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Macrobiotics: A diet that makes you happy

Why eat more vegetables in macrobiotics
Figure 16: Evolutionary Development (The Book of Macrobiotics, p. 45)

Anybody could think that a diet that makes you happy should include chocolate, cookies, and cakes. Michio Kushi proposed an alternative diet that you will get to know in the following lines.

What sort of diet makes someone happier?

This is a difficult question because, if we travel all around the world, we will realise that there are plenty of dietetic models that are related to healthy populations. A person whose diet includes fish, can be as healthier as someone else’s diet that includes meat, as well as as healthier as a vegetarian person’s diet. What does that relation between diet and health/happiness depend on?

Ohsawa and Kushi highlighted repeatedly in their writings how important the order of the universe is, or, in other words, the natural order. When we eat, we should follow the natural order. If we do so, we will be healthier, we will feel peace, we will feel happier, and we will create a better world.

What should we eat by nature?

Every animal has predetermined foodstuffs. We know what a dog should eat, an eagle, a dolphin, etc. And, does the human being have predetermined foodstuffs?

I will summarise the arguments that Kushi gave us to orient our food choices below. Each of these arguments could need their own post, that is why I will make a summary of each of them.

Argument 1: The evolutionary line

Both the vegetable kingdom and the animal kingdom have their own evolutionary lines. On Earth, a new vegetable species appeared at the same time as an animal species and therefore, there was a relation between them (see the picture above).

It is the same story with humans and grains. For that reason, grains are of great importance to human nourishment according to macrobiotics.

Kushi does also recommend to choose animal foodstuff that is as far as possible from the human being as a species, because this way the natural order would be respected. Therefore, eating fish is better than eating beef.

Argument 2: The 1:7 Ratio

The 1:7 proportion is constantly quoted in Kushi’s work. In agreement with this proportion, which he considers as “sacred” or natural, the human being should eat 1 part of minerals per 7 parts of protein, 1 part of protein per 7 parts of carbohydrates, 1 part of carbohydrates per 7 parts of foodstuff that is rich in water (soup, green vegetables, vegetables, legumes, also known as beans or pulses, fruit and drinks), and 1 part of foodstuff rich in water per 7 parts of practice such as meditation, breathing exercises, auto-reflection or physical exercise.

This ratio is also used to define how many animal products should be included in our diet: 1  part of animal foodstuff per 7 parts of vegetable foodstuffs. This proportion is also backed up by the number of teeth (read the following argument).

Argument 3: The composition of teeth

The human teeth allow us chew different sorts of food. It is logical to think that if we have more teeth to chew certain foodstuffs, these foodstuffs should predominate in our daily diet. According to Kushi:

The structure of the human teeth offers another biological clue to humanity’s natural way of eating. The thirty-two teeth include twenty molars and premolars for grinding grains, legumes, and seeds; eight incisors for cutting vegetables; and four canines for tearing animal and seafood  (The Book of Macrobiotics, p.78)

Argument 4: Other features of comparative anatomy

If we compare the anatomy of a carnivorous animal, we will realise that there are differences between their anatomy and our anatomy.  These differences could be telling us how different our diet should be. One of these features is the length of the intestine or the difference between their gastric juice and our gastric juice.

Argument 5: The climate

Your diet should be different taking into account the climate of the place where you live. The human being is an extension of nature, and we are sustained and adapted to it. We are adapted to it thanks to what we eat. If we eat tropical food, we will be adapted to a tropical climate; if we eat food that comes from a cold climate, we will be adapted to a cold climate. For that reason, if you live in Rio de Janeiro it is important that you eat pineapples and coconuts, and if you live in Moscow, you should eat roots and more animals than in Rio.

According to Michio Kushi, if a person eats the macrobiotic way, he or she will have more chances of having energy and health, and therefore, of contributing to the construction of a better world.

What foodstuffs should a macrobiotic diet consist of?

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Why macrobiotics is not a trendy diet

Kushi and macrobiotics

Michio Kushi (1926-2014) is considered to be the most important person in macrobiotics. He created a school, he published a huge number of books and he inspired thousands of people with his numerous speeches.

Understanding the origins and the context where Michio Kushi grew up will help us understand why macrobiotics is not just one more diet. Macrobiotics is not a trendy diet that aims to disappear 1 or 2 years afterwards.

Michio Kushi was born in 1926. Japan entered World War II in 1941. Kushi had to live the war years, but when he joined the ranks, Japan had already communicated their unconditional surrender after the two atomic bombs reached Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, when Kushi was 19 years old.

This is what Michio tells us in his book “The Book of Macrobiotics” (1986, preface):

In  August, 1945, World War II ended following the destruction of  large parts of Europe and Asia. Hundreds of millions of people suffered and died during the long years and miseries of this war. Soon after the war ended, other wars began to break out in various areas of the world. Concurrently, with the increasing technological prosperity of modern civilization, the degeneration of humanity began to accelerate.

During my late teenage years, I often visited shrines, praying for the spirits of dying soldiers, many of whom were my friends, wondering why we had to fight on this beautiful earth. Later I was drafted into the army, and passed through Hiroshima just before and after the atomic bombing, as well as helped survivors from Nagasaki. These experiences made a deep impression on me. In my early  twenties, my questionning was extended to various other undesirable human affairs, including sicknesses, disagreements, selfishness, and egocentricity, searching for the universal way of health, happiness, and peace.

These experiences led a young Michio Kushi to study law and international relations at the University of Tokyo as well as to be a World Federalist [1]. During these years, he met George Ohsawa.

Ohsawa introduced macrobiotics to Kushi and he considered it a useful tool to contribute to create peace in the world.

Although macrobiotics has been introduced to us as a diet, Kushi’s goals were beyond that. In his first writings, he considered as macrobiotic tools all these practices that contributed to health and happiness.

He considered meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and physical activity as macrobiotic tools. Everything that was useful to harmonize the opposites. Among these practices, both Ohsawa and Kushi highlighted the diet.

The Books of Macrobiotics (1986), p26:

After studying with George Ohsawa in Japan following the Second World War and after beginning to teach the philosophy of yin and yang in the United States, I adopted “macrobiotics” in its original meaning, as the universal way of health and longevity which encompasses the largest possible view of not only diet but also all dimensions of human life, natural order, and cosmic evolution. Macrobiotics embrances behaviour, thought, breathing, exercise, relationships, customs, cultures, ideas, and consciousness, as well as individual and collective ways of life found throughout the world. In this sense, macrobiotics is not simply or mainly a diet, though that is the first step and usual introduction to this way of life with which humanity has developed biologically, psychologically, and spiritually and with which we will maintain our health, happiness, and peace. Macrobiotics includes a dietary approach but its purpose is to ensure the survival of the human race and its further evolution on this planet.

What dietetic recommendations would you give someone who wants to improve their condition? Or someone who wants to be calmer, who wants to feel stronger or more sociable? And someone who wants to be a tool to make the world a better place?

Kushi answered this question with his knowledge according to his culture, formal, and personal training at that time. It was not a trendy diet, it was not a diet to make money, it was not a diet to lose weight, but it was a diet to help the human being follow their evolutionary path, prosper individually and collectively, as an individual as well as part of a species in each of their aspects: physical, psychological and social.

Macrobiotic School [MS] will focus on what the macrobiotic diet is based on and on its reasons.


[1] World Federalist Movement: it is a movement that appeared after World War II that proposes the creation of supranational organizations in order to ensure peace in the world. This movement is backed up by famous intellectuals.

[2] Picture of young Michio Kushi from Michael Rossoff website.