Animal & Dairy Food in Macrobiotic Diets
Is there a need for animal and dairy foods in macrobiotic practice? Macrobiotics is not a traditional way of eating, but it is traditionally based on patterns established by the world’s long standing civilizations. I find it fascinating that these civilizations were plant-based, whose mainstays were grains, beans, vegetables and soups, supplemented by pickled, and fermented foods. These civilizations included animal and dairy foods in varying degrees, but mostly in limited quantities, and not daily.
We acknowledge and respect these traditions and patterns as well as the people who created them. Macrobiotic philosophy allows us to evaluate and understand whether or not these practices are still necessary or beneficial. It should be widely agreed based on both empirical evidence of changes to the human body based on diet and sedentary lifestyles, as well as on the numerous studies that have been done to show the negative impacts of a meat and dairy heavy diet. Most would likely agree that the amount of these items that the average household consumes is simply too high. So, we are focusing this discussion more on whether a limited amount is okay for a macrobiotic lifestyle.
Beyond Personal Health
Macrobiotics considers not only personal health, but social and environmental health. Considering there are more than seven billion people today on the planet, what one person or group does has an effect on everyone else. We can no longer separate ourselves from the environment. It becomes more apparent every day that we can not support a global population of meat-eaters. I think it is important to consider what macrobiotic practitioners recommend to others. Animal and dairy food recommendations can potentially influence thousands if not millions of people. The question for us today is: what place do they have in our present and future practices?
Over the years, the nutritional content of foods has diminished. This has lead some to think supplements and/or animal and dairy foods should be included in a plant-based diet. I question this because macrobiotic children, in almost every case, are stronger and brighter than their friends who are not practicing this way. In addition, my clients are still recovering from terminal illnesses on plant-based diets without nutritional supplements and animal and dairy foods.
How are these things possible if food can no longer nourish us? The changes in our food, activity, and lifestyle practices, especially since World War II, have created the need for a more conscious effort to be well-nourished in a vegan/plant-based practice. In general, people need more variety and high quality plant-based protein in their diets. So a focus on adding a well-balanced fruit, vegetable, nut, and legume diet should really be more important than asking whether meat and dairy should be limited. But, as we know, this is an important topic for many reasons even beyond health — the ethics of food are another topic altogether that we will address separately at another time.
There are instances where animal and dairy foods may be considered appropriate. People in Northern climates with long, dark winters may need to include some animal foods in addition to fish. The Inuit people in certain cases, people have become depleted from a lengthy, restrictive vegan/macrobiotic practice, or from excessive medical treatments, or from certain illnesses.
In these cases, animal and/or dairy foods may be necessary for certain periods of time to help people reestablish their health. The point is, in these instances, animal and dairy foods are recommended as transitional foods for a temporary period to recover digestive and overall health. But, this should not be misconstrued with the promotion of a high-fat, red meat diet that includes unhealthy cooking practices like adding butter and cheese to those meals. Even these scenarios must be looked at with a goal of moderation, first, followed by attention to the rest of the diet. Healthy foods aren’t just ignored when a recommendation of altering a diet happens.
Macrobiotics has the potential to guide us toward a healthy, productive future, for ourselves and the planet. I believe it is important to use our combined efforts to discover and develop the ways that are best suited for everyone. Under most circumstances, we can get through all four seasons without the need to consume meat or dairy. And, everyone’s starting point is different. So, it is important to take a personal look at your own starting point and constantly move more towards health as much as you can. Don’t think about different foods as either a “good” food or a “bad” food. Rather, try to add as much diversity to your diet and begin to listen to what your body is telling you it needs.
For further help with getting in tune with your body and it’s unique nutritional needs, schedule a Macrobiotic consultation with me and I will be happy to help you meet yourself where you are while still focusing on where you want to go with your personal health.