The Basics of Macrobiotics
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The Basics of Macrobiotics

Macrobiotics is a healthy way to eat and live. Some say that macrobiotics can cure disease and even cancer.

Macrobiotics is mainly thought of as a way to eat, but it is really a way to live. It is formed around the ancient Chinese belief of yin and yang. That everything is more yin than yang and more yang than yin. And everything needs to be balanced in the universe and in our lives including what we eat. Since eating has a lot to do with our health, macrobiotics is a healthy way to eat according to yin and yang. Macrobiotics is not a fad diet nor is it a vegan diet since fish is included depending on your health. The word macrobiotic comes from the Greek and literally means “great or large life”.

Our bodies seek balance whether we realize it or not. Many of our everyday food choices are our bodies seeking balance. A basic example is when you eat salty foods your body gets thirsty and wants fluid. Salt being a yang quality and fluid is yin. Animal foods are yang and alcohol is yin, beer is drunk at the BBQ before (and after) eating a large steak. Meat and potatoes are another example, animal foods are yang and potatoes are yin, these are a few examples of the body balancing out what we eat.

Cold is yin, people who live in very cold climates eat more animal foods and are quite healthy. Animal foods are considered yang. Where you live influences how you live and what you eat to be in balance with nature. Eskimos for example eat a great deal of meat such as deer and fish, sometimes that’s all they do eat, living in this extremely cold climate. People living in a hot climate, which is yang, usually eat much lighter foods such as fruits, which are considered yin. It is about living in balance with nature and not fighting it all the time. For the majority of us who live in a temperate climate with different seasons, we still eat according to nature without realizing it much of the time. We tend to eat more meat in the winter and lighter foods in the summer such as fruits and salads.

Throughout the 20th century the availability of food increased, as did a way to keep it fresh longer and transport it everywhere. More and more there was easy access to all kinds of foods through fast-food restaurants, our increase in animal type foods increased along with that, any time of the season. When our physical body is not in balance due to an unbalanced diet it affects who we are and how we think and act. A diet that is too heavily yang, too much animal food for example can lead someone to be intolerant, impatient, to anger easily and inflexible. A diet that is too far towards yin such as too much ice cream or sweets, drugs and alcohol can lead to weakness, being gullible, weak willed or weak minded.

An important area in macrobiotics is the balance between acid and alkaline forming foods. Nutritionists believe that well over 50% of our diet should be alkaline-forming. With today’s fast food diet and processed foods we are eating a heavy acid forming diet. There is a difference between acidic foods and acid-forming foods. An example of this is a lemon, it is an acidic food, but it is alkaline forming in the body.

Macrobiotics believes that all parts of the body, all diseases and all foods are either yin or yang. Healing is accomplished through diagnoses of a certain disease, which can be a yin or yang disease and then changing the diet. Yang is contractive and yin is expansive, and a disease can be contractive or expansive. If you were to eat a diet that is far to yin (expansive) that could cause an illness that was expansive in nature. One person I knew did tell me they cured their cancer strictly by following a macrobiotic diet. One of the more notable stories of a person curing their cancer was by the actor, Dirk Benedict. You might remember him as Starbuck on the original Battlestar Galactica or Face on The A-Team.

Foods that make us more centered and more balanced would be beans and legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables, miso, pickles and occasionally some fish.

The macrobiotic diet should include the following:

  • The main food source is whole grains, 50-60% of our diet.
  • Vegetables, 25-30% of our diet.
  • Soups, beans and sea vegetables. Sea vegetables would include wakame and kombu or edible kelp. Miso soup is a very popular part of macrobiotics.
  • Most of your protein should be from plant sources such as beans. Fish is also fine in small portions.
  • Whole brown rice with most meals.
  • Temperate fruits.
  • Avoiding nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and peppers.
  • Pleasure type foods are fine in moderations such as beer, sake, pastries and condiments.
  • Foods should be eaten in season.

The following chart gives some of the yin and yang foods.


More balanced








Tropical fruit


Fruit juice


Sea vegetables



Whole Grains

White meat fish





Macrobiotics is not only about food. It is a way of living in balance and in harmony with nature. Macrobiotics is not easy to understand at first, but once you do it does make sense. The only question with macrobiotics I have ever had was the restriction on nightshade vegetables. The answer is that nightshades are very high in alkaloids and oxalic acid and are known for leaching calcium from the bones.

Sam Montana © 08 February 2009

Excellent books and authors for further understanding of Macrobiotics:

Natural Healing Through Macrobiotics by Michio Kushi

The Book of Macrobiotics by Michio Kushi

The Macrobiotic Way by Michio Kushi

Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict

The Hip Chicks guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter (Very easy to understand book)

Acid and Alkaline by Herman Aihara

Alkalize or Die: superior health through proper alkaline-acid balance by Theodore A. Baroody

Many other books by Michio Kushi and George Ohsawa

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Comments (6)

There is a term for this type of diet. It is called pescetarianism. I follow this diet but I did not know it was macrobiotic. Pescetarianism is a dietary choice in which a person, known as a pescetarian, eats any combination of vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans and fish or seafood, but will not eat mammals or birds. Some animal products like eggs and dairy may or may not be part of a pescetarian diet plan ( Thanks for the article!

Interesting Molly, I've never heard of that term before. There is much more to macrobiotics, it can get involved depending on the persons state of health.

I discovered this term while trying to define my diet because I would say I was vegetarian although I eat fish. Unfortunately I still have to be improper and use the term vegetarian because very few people know what pescetarian means! As for fending off illnesses, I currently have none to fight, fingers crossed!

Macrobiotics is interesting in the way it looks at food the same way as in life. A balanced diet leads to a balanced life. There are a lot of terms for being a vegetarian, since I also eat meat once in a while, I just tell people if they ask I am a part time vegetarian. If they are interested further than I can explain. Sometimes people take an odd view of vegans or vegetarians.

Gerard Mulder

I feel good when eating macrobiotic

I watercolors of the five elements through macrobiotics painted for

Gerard Mulder

I feel good when eating macrobiotic

I watercolors of the five elements through macrobiotics painted for