Though macrobiotics has been understood by medical practitioners since the time of Hippocrates, it is only in recent times that this philosophy of learning to live within the natural order of life has gained momentum. Let us examine the tenets on which the macrobiotic diet is based.
The term 'macrobiotics' owes its origin to the Greek words macro (great) and bios (life). It is based on the dictum that when you live in harmony with nature and eat a diet that is balanced and holistic, it will lead to good heath and longevity. The fulcrum of the macrobiotic diet lies in the Chinese concept of yin and yang. They represent two diametrically opposing yet complementary forces. While yin represents sweet, yang is salty. Similarly, yin is passive while yang is aggressive. The macrobiotic diet seeks to harmonize these two forces so as to optimize their effect on the body.
A macrobiotic diet is predominantly vegetarian and emphasized consumption of whole grains and vegetables. Food must be ideally steamed or lightly sautéed in vegetable oil. Macrobiotic diet includes use of soy products and cruciferous vegetables. Soups are an essential feature. A macrobiotic diet is low in meat, dairy products and sugar. Fluid intake is also limited. Food prepared according to macrobiotic principles has been linked to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Whole grains: brown rice, whole wheat, rye corn, oats and millet
Fresh vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, cabbage, pumpkin, celery, mushrooms, mustard greens
Lentils: chickpeas, beans
Seafood: fresh fish and sea vegetables such as wakame, hiziki, dombu, noris, arame, agar-agar and Irish moss
Macrobiotic diet planMacrobiotic diet
Strict proponents of the macrobiotic diet insist on rigid rules while many followers allow for some flexibility. Use of heavy meats, refined sugars and dairy products is not encouraged. Strict versions of the macrobiotic diet discourage consumption of fruits other than those grown locally. Use of coffee, aromatic herbs and poultry is discouraged. The macrobiotic diet does not advocate the consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, beets, zucchini and avocado.
The diet is insufficient in protein, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and calcium. Critics of the macrobiotic diet insist that it is nutritionally insufficient and unsuitable for growing children and lactating women. Restricted fluid intake may lead to dehydration. Besides the claims that macrobiotic diet can cure cancer has no substantiation. The general health benefits of the macrobiotic diet can be linked to its low fat and high fiber composition.