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A macrobiotic diet is part of a philosophy of life that incorporates the ancient Oriental concept or theory of yin and yang. The diet itself consists mainly of brown rice, other whole grains, and vegetables. It requires foods to be cooked over a flame, rather than by electricity or microwave.
The term macrobiotics comes from two Greek words; macro (great) and bios (life). The macrobiotic diet is believed to have originated in nineteenth century Japan, with the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka, a natural healer. George Ohsawa (1893–1966), a Japanese teacher and writer, introduced macrobiotics to Europeans in the 1920s. Ohsawa claims to have cured himself of tuberculosis by eating Ishizuka’s diet of brown rice, soup, and vegetables. The diet did not attract much attention in the United States until the mid-1960s, when Ohsawa’s book Zen Macrobiotics was published and became a best seller, especially among the 1960s counterculture. The diet’s popularity heightened in the 1970s when the macrobiotic philosophy was embraced by former Beatle John Lennon (1940–1980) and his wife, Yoko Ono (1933– ).
In the macrobiotic diet, foods are selected for their metaphysical qualities rather than their nutritional value. The regime, which is high in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and soy protein, has many of the same benefits as a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that a diet of this type can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and various cancers.
The macrobiotic diet is rich in vitamins, high in dietary fiber, and low in fatty foods.
In addition to its holistic approach to nutrition, macrobiotics applies these beliefs to life in general. Its philosophy recommends the following behaviors:
• eating two or three meals a day
• chewing each mouthful of food approximately 50 times to aid digestion and absorption of nutrients
• avoiding food for at least three hours before bedtime
• taking short baths or showers as needed, with warm or cool water
• consuming only organic foods
• using grooming, cosmetic, and household products made from natural, non-toxic ingredients
• wearing only cotton clothing and avoiding metallic jewelry
• spending as much time as possible in natural outdoor settings and walking at least 30 minutes daily
• doing such aerobic or stretching exercises as yoga, dance, or martial arts on a regular basis
• placing large green plants throughout the house to enrich the oxygen content of the air, and keeping windows open as much as possible to allow fresh air circulation
• avoiding food preparation with electricity or microwaves; using gas or wood stoves; and using only cast iron, stainless steel, or clay cookware
• avoiding television viewing and computer use as much as possible The macrobiotic diet assigns yin and yang energies to foods.