YinYang Macrobiotics
With strict rules and prohibitions and an Oriental mystique the macrobiotic lifestyle and diet have attracted a significant following of adherents and true believers. While it is difficult to find any substantiated medical statements buried under the vast sea of enthusiastic promotion, what can be found is not entirely enthusiastic. Most dietitians would concede that moderate forms of macrobiotics are better for maintaining health than the "average American diet", but they are also likely to recommend a less restrictive diet.


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While the term "macrobiotic" is first known from the writings of Hippocrates and further defined by German physician Christoph Hufeland, the term is now associated mainly with Japanese educator George Ohsawa and his followers, particularly Michio Kushi.

Mr. Ohsawa, who claimed a diet of brown rice, miso soup and seaweed cured him of serious childhood illness, brought his macrobiotics plan to the U.S. around 1958. While it also includes elements of Oriental philosophy and lifestyle, the diet part has received the most attention.

Michio Kushi expanded on Ohsawa's works and intensely promoted macrobiotics in the U.S., founding Erewhon Natural Foods, the East West Journal, the East West Foundation, the Kushi Foundation, and the Kushi Institute. Together with his wife Aveline, Kushi wrote over 70 books on the macrobiotic lifestyle.

Since the more extreme forms of the diet have been abandoned, macrobiotics is no longer as controversial as it once was, but medical practitioners still recommend strongly against the diet's use by pregnant women and young children.

Today the main controversy is over claims that a macrobiotic diet cures cancer and AIDS. While several cases have been documented of people who recovered from cancer while on a macrobiotic diet it is unknown if this represents anything beyond normal remission rates or rates encountered with cleaning up the diet in a less restricted way. It must be noted that a least some of the people macrobiotics supposedly cured were also undergoing conventional therapies. It must also be noted that Michio Kushi's wife, Aveline, died of cervical cancer. Information regarding macrobiotics and AIDS is much more scant.

The Diet

The objective of the macrobiotic diet is to balance the centrifugal and centripetal forces, yin and yang. In the Chinese system all foods are rated as to how yin or yang they are. Macrobiotics holds that achieving balance is easier with foods that are nearly yin/yang neutral, most notably brown rice.

The original macrobiotic diet Ohsawa brought to the U.S. defined 10 stages, numbered -3 to 7. Stage 7, which consisted only of brown rice and water, proved quite dangerous and current practice approximates Ohsawa's stages 2 and 3. Stages above 4 are no longer recommended by macrobiotic councilors but the theories on which they were based have not been abandoned.

Care must still be taken to assure adequate intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and iron. all of which are relatively scarce in a macrobiotic diet. Vitamin B12 will be absent almost entirely if the diet form includes no animal products at all (vegan).

Here is the general diet plan. Foods not specifically listed here can be presumed forbidden.

Forbidden Foods:

  • Nightshades (considered highly toxic):   tomatoes, potatoes, chili and bell peppers, tomatillos, eggplants.
  • Animal Foods:   any, including dairy products
  • Refined Sugars
  • Honey
  • Asparagus
  • Tropical Fruits:   pineapples, bananas, all others.
  • Fruits:   any not locally grown.
  • Fruit Juices
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Avocados
  • Herbs:   any aromatic herbs (covers just about all).
  • Coffee
  • Teas:   any that are stimulating or aromatic.
  • Chocolate
  • Most Spices, particularly hot ones.
  • Sodas.
  • Processed Foods and refined anything.

Permitted Occasionally

  • Fish (fresh, mostly white fleshed)
  • Nuts & Seeds;
  • Sweeteners:   brown rice syrup, barley malt, amasake (sweet rice drink).
  • Vinegars:   brown rice vinegar, umeboshi plum vinegar.
  • Certain Vegetables: celery, lettuce, mushrooms, snow peas, string beans.
  • Tamari soy sauce
  • Fruit (locally grown only).
  • Pasta
  • Bread (whole grain)
  • Sea Salt


  • Whole Grains - Organic (50% to 60% of diet): brown rice, barley, millet, oats, corn, rye, whole wheat, buckwheat.
  • Fresh Vegetables - Organic locally grown (25% to 30% of diet): cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, turnips, turnip greens, onion, daikon radish, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin.
  • Beans (to 10% of diet): adzuki beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu.
  • Sea Vegetables (about 5% of diet): wakame, hijiki, kombu, nori
  • Soups (to 10% of diet): containing miso, vegetables, beans.


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