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About eating only rice

In one of the early macrobiotic books we find this story about one student asking George Ohsawa:

“Should a person, to gain total freedom, eat only rice?” The young man who asked the question had already asked it three times during the past two years.

“A free person can eat anything, and it will not do him any harm. Still, yes, eating only rice will give him total freedom. But you live here in a city, and the air is bad, everything is very bad, like the vegetables which are chemically grown. Ideally, one should live on rice, in the mountains, in healthful air. However, one should never eat only rice without consulting me or some friends who know about it. You must eat and enjoy food. To eat only rice is a big decision.” [1]

This story introduces a controversial topic of the macrobiotics movement. After consulting Ohsawa’s lessons, one may think that eating only whole rice is the one and only aim of all those people who practice macrobiotics. 

Oshawa shows a chart with a series of diets in his book Macrobiotic Zen. This is the chart in question:

Ohsawa's diets

He adds that, with diet number 7, any person can get rid of any disease; “if your case is not too critical” [2]

What would you think after reading Ohsawa’s book?

Throughout the years, in different occasions, the macrobiotic diet has been accused of being a strict diet, that entails a serious hazard for our health. That is not the experience of thousands of people who follow his recommendation, and it wasn’t my own experience either. However, in some cases, there still remains an aura of criticism that has to do more with isolated and remote events than with the current practice of it. Aveline Kushi describes in one of her books and episode that may be the origin of the prejudices that people have nowadays about the macrobiotic diet. It says so:

Beth Ann Simon, a young woman living in New Jersey, read Zen Macrobiotics. After experiencing with an all brown rice diet, she grew thinner and thinner. Refusing medication, she ultimately died. The case became a cause célèbre. Government officials, medical doctors, and the national media condemned macrobiotics […]

What was the truth behind this tragic case? In Zen Macrobiotics, George Ohsawa described ten levels of the macrobiotic diet, ranging from number -3 to number 7. […] In the book and his lectures, Ohsawa stated taht eating only brown rice for ten days would heal practically any sickness. He said it would also bring spiritual benefits. Macrobiotics gained the reputation of being the all brown rice diet.

In truht, brown rice and other cereal grains are a wonderful, nourishing food. They have been used in the Orient and many other parts of the world for thounsands of years for keeping daily health and for relieving sickness. However, brown rice or other grain is very rarely eaten only by itself. If so, it is then taken for usually no longer than ten days. And it is taken under the guidance of an experienced physician or spiritual teacher. If taken longer than that or without proper guidance, it can lead to serious imbalance. The person can become very tight physically and very rigid mentally. Such unfortunately is what happened to many young people who began experimenting with macrobiotics in the 1960s. Many of them were spiritual seekers, window-shopping among different yogis, swamis, and masters. Naturally they aspired to be sages. But instead of starting at the bottom, they started at the top. Meanwhile, there were very few macrobiotic cooks, no macrobiotic cookbooks, and almost no centers or classes to attend except in New York, Boston, and northern California.

As a result, misconceptions flourished about what macrobiotics was. Many mistakes in food selection and cooking were made. Some were serious. In Beth Ann’s case, she reportedly had been experimenting with drugs and had not taken any cooking classes. She apparently did not know how to prepare grains and vegetables proporely and ate far too narrowly. George Ohsawa later said that young American friends were foolish to start with the number 7 diet or stay it beyond ten days. […] Unfortunately, most people didn’t do this, and it was years before macobiotics recovered from the fanatical label that it adquired. [3]

As an expert in macrobiotics, I could look for arguments to defend diet number 7 and I could blame those thoughtless young people who applied it with wrong expectations. But once having examined the whole thing from the most objective point of view, I must say that Oshawa was not too clear in his affirmations. These young people were reckless, and so was Ohsawa. What shall we expect if you say that by eating whole rice one can progress spiritually, one can break free?  What shall we expect if you say that by eating whole rice any disease heals? Aren’t these statements irresponsible?

Later versions corrected George Ohsawa’s version deficiencies, as a new software corrects the deficiencies of its former version. This is the way they progress in other fields, and this is the way we should progress in macrobiotics. The authors of the book Pocket Atlas of Nutrition, a doctor and two nutritionists, consider that in comparison to Ohsawa’s macrobiotics, “the modification carried out by Kushi moves macrobiotics closer to a vegetarian diet with a small content of fish and seaweed, which is considered inoffensive” [4]

Is there any sort of truth behind diet number 7? I think so. It may be, if applied briefly, useful to recover balance if one is eating badly. It may help us feel better and think clearer. It may be a therapeutic diet when we have been eating too much or when we have eaten too much processed food, flour or animal products. Nevertheless, it seems clear that it is not a springboard to spiritually nor the panacea for every disease. 


[1] Abehsera, M. (1968). Zen Macrobiotic Cooking. A Book of Traditional and Modern Recipes. New York: Citadel Press.PP. 4 and 77.

[2] Ohsawa, G. (1966). Zen Macrobiotics. The Art of Longevity and Rejuvenation.

[3] Kushi, A.  (1988). Aveline. The Life and Dream of the Woman Behind Macrobiotics Today. Tokyo & New York: Japan Publications, Inc. PP. 195-197

[4] Biesalski, H. K., Grimm, P., y Nowitzki-Grimm, S. (2015). Texto y atlas de nutrición. Barcelona: Elsevier. P. 354.

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Love Story, macrobiotics from the 1970’s

Love Story Openning from Macrobiótica Mediterránea on Vimeo.

If I could travel back in time in this very same moment and become the director of Love Story, I would include several scenes about what happened in Boston at the beginning of the 70’s.

Jenny and Oliver, the main characters, could have had lunch at Sanae, which was a newly opened restaurant in Boston at that time. Peggy Taylor, the waitress, would have offered them this menu:

macrobiotic restaurant Boston

She could have ordered whole rice and sauteed vegetables, and he could have ordered halibut and salad. They would have had kukicha tea and cherry pie for dessert. And all for 6.7 dollars. In their conversation she, more daring and a bit of an explorer, would have explained to him what macrobiotics was.

Another day, in the afternoon, they would have gone to buy whole rice, lentils, miso and tamari to Erewhon, a small shop where every Thursday a Japanese man on his forties used to teach.

Erewhon macrobiotic shop

They would have left the shop with a copy of the East West Journal.

After several years of poverty, of failed businesses and of teaching here and there, the Kushi moved from New York to Boston following the recommendation of Robert Fulton, who was considered the first American student of macrobiotics.

From 1966, the year when the Kushi moved to Brookline, macrobiotics started to grow and to have a name. Aveline opened Erewhon, a small macrobiotic food store with the help of Evan Root, Ron Kotzsch, Bruce McDonald and others. Michio started to teach at the back of the store.

Aveline relates the conception of Erewhon as follows:

From Wellesley, we moved to Brookline, a lovely residential town with wide streets, spacious parks, and good Schools. Enclosed on three sides by Boston, it was an oasis of peace and quiet in the center of a big city. We rented a house at 216 Gardner Road near the high school. Downtown, in the Back Bay section of Boston, we started looking for a small storefront to hold classes and distribute food to our students. We found a small shop on Newbury Street, a fashionable section of brownstone apartments that had been converted into boutiques, art galleries, and cafes. An antique store was next door on the north side of the corner of Fairfax Street.
In the back, we partitioned off a storage and packing area. In the front there were several shelves and a desk. We would buy brown rice, beans, and others staples in bulk, pack them in the back, and put them out for sale on shelves in the front. On Thursday nights, we had lectures. Michio prepared his talks at home, usually on some introductory aspect of macrobiotics. In our kitchen in Brookline, I cooked rice, made rice balls, and brought them to the lecture for students. In the beginning, only a
handful of people came. After my husband spoke, I talked about cooking brown rice and distributed the rice balls.
Evan Root, a young man from New York who had lived with us in Wellesley, became the shop’s first manager. Sometimes he would spend the entire morning or whole day talking about macrobiotics to someone who walked in off the street.
It soon became clear that we needed a name for our store. I immediately thought of Erewhon. George Ohsawa admired Samuel Butler’s utopian novel of that name.
Michio immediately agreed with the name. I was very proud.

After the opening of Erewhon, other events took place:

  • They opened the first student house
  • They opened the first macrobiotic restaurant in Boston (Sanae)
  • The East West Journal was published for the first time
  • They created the East West Foundation
  • They started to organise seminars that had a positive social response

From that moment onwards, macrobiotics would enter its golden age: the decade of the 1980’s. Thanks to the educational activities, the publications and the media impact of some of the cases, many of us know about it currently.


[1] Kushi, A. and Jack, A. (1988). Aveline. The Life and Dream of the Woman Behind Macrobiotics Today. Tokio and New York: Japan Publications, Inc. P. 194-195

[2] Kushi, M. (1986). The Book of Macrobiotics (Revised and enlarged edition). Tokio and New York: Japan Publications, Inc. Used for the chronology.

[3] Michael Rossoff, credit for the pictures.

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Macrobiotic Remedies: What are they?

In our standard way of thinking, we differentiate between food and medicine. The previous one is eaten every day to keep our energy levels up, the last one is taken only when we are sick.

This same outline is used in the macrobiotic theory. The standard macrobiotic diet, explained in other posts [1], is what we eat to be able to keep doing our daily activities. But when we are sick, we try with the macrobiotic remedies instead, which are dishes, drinks and external remedies that are used until we recover our normal condition.


The macrobiotic remedies that are drinks consist of boiled foods. Even if they are called tea, they are not prepared with the tea plant and they have no theine. They are normally boiled for a short time, between 5 and 10 minutes, and common ingredients from the standard macrobiotic diet are used in it. Some examples of these ingredients are shiitake mushrooms or adzuki beans.

An example of these remedies is shiitake tea, which is used to help reduce fever and relax a contracted condition because of an excess of animal food or stress.

The following video shows briefly how to prepare shiitake tea.

Shiitake tea (quick version) from Macrobiótica Mediterránea on Vimeo.


The same dishes that are used in the standard macrobiotic diet can also be used as remedies. In order to do so, we need to know which properties does every dish have and if it is appropriate for the condition the person is in. Some examples of these dishes are: miso soup, sautéed (kinpira) or cooking without water (nishime).


Food can also be used externally, by applying it to our skin for a period of time. The most representative example and the most used in macrobiotics is the ginger compress. Salt compresses, tofu poultices and buckwheat poultices are used too.

The application of macrobiotic remedies follows a way of thinking that is based on two theories: the ying-yang theory and the theory of five transformations. Both of them are widely known in the East and they represent very valuable knowledge used to treat small instabilities as well as to prevent us from health issues in the long term.

Macrobiotic remedies are a simple part of macrobiotics, possibly the simplest one, and therefore, they are the easiest way of starting to learn more about it.

I will shortly publish the first set of original contents, exclusive for Macrobiotics students (MS students), which will be about macrobiotic remedies.


[1] Picture: Kushi, M. (1985). Macrobiotic Home Remedies. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc.

[2] Posts where the foods used in macrobiotics are described: The Macrobiotic Pyramid, Foods of the Macrobiotic Diet

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Macrobiotics: A simple approach for weight loss

Macrobiotic Weight Loss

The healthiest, simplest and least drastic approach to lose weight is still reducing calories and exercising more.

It is true that this does not work in all the cases, but this principle must prevail even in the cases in which it does not work.

This way of losing weight is the one that macrobiotics defends, in which calories are reduced, people exercise more and food is selected carefully [2], avoiding those ingredients that contribute to the development of chronic diseases (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol).

Michio Kushi (1985) wrote about this way of losing weight:

Although many complex explanations are frequently offered for why and how individuals become overweight in the first place, it is really quite simple: they eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods and they don’t exercise enough. The modern diet is about 42 percent fat (mostly saturated animal fat), which has more than twice the calories of protein or complex carbohydrates. Food processing has also condensed many of the foods commonly eaten. Since their bulk (natural food fiber) is removed, it is easier to fit more food -and calories- into the stomach in less time.

On the macrobiotic diet, up to the 10 percent of average meal is bulk, compared with about 2 percent or less in the diet eaten by most people today. The added bulk gives satisfied feeling of being full, without adding calories to the diet. It also helps the body to more quickly and efficiently eliminate the food it does not use.

Unlike the foods that comprise the popular high-protein weight loss diets, which tend to drain energy and stimulate cravings for sweets, the complex carbohydrates in the macrobiotic diet reduces cravings for sweets and other fattening foods, and provide plenty of energy as well.

Losing weight and then maintaining the desired weight is not difficult on the macrobiotic diet. As a group, people who shun foods high in saturated fats (such as red meats, dairy products, and poultry), and simple sugars, are trim-and tend to stay that way. Depending on how much you weight now and the extent to which you adhere to macrobiotic principles, your weight should normalize in a matter of days, weeks, or months. As in William Dufty’s case, fifty or more pounds lost over a period of months is not uncommon.

On the macrobiotic diet, as long as you eat until satisfied, two or three times per day, you will meet your bodily nutritional needs. You can generally expect to lose about one to three pounds a week. Of course, if you also begin even a moderate exercise program (see Chapter 10) your results will be enhanced. As an added bonus your blood fat and cholesterol levels, and your blood pressure will normalize as well.

Despite the passing of the years, Kushi’s text is still valid.

This is the approach you will find if you opt for a dietetic consultation with the aim of losing weight.


[1] Picture: Kushi, M. (1985). Macrobiotic Home Remedies. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc. P. 62

[2] To choose foods carefully, and according to the macrobiotic approach, you can visit the following posts: The Macrobiotic Pyramid, Foods of the Macrobiotic Diet.

[3] Quote: Kushi, M. & Blauer, S. (1985). The Macrobiotic Way. Wayne (New Jersey): Avery Publishing Group Inc. P. 24

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Definition of Macrobiotics

Macrobiotic teacher
Denny Waxman, teaching in the late 1970s

What is macrobiotics?

On 27 August 1978, on a rainy night in Philadelphia, a doctor who had just been diagnosed with cancer asked the same question to a macrobiotics teacher in their first meeting.

This is how the doctor tells us about it in his book:

“What is macrobiotics?” I asked him

Basically, it’s a way of life, incorporating a diet and philosophy to help bring about improved health and happiness. The diet varies some, depending on one’s condition, the time of the year, and the place one lives. But you should eat fifty to sixty percent whole grains, especially brown rice; twenty-five percent locally grown, cooked vegetables; fifteen percent beans and sea vegetables, and the rest made up of soups and various condiments”

He then told me in greater detail which foods I should be eating. Nearly everything he mentioned was unfamiliar. On the other hand, when he said which foods I should eliminate from my diet, he described my standard fare to the letter. Stop eating all meat, dairy products, refined grains, including white bread and flour products, he said. Cut out all sugar, all oil, nuts, fruits and carbonated beverages, and foods containing synthetic chemicals and preservatives. He said that the standard macrobiotic diet normally includes some fish, fruit desserts, and other natural sweeteners, but because my condition was so severe I should eat strictly until I showed real signs of improvements.

Almost 40 years later, the same teacher proposed a definition of macrobiotics that was supported by the entire macrobiotic community. Not only individuals but also schools agreed on that definition (dictionary style):

Macrobiotics, noun, (used with a singular verb)
1. a way of life that guides one’s choices in nutrition, activity, and lifestyle.
2. a system of principles and practices of harmony to benefit the body, mind,
and planet.

macrobiotic, adj., such as macrobiotic philosophy or macrobiotic diet.

Origin: from Ancient Greek: Macro (large or long) and Bios (life or way of living).

From Macrobiotic School, I would like to express that I agree with that definition.


[1] Sattilaro, A.J. and Monte, T. (1982). Recalled by Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. (pp.66-67)

[2] Definition agreed upon by the International Macrobiotic Conference 2017 in Berlin, with 45 macrobiotic teachers, along with GOMF, SHI, Macrobiotic Association, IMP, IME, Chi Energy, IMS, and other schools, institutes, and organizations. Link to International Macrobiotics: Macrobiotic Definition

[3] Photo credit: Michael Rossoff.