What is Macrobiotics ?
A combination of two Greek words, macro (large or long) and bios (life), the word macrobiotic essentially means long life, as well as “large view of life”. Macrobiotics is the distillation of thousands of years of wisdom from many cultures. It is a comprehensive approach to life featuring, at its core, a philosophy and a dietary program based on the principles of balance and harmony. Macrobiotics helps us discover how the workings of the universe influence all aspects of human life, and its teachings offer a tool for creating health and finding balance in our lives.
The term first appeared in early Greek literature, notably in the writings of Hippocrates, the ” father of Western medicine”. Hippocrates practiced a natural healing method emphasizing the relationship between diet and health. His most important recommendation was: “Let Food Be Your Medicine”. The word macrobiotic was later used by Chistoph Hufeland, a German physician who, in the early 1800s published a book called “Makrobiotik or the Art of Prolonging Life”.
George Ohsawa, founder of modern macrobiotics
In Japan, in the late 1800’s, an approach to health had been developed by Dr Ishizuka, a physician who prescribed traditional natural foods for their curative properties. He founded an organization called “The Food Cure Society”. In the early 1900s, a Japanese philosopher and intellectual named George Ohsawa became involved with the organization through teaching, writing and promotional activities. After many years of teaching a philosophy unifying Eastern cosmologies with Western medicine, philosophy, world history, and physical sciences, he eventually introduced the approach to the West under the name macrobiotics.
The hallmark of the macrobiotic approach is the use of yin and yang-Chinese words that represent the two antagonistic and complementary forces of the Universe- to understand how nature works, our place in it, and what factors we can control in order to improve our health and achieve greater happiness. One fundamental guiding principle of macrobiotics is that human beings represent the totality of biological evolution on Earth and that, in order to survive as a species and to nurture our individual health and consciousness, we must continually maintain a harmonious relation with the natural environment. Because food is a condensed form of our environment, proper eating is the most basic way to align our energies with the natural world.
Michio Kushi, then a university student interested in world peace affairs, began attending Ohsawa’s Tokyo’s lectures in 1948. In 1949, he and another student of George Ohsawa’s, Herman Aihara, both moved to the United States to teach and help establish the macrobiotic movement on the American continent.
Michio and Aveline Kushi in Akron, Ohio, 1987 (photo by Leon Zawicki)
For over 50 years, through thousands of inspiring lectures and life-changing individual consultations, Michio Kushi taught the macrobiotic way in America, Europe and Japan. He made crucial improvements to the macrobiotic approach to diet, and, with the support of talented writers, further developed the macrobiotic approach to cancer and other degenerative disorders. In 1978, Michio Kushi and his first wife Aveline founded the Kushi Institute, a macrobiotic health center in Western Massachusetts.
Some of the most important fields of macrobiotic study are: The Unifying Principle, Oriental Diagnosis, Natural Health Care, Macrobiotic Cooking, Shiatsu massage, Health Counseling, Oriental Astrology, Energy and Movement Exercises, Spiritual Practices.
The macrobiotic philosophy enables us to clearly understand the meaning of health: its foundation, scope, relativity, as well as its vulnerabilities. It teaches us that in order to experience true health we should first strive to eat in harmony with the natural order.
The macrobiotic dietary approach is based on principles that take into account differing climatic and geographical considerations; varying ages, gender, and levels of activity; and ever-changing personal needs.
By learning just a few basic principles and following a few macrobiotic recommendations and recipes, our health can improve rapidly. Many conditions, incurable with modern medicine alone, can be improved and sometimes relieved within a relatively short period of time when proper dietary measures are taken.
“Theory without practice is useless. Practice without theory is dangerous”.
~ George Ohsawa
Macrobiotic cooking is a health- oriented form of cooking emphasizing whole cereal grains and fresh vegetables. Whole grains are humanity’s most important staple food. In their original, unprocessed form, they provide a balance of nutrients uniquely suited to the human metabolism. The complex carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, essential oils in unprocessed whole grains are complemented by vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables, to form the foundation of a healthy diet. Other natural foods such as seeds, nuts, fish, nuts and fruits further enhance this core selection.
Cooking is an integral part of the macrobiotic nutritional approach, which includes food selection, food preparation, and manner of eating. In order to understand the effects of foods on health, the macrobiotic approach gives careful consideration to their biology, place of origin, way of growing, color, nutritional content, traditional uses, processing method, etc. Proper food preparation, including the combination of ingredients, the cooking method, the kind and amount of seasoning, the combining and arranging of dishes, etc. is a fundamental way of fostering health and wellbeing. Macrobiotic cooking combines the science of dietary medicine with the art of healthy living through the creation of balanced meals that will nourish, energize, and heal our body and mind.
Although the macrobiotic diet and cooking style are rooted in the Japanese tradition, recipes featured in many other traditional or regional cooking styles such as Mediterranean, South American, Indian, Asian cooking, etc., can be adapted to fit the macrobiotic standards of health and nutrition.