Macrobiotic Diet: Balancing the yin and yang
The American-Japanese writer George Othsawa, developed a dietary system and
called it macrobiotics - from the Greek words for 'large' and 'life'.
Macrobiotics is largely based on the Chinese philosophy of two opposing yet
complementary forces of nature, present within all people - 'yin' and 'yang'. The
inner regions of the body, including the bones, blood, and internal organs, are
more yang or contracted, while the peripheral regions, including the skin and
hair, are more yin or expanded. On the whole, the right side of the body is
strongly charged with yin, upward energy, while the left side is strongly
charged by downward, yang energy Foods are classified into yin and yang
categories, according to their tastes, properties, and effects on the body.
Eating these foods is thought to make it easier to achieve a more balanced
condition within the natural order of life. Foods considered either extremely
yin or extremely yang are avoided.
Yin is the female force, representing darkness, the cold and tranquility.
People who are predominantly yin tend to be calm, relaxed and creative. While,
yang is masculine and represents light, heat and aggression. yang represents
characteristics like active, alert and energetic.
Certain foods are predominantly yin or yang and should be balanced. For
example, foods with a high yin content include sugar, tea, alcohol, coffee,
milk, cream, yoghurt and most herbs and spices, while foods with a high yang
content include red meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, hard cheeses and
salt. Foods that are thought to contain a harmonious balance of yin and yang
are: wholegrain cereals, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, leafy vegetables and
pulses (beans, peas and lentils). The health and harmony of both body and mind
are said to depend on a balance between the two forces, and the macrobiotic diet
therefore needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual by a macrobiotic
The macrobiotic diet being low in calories and
saturated fats, and high
can help to reduce the risk of
high blood pressure
and constipation. This diet encompasses many of the dietary elements linked to a
reduced risk of
Besides, learning the effects of different foods allows one to consciously
counteract other influences and maintain a healthy, dynamically balanced state.
The standard macrobiotic diet consists of 50% to 60% organically grown whole
grains, 20% to 25% locally and organically grown fruits and vegetables, 5% to
10% soups made with vegetables, seaweed, grains, beans, and miso (a fermented
Macrobiotic principles also govern food preparation
and the manner in which food is eaten. Recommendations in this area include:
Avoid using a microwave oven to prepare food;
Cook rice in a pressure cooker;
Eat only when hungry;
Chew food completely;
Eat in an orderly,
Relaxed manner using
Keep the home in good order, especially where food is prepared.
Low in calories
and saturated fats
High in fiber
May help to reduce
the risk of obesity, raised cholesterol, high blood pressure,
constipation and some forms of cancer
Can cause anaemia
Not suitable for
young children or pregnant or breast feeding women
In its most
extreme form, it does not supply adequate
protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D and
At its most extreme, the macrobiotic diet does not supply adequate amounts
of vitamin B12 for a healthy nervous system,
iron for healthy blood, and vitamin D, which is
needed for the absorption of calcium. As a deficiency in iron and B12 can lead
supplements should be taken.
The macrobiotic diet should never be used by pregnant or breastfeeding
women, people who are ill or anyone with special dietary requirements. It is
also unsuitable for children. The bulky nature of the diet can lead to
malnutrition in youngsters, and slow growth rates right through to adolescence.
The Macrobiotic Larder
There are seven levels of macrobiotic diet.
The less extreme levels are mainly vegetarian (although some may
contain fish), consisting of large amounts of unrefined cereals and
small amounts of seasonal and locally produced fruit and vegetables.
The most extreme, now rarely followed, consists of brown rice only
which has led to several deaths as it contains too few nutrients. A
suitable macrobiotic diet can include the following foods:
cereals:- Brown rice, oats, barley, wheat, buckwheat, corn, rye,
millet and products made from these such as wholewheat flour, bread
and pasta; couscous; whole oat porridge.
Vegetables and sea vegetables:- A
wide variety of fresh vegetables is recommended- cabbage, broccoli,
cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, turnips,
turnip greens, onion, daikon radish, acorn squash, butternut squash,
and pumpkin.. Vegetables to be eaten occasionally (two to three
times per week) include celery, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, snow
peas, and string beans. Vegetables should be lightly steamed or
sautéed with a small amount of unrefined cooking oil (preferably
sesame or corn oil).
Seaweed is used to enhance the flavour and
nutritional value of many savoury dishes.Sea vegetables, including
wakame, hijiki, kombu, and nori, are rich in many vitamins and
minerals, and are easily added at each meal.
Lentils, adzuki beans, chickpeas, beans and soya products, such
as tofu (bean curd).
Soups:- Usually made with beans and
lentils, and special oriental seasonings such as rich salty miso,
made from fermented soya beans, and shoyu, a dark, soya sauce.
A mixture of fresh seasonal fruits, which should include some
citrus fruit. To ensure freshness, buy frequently and, where
possible, choose local produce. The diet advises against eating
fruits that do not grow locally, such as bananas, pineapples and
other tropical fruits.
Fluid Intake:- Should be governed by
thirst. Only teas made from roasted grains, dandelion greens, or the
cooking water of soba noodles are generally considered acceptable.
All teas with aromatic fragrances or caffeine are avoided. Drinking
and cooking water must be purified.
Seeds, nuts, flavorings and fish:-
Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts,
walnuts, and dried chestnuts. In moderation, sea salt, ginger,
mustard, tahini, cider vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and apple juice,
can all be used to enhance the flavor of a dish. For
non-vegetarians, three small portions of fresh seafood can be
included every week. The yang qualities of fish and shellfish should
be balanced by helpings of green leafy vegetables, grains or pulses
in the same meal.
Dated 20 January 2009