The macrobiotic diet is an approach consisting of Eastern medicine principles; in other words, it is very holistic and natural. The ideas that unite such a diet fall into step with those health-minded individuals who desire both physical and spiritual well-being, the major focus being on yin and yang foods. Some people say this is a suitable diet as a cancer cure, or at least providing a relief from the symptoms of cancer, but there is no scientific evidence to support such suggestions.
Where the Diet Came From
The term macrobiotic comes from the Greek words “macro” meaning “great” and “bio” meaning “life.” Using this term in such a way signifies the idea of living naturally or being “one with the Earth and Mother Nature.” Eating a simple and balanced diet is included in this philosophy that is commonly strived for. Yin and yang, however, are concepts from Chinese philosophy, and these opposing forces are said to govern every part of life, and therefore should be equal at all times. It is believed that foods that come from closer to the Earth are healthier and promote a greater will-being.
Yin and Yang Foods
This diet attempts to achieve harmony with yin and yang—yin being cold, sweet, and passive, while yang is hot, salty, and aggressive—in order to achieve good health. Foods are classified into either of these categories. However, there are some foods that have too much yin or yang, and these are recommended to be avoided. On the other hand, those that have the least amount of yin and yang qualities are highly encouraged, namely grains and vegetables.
Major Tenets of the Macrobiotic Diet
Here are some general guidelines to follow in order to stay in line with the macrobiotic diet. Also, it is important to recognize that all of these are healthy approaches to overall health and well-being. If you can only manage one or two of these principle, that is certainly better than nothing.
Whole grains are the most balanced food on the yin-yang spectrum. They include oats, barley, brown rice, millets, rye, corn, whole wheat, and buckwheat. Grains should constitute 50-60% of a person’s diet. Fresh vegetables should take up 25-30% of a person’s food intake. These vegetables are recommended with no caution: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, collards, onion, radish, acorn and butternut squash, pumpkin, turnips, and turnip greens. Those that are recommended on a much more infrequent basis, about two or three times per week, are iceberg lettuce, celery, snow peas, mushrooms, and string beans. Vegetables should be prepared by steaming or they can be sautéed with a small amount of cooking oil, preferably sesame or corn oil.
Beans and sea vegetables should make up 5-10% of the daily diet. Adzuki beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and tofu are the best choices. Sea vegetables are those such as wakame, hijiki, kombu, and nori. All vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals. 5-10% of the daily food intake should be comprised of soups and broths, but only those containing miso (soy bean paste), vegetables, or beans. A few servings every week of nuts, seeds and fresh fish are acceptable. The sweeteners that may be used include brown rice syrup, brown rice vinegar, barley malt, and amasake. To give flavor to soups, sea salt and soy sauce may be used.
On this diet, the intake of fluids is recommended on an as-needed basis. Any water that is consumed or cooked with must be purified, and the only other acceptable drink is tea made from roasted grains, dandelion greens, or the cooking water of soba noodles. Foods and drinks that have an extremely strong yin-yang quality are: eggs and dairy products, animal foods, refined sugars, chocolate, tropical fruits, soda, fruit juice, caffeinated drinks, coffee, and hot spices. Foods that have artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors should be avoided. It is advisable to buy and eat only organically grown foods.