I would like to make a proposal
for the redefinition of general recommendations for
the macrobiotic way of eating.
Dietary recommendations are but
a small part of our macrobiotic lifestyle and vision
and we all love to share experiences from other aspects
of our life. However, Dietary recommendations are a
fundamental part of what we can offer to the world,
the most immediate interface with the general public,
and an indispensable reference for beginners.
Intuitive autoregulation is
a personal goal for all people interested in macrobiotics,
but we all know that it takes a long time to develop.
Moreover, the serious sicknesses manifested in some
long term macrobiotic friends and teachers suggest that
even the best and most experienced practitioners can
make mistakes, and / or that we must reflect on the
limits of our recommendations.
With our recommendations we
can either help, or create problems for many people,
so we should make them as easily implementable as possible.
Sometimes, perfect ones can become useless or even dangerous
if too difficult to apply, and this is more likely to
happen if they are too strict and precise, suitable
only for the very experienced.
It is true that ultimately everyone
has the responsibility to take care of her / his health,
but we cannot overlook the naive judgment with which
many people approach the revolutionary adventure of
discovering a new way of eating and managing their own
health. So we should try to help them as much as possible
with our recommendations.
I will start from some general
considerations, and then I will proceed with some proposals
that I hope can be a starting point for discussion among
as many as possible of our macrobiotic friends, and
practitioners as well as interested members of the public.
FROM SCIENCE, TRADITION AND YIN-YANG -
In my previous contributions to The Macrobiotic Guide"
science and macrobiotic cancer
to yin-yang, science and macrobiotic cancer)
I proposed and discussed a few mechanisms that could
possibly help us in understanding some of the reasons
for the problems happening for some long term macrobiotic
friends and teachers, or at least to reflect on them.
However, it is not only a matter of vitamin B12 or cancer,
as there have also been some unexpected problems with
calcium and osteoporosis, and maybe more, of which we
are not completely aware at this moment. It is a more
general call for reflection on the whole eating pattern
that we propose.
Clearly we cannot understand the mechanism of these
problems only from the nutritional standpoint. Until
now even scientists, far more competent than ourselves,
have found this impossible to realize, in part because
of the inherent limits of the analytic approach to health
and food. However, we can get useful insights and vital
information on this subject from the world of scientific
research, that can complete and widen the conclusions
that we draw with our Yin - Yang method.
Besides, even in the scientific nutritional field,
at least in the part of it not sponsored by the big
pharmaceutical companies, the idea is emerging that
some common factors are at play in many different degenerative
diseases, and that those factors depend on the divergence
between our human needs and the eating and living patterns
of modern society. Folic acid, vitamin B12 and D, the
ratio between animal and plant food, the influence of
food on insulin and growth factors, are elements that
many researchers believe can play a primary role in
the reduction of degenerative illness.
A whole new approach is being developed that takes
into consideration not only the single nutrients, but
primarily the so called dietary patterns
of world populations, and tries to understand them from
the perspective of the prevention of degenerative illnesses.
We can learn much from this data, while at the same
time we are in the favorable position of having experimented
with food as few others can have, in recent history,
and to be at least partially able to use such an extraordinary
tool as yin-yang.
A particularly important point to consider is the
soundness of our recommendations in view of what we
know about our evolutionary voyage as human beings.
In a previous contribution to "the macrobiotic
guide". (See Some
reflections about the macrobiotic way of eating),
I proposed some considerations about this issue, and
I'll start from some of them again here in order to
start this discussion.
EVOLUTIONARY WAY OF EATING -
As human beings, we share a common legacy that links
our modern shape and abilities to the food consumed
during our evolutionary period. This is an important
topic, as we probably are optimally adapted to the foods
that sustained our long evolutionary process. In brief,
the main characteristics of these foods are:
food - A large variety of animal and vegetable
food has been consumed by human beings during our evolutionary
history, and we are fundamentally adapted to both of
Animal food was primarily represented
by insects, bone marrow, eggs, mollusks, small animals,
birds, fish, and more recently, and in colder climates,
Vegetal food included tubers, seeds of wild
grasses, wild vegetables, flowers and fruits. This
is the evolutionary basis of our present way of eating,
the general food for human beings that
we must adapt to our present living conditions. No
known culture has been totally vegan other than for
scarcity reasons, and none has been totally based
on animal food, even the ones from the extreme north
of the planet.
- The rise of agriculture and husbandry caused a very
rapid shift in eating patterns. It made people live
on a reduced number of staple foods, both of vegetable
and animal quality, compared to the wide variety used
before. It also profoundly altered their nutritional
- Grains substituted wild grass seeds and primitive
grains, and were consumed in bigger amounts than before.
Modern grains are richer in starch than primitive ones
and wild grass seeds. They are also poorer in protein,
calcium, iron, and fat. Among the presently consumed
grains, amaranth is probably the most nutritionally
similar to the ancient ones, together with quinoa and
Modern grains tend to require the production of much
more insulin by the body compared to the ancient ones,
also this varies very much depending on the variety,
the refinement process and preparation. In many parts
of the world grains substituted the tubers traditionally
consumed that also had a very low glycemic and insulinemic
index, while the modern potato has an extraordinarily
high insulinemic index.
(Glycemic and Insulinemic indexes indicate
the relative tendency of a specific food to raise the
glucose and insulin levels in the blood. High insulinemic
indexes are associated with a great number of pathological
The cultivated vegetables consumed in historic times
and today contain much less calcium and antioxidants
than the wild ones, and are usually richer in carbohydrates.
Kale, broccoli, mustard greens and other green leafy
vegetables are the most similar to the ancient ones,
from this point of view.
The modern production of animal foods
changed their nutritional quality dramatically, augmenting
the total amount of fat, increasing the percentage of
saturated fats and, with the polyunsaturated fats, raising
the percentage of omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats
that more or less disappeared. This is a problem in
itself, aside from those relating to the use of antibiotics,
hormones and other chemicals in modern meats. However,
it is also a recent problem that started about a century
- In general, wild fruits contain very little
sugar, and are primarily a source of vitamin C and fiber.
Modern cultivated fruits are very rich in simple sugars
and contain less vitamin C and fiber.
Acid / alkaline
balance The relative rise in the consumption
of grains and animal products vs. vegetables and fruits,
occurred in recent times, causing the modern diet to
create acidic conditions in the body. This is something
totally new for the human being, as the primitive diet
had a strong alkalizing effect. The traditional diet
was probably in between these two extremes.
Wild animals burn off two calories in movement
for each calorie spent at rest, and ancient human cultures
probably had a similar ratio. Modern humans burn off
half a calorie in activity for each calorie spent at
rest. It is very clear that physical activity cannot
be separated from any choice we make about food.
Vitamin D is produced by exposure of skin
to the sun, and it is absolutely necessary for health,
in particular for the prevention of degenerative diseases.
It is difficult or impossible to produce it in adequate
amounts when living indoors, in very polluted areas
and at very high altitudes. Food sources are very rare,
essentially some fatty meats, fish, such as sardines,
mackerel and salmon, plus pork lard, but only if the
pork is raised naturally outdoors, as it needs to create
its own vitamin D by exposure to the sun.
This animal source has probably been one of the main
food sources of vitamin D in traditional societies,
apart from fish and some sea mammals in extreme northern
regions, because pigs are one of the most ubiquitously
raised animals for food. (Please note that pork, if
raised traditionally, is rich in polyunsaturated and
omega-3 fats). As for physical activity, spending time
outdoors is a basic need for human beings and has a
strong relationship with food.
TRADITIONAL WAY OF EATING -
In order to respond to the changes caused by the birth
of agriculture, husbandry, and the end of nomadism,
humanity developed a number of techniques, among which
Fermentation has been the main tool for the adaptation
of new foods to human physiology. We are all aware of
the importance of some of them for the health of the
intestinal flora. However, many fermented foods and
beverages are even more important in another respect,
in that they have the ability to reduce the insulinemic
index of foods. In this way, naturally fermented bread,
vinegar's and fermented vegetables helped to reduce
the negative influences of the increased consumption
of grains and cultivated tubers occurring during the
Probably naturally fermented grain beverages and even
wines had this same effect, apart from exerting an important
nutritional role by providing more easily available
micronutrients, and balancing the effects of animal
foods. The ancient Posca in Italy and in all the Mediterranean
regions was the most common beverage for adults, and
was made of wine vinegar diluted with water (by the
way, this is the beverage offered to Jesus on the cross.)
Fermented foods also allowed for a better
utilization of proteins and fats: fermented animal foods
such as salami or some cheeses undergo a process of
predigestion that makes their proteins and fats more
easily used by the body, as well as providing a way
to preserve perishable foods. In this way, a small quantity
of animal food can easily complete the nutritional profile
of a grain and bean based diet.
The fermentation of animal foods is
widespread throughout the world, and preceded that of
vegetable protein-rich foods, as animal foods spoil
easily. Chiang in China was an ancient fermented
animal food from which miso developed many centuries
later in Japan. The Nuoc Mam fermented fish sauce, fundamental
in traditional cuisine from Thailand, is somewhat similar
to the ancient Italian Garum of Roman times, and both
represented an ubiquitary condiment, especially for
the poor, that completed the nutritional value of their
mainly grain and bean based diet. Since the Garum was
made mainly from anchovies, sardines and mackerel, it
probably also added valuable omega-3 fatty acids to
the diet. Many more examples could be given for these
kinds of food.
Use of Herbs
Herbs (rosemary, sage, thymus and more) are the
most important source of antioxidants in traditional
Mediterranean cuisine, far more so than all the edible
vegetables combined, and probably it has been the same
all over the world. The use of herbs in cooking helped
to balance the reduction of antioxidants in cultivated
vegetables and fruits compared to those in wild ones,
as well as helping digestion, modulating the energy
of foods, preventing spoilage and many other effects.
Spices made a similar contribution in warmer climates,
also in temperate areas of the world their use helped
in balancing and preventing spoilage of some animal
Calcium As we have mentioned, in the
passage from the evolutionary to the traditional eating
pattern there has been an important reduction in sources
of calcium from vegetables. Part of this reduction has
been overcome in western cultures by a modest use of
dairy, by cooking bones in broth, and by making fish
soups also using part of their bones. Asian cultures
developed the habit of frequently eating small dried
fishes, small quantities of seaweed, and other strategies.
From agriculture comes also the use of vegetable
oils in cooking and as condiments. However, apart from
some olive and sesame oils in the production zones for
these plants, a small amount of walnut oil in colder
zones and palm oil in tropical climates, very little
vegetable fat has been used, until modern times, when
technology allowed for efficiently extracting oil from
grains and seeds. In many areas of the world most of
the fats used in cooking have been of animal origin
(lard, butter, and so on) and then used usually in very
reduced amounts. These traditional fats consist primarily
of monounsaturated fatty acids (as sesame and olive
oils) or short-chain saturated fats (as those contained
in butter and natural palm oil), that seem to be rather
neutral or favorable to the body, while recent vegetable
oils tend to shift the balance toward an excess of omega-6
Cuisine The above techniques converged
with many other factors in creating the traditional
cuisine of all the temperate areas of the world. The
traditional cuisine made the foods more palatable, provided
variety, assured balance in meals, and was frequently
at the base of any therapeutic intervention. All traditional
cuisine's developed a number of mainly vegetarian staple
dishes integrated with small quantities of animal food,
plus some animal food rich dishes reserved for special
feasts or occasions. The greatness of the traditional
cuisine has been in creating a healthy balance through
the combination of ingredients within each dish, at
the same time fully satisfying taste.
MACROBIOTIC EXPERIENCE -
It is useful to combine the data reassessed above with
the experience of our macrobiotic community, that encompasses
a period of about forty years. The following are some
frequently occurring examples, according to my experience
and those of several other macrobiotic teachers. In
my opinion, they are quite consistent with what comes
from the study of the evolutionary and traditional ways
1. The so called
Standard Macrobiotic Diet,
together with its adaptations to activity, climate,
sex, and so on, has shown a remarkable ability to help
the body discharge deposits from itself, fill frequent
nutritional gaps and generally create equilibrium in
the individual as a whole. This assured the recovery
for a great number of people from a vast range of ailments
- cardiovascular, autoimmune, allergies and all the
sickness so common today. Even with cancer, we all know
of people who succeeded in healing themselves through
macrobiotics, even if this makes even more paradoxical
the occurrence of this sickness in old macrobiotic friends.
This experience means that the yin-yang balance expressed
by the Standard Macrobiotic Diet, and the range of foods
included in it, are generally correct.
After a period of practice variable in length, many
individuals feel the need to widen their diet.
Some refrain from that in fear of creating trouble for
themselves, and frequently have problems later. Others
go ahead but don't know how to do it in a balanced way,
as the existing macrobiotic informational material or
events don't provide any help for that. So many of them
just introduce some foods to which they were once accustomed,
but in this way they create imbalance, new problems
and frequently then quit macrobiotics. A similar fate
meets those who confine the use of more extreme foods
to the secret realm of bingeing or the vague
one of from time to time use as this makes
it impossible to find a harmonious incorporation of
these needed foods in daily meals.
3. A substantial
number of long term macrobiotic practitioners and teachers
have probably already widened their diet in the direction
suggested in this article. However, this
remains a matter of individual (and somewhat secret)
choice, while the general recommendations for people
approaching the macrobiotic way of eating remain the
for too long a period to a diet that features a very
reduced amount and variety of animal foods and good
quality fats, as the Standard Macrobiotic Diet is presented
in most of the macrobiotic books and at events, can
create a number of problems.
These are easily solved by introducing those
foods and various condiments in more substantial amounts
and in a wider variety.
Practical examples: people that
heal themselves from some sickness through a balanced
standard diet and then, after a while, cannot sustain
their previous activity, especially if it includes physical
labor and staying outside during winter. Also children
who develop asthma or other immune problems if they
are not eating dairy or sugars, and recover when they
start consuming more animal food beyond fish.
Long term macrobiotic people and even
teachers who, after many years of practice, still try
to correct their craving for sweets by drinking sweet
vegetable broth, reducing the use of salt and avoiding
baked products, all without any effect, and more...
In all these cases, while the theoretical possibility
to widen the diet is a solid part of the macrobiotic
philosophy, these people (or their parents, in case
of children) believe that the solution must be found
within the Standard Macrobiotic Diet because they lack
the relative information, or because they don't receive
any encouragement to freely explore their real needs
from the macrobiotic community and teachers.
And we should not forget that, as reminded
in other contributions of mine to this "guide"
that the partial deficiency of vitamin B12 in a substantial
percentage of macrobiotic individuals is a documented
Taken together, all these facts suggest that, after
a cleansing and rebalancing period, the Standard Macrobiotic
Diet become too poor, especially in animal proteins
and fats, and in other nutrients contained in animal
foods. It is worth considering that vegetable protein-rich
foods traditionally consumed rather rarely, such as
tofu, tempeh and especially seitan, now have become
a staple for many people practicing a macrobiotic diet.
Since these individuals come from a diet rich in animal
proteins, they try to substitute them with the vegetable
ones, but the effect of large quantities of these foods
is dubious in the least. At the same time, they do not
really satisfy the need for animal foods and for the
nutrients contained in them.
Since the lack of fats and proteins of appropriate quality
often cause craving for sweets and sugars,while even
the best sources of sugar, as grain malts, should be
used only in very moderate amounts, this conditions
leads to a number of other problems.
5. With the
relative aging of the macrobiotic population some cases
of osteoporosis are now starting to emerge.
In a few cases this problem has occurred even in advance
of the normal expected age. This appears to be linked
to a lack of calcium in the diet probably mediated by
the constitution of the subject, and secondarily to
a lack of vitamin D, physical activity, and fats that
are needed in order to fully utilize vitamin D and calcium.
In general, less calcium is required by the body when
less animal protein is eaten, regular physical activity
is taken and exposure to the sun is frequent.
We definitely eat less animal protein than the general
population, but probably also too little calcium, especially
for the standard ability to use it in western populations.
While it is possible in theory to find all the needed
calcium also in a very well combined vegan diet, it
is very infrequent that such a strict level of perfection
can be assured for most of the time. This raises the
question of the opportunity to include a small quantity
of dairy, and/or other sources of calcium in the daily
diet, and the best way to do that.
Starting from the above considerations, here are some
proposals regarding general macrobiotic recommendations.
For the sake of clarity it is probably better to discuss
the style of eating suited to people living in temperate
climates, and I will proceed in this way thereafter.
- Taking example from an important sector of epidemiological
research, I would propose speaking about a macrobiotic
dietary pattern, instead of a macrobiotic
diet. Dietary pattern conveys the
idea of a general style of eating shared by a population
which relies prevalently on specific foods and culinary
traditions, . So we can speak of a western dietary
pattern, a traditional Mediterranean dietary
pattern a North- African dietary pattern
and so on. Speaking of a Macrobiotic Dietary Pattern
helps in making things less tight, suggesting the idea
of a group of people that follow a common way of eating
within which ample variation exists.
2. The Macrobiotic
Rebalancing Diet - Within this dietary
pattern, a clear difference should be made between the
general macrobiotic way of eating and the more focused
and rebalancing Standard Macrobiotic Diet. If we speak
of a macrobiotic dietary pattern as the
big picture within it we can evidence a more focused,
cleansing and rebalancing program called the Macrobiotic
Rebalancing Diet, or something similar, that corresponds
to the Standard Macrobiotic Diet and its adaptations.
This specific regimen can be effectively advised in
order to regain both health and the sensibility on which
the natural ability to intuitively create our own individual
diet can be built. At the same time, it should be clear
that this scheme is not the macrobiotic
way of eating, but only a specific form of it, suitable
for a rebalancing or training period.
3. The Macrobiotic
Dietary Pattern - The wider Macrobiotic
Dietary Pattern itself could be
defined according to:
A) The most important reference foods.
B) The concept of equilibrium in the
ingredients and preparation.
C) The concept of equilibrium in the
individual and their environment including personal
health status, age, activity,
In fact, what makes the difference between the macrobiotic
style of eating and the modern and even the traditional
style? The macrobiotic style is different because it
is based on foods suitable for the human being, consciously
chosen and prepared according to the balancing yin-yang
principle, and taking in to account who we are, where
we live and what we wish to realize in our life.
The modern way of eating is industry and economy driven,
while the traditional way represents the effort to use
the available foods in best the way possible for assuring
health and satisfying taste, but without the extreme
choice that we now have at our disposal. So the Macrobiotic
Dietary Pattern takes inspiration and learns its lessons
from the past, but it is something totally new, never
fully experimented with in human history, and adapted
for living in the present globalized and technological
world. Because of that we need to stay always open to
what we learn from our experience, and ready to change
according to the evolving conditions of life.
4. Foods in
the Macrobiotic Dietary Pattern
- Within this eating pattern, everybody should be encouraged
to find his own best choice and balance of foods, through
the study of yin-yang and macrobiotic cuisine, and through
personal experience. My suggestion is that the Macrobiotic
Dietary Pattern can be identified as based on whole
(with due exceptions) grains, vegetables and fruits
in season, a variety of fermented foods and mostly vegetable
condiments, completed by protein-rich foods of both
vegetable and animal quality. Among the last, the most
frequently consumed are beans and seafood, and more
rarely vegetable proteins, eggs, poultry and dairy.
Occasionally, any traditional food or beverage is consumed,
while strongly refined, industrial and chemically-loaded
foods are usually avoided. When available, organic foods
in food In the Macrobiotic Dietary
Pattern food is chosen and prepared according to the
yin-yang balancing principle that helps in creating
balance in the components of the diet. Much can be said
about this issue, taking inspiration from our experience
and from traditional, world cuisine. We should try to
offer some general principles that may help in creating
a balanced way of eating while including a little more
extreme (in terms of yin-yang) food, such as the use
of herbs, the best way to prepare specific animal food,
a general way of arranging proportions in the more important
groups of food (grains, vegetable, protein, etc.), the
acid-alkaline concept, and so on. For example, if we
believe that dairy can sometimes be useful, what is
the best ways of using it?
with the environment
looks at the revision of the Standard Macrobiotic Diet,
adapted in order to rely on a wider range of foods,
as stated in point 4.
In particular, the difference in the diets for people
engaged in physical or sedentary activities,or living
in urban or rural environments, should be made more
clear and practical, both from the nutritional and the
culinary standpoints. It is important that we make some
proposals more updated and precise also for what regards
the real nutritional needs of older people, considering
the aging of the populations living in industrialized
and pregnant mothers A specific reflection
is needed on pregnancy and the first years of life.
It is clear that a pregnant female or an infant have
very different nutritional needs than an adult, and
that in these periods of life advice must be sought
from competent therapists. However, perhaps we can come
to a certain consensus among ourselves regarding B12,
proteins, folic acid, and calcium, probably the most
sensitive nutrients in this period, or to the general
equilibrium of the diet during this time of life. I
would suggest that a moderate consumption of yogurt
and fermented cheeses, as an integration with other
vegetables sources of calcium, is good for a rapidly
growing body, especially if we are well aware that excess
does create problems.
We should also reconsider the macrobiotic
literature on this subject which clearly needs to be
the traditional fermented products from the World
Fermented products are a must for a grain based predominantly
plant diet. We still have not begun to learn from the
thousand of varieties of these wonderful products, developed
by all the world cultures, that could represent a way
to complete and balance our current daily nutrition.
Africa, Asia, Central America and traditional Europe
have all much to offer in this direction.
9. Way of living
Our macrobiotic proposal about eating must be
clearly presented as a more comprehensive proposal for
health that includes appropriate physical activity outdoors.
We always stated that this was the case but, as, generally,
we did not practice it very much, we frequently gave
very little attention to this subject in our daily work.
It should be clear to all of us also that if we eat
in the best way we cannot balance this with a sedentary
life spent indoors and make this fact part of our proposal
to individuals approaching the macrobiotic way of living.
These are but
a few ideas for discussion.
I am encouraged by the support received for my other
interventions, and I hope that this one can start a
useful, frank and specific discussion on these themes
among macrobiotic teachers and practitioners.
As this is already a long and thorough
article to read, I did not made a list of references
for what was stated in it. If requested, I can provide
them in a future contribution.
If this discussion takes off and something
interesting comes from it, it would be just great to
listen to the opinion of Michio on this subject. We
all owe our being here at this moment to his and Aveline's
tremendous effort in spreading this wonderful tool for
health in the world, and we can always learn very much
from his experience and intuition.
Our community has a deep experience
of the relationship between food and health, and we
have discovered much. We are now able to help many people
to live a more healthy life, to effectively prevent
many sicknesses and to regain their health when lost.
However, we must be aware that we have far more still
The cases of grave sickness happening to some of our
long time friends and teachers must not be explained
away, confining their reasons only to small errors in
the application of the diet, or only to individual stubbornness
and rigidity. Quite the contrary, they just show us
the limits of our understanding about the order of nature,
and about the ways to use food and other aspects of
everyday life in order to keep our health, in particular
with regards to cancer. They ask of us to go further,
and help us in learning more.
If we do not start from this awareness,
and instead we believe that all we need is to apply
better an already complete and perfect model of eating,
we cannot make progress and will begin to disappear
as a positive force in society.
About Carlo Guglielmo:
Carlo discovered macrobiotics in 1974, while
He was a medical student but then already very
critical of conventional medicine. He came pretty
close to the end of his studies, but he decided
to quit them just before getting his doctorate,
and threw himself into the macrobiotic adventure.
In 1978, together with his friends, He started
the East West Centre in Turin, Italy (The city
of the 2006 winter Olympics). His Centre rapidly
developed to include a restaurant, a store, a
small publishing company, while offering courses
and workshops on macrobiotics and natural health
and living. He started teaching macrobiotics and
advising people in Turin and all over Italy during
those years, so he now have almost thirty years
experience. In 1982 he qualified as an Associate
Teacher at the Kushi Institute.
In 1983 they organized a seminar in Turin for
Michio and Aveline, at that time a very inspiring
event for all the Italian macrobiotic community.
In 1987, He contributed to the foundation of
our natural foods distribution company, La
Finestra sul Cielo which is still very successful
today. From the beginning, they decided to stick
to a rigorous policy of quality, and He believes
that his company is one of the very few in the
world that has been able to thrive without selling
any refined sugar (included agave syrup and similar)
or dairy as ingredients of any of its hundreds
of all-organic products. (You can get an idea
of the company here: www.lafinestrasulcielo.it).
In 1989 He began to practice traditional Chinese
qigong, that in time made him understand much
better both the strong points and limits of my
macrobiotic experience and what qi really is.
In 1990 he wrote my first introductory book to
In 1992 he closed the East West Centre. He went
on giving consultations for a couple of years
more, and then dedicated himself totally to his
company, that he managed until 2000. This activity
helped him very much to develop a more practical
attitude and learn to put things in practice,
an attitude that it is sometimes neglected when
we limit ourselves to only educational activities.
However, his main interest was still in education
so, in 2001, he entrusted others with the management
of the company, still remaining a partner in it,
and returned to teaching and writing.
In 2005 Edizioni Mediterranee published His main
book Il grande libro dell'Ecodieta,
a 600 page work in which he apply both the scientific
approach and the yin-yang / macrobiotic one to
the issues of eating, prevention and recovery
The book has been presented to the Department for
Preventive Medicine of the National Cancer Institute
in Milan, thanks to the work done during the last
ten years. He also had the opportunity to get in
contact with, exchange ideas with and offer some
suggestions to the research team.
From Michael Rossoff --
I appreciate Carlo's enthusiasm for keeping the discussion
going. This is a key step in the revitalization of macrobiotics.
The only point that I want to add is this:
We need to embrace the simple truth that most people
eat for emotional, ingrained habit patterns and sexual
reasons. No matter how much nutrition a doctor knows
or how much yin-yang cosmology a macrobiotic practitioner
knows, they can be overruled by these deeper, primal
compulsions. The emotional realm makes sense because
on our first days of life we were given protection,
warmth, love and food. Whenever any of these is missing,
we will turn to food for comfort and primal security.
Our lifetime of food habits are often difficult to see
accurately or we may even be totally blind to them,
which can lead to addictive behavior. The sexual powers,
when frustrated or over-charged, can overwhelm the logical
mind. The chocolate industry is one of the main beneficiaries
Another reason for compulsive eating is that the main
diet is nutritionally unsound, which can be the case
with longtime, strict macrobiotic eating. In this case,
wider eating is the starting point along with supplements
A core way to change these is by acknowledging them.
Only then can we grow from there. For the emotional
eating, we can make better quality choices and be moderate.
Habits are challenging us to awaken and experiment with
change. And sexual tensions need soothing and transformation.
These are spiritual paths for self-development.
From Hans-Werner Heuser -- top^
In regard of the recent discussions on some hidden
dangers in the macrobiotic diet I want to bring some
attention on the problem of ACRYLAMIDE, which was recently
very much discussed in Germany.
Acrylamide is carcinogenic and it comes from long time
baking, long cooking and roasting on a high temperature.
Some practices which are know as yangenising may thus
led to cancer forming substances.
The issue is very new and I am not in the position to
give a deeper advice.
On the following links you can find more information:
-- > http://www.foodrisk.org/acrylamide.cfm
From Christina Pirello --
I love, adore and completely agree with carlos
it is time we step away from conceptual
living and actually live
not in theory, which always
sounds fine on paper, but in actual experiential living
persons practice is individual and guidelines
must reflect a dietary pattern not only for the sick,
but for the healthy and active, otherwise how will we
ever attract them? Perhaps it is my Italian heritage
that aligns me so easily with carlos thinking
love how my own practice differs when I am in Italy
Thanks for sending me the most interesting reading
From David Briscoe --
I think much of what Carlos has written is very timely
and important, and it may come as a surprise to many
that this is very similar in numerous ways to what Herman
and Cornellia Aihara taught for over 30 years. Unfortunately,
in my opinion, not enough macrobiotic students complimented
their understanding or training by studying with Herman
and Cornellia and other's of similar open outlook and
deep heart, so that what we have today is a somewhat
incomplete view of what macrobiotics can be. I am very
happy to see macrobiotics becoming a multi-faceted approach,
encouraging people toward creative thinking and application
of its principles. Could it be that through voices like
Carlos' we are finally hearing Ohsawa's message more
clearly and moving forward toward new horizons based
on our own understanding?
I would like to invite all who are interested in exploring
what Carlos has written and more, to join me in Antwerp,
Belgium this July at the annual three weeks of daily
macrobiotic events sponsored by Jan and Mieke Vervecken.
If enough are interested, we can create sessions specifically
to address the issues Carlos has presented and explore
the on-going creative evolution of macrobiotics. Please
contact me for more information.
From Steve Acuff --
Carlo has written an excellent summary of the important
issues facing macrobiotics today.I have a few thoughts
1. Grains are not generally acid-forming, as the potassium
content makes them alkaline. The problem lies with the
refined grains which do not have the minerals of whole
2. Cod liver oil has a long tradition as a reliable
source of vitamin D, which is a problem in the "Standard
Macrobiotic Way of Eating". It should be included
in the updated recommendations for the dark months of
the year in temperate and cool climates, as the sun
is too weak to provide it then.
3. The medium-chain fatty acids of natural coconut
oil support health in several unique ways and coconut
oil should be part of these new recommendations. It
contains beneficial lauric acid and is much better than
palm oil. The general fat phobia in macrobiotics should
be replaced by recommendations to eat generous portions
of healthy fats and oils, including extra virgin olive
4. If yoghurt and cheese are included, these should
be made from sheep and goat milk rather than cow milk,
which has much more harmful potential. Also it is easier
to get non-pasteurized dairy products from sheep and
goat milk than from cow milk. Pasteurized dairy food
should not be included in the program.
5. It should be clearly stated in the recommendations
that pork should be avoided. Pigs eat almost anything
and pork is not a healthy form of animal food.
6. It should be clearly stated that unfermented soy
foods such as tofu and soy milk should be avoided, as
they contain lots of phytic acid which blocks mineral
absorption. Fermented soy products such as miso, tamari
and tempeh are OK only in small quantities, as the thyroid-inhibiting
phytoestrogens of soy are not broken down by fermentation.
From Phiya Kushi -- top^
If Carlo is responding to Michio's Standard Dietary
suggestions (a/k/a the "pie chart") then I
think he should know that Michio has revised that presentation
many years ago into a pyramid that includes red meat
and dairy as optional. The "Great Life Pyramid"
can viewed on this website:
and was developed in conjunction with nutritional reseachers
at Columbia University (actually, my brother, but it
sounds more impressive that way, doesn't it?).
From Ed Esko --
Macrobiotic dietary practice is a constantly evolving
process. It is something that we need to continually
re-evaluate and change according to our changing needs.
Let us continually strive to deepen our understanding
and make our understanding universally applicable. Efforts
such as this are to be applauded.
From Simon G. Brown --
I agree with much of Carlos thinking and it surprisingly
similar to the ideas that I had whilst writing Modern
Day Macrobiotics. I would like to add a few thoughts.
My feeling is that macrobiotics should be as experiential
as possible and be as free as possible from concepts.
I have written about this before but let me say again,
there are no concepts that accurately match the real
world in all situations. Most are just approximations
that work some of the time. Some of them are so poorly
thought out they are no more than opinions. The more
concepts we believe in the harder it is to live in the
moment. We create an internal reality filter that matches
real life experiences with our most cherished beliefs
and risks favouring our pet theories at the expense
of real life experience. This edges us closer to a world
of delusions. Somewhere I think we as macrobiotic people
have been close to at different times. To move macrobiotics
forward we only need very few concepts and those should
be flexible, open and not bound by any culture or history.
To make this happen we have to move away from people
sitting down taking notes in a classroom setting (which
will inevitable perpetuate and even adds to the problem)
and shift to a more open, free thinking, experimental,
experiential sharing of macrobiotics where we learn
from each other.
Going back and looking at ancient diets is interesting
and help understand humans relationship to food, however,
it is most important to see this relationship as a process.
I think macrobiotics could be more free and current.
Rather than being dragged backwards by arguments over
what different cultures ate at different times we have
the resources and experience to say what eating macrobiotically
means now. It needs to be current and applicable to
modern living. Carlos point about acid and alkaline
is a good example. The traditional macrobiotic diet
was probably acid forming. Grains, beans and fish (acid
forming not to mention alcohol, cigarettes and
coffee!) made up most of the diet and this needs to
be balanced with a similar or greater amount of vegetables
and fruit as a general guide to be slightly alkaline
forming. Guidelines should evolve to reflect lessons
learnt. For this to happen it is essential to be open
minded and not attached to any concepts. Let concepts
and principles be the result of experience not lead
it or worse colour it. The process of evolution in terms
of our relationship with our food is ongoing, it is
still happening now. To be a part of it macrobiotics
has to be free to change and develop. The whole idea
of acid and alkaline is very topical and current as
there are indications that cancer cells find it harder
to survive in a more alkaline environment.
One of the things that I think held the development
of macrobiotics back from the 1970s through the 1990s
was the idea the we could cure cancer and all you had
to do was eat macrobiotically and if you did it properly
you would recover. (If you didnt recover it was
your fault not the diet) .This gave out the message
that here was the perfect diet. Development stopped
in many peoples mind. Of course this is not true
and it may be that this more open, honest phase of discussion
is the realisation that it is not true, people eat really
well and sometimes do not recover, people who have eaten
macrobiotically for thirty or more years do sometimes
developed cancers. There is still work to be done and
quite a lot of catching up. In my view and experience
a modern version of the macrobiotic diet has amazing
healing properties. However, we do not live in a black
and white world, it is not all or nothing. Eating well
may increase your chance of recovery from an illness
and will reduce the risk of getting ill, but only by
a percentage. By how much we do not know. Reducing the
incidence of cancer for example by 50% would be a huge
success, 5% would be disappointing. I suspect it is
somewhere in-between, perhaps 30%. It is therefore not
particularly surprising when some of our community fall
ill and die prematurely. Of course there may be lessons
to be learnt but we have to be realistic. The boasts
that eating macrobiotically was the best insurance policy
you could have, just made us appear arrogant and without
a humble spirit, stunted evolution and development of
the whole movement.
From Jacques Mittler --
It is true that many adepts (and teachers too) widen
their macrobiotic diet after a while. So did I,
of course ! But really, I feel much more concerned by
how a macrobiotic practice can contribute to our personal
and spiritual evolution, what is definitely its original
Are the changes we can observe in our diets simply
caused by some physiological needs ?
In fact, what I think is:
- There is obviously a connection between food and diseases.
- The most common conclusion (for macrobiotic people)
is that unbalanced food creates illnesses.
- Of course, we can succeed in curing many illnesses
by changing our food.
Then, why do so many people feel the need of widening
their diet and then go into new troubles ?
My answer is that we don't only eat proteins, vitamins,
etc., but, and it is the most important to my mind,
we eat and assimilate the specific qualities of the
- If people are still attracted (evenly addicted) to
certain foods, it means that unsatisfied desires are
still remaining in their psychological and deep beliefs.
- Those desires are related to a need of identification
with some subtle qualities of the vegetal or animal
beings we eat.
To be short, I would say that we eat according to what
we want to be (or to become): if what we want to be
(or to become) doesn't develop in a spiritual direction,
it is logical that we'll soon come back to our previous
As a conclusion, eating the "perfect" way
is not enough to provide a true "health".
Macrobiotics is intended to improve our judgment. But
who speaks or teaches about judgment to day ?
From Verne Varona --
I like Carlo's contributions. He's questioning and
experimenting. This is the Non-Credo spirit. Bravo,
At the same time I am a bit weary of immediately embracing
recent nutritional paradigms, or whatever the current
nutritional rage might be, whether it be corn oil avoidance,
the benefits of balanced omega's, exotic anti-oxidant
juices from unfamiliar fruits grown in remote lands,
etc. Over the last 20 years, I have been a co-founder
and director of a busy Los Angeles medical clinic, worked
as a keynote at a number of medically-sponsored expositions,
wrote a book on cancer prevention that is frequently
used as a text book in alternative teaching centers
(currently in an eighth printing), taught alternative
medicine at physician retreats, continue to take nutritional
courses and currently am part of a popular medical clinic
where I offer pat-time nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
So, I am no stranger to nutraceuticals, newly emerging
nutritional theories, esoteric alternative treatments
or cultural folk medicine. However, the advantage I
feel in examining new information has much to do with
what I originally learned from the polarity principles
I think that macrobiotic teachers need to be more responsible
in keeping up with what develops in the field of nutrition.
We need to carefully discern when modern nutrition should
take precedent over traditional cultural theories. I've
seen macrobiotic clients who consistently had assimilation
problems make dramatic recoveries after using temporary
but discreet use of supplements and a more flexible
diet guideline. And conversely, I've seen clients who
were taking supplements until they were coming out of
their ears, improve greatly, when they stopped all supplementation
and began a basic grain/vegetable/bean/sea vegetable
approach with daily exercise. There can really be no
one-size-fits-all paradigm for either approach. If we
really want to be taken seriously within the scientific
community, we should be able to back up what we say
with scientific reference and not rely on anecdotal
musings from the converted, or lofty energetic theories
that are really simple suppositions.
Many macrobiotics convey a self-righteous indignation
for things scientific. Our rational is that it's reductionistic
(sees a part and thus, misses the whole perspective)
and thus invalid. However, by shunning science, or dismissing
it for posturing in wordy academics, we end up suffering
from a conceptual myopia. Maccrobiotics often holds
to concepts that are unproven, yet make energetic sense,
at least philosophically. But there's a limit to the
practicality of all that. I once heard a speaker say,
"don't worry about calcium, we can transmute the
stuff--just eat a lot of greens." But, with all
due respect to the theories of Louis Kervran, this is
not always the case. In fact, not everyone has the same
absorptive abilities. Additionally, what we eat in with
green vegetables might help us to better absorb some
of its minerals. These are called synergistic co-factors
trace minerals within the calcium matrix that help digest
or better absorb calcium. Some of these ingredients
may be Vitamin D3, boron, or magnesium. We can get these
from foods or from supplements, depending on one's digestive
capability. To really support people in their health,
we need to be sensitive to their conditions and sometimes
regard nutritional support as a push for that car with
a low battery that sometimes just needs a jump start.
The macrobiotic preference is to use deduction, as
opposed to induction, as a reasoning tool. Deduction
means to begin with a principle and gathers data to
confirm those principles. We do this with the Yin-Yang
principle. For instance, if we look most conditions
that are characterized as inflammatory, such as arthritis
or acid reflux, our recommendation is to avoid foods
classified as "Yin." Many of these so-called
yin foods have an expansive effect, as we have been
taught. That is, they have a structural effect, once
in the blood, of making tissue swell. Truth be told,
this has been demonstrated in many studies. Sugar, is
a reliable example. It can foster inflammation, diminish
our mineral status and promote the growth of harmful
gut bacteria (anaerobic) within the intestine. Some
of the nightshade vegetables, particularly tomatoes
(botanically, actually a fruit) and peppers also foster
inflammationnot across the board, but in certain
people. If we look at the condition of acid reflux (aka:
GERG - Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disorder), where stomach
acids and the breakdown of these foods generate increased
acidity is not only with acids--it's their vapors that
can aggravate. Rising vapors can harm Esophageal tissuue.
Often, this can cause asthmatic symptoms, ulceration,
bad breath and chest pains, also colloquially known
Induction, the basis of science, means to draw conclusions
by gathering data and then formulating a principle.
This method can create a colossal headache because it
continually contradicts itself. Inductive reasoning
looks at lycopene (found most abundantly in red fruits
and vegetables) and says, "studies show that lycopene
is beneficial for the prostate, so individuals with
prostate cancer should plenty of tomatoes." Recently,
I heard a physician on the radio recommending that people
with prostate problems regularly eat pizza. Tell me
this isn't crazy. While lycopene might be helpful, the
acids from the tomatoe are not, and this is an obvious
failing of inductive reasoning in nutrition. Matter
of fact, this is why you have so many opposing nutritional
theories--everybody seems to be looking at individual
parts and not the whole. Same for green tea. It's suggested
that we drink it for the benefit of catacholemines--beneficial
cancer-fighting substances. However, research suggest
that we need 4 to 6 cups to get an adequate "protective"
amount. This amount of caffeine from brewed green tea
(120 to 150 mg. for 4 cups) can, in the long run, weaken
adrenal function (critical for immunity) and stimulate
tumor growth in someone with advanced cancer. We're
so busy looking at parts, we can't see the whole. No
wonder everybody seems so confused.
I've hard and read statements made by macrobiotic counselor's,
that no matter how personalized they seem, make little
practical or scientific sense. If they are called to
the mat, they arrogantly claim that science is fragmented
medicine and only symptomatic. I get the feeling that
exposing their ignorance would interfere with their
Utopian ideal of how things work according to their
Order of the Universe. It should never be a case of
them or us when we're talking about conventional nutrition.
We really need to find some kind of balance. The premise
of a documentary that I'm working on currently is to
explain that our western medicine is essentially crisis-oriented.
If you get hit by a bus, you need ER care, immediately
and not an herbalist--at least not in an immediate sense.
But as someone who has been on both sides, as a patient
and as a health consultant, prevention and maintenance
is up to you. MD's are simply not educated. And, what
would you expect for an average office visit of 6 to
Publically, I no longer use the word's yin and yang
but other more descriptive terms according to what I'm
examining. If I'm looking a certain condition in a client
that is inflamed, I don't think "yin." I think
inflamedcharacterized by expanded tissue. Simple.
Certain foods promote inflammation: sugar, overeating,
alcohol, yeast, excessive muscle movement, spices or
anything chemically toxic. Instead of thinking what
we may take to reduce the inflammation, we need to first
think of avoiding what aggravates. First sooth (halt
progressive symptoms) and then heal (by dietary recommendations
and either herbal, supplement or external remedy techniques).
Using esoteric terms from Chinese medicine or macrobiotic
jargon only alienate--especially if its from another
culture, be it Japanese or East Indian. Make your explanations
simple and direct so that more people can understand
Carlo's proposal for using the compound word: "dietary
pattern," is nobel, but for me, too abstract. If
you have to think about an alternate meaning for a word
that you hear it creates more intellectual work. I feel
its too vague.
My evolving education is convicted that the essential
elements of a macrobiotic-oriented diet are sound, however
must be personalized, sometimes with more transitional
foods from their past, or more permissive foods to make
the transition or one of gradual change without the
typical physical denial that many later feel. Sometimes,
we need more animal protein, sometimes digestive help
for assimilation, often more movement to heat up our
body and promote circulation; sometimes with more cooking
styles, more textures and more tastes. This understanding
from the basic nutritional Chinese nutritional approach
can do much to help people transition without the stress
of cravings. It's always a practice of fitting the cure
to the patient. There can be no generic approach.
I believe that the percentage of whole grains ("50-60%)
recommended to people just getting into a macrobiotic
diet is excessive. I have been very successful introducing
people to whole grain, but recommending different combinations
of grains, minimizing the use of gluten grains (absolute
minimum on barley, sweet rice, wheat, rye, oats, corn--especially
for clients that already are plagued with allergies,
obesity, asthma or sinus problems) and also minimizing
bread, and grain products. I never recommend seitan.
It is pure gluten and for many, a big problem, particularly
those with leaky gut or digestive sensitivity.
Many nutritional or science statements you hear in
lectures or macrobiotic books, have their origins with
Kushi or Ohsawa. Counselor responses or rebuttals are
often laden with faulty chemistry, nutritional idealism,
cultural mis-information and a general absence of heart.
That's because the philosophy, rule observance and general
concepts all conspire to keep you in your head. It's
not intentional and this is not a negative thing. It's
frankly, more cultural. Our Asian brothers and sisters
are not adept at navigating the world of emotions. It
was just not a part of their culture--at least not openly.
Having undergone a communication renaissance in the
last 25 years of western culture and unmasked the important
role of emotions in healing, we now know how intertwined
our emotional systems are with our physical health.
They are inseparable, as is our spiritual health. To
me, spiritual health always relates to the kind and
amount of faith a client has; faith in themselves, faith
in a purpose, faith that there might actually be an
order to this universe. Ultimately, it becomes a condition
where faith is replaced with fear. Ohsawa spoke about
this when he succinctly said that, "if you know
yin and yang you'll never be out of a job" and
advising that macrobiotics will all you to always know
how to recover your health--the foundation of our happiness
Some of the dictates from Kushi and Ohsawa were made
confidently because their personal barometer of measurement
was based on their concept of energy, meridian flow
and diagnostic associations from pre-natal development,
etc. Asserting value by adding science to macrobiotic
teachings was usually an afterthought, and more often
typically inaccurate or simplistically general, at that.
Naturally, everyone following tends to repeat the same
thingit's like a game of telephone where down
the line you know the message is going to get distorted.
Ohsawa said smoking was not good or bad but produced
a yin or yang effect. Michio said the same, but no longer
promotes, or seems permissive about it. You get the
impression from Micho that he's just tired of being
asked about it and accepts that it's his own thing that
he is simply not interested in dealing with it regardless
of what specialists, research or the people around him
say. And, Frankly, that's his business. While many counselors
have stopped smoking, some still do, but have very lame
and strange abstract reasonings (which make no sense)
for why they continue to smoke and how they're minimizing
its negative effects. It's an addiction and anti-spiritual,
as it keeps us anything but free, since we become dependent
on its stimulative qualities and its effect on blood
Reducing the addictive use of powerful carcinogens
to a matter of philosophical extremes, supposedly justified
it's use for "balancing" purposes. We used
to hear that holding the cigarette pointed up will burn
off "the purple smoke" --that being the more
carcinogenic "yin smoke." I think someone
was just being creative here, as both ends produce toxicity.
Many of us who used to smoke would imitate our teachers
by holding our cigarettes at an angle, burning end up.
Get a macrobiotic smoker involved in a game of full
court basketball and watch them wheeze and wonder where
their breath went.
Whether or not we should have animal protein in our
diets depends on a number of factors. Personally, I
eat a little as possible--and that might be white meat
fish, but I have to be feeling pretty run down to eat
it. Yet, I will recommend all types of animal protein
to some clients and for others, passionately suggest
that they take a breather from it and go vegetarian
for a brief experimental period. I think that what we
recommend to people has to take into account their previous
diet. We also should ask the standard health practitioner
question that reveal much about their immediate health;
their appetites, moods, cravings, energy levels, sleep
quality, humor, complexion, bowel movement, blood sugar
sensitivity, etc. To rely on facial diagnosis is a big
mistake, as many aspects of diagnosis show future potential
or past indulgences. For current conditions, we have
to rely more on complexion, emotional states, questioning
them, tongue textures and color and assorted facial
For counseling, there can be no real rules, as our
conditions and needs are always changing. I have about
four different templates I initially recommend, but
this is just a base. It becomes customized as we do
follow-up and this is how a dietary approach becomes
personalized. To just throw out a pie-plate recommendation,
give 40 recipes and tell them to chew well and sing
a happy song, can often be self-defeating.
It is truly amazing to look at an individuals diet
record for a week and see what choices they make. Often
these choices are instinctive, compulsive, convenient
or just from habit. Welcome to the real world. For many
people that have suddenly stopped animal protein, they
should be aware that the first casualty of animal protein
reduction is a heightened sensitivity to sweets and
acid-residue based foods. If a person suddenly stops
animal protein and particularly the use of salt, they
must make an immediate adjustment in the amount of all
"yin" related foods as well; chocolate, sugar,
carob, nightshades, overeating, vinegars, oils, fruit
juices, etc. Particularly in vegetarian and raw good
groups, I see the common condition of pale complexions,weak
muscle tone, diminished sexuality, depression, irregular
bowels, blood sugar sensitivity, etc. I think this is
because that while they have made immediate changes
in their animal protein consumption, their sweet and
acid-related food consumption has remained the same.
Initially, they might feel great, but eventually it
catches up with them.
What we may have to overcome, in the large picture
sense, is to redefine what we have been taught. So many
seem afraid to think outside the proverbial macrobiotic
box. The only way to really find out what is working
is to continue pursuing your own health refinement and
following-up on your clients. Question them--relentlessly.
They are our teachers.