Happy eating! Photo and food by Susan Waxman

Photo by Susan Waxman

This list from U.S. News & World Report ranked what they consider the healthiest overall diets. The diets were ranked using the following standards: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, diabetes management, heart health management, ease of compliance, nutritional completeness, and safety/health risks. Macrobiotics ranked 26th out of 35 on the list among others such as the flexitarian, vegan, Atkins, and Mediterranean, to name a few. Criticisms about the macrobiotic diet were all cloaked in the many myths that surround this way of eating and living. I believe that now is a good time to look at some of the myths regarding the practice of macrobiotics.

Macrobiotics should be rated as number one because of the substantial benefits gained in the areas of short/long term weight loss, diabetes management, heart health, and nutritional completeness. In addition, there are marked improvements in physical vitality, mental alertness, an increased sense of gratitude, as well as anti-aging effects. Macrobiotics has never been more timely a choice given the rapid increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other degenerative illness. A common perception is that macrobiotics is a restrictive and highly rigid way of eating. However, the practice itself is the most flexible and varied way of eating that can be adapted and integrated into the life of any person.

Macrobiotics is the oldest, yet simultaneously most progressive way of eating because it is based on the dietary patterns of the world’s longest standing civilizations. Meals are based around the selection and preparation of grains, beans, vegetables, soups, naturally pickled and fermented foods, and mild beverages. A variety of other plant-based foods can also be included such as nuts, seeds, fruits, and natural sweeteners. While the majority of the practice is vegan, some also choose to include fish or other animal foods. Within these “food groups,” there is endless possibility for varying and combining flavors, using different cooking styles, and working within one’s particular climate. Macrobiotics is often hard to understand because the lifestyle puts as much emphasis on how we eat. We also emphasize other lifestyle practices (such as walking outside and developing a deep sense of appreciation for life) that goes far beyond the scope of modern definitions of diet.

Furthermore, our approach places emphasis on what you add and do, not on what you take away or don’t do. There is no end to adding, you can always discover a new cuisine, or vegetable, or way to prepare a grain. Adding leads to more openness, variety, and flexibility. You can start out simply by eating one meal with a macrobiotic format every week. A part time practitioner will still derive beneficial effects. These principles can be practiced at home or at restaurants. In addition, if you don’t want to change food choices right away, you can begin with altering your lifestyle practices. Increasing healthy activity also increases a taste for healthy foods. Because health is a direction and not a fixed state, healthy foods and activities create cravings for other healthy foods and activities. As we move closer to health, unhealthier foods and lifestyle practices naturally fade away.

Originally, macrobiotics centered around a Japanese style of cuisine. Although many of these foods and cooking styles are still included, we have opened up macrobiotic practice to include foods and cuisines from around the world. Now we can enjoy the full range of the unique dishes and cooking styles that have been developed and passed down from all the world’s cultures. Combining macrobiotic principles of preparation with these dishes and cuisines transforms foods into deeply nourishing, enjoyable meals. By adding more variety and flexibility to the preparations of meals and individual food choices, macrobiotic cuisine is potentially the healthiest way a person can eat.

The book “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” demonstrates a comprehensive approach to health that combines diet and eating habits with healthy lifestyle practices. The recommendations that are common practices in the macrobiotic lifestyle are continuously becoming validated by science. For a long time, macrobiotic practice has been perceived as the cancer recovery diet, when it is actually an orderly approach to life and eating that allows us to attain the highest degree of health. It is the best way of eating for all aspects of life, from pregnancy to old age.

It is my belief that if U.S. News had accurate knowledge about our approach to macrobiotic practice, it would score number one. Hopefully one day, diet and health can be measured by the seven steps that I’ve outlined in my book more than seven physical indicators of health and resistance to illness.

For more information about the macrobiotic principles that guide the practice, visit the webpage for The Strengthening Health Institute.