Macrobiotics: Diet for a Healthy and Peaceful World

Gabriele F. Kushi, BFA, MEA, CHC, AADP
Board certified Holistic Health Practitioner, macrobiotic nutritional consultant, cooking teacher, and director of Kushi’s Kitchen

The goals of macrobiotics are the realization of planetary health and happiness, world peace and human evolution. Macrobiotic, derived from the Greek word macrobios (large life), is associated worldwide with living and eating in harmony with the season. Macrobiotics embraces the 5,000-year-old philosophy of yin and yang, wherein yin represents expanding energy and yang contracting energy. Yin and yang are the building blocks found in all phenomena in varying proportion. Scholars have classified the relationship of yin and yang in many phenomena, including food groups, body types, organs and meridians.

What is a macrobiotic diet?

Macrobiotics supports traditional foods that people ate before the dawn of our modern civilization. Thus, the macrobiotic diet emphasizes natural and whole foods such as grains, land and sea vegetables, legumes, beans and bean products, seasonal fruits, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils. These foods eaten in season provide a healthy body and a peaceful mind. Foods to be avoided are excess animal products (meats, dairy, eggs, honey, fish), refined and processed products (sugar, white flour) and stimulant foods (nicotine, coffee, spices), which seem to contribute to sickness, aggression and disharmony.

A variety of cooking techniques such as steaming, pressure cooking, sautéing, baking, juicing, sprouting, pickling, soaking, fermenting or raw are used to enhance the nutritional value and seasonal energy of food.

The macrobiotic diet provides guidelines (proportional as well as food-wise) that can be modified depending on one’s individual health, personal needs, climate, environment and other considerations. Thus it differs from a vegetarian/vegan/raw diet, which does not take such considerations. In the context of disease treatment, or for more detailed guidance regarding dietary change, it is recommended that individuals seek advice from a qualified macrobiotic health consultant.

Daily macrobiotic dietary guidelines for a temperate climate:

  • 30%–60% Whole Grains: Major portion of whole cooked grains like short- and medium-grain brown rice, sweet and wild rice, millet, spelt, barley, oats, kamut, quinoa, wheat or corn. Minor portion of whole grain sourdough bread or other baked whole flour products, pasta and flakes.
  • 20%-30% Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, including collard, kale, broccoli, Nappa cabbage or mustard greens; root vegetables such as daikon, carrots and burdock; and round vegetables, preferably cabbage, onions and squash.
  • 5%-10% Legumes and Beans: Chickpeas, azuki beans, lentils, white and black soybeans, and bean products like tofu or tempeh.
  • 3%-5% Sea Vegetables: Nori, wakame, dulse and sweet water algae daily. Arame, hijiki and kombu seaweed three times per week.
  • Small volume of locally grown fruits. Choose locally grown fruits that are in season to prepare delicious desserts. You can use dried or fresh fruits. Prepare fruits with a pinch of sea salt, or cook them with kudzu, a vine with starchy roots. Minimize or avoid eating fruits that cannot be grown in your area.
  • Small amounts of seeds, nuts, and raw foods like vegetable juices and salads.
  • Fermented Foods. Complement each meal with a small amount of fermented pickles to enrich your meals with enzymes. Include a pressed or raw salad and sprouted seeds or beans. Prepare homemade quick pickles from a variety of vegetables. Use long-term traditional pickles like raw sauerkraut, takuan (a white radish) daikon, or ginger pickles
  • Very small volume of seasonings and condiments such as sea salt, miso, soy sauce, goma-shio, umeboshi vinegar and plums.

Why do people choose to eat this way?

Millions of people on this planet are actively practicing macrobiotic principles, and its dietary benefits have been published in numerous scientific and medical journals. Because the macrobiotic diet prevents and protects against degenerative disease, it may be the best diet to follow in this time of high cancer rates, heart disease, obesity, allergies, HIV/AIDS and the hazards of environmental pollution. These conditions are considered to be a result of our imbalanced modern way of life.

Macrobiotic benefits for the body

Research about the macrobiotic diet indicates that because of its low-fat and high-fiber content, it benefits people by: reducing high cholesterol, preventing heart disease, reducing cancer risks, assisting with weight management and strengthening the immune system.

Macrobiotic benefits the environment

Macrobiotics supports organic, natural agriculture and natural food processing and production. It raises environmental awareness, while preserving a clean, natural environment and respecting natural and animal life. Macrobiotics promotes natural water conservation as well as natural technologies to purify contaminated water.

Nutritional information about the macrobiotic diet

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study by Dr. B.L. Specker that points out that some sea vegetables provide sufficient sources of Vitamin B12 within a macrobiotic diet (Specker, 1988). It is, however, important to eat balanced meals with all food groups in order to obtain the nutrients the body needs. If for some reason a person cannot always follow a balanced diet, vitamin and mineral supplementation is recommended. Since very few people can make a radical transition from a diet of primarily meat and sugar to a diet based on grains and vegetables, most people make the transition to macrobiotics step by healthy step.

Read Up

Embracing Menopause Naturally by Gabrielle Kushi Square One Publishers 2006.

“Increased urinary methylmalonic acid excretion in breast-fed infants of vegetarian mothers and identification of an acceptable dietary source of vitamin B-12” by BL Specker D Miller EJ Norman H Greene and KC Hayes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Jan. 1988; 47: 89-92.


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