Are there other foods or food groups to be avoided?
In general the macrobiotic diet shuns strict rules about what can and can’t be eaten, because it emphasizes individuals using their own intuitions about what foods promote wellness for them. The canons of the macrobiotic diet are simply provided to give people a good guide when they’re starting.
Because the macrobiotic diet is primarily focused on high quality, locally grown and organic food that doesn’t produce any adverse side effects on the body, red meat, dairy, highly caffeinated drinks, nightshade vegetables, alcohol, very powerful spices and processed foods are frequently looked down upon because they’re too concentrated, low quality, or do not provide adequate balance to the body. But the macrobiotic diet is not strictly vegan, even though it does share many similarities with it. Traditional macrobiotic diets have allowed for fish and even some other types of meat if they are high quality, lean and free of preservatives.
What are the drawbacks to macrobiotic eating?
Sometimes it can be difficult to go macrobiotic and still get enough vitamin B12 and iron, although traditional macrobiotic foods contain these nutrients in enough quantity to nourish the body.
For many people, a transition to an unprocessed whole-foods based diet can be a big adjustment. Transitioning to the diet often requires a lot of cooking, which some people may be unaccustomed to. And since macrobiotics is also about a lifestyle, social circumstances can play a large role in how successfully you can adjust to such a diet. Is your spouse ready to make the jump with you? Does a busy work schedule seem to militate against a transition to a buddhist approach to living and eating? But even though that makes it seem daunting, it’s important to understand that a macrobiotic diet is supposed to be personal, so it can always be adapted to your unique situation.
I read there’s a focus on chewing?
Yes, the macrobiotic diet consists of large amounts of whole grains and vegetables that have very complex carbohydrates, which typically require enzymes that are contained in the mouth to be fully digested. Chewing dutifully ensures your body is absorbing the most nutrients possible from your foods, and swallowing food in a liquid form allows food to be digested lightly and ensures the food you eat won’t put your body out of balance.
Anything advice for someone starting out, or places to find more info, recipes, etc.?
My biggest piece of advice: Even though the macrobiotic diet might seem “weird” or a little kooky and a huge adjustment……relax! It’s actually quite inviting. At the heart of the diet and lifestyle is a recognition of the need for inner wellness and peace, and it’s meant to be flexible. There are actually no hard and fast rules to follow and most macrobiotic diets shun the overly strict “eat this and not that” byzantine directions that seem to accompany most eating regimens.
If you’re looking for good resources I’d recommend the cookbook written by Mayumi Nishimura, who’s a very accomplished macrobiotic chef. Michio Kushi is also a public evangelist for the power of the macrobiotic diet who’s books are very good.
This is the first in what I intend to be a series of ‘Diets Decoded’ posts here at Blisstree, each exploring the basic principles, pros and cons of a different diet. Stay tuned.