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Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines

The macrobiotic dietary approach has been practiced widely throughout history. Each culture and civilization has applied principles of balance to the proper selection and preparation of food and developed a unique cuisine in harmony with its natural environment. As Michio Kushi explained, “The macrobiotic approach is based not only on meeting optimal nutritional needs, but also on a deep understanding of the earth’s relation to the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies; the evolution of life on the planet; ancestral tradition and heritage; ever-changing environmental and climatic conditions; humidity, pressure, and other atmospheric influences; local availability, affordability, and other economic factors; natural storability and other practical considerations; and the effects of different foods and beverages on mind, body, and spirit. The macrobiotic way of eating is not a set diet that applies rigidly to everyone, but a flexible dietary approach that differs according to climate, environment, condition of health, sex, age, activity level, and personal need.”[i]


In the 2013 edition of The Book of Macrobiotics, Kushi introduced dietary guidelines for ten regions of the world, including Temperate Regions (such as North America, Europe, Russia, China, and Japan), Central America, South Ameri-

ca, the Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, a Cool Climate (Canada, Scotland, Scandinavia, Siberia), and a Cold Climate (Arctic). For each, he recommended varying amounts of grain, beans, vegetables fruits, and animal products depending on climate and environment.


Standard Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines

In the United States, Michio and Aveline Kushi developed the Standard Macrobiotic Diet. Based on traditional cuisines and modern food patterns, daily meals in the temperate latitudes of the world ideally reflect the following categories and proportions of food:[ii]


     • Whole Grains and Grain Products 40 to 60 percent or more of daily food, by volume, consists of whole cereal grains and their products, representing the most advanced species of vegetable life. These include brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats, rye, millet, corn, buckwheat, sorghum, and other traditional consumed wild and domesticated grasses


     • Soup 5 to 10 percent of daily food may be taken in the form of soup (one to two bowls). The soup broth is made frequently with miso or shoyu, which are prepared from naturally fermented soybeans, sea salt, and grains, to which several varieties of land and sea vegetables may be added during cooking. The enzymes in miso and shoyu represent the most primordial form of life


     • Vegetables 25 to 30 percent prepared in various ways, representing modern, ancient, and primordial stages of vegetal life. These include daikon, carrots, cabbage, kale, watercress, squashes, onion, and many other modern varieties; lotus root and other ancient species; and mushrooms and other primitive species


     • Beans and Sea Vegetables 5 to 10 percent beans and bean products and sea vegetables representing more recent vegetable species from land and sea. These include azuki beans, chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, soybeans and many others, as well as tofu, tempeh, and natto. Seaweeds and mosses include wakame, kombu, hijiki, nori, dulse, Irish moss, agar-agar, arame, and many others


     • Animal Food Optional occasional use (15 percent or less) of animal food if desired, primarily fish and seafood, representing early animal life. These include cod, sole, trout, flounder, oyster, clam, shrimp, crab, and others


     • Fruits, Seeds, and Nuts Occasional use of fruit, nuts, and seeds in small volume, representing the most recent biological species prior to grains. These include apples, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, berries, melons, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, and many others


     • Fermented Food Cultured food, especially that of vegetable quality, in small volume daily, representing the most primordial stage of biological life and strengthens the microbiome. Foods in this category containing beneficial enzymes and bacteria include miso, shoyu, koji (molded grain), natto, sauerkraut and other pickles, and many others


     • Seasonings and Condiments White sea salt, shoyu (natural soy sauce), miso, umeboshi plums, unsaturated plant oils (especially sesame, olive, and safflower), rice vinegar, lemon, lime, and other citrus, and other traditionally used seasonings are used in cooking or at the table


     • Beverages include kukicha tea (also known as bancha twig tea), roasted brown rice tea, roasted barley tea, and spring or well water. For occasional consumption, green tea, grain coffee, kombu tea, carrot or other vegetable juice, fruit juice, and other non-aromatic and non-stimulant drinks may be consumed. Beer, wine, or sake may taken for enjoyment on special occasions


     • Food to be organically grown as much as possible


     • Fire Quality Cooking flame to be from gas, wood, charcoal, solar, or other natural source



Cooking utensils should be made from natural and durable materials as much as possible such as wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel and cast-iron while some materials including plastic, aluminum, copper, and non-stick coatings that may leach into food are to be avoided. A natural flame from gas, wood, charcoal, solar or other natural source that gives a slow, steady source of energy is recommended, while electric ovens and microwaves create a weaker,  more  chaotic  vibration  in  the food should be avoided or minimized.[iii]


Lifestyle Guidelines

Macrobiotics promotes living in harmony with nature and striving for harmony and balance in all domains of life. The three pillars of health are 1) daily diet, 2) proper exercise or physical activity, and 3) intellectual or artistic pursuits, self-reflection, or spiritual practice. Standard way of life suggestions include:


     • Live Happily and Keep Active Live each day happily without being preoccupied with your health. Try to keep mentally and physically active.


     • Be Grateful View everything and everyone you meet with gratitude, particularly offering thanks before and after every meal


     • Early to Bed, Early to Rise It is best to get up early and go to bed before midnight


     • Wear Natural Fabrics It is best to wear cotton and other natural fiber clothing, especially for undergarments, and to use cotton bed sheets and pillows. Avoid GMO cotton and synthetic or woolen clothing directly on the skin and avoid excessive metallic accessories on the fingers, wrists, or neck. Keep such ornaments simple and graceful


     • Go Outside and Keep Home in Order If your strength permits, go outdoors in simple clothing. Walk on the grass, beach, or soil up to one half hour each day. Keep your home in good order, from the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room, to every corner


     • Keep in Touch Initiate and maintain an active correspondence, extending best wishes to parents, children, brothers and sisters, and friends by ordinary mail, email, texting, Skype, or phone


     • Avoid Long Bathing Avoid taking long, hot baths or showers unless you have been consuming too much salt or animal food, as these take minerals from the body


     • Be Active If your condition permits, exercise regularly as part of daily life, including activities like walking, scrubbing floors, cleaning windows, washing clothes, and working in the garden. You may also engage in exercise programs such as yoga, martial arts, dance, or sports


     • Minimize Electronics Minimize the frequent use of television, computers, cell phones, and other electronics that emit artificial electromagnetic radiation


     • Oxygenate Your Home with Green Plants Include some large green plants in your house to freshen and enrich the oxygen content of the air of your home


     • Be Kind to Animals Treat animals, birds, insects, and all living things respectively


     • Sing a Happy Song Sing a happy song every day


[i] Kushi and Jack, Macrobiotic Path, p. 5.

[ii] Kushi and Jack, Book of Macrobiotics, pp. 78–79.

[iii] Kushi, Aveline; Jack, Alex (1985). Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking. Warner. ISBN 978-0446386340

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