can be raw. Otherwise vegetables should be steamed, boiled, baked, and sauteed. On of the main macrobiotic principles claims it is best to eat season and local vegetables.
Local fruits are allowed to eat several times a week, while tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, papaya should be avoid.
Follower of macrobiotic diet should eat 5-10% of daily food intake, which is one or two bowls of soup per day. In macrobiotic diet miso and shoyu soups are eaten.
Cooked beans or products made of beans, such as tofu etc. are also important part of daily food intake. They represent 10% of daily food intake.
Seaweed represents 5% of macrobiotic diet, while animal food, such as fish or other seafood is allowed to be eaten several times per week. If consuming seafood, it is recommended to eat horseradish, wasabi, ginger, mustard, or grated daikon to help the body detoxify from the effects of fish and seafood.
Other animal products, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are not allowed.
Seeds and nuts are allowed to eat in moderation. The same is with desserts, which can be eaten several times a week, but only by people who are in good health. Sugar, honey, chocolate and other sweeteners must be avoid.
Oils that are used in macrobiotics are unrefined vegetable oils. Commonly used is dark sesame oil, also corn oil and others.
Macrobiotic diet also allows seasonings, such as natural sea salt, shoyu, brown rice vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, umeboshi plums, grated ginger root, fermented pickles, gomashio (roasted sesame seeds), roasted seaweed, and sliced scallions. Besides that, there are other factors that must be taken into consideration when following macrobiotic diet. The composition of macrobiotic diet is a subject of the time of the year. For example, in spring food with decreasingly powerful energy should be eaten, such as wild plants, germs, lightly fermented food, grain species, fresh greens. In spring it is recommended to apply light cooking styles, such as steaming and cooking for shorter time. In winter on the other hand hot and powerful food including root vegetables, round vegetables and pickles is recommended, with more miso, shoyu, oil, and salt. Food preparation techniques include steaming, boiling, raw, ohitashi, nishime, nitsuke, kinpira, sukiyaki, nabe, oven baking, baking in a pressure cooker, tempura, frying, and must be used according to the time of the year.
Macrobiotic diet also depends on the time of the day. It is also important that the dish is consisted of 5 colors: red, white, blue, yellow, and black; and that the flavours of the products used in the dish are sweet, bitter, sharp, sour and salt.
It is also important to take into consideration individualized based on factors such as climate, season, age, gender, activity, and health needs.
Very important macrobiotic principle is balance between Yin and Yang.
Principles of Macrobiotic
No matter you eat macrobiotic or not it is important to eat along your traditional dietary principles. For example, Chinese eat rice as main grain, Native Americans corn, Italians use olive oil rather than butter and pickles instead of umeboshi plums, etc.
Do not waste anything is another very important macrobiotic principle.
Third principle is: eat locally grown and in season. This is one of the primarily principles in macrobiotics. Eat food native to the climate and fresh food.
As mentioned above, it is important to adapt cooking to season of the year. During winter cook longer, in spring shorter or even better steam. Spring and summer are influenced by upward energy, thus during that time eat light dishes and light oil, and only some strong and long-cooking dishes to keep your energy up. In autumn and winter we need more fire and energy to keep us warm. During that time, use more oil and salt, and more stew type of cooking and more root vegetables.
Fifth principle teaches us to balance the yin (expansive energy) or yang (contractive energy): both yin and yang are used in classification of vegetables, grains, seaweeds, seasonal changes, type of cutting.
One of primary macrobiotic principles teaches us how to balance water, fire and salt in our daily lives.
Strengthens and weaknesses of macrobiotic diet
Main strengthens of this diet are fiber-rich whole grains, vegetables and beans. All that is lacking in our modern, fast-living world. Macrobiotic diet is low in saturated fat and high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens help balance women's hormones and help with PMS, menopause and are a prevention against breast cancer.
On the other hand, there are also some dangers in macrobiotic diet, which is low in meat, proteins, dairy product sugar, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and calcium. By some nutritionists macrobiotic diet is considered too restrictive and lacking in nutrients, as already mentioned.