What is Macrobiotics?
As we enter the 21st century, humanity faces many challenges that require us to review the direction we are taking as a society and make meaningful changes in our way of life. Among the various issues confronting us today, three seem to stand out and may be considered the most pressing, fundamental ones. The first is the deterioration of humanity’s health, including physical, mental and spiritual quality. This kind of crisis is characterized by the unprecedented rates of chronic diseases and lifestyle-related health problems, including obesity, allergies, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease including heart disease and stroke, cancer and diabetes, along with mental illness, and loss of reproductive and immune ability, which has been spreading across the world and have reached epidemic proportions. Now nearly every family and every person in the modern world is touched by or faces the risk of one or more of these degenerative conditions.
The second issue is environmental degradation and destruction of nature, especially pollution, the loss of biological diversity (biodiversity) and global warming, with a tremendous impact to us and all forms of life on this planet especially in the event of extreme climatic changes. The third issue can be associated with social decline and includes a variety of issues such as poverty, lack of equality, hunger, food loss and waste, misuse of natural resources, rising health-care costs, economic instability, mistrust and prejudice, that often develops into terror or armed conflict and can easily escalate into war. Because of the vast scale of these issues that are converging at the same time, it is difficult to comprehend the entire scope of the problem and how it will affect our lives or that of future generations. Unfortunately, many of the commonly used approaches for trying to solve these issues have been so far ineffective and in many cases have led to further problems.
Contemporary challenges call for innovative approaches. To a certain extent, modern macrobiotics was born from the need for change and finding practical, lasting solutions to personal and planetary problems. Modern macrobiotics originates from Japan influenced by the teachings of George Ohsawa (Yukikazu Sakurazawa), the leading proponent of macrobiotics until his death in 1966 and then continued to spread around the world by his students and collaborators. In the late 1950s, the term macrobiotics, a traditional word associated with a healthy way of life started to be applied to their teachings.
Michio & Aveline Kushi – Pioneering Macrobiotic education and promoting natural, holistic and sustainable ways of living around the World
Background and Introduction
Michio Kushi (1926-2014)
Michio Kushi dedicated his life and helped guide humanity toward a healthier, more peaceful world. Born in 1926 in Wakayama Prefecture, Michio Kushi graduated from Tokyo University. His studies centered on political science and international relations, especially past and contemporary efforts to create a federation of governments to establish world peace. He went to the United States in 1949, settled in New York where he furthered his studies at Columbia University, and met Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Upton Sinclair, and other prominent scientists, authors, and statesmen. Before going to the United States, Michio Kushi met George Ohsawa and formed a close friendship and collaboration that lasted until Ohsawa’s passing. For over half century, Michio Kushi was actively engaged in teaching, writing and other educational and social activities to further develop and spread the macrobiotic view and way of life.
Over the years, Michio Kushi has guided thousands of individuals and families to greater health and happiness through his teachings and personal advice, lectured to physicians and scientists, held seminars around the world at various congresses and international avenues including the United Nations and the World Health Organization, advised governments, inspired medical research, and served as a consultant to natural food business and industries. Michio Kushi has written over 50 books and in 1995 he received the Award for Excellence from the United Nations Society of Writers for One Peaceful World and other books. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In ----- Michio Kushi married Midori Hayashi Kushi. Midori Kushi is presently the main person overseeing Michio Kushi’s legacy while devoting her time to ensure that Kushi Macrobiotics continue to spread around the world. For more information on Michio Kushi, you are welcome to contact the Michio Kushi official site at www.kushimacrobiotics.com
Aveline Kushi (1923-2001)
Descended from rural samurai, Aveline Kushi grew up in the deep mountains of Oku-Izumo where she became a school teacher. After surviving life-and-death illness, she left her position teaching schoolchildren and went to Tokyo to enroll in a macrobiotic school: Maison Ignoramus founded by George Ohsawa. There she became inspired by the dream of realizing a world of enduring peace by elevating humankind’s physical, mental and spiritual health, beginning with eating in a more natural, balanced way. Aveline moved to the United States in 1951, where she met Michio Kushi, began teaching together, eventually married him and continued to pursue and share the same lifelong dream.
Aveline Kushi taught macrobiotic cooking to thousands of people around the world and published various cookbooks. She was a tireless advocate for improving the quality of our food through more natural ways of farming without the use of chemicals and traditional and natural ways of processing and producing food. She is often recognized as the mother of the natural and organic food movements in the West and around the world. As a mother to four sons and one daughter, Aveline took avid interest in family and women’s health to which she devoted much time teaching and writing books. She was a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures and was influential introducing and teaching several traditional arts, including Noh drama, the tea ceremony, futon-making, kimono-wearing, haiku composition, Japanese calligraphy and others.
Michio and Aveline Kushi build on and expanded the teachings of Mr. Ohsawa and the long lineage of food thinkers, health reformers and peace promoters from around the world. They also pioneered in the development of natural and organic foods, healthy lifestyles, holistic approaches to wellness and healing, and other sustainable ways of life. Together they found the East West Foundation, the East West Journal, the Kushi Foundation, The Kushi Institute, the One Peaceful World Society, Erewhon Trading Company and other organizations to spread macrobiotics and improve the quality of life worldwide. The original, international macrobiotic approach developed by Michio and Aveline Kushi along with their students and collaborators and then spread around the world is now often referred as Kushi Macrobiotics.
Accomplishments and Legacy
Shortly after arriving to America, Michio Kushi realized that the food being consumed in modern society was fundamentally different from that of their parents, and compared to earlier generations, was totally different from that of their grandparents and ancestors. It then became clear to him that these food changes were the most fundamental cause for the unprecedented loss of health and decline of modern society. To reverse this downward march, he began to introduce and teach the macrobiotic way of life, including its dietary aspects based on two essential elements. First the establishment of proper dietary guidelines, reflecting both traditional patterns and modern nutritional awareness, that could be easily understood and implemented by every individual and family. And second the recovery of genuine food of a largely whole, natural, and organic quality while guaranteeing its supply to every individual and family at reasonable cost.
Since the mid-1960s Michio and Aveline Kushi started Erewhon Trading Company in Boston, the first chain of natural food stores in America and distributor of whole, natural quality and organically grown foods, to further introduce, promote and make high quality foods more easily available. By 2002 when the U.S. government took over organic certification, organic food had become the fastest growing segment of the food industry and today more organic food in the United States is sold in supermarkets than in natural food stores. Growing interest for healthy and nutritious foods has been rapidly increasing around the globe and now organic farming is a worldwide movement with millions of farmers in 162 countries growing crops organically on more than 40 million hectares of agricultural land. During the last decade, the organic farming area in the European Union increased by about 500,000 hectares per year and now represents around 30 percent of the world’s organic farm land. Over 5 percent of the agricultural area in Europe is now organic and there are seven countries with more than ten percent organic agricultural land. Increasingly organic foods are now being served regularly at public places including many schools, company cafeterias, and hospitals as well as in restaurants, hotels, and on airplanes.
While living in the United States and having access to taste and compare foods as well as observe different eating patterns, the Kushis also came to the realization that the traditional Japanese food culture and dietary pattern was optimal for achieving long-term health and most conducive to long life. So together, they began to introduce, teach how to cook and popularize traditional Japanese foods including grains and grain products such as brown rice, mochi, noodles, fu, and seitan; vegetables such as daikon, burdock, and lotus root; bean and soybean products such as azuki, tofu, dried tofu, and soymilk; sea vegetables; fermented foods such as miso, shoyu, brown rice vinegar, takuan, and umeboshi; beverages such as green tea, bancha, kukicha, and mugicha; as well as sweeteners such as amasake and rice syrup. They also introduced many aspects of the food culture and culinary traditions including cooking utensils such as suribachi and chopsticks as well as miso soup, kimpira, nishime and nabe as a way to further develop the culinary arts, increase variety of healthy options and improve dietary habits in modern society.
In time many aspects of the healthy Japanese traditional food culture became more widely known and many traditional Japanese foods have become staples in healthy contemporary kitchens around the world. Eventually modern researchers came across Japan and discovered that Japanese enjoyed some of the lowest rates of chronic diseases in the world and greatest longevity on the planet. This sparked great curiosity in the west to learn more about the traditional Japanese food culture and over the years it has become among the most extensively researched and scientifically documented in the world. Presently the traditional Japanese food culture is highly regarded and valued around the world for promoting health and maintaining harmony with nature. Japanese cuisine is being increasingly appreciated and traditional Japanese foods are often recommended for their high nutritional and health promoting qualities, as the Kushis anticipated. In 2014, “Washoku” the traditional Japanese food culture and cuisine was formally designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Michio Kushi has played a decisive role in the way we view food today and now many people around the globe share the macrobiotic motto that “we are what we eat” or that we are fundamentally influenced by the foods and the way we eat. Macrobiotics influenced the U.S. government’s landmark report Dietary Goals for the United States (1977), which attributed modern dietary habits to the unprecedented rise of chronic disease in the United States and calling for dietary changes. Macrobiotics also contributed to the development of the Food Guide Pyramid by the U.S. government in the early 1980s that began to emphasize increasing consumption of grains, particularly whole grains such as brown rice, vegetables, beans and bean products, fruits and other plant foods and reduce consumption of animal food, particularly meat and dairy products, as well as added sugars, sweets and sweetened beverages as the foundation for a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet. Since then, many governmental agencies around the world have issued similar dietary guidelines to encourage implementing healthier eating habits among the population to reduce rates of lifestyle-related chronic disease. Similar efforts to educate the public about healthy eating led to the creation of the Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top by the Japanese government in 2005. Over the years, interest in plant-based diets and healthy traditional eating patterns have continued to grow and now countless scientific studies and reports attest to their health benefits.
Besides helping to improve current dietary habits in a more healthful direction, Michio Kushi guided thousands of individuals and families regain better health. Over the years many people around the world have been drawn to macrobiotics because of health concerns. And as many people began to recover their health through the macrobiotic approach, macrobiotics also became known as a holistic way to prevent and relieve disease naturally. Meanwhile successful recovery stories, many of which were medically documented, began to appear in the mainstream press, alternative media, on television and radio, and on the Internet. In the 1970s and 1980s, following pioneer medical tests on macrobiotic people at Harvard Medical School, the Framingham Heart Study, and other institutions in the United States, the medical profession began to recognize and integrate macrobiotics and other alternative and complementary approaches. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and other leading scientific journals, the macrobiotic studies were the first to show that high cholesterol and high blood pressure were the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and that a balanced, largely plant-based diet could help prevent and, in some cases, reverse a variety of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. The macrobiotic method has been widely studied by researchers and medical doctors and many institutions now substantiate its benefits and endorse the basic aspects of the approach.
Gradually, macrobiotics was also introduced to mainstream society by what was originally called ‘alternative medicine.’ And as more people began to use alternative therapies in the United States, which is now estimated at nearly one-half of Americans, it gave rise to ‘complementary medicine.’ This meant that a holistic approach, such as dietary and lifestyle adjustments, could supplement the conventional medical approach. Today, these twin disciplines have further evolved into ‘integrative medicine’ in which holistic and conventional approaches are combined or blended. In 1998, the American Medical Association (AMA) reported that two-thirds of medical schools in the United States offered courses in holistic approaches. And macrobiotics was singled out as one of the principal modalities that young medical school students should be familiar with. In addition to the macrobiotic way of eating, many of the holistic practices that the Kushis helped to introduce in the west, including stretches and other forms of exercises, shiatsu massage, acupuncture, palm healing, breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, and other simple techniques for managing stress and promote wellness, are now widely practiced and offered at medical centers, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, prisons, health spas and other public places.
In 1999 the U.S. government officially recognized the contribution of macrobiotics to modern society when the Smithsonian Institution opened the Michio Kushi Family Collection on the History of Macrobiotics and Alternative Health Care at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian’s Division of Science, Medicine, and Society stated that “the significance of macrobiotics in American life and culture relates to such broad historical issues as the postwar move toward a more healthy diet, our increasingly global culture, alternative healing, peace studies, and traditions of grassroots activism.” Periodically, the Smithsonian puts macrobiotic food, literature, and other items such as Aveline Kushi’s pressure cooker and suribachi on display on the permanent collection, holds symposia on diet and health, and praise the historical contribution that the macrobiotic way of life has made to America and the world.
Sharing a Dream
The mission behind Kushi Macrobiotics educational and social activities of which Kushi Macrobiotic School forms part of an international network is to teach, guide and inspire individuals towards greater personal freedom, health and happiness by using macrobiotic views and through the practice of a more balanced, natural way of life. As individuals develop themselves and learn to care for themselves, they can then take better care of their families and help improve the quality of their lives. In addition we can also take a more active role participating in our community and finding ways to contribute to their advancement. Eventually, as individuals’ progress, families help each other and communities prosper, the whole world benefits. This then leads towards realizing a common dream shared by all humanity of creating a healthier, more peaceful world or what Michio and Aveline Kushi envisioned as One Peaceful World. Kushi Macrobiotic activities towards contributing to personal and planetary wellbeing includes the following aspects:
- Improvement of planetary health through a proper way of eating, mainly based on plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, fruits and occasional consumption of animal food by those who wish; the development of sustainable agriculture without the use of chemicals and natural food processing; implement ways of cooking which enhance nutritional and energetic balance while considering environmental factors and personal needs; develop environmental awareness and encourage ecological lifestyles; preserving a clean, natural environment and respect for natural plant and animal life; natural water conservation and natural technologies to purify contaminated water; promote exercise and other simple and practical ways to develop our bodies, mind and spirit for achieving balance and lead better lives.
- Realize better harmony and planetary happiness through respect for parents and ancestors and for the traditional cultures and customs of humanity; love and care of other people, especially younger generations; development of calm, clear minds through a proper way of life; and a spirit of gratitude and appreciation towards all people and life.
- Promote education to develop awareness and appreciation for life that includes both traditional wisdom and understanding along with modern knowledge, observations and experiences; gain a better understanding of ourselves and life, including the development of human consciousness; encourage self-reflection and change to improve our ways; realize our common origin and destiny on this planet; overcome prejudice and discrimination and realize brother-and sister-hood among all mankind; declining of violence, crime and war and achieve better unity, understanding and peace among people and societies.
Learning about Kushi Macrobiotics
Way of Life
Kushi Macrobiotics promotes a way of life that encompasses all aspects of human life to achieve wellbeing, create harmony, realize our dreams and enjoy life more fully. Macrobiotics is based on a unique synthesis of Eastern and Western influences that also embraces and integrates the variety and richness of the entire world’s ways of life including the various teachings, ideas, individual experiences and thoughts, lifestyles, traditions, cultures and cuisines in order to further develop humanity in a harmonious way. Macrobiotics allies’ ancient wisdom with modern knowledge and science to gain a better understanding of life and find practical applications to our daily lives that promote long-term health and wellbeing at a personal, social and environmental levels. Various aspects of the way of life commonly associated with the macrobiotic approach that people come to Kushi Macrobiotic School to learn and gain experience through our courses, workshops and other educational and social activities include the following:
- Healthy Lifestyles. Macrobiotics encourages adopting more natural, healthy lifestyle habits including being physically and mentally active, daily exercise, spending time outdoors, learning to manage stress and other improvements that can easily be implemented by everyone in daily life.
- Natural Health Care. Macrobiotics encourages everyone to take more responsibility for their own health through improving dietary and lifestyle habits as well as learning simple ways to enhance health by ourselves. Macrobiotics also promotes and supports a more natural and holistic approach towards health care that include less invasive and debilitating methods for attaining and regaining health, including traditional, alternative and integrative ways of healing.
- Wellness. Macrobiotics encourages a more comprehensive and holistic approach towards wellness that includes an active process of becoming aware of and making better choices towards a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. This includes a dynamic process of change and growth that is conscious and self-directed in order to achieve our full human potential. Maintaining an optimal level of wellness is vital to live an enjoyable, higher quality life.
- Thinking by Ourselves. Macrobiotics encourages thinking by ourselves and being open to new ideas and views as we explore and discover life together.
- Cultural Exchange. In order to develop understanding among people and create a more peaceful society we also need to learn about others and share our cultural background, traditions and customs. Macrobiotics is an international movement that goes beyond frontiers and encourages personal and cultural exchange.
- Social Participation. Our choices and way of life matters and can impact the world. As we improve and develop ourselves, so do our families, friends, communities and society at large. Macrobiotics also encourages everyone to participate and become actively involved in society so that we all become part of the solution to the world’s problems and challenges. The macrobiotic vision is that together we can create a better world.
Way of Eating and Cooking
The term macrobiotics derives from the Greek root words “makro” meaning large or great and “bios”, meaning life. The word was coined by Hippocrates nearly 2500 years ago to refer to health and longevity. Hippocrates is known as the father of Western medicine and along with other Greek philosophers introduced the idea that our health and wellbeing, our life and destiny, depend upon our relation with nature. Hippocrates defined health as coming into harmony and balance with the natural world, and the most fundamental way to harmonize with nature was through our daily way of eating. His principal teaching was “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food.” In Eastern society and as part of oriental culture similar ideas were developed exemplified by concepts such as “ishoku dogen” and the practice of yakuzen. And macrobiotics today, continues to place a strong emphasis on the importance of our daily food, including its source, quality, preparation and how we eat, as the foundation not only for maintaining our health but also improving the world.
Today chronic diseases are the leading global cause of death, causing more deaths than all other causes combined, including infectious diseases, accidents or those due to natural disasters and armed conflict. In the case of Japan, about 80 percent of deaths are attributed to chronic disease, mainly cancer and cardiovascular disease. Scientific research has associated modern diet and lifestyle habits to virtually all the debilitating chronic diseases, as well as lesser health issues generally attributed to aging. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of cases of heart disease, 90 percent of cases of type-2 diabetes, and about one-third of cancers could be avoided by changes in diet. Meanwhile, long-term studies by the Harvard School of Public Health have concluded that an optimal nutritious diet combined with regular exercise could prevent 80 percent of heart disease, 70 percent of stroke, 90 percent of type-2 diabetes, and many cancers, as well as substantially reduce the incidence of a host of other chronic diseases and health ailments.
As people around the world become increasingly aware that “we are what we eat”, many are trying to make dietary changes in a healthier direction. However, in many cases those changes focus on short-term approaches that remain on the surface and most people don’t know the dietary and lifestyle changes that can bring a long-term health transformation that they are looking for. To complicate matters, most people nowadays make food choices based on questionable or incomplete nutritional information that has not been carefully assessed nor properly explained provided by the media and advertising campaigns by food companies that often lead people into new diet fads, novel food trends or the latest dietary supplement. The result is that now, more than ever before, people are frustrated, anxious and confused about what or how to eat. And as time goes by, we are getting more sick, not healthier.
This is exactly what macrobiotic addresses, and why our programs can guide you to implement dietary and lifestyle changes to optimize your health as well as suit your personal interests and goals. The macrobiotic way of eating has been practiced daily over the last two generations by many individuals and families around the world and it serves to maintain general physical and mental health while contributing to environmental sustainability and the wellbeing of society in general. The macrobiotic approach is very broad and incorporates the collective wisdom and universal heritage of humanity and is not the manifestation of a single era, culture, society, nation, school, family or individual. It is not a set diet that applies rigidly to everyone, but a flexible eating pattern that maintains sound nourishment and balanced nutrition yet differs according to climate, environment, condition of health, gender, age, activity level and other factors.
The macrobiotic way of eating further serves to correct dietary unbalances caused by modern eating habits, and in many instances, to prevent many common ailments and chronic conditions, as well as promote possible recovery from various health problems. The dietary recommendations are closely aligned to the kind of nutritional advice currently being prescribed by international health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Harvard’s School of Public Health (HSPH) as reflected in their “Healthy Eating Plate”, the Unified Dietary Guidelines (endorsed by the top five health organizations in the United States, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Dietetic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institutes of Health), as well as many governmental agencies.
Macrobiotic dietary recommendations also share many similarities with current nutritional awareness pointing out the health benefits found in traditional eating patterns, among which the traditional Asian diet and the traditional Mediterranean diet are two of the most well-known examples. The dietary pattern conforms to the modern need for eating in a way that is lower in saturated fat, trans fats, simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, sodium, animal protein and dietary cholesterol while supplying adequate calories, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, plant protein, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. The macrobiotic way of eating may be described as a traditionally oriented, whole food, plant-based diet, which form the basis of today’s nutritional recommendations around the globe.
Macrobiotic cooking is simple and can be learnt and incorporated little by little by everyone. There are no specific rules or strict regulations to follow and instead includes simple suggestions to encourage developing and refining our way of cooking. Cooking marked a major step in human development and has contributed to many benefits such as making food more digestible, easier to assimilate and more energized by applying fire, all of which improve nutrition, increase vitality and enhance the life giving qualities of our daily food. Cooking also improves the taste of the food and becomes more enjoyable by increasing variety and eating possibilities. In addition, cooking has allowed us to harmonize with the natural environment by being able to adapt better to the climate and seasonal changes. Changing our food and cooking styles according to the differences in climates and seasons is an integral part of macrobiotic cooking and has been an essential aspect of all traditional cuisines developed around the world.
Cooking may also be interpreted as an art. And as with other arts, good cooking requires skills some of which can be learnt but need to be developed through practice. For that reason, our cooking classes are dynamic and include both demonstration and practice so that you can develop your skills and refine your sense of cooking. Various aspects of the way of eating and cooking commonly associated with the macrobiotic approach that people come to Kushi Macrobiotic School to learn and gain experience through our courses, workshops and other educational and social activities include the following:
- Plant Based Diets. Macrobiotics encourages and promotes a balanced, mostly plant-based way of eating, as currently being recommended by many health organizations and governmental agencies around the world as a way to enhance health, prevent lifestyle and nutrition-related diseases, as well as address environmental and social concerns related to modern dietary habits.
- Sustainable Farming. Macrobiotics supports and promotes sustainable ways of farming without the use of agrochemicals such as natural and organic farming that reduce chemical exposure, improves the quality of soil and our food, and contribute to a cleaner environment.
- Natural, Organic and Traditional Food. Macrobiotics recommends and promotes simpler, more natural and traditional ways of processing our food without the use of chemicals and additives that preserve the integrity of the food, are safer, more nourishing, and contribute to balanced nutrition. Learning how to select wholesome foods is an important aspect for enhancing health due to the highly processing and large amount of chemicals used to produce our food in modern society.
- Whole Foods. Macrobiotics recommends eating food in a less refined and processed way, including the use of whole or unrefined grains and their products as well as unrefined seasonings and sweeteners in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies, maintain better balance and enhance sound health.
- Local and Seasonal. Macrobiotics recommends and supports consumption of mostly locally and seasonally produced foods for maintaining better balance, promote self-sufficiency, minimize waste and reduce the environmental and social impact originating from a globalized food system.
- Personal Adaptation. Everyone is different therefore our needs also differ. Macrobiotics places importance learning to adapt our way of selecting foods, cooking and eating according to individual needs, personal goals or preferences as well as environmental and social differences. In particular macrobiotics has made many developments in using food and cooking for helping strengthen and possibly recover health.
- Food Culture and Culinary Arts. Macrobiotics respects, preserves and promotes traditional food cultures, native foods, culinary arts and food heritage developed around the world as well as encourage further development, integration and practical applications suitable to modern times. In particular, macrobiotics has introduced and spread healthful aspects of the traditional Japanese food culture around the world.
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