What is Macrobiotics?

What is Macrobiotics?  The simplest way to put it is that it’s a universal way of health and longevity that is best known for its dietary approach which focuses on eating whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, and sea vegetables…which are high in minerals.

This dietary approach has been used to achieve optimal health and well-being, and in many instances, cure a wide range of illnesses by making adjustments in our eating habits.  Unlike ‘modern’ Western medicine, which focuses on the symptom, Macrobiotics focuses on the underlying cause of the illness.

Some people have wondered if Macrobiotics is just a current fad, and in response I would point out that the term ‘makro bios’ (meaning long life or great life) was first used in the third century BC by Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine.  His philosophy was, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food’ and, in fact, the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ is still taken by modern doctors.

Over the centuries, Macrobiotics became synonymous with a simple, natural way of life and a diet centered on whole grains and vegetables.  It is worth noting that Biblical figures, such as Abraham, were described as macrobiotic.

Moving ahead to the Renaissance, the French humanist, Rabelais, wrote about Macrobiotics in his satire decrying ‘modern civilization’ and in the 18th century, a German professor of medicine, Dr. Christolph Hufeland, advocated a simple grain and vegetable diet, while signaling the danger of meat and sugar, in his book, ‘Macrobiotic or the Art of Prolonging Life,’ published in 1797.

Now, fast forward to 1913, Kyoto, Japan, where an eighteen year old man, who later took the pen name of George Ohsawa, discovered a book entitled “The Curative Method by Diet’ by Dr. Sagen Ishizuka; the book recommended treating infectious diseases by eliminating meat, sugar, white rice and white flour, and focusing on a diet of brown rice and other whole grains, miso soup, cooked vegetables and sea vegetables. George Ohsawa actually used this diet to cure himself of tuberculosis and went on to write a number of books about these dietary principles.   

What’s more, George Ohsawa had a student named Michio Kushi, who studied with him in Japan after World War II and then brought Macrobiotics to the US, founding the Kushi Institute, a learning center where the principles of Macrobiotics, and creating and cooking a macrobiotic diet, have been taught since the 1970s.

FAQ: Common Questions

Why is brown rice more nutritious than white rice?

Brown rice is a whole grain with a fibrous bran and nutritious germ, the most nutritious part of the grain, while white rice has had the bran and grain removed, leaving it with few essential nutrients.  Brown rice is much higher in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than white rice.

What are the benefits of miso soup?”

Miso is a fermented food which increases good micro flora in the digestive system, helping to support a healthy immune system. In addition, the soup usually contains sea vegetables, which provide the body with important minerals.

Miso soup is effective in preventing cancer from radiation exposure to consumer electronics, reduces the risk of breast cancer and gives relief to people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Does the food taste good? Is it hard to cook?

Well, it depends on who’s doing the cooking!

And no, it’s not hard to cook – you just have to learn how to prepare a larger variety of grains and vegetables in order to embark on this healthful way of eating.

For  more in-depth information on Macrobiotics, I would like to refer you to “The Book of Macrobiotics” by Michio Kushi with Alex Jack.  This book is used in the Macrobiotic Leadership Program at the Kushi Institute and has served as my reference in writing the foregoing.