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General Dietary Recommendations.

This page is intended primarily for those people who are unfamiliar with a macrobiotic practice and are essentially the recommendations given for anyone who wishes to allow their body to heal, that is, restore itself to vitality and well-being. A macrobiotic practice is only a diet to begin with; the diet is the main focus of our macrobiotic practice for the first three to seven years of living our lives according to macrobiotic principles. After three to seven years of eating macrobiotically in the relatively circumspect manner described here it will be necessary to start expanding our dietary intake to include foods which are not discussed here. The reason this widening of the diet is necessary will become apparent over the course of the coming months of constructing The Alchemycal Pages.
These recommendations are to be used as a guide only. It must be emphasised again any individual who decides to adopt the eating of these foods in the manner indicated is strongly recommended to seek out people in their locality who are both knowledgeable and experienced with regard to eating macrobiotically who can offer help and advice. There are many pitfalls for the novice to this way of eating and although theoretically any one can start with the appropriate books (see the list of recommended books including cookbooks in the Q & A page) and do well, very few appear to be able to do so without making mistakes. The attentive reader of The Alchemycal Pages will have garnered a clear picture of my feelings with regard to modern technological medicine; nevertheless I must emphasise nothing written here should be construed as having anything remotely to do with conventional medical practices or medical advice, and is not intended to replace conventional medical advice from a medical professional.
One major point about macrobiotic practice is that it is not a medical practice; the only aspect of macrobiotic practice which it has in common with any other medicine is in all cases we are dealing with the human being, and even that is questionable in the case of modern medicine. That's it. Macrobiotic practice as delineated in these pages is much wiser and more profound than any medicine yet devised by humanity because it is predicated on the spiritual reality that there is 'designed into' the human organism a continuously dynamic interplay of illness and health, where the processes of healing include the symptoms of illness. Thus, the idea is to allow the appropriate dynamic balance integral to the human organism to assert itself harmoniously and to support it. This is done initially through balancing our daily nutrition appropriately ; however, it also requires a great deal of strenuous, persistent and patient re-education, study, practice, self-reflection and the purging of received prejudices before this spiritual fact is fully grasped, with all its implications.
The heart of macrobiotic practice is exactly that, daily practice, and commentary on macrobiotic practices by any person who has not practiced assiduously for at least seven years and done the necessary rounds of ginger compresses on the abdomen (I have yet to discuss digestion and elimination in The Alchemycal Pages) is necessarily fragmentary, superficial and misleading. Macrobiotic practice is not merely an intellectual exercise and its benefits are not accessible to merely intellectual conjecture.
The primary perspective for the development of macrobiotic dietary knowledge is qualitative rather than quantitative. As stated, the human physical organism is understood in both Traditional Oriental Medicine and Western Esotericism to be imbued and permeated with spiritual forces which are variously called 'chi', 'ki' and 'prana' in the east, and etheric forces in the west. Foods are also understood to be imbued and permeated with theses spiritual forces. The crucial consideration in developing a mode of eating suitable for the human being is to harmonise the daily dietary intake in respect of etheric forces with the etheric dynamics of the human organism. This is accomplished by using the principles of yin and yang theory.
If this is done properly, then the dynamic flow of the etheric forces of body will gradually come into their proper dynamic balance and this will mean the body's physiological functions will also come into balance. Health and vitality will be the outcome of this process. Further, the body will receive all the necessary nutrients for healthy organ function.

General considerations.

All foods are preferably cultivated organically or bio-dynamically.
Foods are cultivated locally and eaten in season.
Foods are prepared in their whole form; for example, we start with the whole carrot, wash it, cut it appropriately and then cook it.
Consume meals consisting of a variety of color.
Vary meals using different grains, vegetables, beans and condiments.
Avoid using aluminum cookware, coated cookware and microwave ovens.
Eliminate, by and large to begin with, consuming refined, frozen, packaged and canned foods, animal protein in any form including all dairy foods, refined sugar, all drugs and foods with any additives.
Chew well.

Foods available for human consumption can be categorized in four different groups:

Primary Food -Whole Cereal Grains.

These are the staple foods for the human being, and have been since the dawn of recorded history. Over the course of a daily eating, approximately half of our food consumption should comprise cooked whole grains. Whole cereal grains include brown rice, wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, millet, corn, teff, amaranth and quinoea. Also sourdough whole grain breads, whole grain noodles, chapatis, tortillas etc. It is preferable to eat mainly whole grains, with milled or cut grains being supplemental. Also cook the whole grains with a small amount of seasalt.
The suggestion that cooking is necessary is somewhat controversial these days. The reasons for cooking the foods include 1.) It is a stage of 'pre-digestion' in that it prepares the food for proper digestion, 2.) the human digestive system is not 'designed' to digest raw vegetable matter properly, 3.) Raw foods compared to cooked foods have a cooling effect upon the body; if all the disease symptoms of humanity are classified into two groups, those resulting from too much heat in the body and those resulting from too much cold, then all degenerative symptoms fall into the latter category, 4.) From yin-yang theory, raw foods are more yin than cooked foods. This is not to say we can never eat raw foods, and its intake is usually in the hot seasons or on hot days.

Secondary Foods -Vegetables.

Vegetables are cooked, and at least half the cooked vegetables are boiled or steamed leafy greens. The remainder of the vegetables may be cooked in a wide variety of ways(steamed, sauteed in olive or sesame oil, boiled or baked etc).

Supplementary Foods - Beans and Sea Vegetables.

Beans are actually not necessary as a daily food. However, most people changing over to a macrobiotic dietary program from a heavy animal protein diet will find it easier to maintain their macrobiotic practice by eating beans for the first two to three years of their practice.For regular use aduki beans, chickpeas and lentils are recommended. Other beans can be used occasionally. I am personally a strong critic of tofu, feeling it is really a detrimental food to eat except on a very occasional basis. The reason I feel it is detrimental is because it is a highly refined food so that eating is akin to eating refined white flour. Also it is too high in protein and fat content.
Seaweeds such as kombu, dulse, kelp, sea palm, wakame, hijiki, arame, mekabu and nori can be prepared in a variety of ways. They can be cooked with grains, beans and vegetables, used in soups and in side dishes.
Small amounts of white meat fish and shellfish may be eaten occasionally if our condition allows, once or twice a week. Fruit desserts, as well as fresh fruits and dried fruits may be eaten occasionally depending on our condition. Only locally grown fruits of temperate origin are eaten if we live in a temperate climate, tropical and semi-tropical fruits only being eaten if we live in places with those climates. Fruit and vegetable juices are generally avoided except during the hot summer months, when we eat raw salads, again, depending on our physical condition. Roasted seeds and nuts may be consumed in small amounts as a snack or supplement.

Foods for Pleasure.
These include any food available for human consumption not mentioned above. These are only to be if we are in good health. Needless to say, if we are in poor health or have any kind of degenerative condition, it is generally recommended to avoid this category of foods. None of them are necessary.

It is highly recommended for at least the first three to five years of our macrobiotic practice to consume one bowl of miso soup every day. The soup is made with vegetables and sea vegetables and sometimes beans, to which miso, a fermented soybean paste, is added.

Total liquid intake (not including soup) is limited to between three to five eight ounce glasses a day. Of course, if we are thirsty we can drink more than the recommended amount. Beverages recommended include spring or purified water, roasted barley tea, roasted bancha twig tea, dried burdock root tea, dried dandelion root tea and grain coffee.

Nutritional Considerations.
A vast amount of research has been conducted over the past 60 years, and especially over the past 10-15 years, to determine the important and essential nutrients the human physical organism needs for optimum daily function. This has lead to the present concern over nutrient deficiencies in various diets.
It is perhaps stating the obvious the modern diet is almost entirely nutrient poor, and thus people are exhorted to ingest all kinds of nutrient supplements, including vitamins, trace elements, minerals, enzymes etc., in one form or other.
There are three main points to consider with regard to this problem. Firstly, because most people eat a diet based mainly on what is available on the supermarket shelf and these foods are manufactured, meaning they are denatured, devitalized and refined etc., they are therefore nutrient poor. Secondly, even if a diet is nutrient adequate, the presence of chronic intestinal stagnation (the problem of chronic intestinal stagnation will be addressed futher on down the road) in the small intestine assures these nutrients are not absorbed properly. This means people will be continuously undernourished which has the consequence of people in this condition tending to overeat and eat more refined foods which are easier to absorb, leading to the widespread problem of obesity.
Thirdly, a major problem, which is barely recognized, which I have also discussed on the page 'Food and You' is the quality of vitamins, trace elements, minerals and so forth being ingested. The problem is we may be ingesting all the vitamins, trace elements, minerals etc. the body needs but they are not being ingested in the correct form for the body to be able to utilize them properly. The activity of these nutrients, which I refer to as 'accurate biological (spiritual) activity' is contingent upon them being ingested in their natural, whole context; that is, in whole foods such as whole grains and vegetables.
Since all minerals, vitamins etc. are present in the brown rice, barley, kale, carrot, broccoli etc., embedded in what may be called a 'natural matrix' in the whole food, their proper, accurate, biological activity in the human organism is the effect of their own particular form, in the context of the 'natural matrix' in which they are present in the kale, daikon, kombu etc. Thus, if a vitamin or mineral etc., is extracted or processed in any way from their natural source, or, more seriously, synthesized, then the substance thus extracted, processed and manufactured bears no resemblance at all to vitamins, trace elements and minerals found in the natural form in the kale, etc.
If people with a healthy digestive system ingests these 'unnatural' supplements, which are easily recognized by the fact they are purchased in pill, powder or potion form, or as additives in a whole host of food products, the process of assimilation will result in them being 'screened out' by the healthy mucus epithelial lining. The digestive lining of the intestinal tract, in addition to being a 'selective lens', is an 'inverted tongue' which, when it 'tastes' these unnatural substances, rejects them as you would when you have a distasteful feeling in your mouth. If the digestive tract has chronic intestinal stagnation, then necessarily its functions are compromised and these unnatural substances will be assimilated and whatever effect they have will not be their proper biological activity. Furthermore, in the massive doses they are consumed it is indubitable they will have toxic effects upon the body's immune functions.

Bearing this in mind, an analysis of the wide variety of whole grains and vegetables, beans and sea vegetables show these foods to be nutrient rich. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to address the commonly held misconceptions of a macrobiotic dietary practice being deficient in certain nutrients. Of primary concern are protein, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, vitamin A, calcium, iron and caloric energy.

It is a commonly held misconception predominantly vegetarian diets are protein deficient. Even purely vegetarian diets (diets containing no animal protein at all) are not deficient in protein, and one can get all the essential amino acids from eating vegetables alone. Vegetable protein is qualitatively superior to animal protein because it does not contain saturated fats associated with cancer and heart disease. Another important point is the amount of daily protein intake generally recommended is grossly in excess of what we actually need. The adequate daily intake for the average active adult is merely one ounce of protein.

Vitamin C.
A half cup of cooked kale meets the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 60 mg. per day. In fact, leafy green vegetables contain larger amounts of vitamin C than an equal serving of citrus fruits, with broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale containing twice as much.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
The concern vitamin B2 may be lacking in vegetarian diets is based on the misconception riboflavin is only available in dairy foods. In fact, kale and mustard greens contain as much B2 as dairy foods. US RDA is 0.57 mg. per 1000 calories of food consumed.

Vitamin B12.
The concerns of a deficiency of vitamin B12 stem from the misconception it is only available from animal sources. In fact, B12 is present in more than adequate in fermented foods such as miso, tamari, soy sauce and sea vegetables.

Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is plentiful in vegetables.

Calcium (Ca).
Per cup serving, steamed leafy greens supply as much, if not more, calcium (vitamin B2 and iron also) than milk. Also, sea vegetables, which are recommended to be consumed daily, contain astonishing amounts of calcium.
Interestingly, osteoporosis, a disease symptom often thought to be primarily due to calcium deficiency, is relatively common in the industrially developed countries, whereas it is much less frequently occurring in Third World countries where dairy food is not widely consumed. Average daily calcium intake of 400-500 mg. per day is considered adequate by the World Health Organization.

Iron (Fe).
To maintain healthy quality blood, adequate sources of iron are needed for the formation of red blood cells. There are many sources of iron in grains and vegetables.

Vitamin D.
The problem of vitamin D deficiency is averted if individuals eat a wide variety of foods, including small amounts of fermented foods such as miso and pickles, and get enough sunshine.

Caloric energy.
Actually, the whole notion of caloric energy is absurd based on many people experiencing a remarkable increase in their level of vitality and stamina when adopting a macrobiotic dietary program which is, according to the caloric energy requirements regarded as adequate for the adult, hopelessly inadequate.

Whole grains, which are denoted here as being primary foods for daily eating, are widely recognized as being rich in nutrients. Paul Mangelsdorf, writing in the July 1963 issue of Scientific American, "Cereal grains ... represent a five-in-one food supply which contains complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. A whole cereal grain, if its food value is not destroyed by the over-refinement of modern methods of food processing, comes closer than any other plant for providing an adequate diet".

I received an e-mail query as to what are considered macrobiotic foods; the fact is all foods are considered macrobiotic that are actually foods, that is are not chemicals, additives, artificial preservatives, pills, powders and lotions etc. However, since the idea is to eat according to our condition, when we start out we go on a restricted, confined diet which is mainly made up of the foods in the regular use groups below. These lists is what I use when I am counseling someone, but it must be emphasised that the diet is tailored to the specific situation and needs of the individual in question. Therefore I strongly recommend you find someone in your area with experience in macrobiotic cooking and eating macrobiotically to help you get started.
The same person asked me as to the origin of the macrobiotic approach to orienting our dietary habits. This is a long story but briefly a Dr. Sagen Ishigen in Japan noticed from the research in physiology being done at the time(1860's) that the Na/K ratio in human blood and tissue fluids approximated 10-7/1. He reasoned it would make sense to eat foods that had similar ratios of Na to K (sodium to potassium) and after researching this problem he came up with a diet of cooked whole grains and vegetables. He then wrote up a little booklet which he gave to all his patients when they visited his office. George Ohsawa was 19 years old and dying from terminal tuberculosis(the medical people had given up on him) and he found this booklet, began to cook and eat the foods recommended and his tuberculosis disappeared. He then had the insight to see that sodium is representative of yang tendency and potassium the more yin tendency and that opened up the whole of Far Eastern Philosophy to him. He then spent the rest of his life developing macrobiotic theory and practice and taught all over the world. He is widely credited as being the major force in bringing macrobiotic dietary practice into the 20th Century. Any of his books are well worth finding and reading.




 Regular Use

 Occasional Use

(1-2 items from each category 2-3 x /week)





30-50% Intake






Shrt Gr Brown Rice

Whole Wheat







Wh. gr. bread *

 Long Gr Brown Rice




Whole grain noodles

Cream of rice

Whole wheat couscous

Whole popcorn

White Rice

Instant Rice

Cream of Wheat

Processed Flour

Processed Cereals



Refined Crackers

Rice cakes

* This must be sourdough whole grain bread; that is, unyeasted.


30-50% Intake

Root & Ground Vegetables













(1/2 daily intake)




Brussel sprouts




Green Onions



Winter Squashes


Red Radish

Lotus Root

Red/Green Cabbage



Corn on the Cob


Sweet Potatoes



Green Beans


Dried Shiitake Mushrooms


All Peppers





Fresh Mushrooms










Steamed Leafy Greens









(1/2 daily intake)

Chinese Cabbage


Bok Choy

Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens

Collard Greens

Daikon Greens

Dandelion Greens




Beet Greens

Swiss Chard


Romane Lettuce(cooked)



 Raw Vegetables

Raw Lettuce











Bean Products.



 5% Intake

Aduki Beans





Black Beans

Pinto Beans

Split Peas

Navy Beans


Kidney Beans


Lima Beans






5% Intake




Sea Palm










1% Intake







Toasted Sesame


Processed Oils





Nut Butters







3% Intake

Barley Miso

Umeboshi Plums

Sauerkraut (organic)

Pickled Daikon



fermented soy sauce)

Pressed salad

Mellow miso

Commercial Pickles

Commercial Vinegars











1-2% Intake

Roasted Seeds

Sesame Salt

Ume Plum Vinegar

Br. Rice Vinegar



Lemon Juice

Sesame Butter

Roasted Almonds

Roasted Walnuts






Salad Dressings










Brown Rice Syrup

Barley Malt

Squash Butter

Carrot Butter

Onion Butter






Cooked Apple/Pear


Apple Butter

Dried temperate fruit


Maple Syrup


All tropical fruit






Total Liquid Intake (not including one bowl of miso soup daily) is recommended to be no less than 3 (three) eight ounce glasses and no more than 5 (five) eight ounce glasses per day, unless we are thirsty. This means all beverage intake and water intake.
















Bancha Twig Tea

Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted Corn Tea

Spring Water

Purified Tap Water

Dandelion Root Tea

Burdock Root Tea









Grain Coffee

Mu Tea

Vegetables Juices

Apple Juice

Natural Beers





Black Teas

Aromatic Herb Teas

Distilled Water

Mineral Water

Tap Water

Carbonated Sodas

Hard Liquors



Sweet Diet Drinks

Sports Drinks

Iced Drinks

Soy Milk


Comments or questions can be sent to the address below as I check this address every few weeks. Please mention Alchemycal Pages in the subject line. Thank you. Patricia


Copyright © Kaare Bursell, 1996-2031.