What is Macrobiotics?

Several months ago, I had an amazing experience at a local macrobiotic restaurant, Casa De Luz, here in Austin. I had wanted to experience the vegan, macrobiotic cuisine, which I’ll admit did not sound all that appetizing from the menu description.

What I experienced was plant-based food that reminded me just how delicious, nourishing, and gratifying a plant-based meal could be. The meal was prepared with amazing care and the flavor and texture variation was beyond what I had expected. Receiving a meal that benefited me nutritionally was a happy secondary benefit. I wanted to learn more about the theory and practice of macrobiotics.

I picked up a copy of Herman Aihara’s “Basic Macrobiotics.” The book is still unfolding it’s knowledge to me – the concepts are very new to me and sometimes seem to disagree with what I believe and understand about biology. But almost everything I have read makes sense in principle and I have no doubt the practice of macrobiotics would lead one to a healthy and happy life.

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I’ll list a few of the basic dietary practices of macrobiotics, in no particular order:

  • Intact grains are the foundation of a healthy diet (unmilled versions of: rice, millet, oats, barley)
  • Balance of what macrobiotics refers to as “yin” and “yang” foods (I’m still working on this one) as well as balancing acidifying foods with alkalizing foods. Yin/Yang and acid/alkaline are not analogs (e.g., yang does not equal acid). The Standard American Diet of meats, cheeses, eggs, and refined grains is said to be very Yang and acidifying. Sugar is said to be acid forming, but also Yin. How you balance food is also ideally varied slightly depending on your climate and the time of year. This is all still sinking in…
  • General avoidance of animal foods
  • Avoidance of processed foods
  • Consumption of local, seasonal, organic foods
  • Consumption of sea vegetables (e.g., hijiki, kombu, wakame)
  • Consumption of miso, a fermented soy product, and other soy products for their health protective qualities

Macrobiotics is not merely a diet regimen, however. In fact, the term “macrobiotics” was derived from Greek to mean the “big view of life.” The term was first used in 1796. Among the goals of macrobiotics Aihara enumerates are:

  • Making the macrobiotic practitioner spiritually rich
  • Simplifying life
  • Freedom from the fear of illness

Finally, I’ll share a passage from Aihara’s book which I found particularly inspiring:

In macrobiotics, ideally one lives the way one wants and earns money doing what one enjoys. Not only can one save money but, at the same time, can be loved by many people and remembered even after death. Because one is happy, she or he can inspire others. Establishing such a life is a goal of macrobiotics.

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6 thoughts on “What is Macrobiotics?

  1. I really enjoyed this. I am starting nursing school in January but I would love to go to Culinary School. I did not know you were back in school, at least I am not the only one with a new beginning in careers!! Good luck!!

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