The term macrobiotic was used by Hippocrates to describe the longest lived people of his time. In Greek, macro means large (or great), and bio means life.
The macrobiotic approach to food and life is based on the premise that people are beings of nature and as such function best when living in harmony with it. In order to understand our place in nature we only have to look as far as our teeth. We naturally have 32 teeth, 20 designed to grind food such a whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, 8 are incisor, designed to cut vegetables, and 4 are canine teeth (smaller than most carnivores). From this, the macrobiotic conclusion is our diet according to nature should be 50%-
Macrobiotics uses the eastern philosophy of complementary opposites to describe phenomena called Yin and Yang. These terms are used to describe night and day, expansion and contraction, winter and summer, sweet and salty and so on.
Historically whole grain has been man's staple and is our most balanced food, they are considered slightly Yang. The bible refers to grain as the “staff of life.”
Most vegetables are a little sweeter and more Yin. Vegetables that grow up and out, such as leafy greens, are more Yin. Root vegetables that grow underground and down are more Yang. Vegetables and fruits from tropical climates have more water and are more Yin than those of temperate climates. Sweet or spicy foods are more Yin and salty, or sour foods more Yang.
In macrobiotics it is important to balance our food as close to the center as possible. This can be done by eating natural foods, local and in season, and by using the principles of Yin and Yang. To do this it is necessary to eliminate or minimize certain foods, such as sugar, flour and its products, canned foods and packaged foods with preservatives and other additives, such as food coloring. These foods are not considered in balance with the human condition. Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant are too acidic (Yin) for regular use.
Animal food is a very concentrated (Yang) energy food, and not recommended for daily use. Cows, lamb, pigs and chickens eat plant food which metabolizes to make there bodies. So one pound of there flesh is like eating 10 times more concentrated energy than a pound of the vegetation they ate. To the human body this is like running an electric motor on too much voltage. The motor runs down prematurely. It is safer for us to eat on the lower end of the food chain.
According to macrobiotics, food preparation is important. In summer lighter cooking is good, in winter longer cooking is appropriate. Usually cooked food is best because it starts the digestive process which helps the body absorb nutrients. In Chinese medicine the stomach content is considered the consistency of soup, so the softer our food is the better. It is also considered important to chew thoroughly each mouth full (50 to 150 times). Chewing breaks down food and saliva starts the digestive process, besides it can be relaxing.