The Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa came to North America in the 1950s and formalized the basis for what we now consider the Macrobiotic diet. The word Macrobiotic is Greek for long life or great life, and these words describe the essence of a Macrobiotic diet plan.
The Premise: Strict followers of Macrobiotics view it as a way of life that balances spirituality with the basics of a healthy dietary regimen. Essentially, modern Macrobiotics links the spiritual principals of Zen Buddhism with our western-style vegetarian diet.
The Diet: Macrobiotics stresses that food quality and preparation has a direct impact on personal health, well-being, and overall happiness. Participants are encouraged to see the Yin and Yang connection in their food, and use it to achieve stability within their diet. The plan pairs foods according to their "active" or "passive" qualities to attain a peaceful balance of the food at each meal.
For example, most foods can be characterized as "Yin" or "Yang". Yin means it has a passive, cold, or sweet quality to it. Yang means it is active in a salty, sharp, or sour way. Any foods that are considered toxic, or fall too far off the passive/active scale of categorization, are rejected altogether.
The Plan stresses wholesome, nutritious, plant-based foods with only a little fish protein. It also encourages specific eating rules such as:
- eating slowly at meal time
- chewing food thoroughly
- using traditional cooking methods like boiling, steaming and baking
- incorporating spiritual lifestyle changes into your daily activities
What to get excited about: With a clear focus on using wholesome, locally-grown foods and traditional forms of food preparation, the Macrobiotics diet plan is a "back to basics" eating lifestyle. It is often attributed with lower stress levels and elevated feelings of spiritual well-being. By discouraging processed foods and high-protein animal products, the plan also may protect against some forms of cancer, and it may even decrease your potential for chronic disease.
Things to consider: The Macrobiotic is a very strict, regimented dietary plan that requires more than a rudimentary understanding of Buddhism and the concept of Yin and Yang. For those with well-established religious beliefs to the contrary, this plan may create a spiritual conflict that will present a critical obstacle to your success. In addition, health care professionals point out that the restrictiveness of this diet may result in nutritional deficiencies. Where they would normally recommend vitamin and mineral supplements be used to meet those shortfalls, Macrobiotics frowns upon the use of those unnatural items.
The Verdict: The Macrobiotics plan is very big on some great essentials: whole grains, vegetables, beans, some nuts, fruits, seeds, and a little fish. A well-managed version of the plan that includes the frowned upon vitamin and mineral supplements to guard against nutritional deficiencies, can make a healthy, weight-controlled plan for those that thrive on structure and routine. But if you are more of a free-spirit that enjoys an occasional cheat or splurge, this type of dietary plan is clearly not for you. For those whose religious beliefs conflict with the Zen Buddhist teachings, this wouldn't be the best plan for you either.
Remember, regardless of what diet program your interested in, it is always important that you consult your personal physician before beginning a new diet program.