Living in Japan, especially in Tokyo being under pressure is the norm as we move in and out of our daily activities on super-tight schedules. More than that, we have to do it with grace and poise knowing how much etiquette and mannerism play a crucial role in regular interactions. After all, appearances and first impressions remain key factors in determining our chances to reach our goals.
Such condition compelled me to introduce and rectify some misconceptions about macrobiotic cuisine, a type of gastronomy/philosophy, developed in Japan late in the 1900 century which can be very helpful in obtaining a balanced and more “productive” lifestyle.
What does macrobiotic means
Macrobiotic has its root derivation from the Greek; “macro” meaning great, and “bios” meaning life. Beside eliminating all kind of refined ailments from dieting, the concept of macrobiotic studies the relationship between food and energy. It incorporates and observes the effects that nutrients, environment, activities, and attitudes have on our body, mind, emotional states.
A brief history
The term macrobiotic was first used in food and health context by Hufeland, a German physician, in his book The Art of Prolonging Human Life (1797). His approach was academic wand considered macrobiotics a philosophy aimed at prolonging and perfecting quality of life. It took almost another century before a Japanese military doctor Sagen Ishizuka following up on Hufeland research started having great success in helping people recovering from their serious health problems. He applied his research in macrobiotic and prescribed a diet based on the use of in season local produces, no red or white meat and occasionally fish.
Under the teaching of Sagan Ishizuka was Nyoiti Sakurazawa who moved to France and changed his name to George Oshawa. In Paris he started sharing his message about nutrition as well as learning more about the local literature and developed into a proficient writer in both French as well as Japanese. After publishing several books and becoming well known for his work on macrobiotic and after spending several years abroad he returned to Japan and continue his teachings and researches.
Controversy and macrobiotics
Like many other philosophy born under one star and morphed into a movement, macrobiotic is not immune from controversy and misconceptions. For instance Macrobiotic is said to be a deficient diet. A common misconception is that the macrobiotics diet does not provide enough calcium because it does not include milk and dairy foods. Macrobiotic diet is rich in calcium as it includes: seaweeds, carrots, green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds are all abundant sources of calcium.
The myth of B12
Another misconception is that vegetarians and macrobiotics diet lack vitamin B12. For the most part western diets retrieve the essential nutriment from meat products. This rare vitamin is actually also produced by molds, fungi and bacteria. It can be found in several vegetarian and macrobiotics foods, including fermented foods such as natto beans, tempeh, miso and home-made olives and pickles.
Consider for a moment taking one step back today and slow down your pace to be able to take two step forward tomorrow with a refreshed mind and a refueled body. Ancient Romans use to say “Mens sana in corpore sano” to indicate a sound mind in a sound body and macrobiotic can help you to achieve just that. Plus you can help yourself by taking a trip to the country side or the seaside sometimes or more simply by taking a walk in a park.
On a very personal note
Like many other concept cuisine, see vegetarian, vegan, raw, etc. taken to an extreme is never something I will recommend. However with some poise and moderation as well as breaking “the rules” from time to time, macrobiotic can be beneficial to your overall health.