The Macrobiotic Diet grew from the efforts of Sagen Ishizuka, a Japanese army doctor at the end of the 19th century. Based on the traditional Asian diet, he applied a theory of nutrition and medicine that included the Western medical sciences of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and physiology. At the time, he cured many patients by having them eat a traditional diet based on brown rice and a variety of land and sea vegetables. The diet was based on five principles:
- Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.
- Sodium and potassium are the primary antagonistic and complementary elements in food mimicking the character of "yin/yang".
- Grain is properly the staple food of man.
- Food should be unrefined, whole, and natural.
- Food should be grown locally and eaten in season.
A disciple and biographer of Ishizuka, George Ohsawa wrote a definitive expansion of the macrobiotic philosophy in his 1925 book Physiology of Japanese Mentality and Biography of Sagen Ishizuka and he devoted his life to worldwide education. His foundation philosophy viewed Macrobiotics as a way of life, based on an understanding of the rhythm, the ebb, and flow of nature with roots that can be traced back through civilization to the beginning of human traditions.
The main food components of a Macrobiotic diet include:
- A protein base of whole grains should equal 50-60% of total daily food, and beans (primarily soy products) should be 5-10% of the total.
- Vegetables (in season; primarily roots, leafy greens, squashes, and cabbage) should equal 20-25% and seasonal fruits should be about 5% of the total volume.
- Sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds represent 2%-4%.
- Other common foods include salty condiments like gomasio (sesame seeds and sea salt) and umeboshi (plums pickled in brine), unrefined sesame oil, and corn oil.
- Fish are used occasionally.
- Preferred sweeteners are barley malt, rice syrup, and maple syrup.
- Some foods are strictly avoided. These include red meat, poultry, and eggs; dairy products; coffee and stimulating herbs such as mint; the nightshade family vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers); sugar, honey, and corn syrup; and all artificially colored, artificially sweetened, chemically preserved, or chemically treated foods.