If you have been living a vegan lifestyle for any significant length of time, chances are you are familiar with the terms “macrobiotic” and “raw” veganism. Although I was never really interested in adhering to a vegan “raw” foods diet, my first foray into veganism was with a strict vegan macrobiotic diet.
“Macrobiotics” is a term which was coined by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, to describe a lifestyle which included a simple balanced diet to promote health and longevity. The name comes from “macro” meaning “large” and “bios” meaning “life.” Macrobiotics promotes physical and emotional well-being by advocating consumption of natural, organic whole foods eaten in season and from local sources. Attention is paid to balancing foods at each meal (ie. a “yin/yang” approach) which includes grains, vegetables and vegetable protein (a “traditional” macrobiotic diet includes limited amounts of meat and fish). Certain foods which might disrupt body chemistry are avoided such as “nightshade” vegetables (ie. eggplants, white potatoes and tomatoes), alcohol, coffee and refined flour products.
A “raw” vegan diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above 40 degrees C (104 degrees F). Raw vegans believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are, therefore, less healthful. Advocates argue that “raw” or “live” foods have natural enzymes which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating these foods kills these natural enzymes.
Most of what I learned about macrobiotics came from the Internet. I was able to download basic macrobiotic recipes from various websites promoting macrobiotics, as well as articles about the macrobiotic lifestyle. I strictly adhered to this diet for about six months and I found it to be sensible, healthy and interesting because its approach was philosophical in nature. Since I found preparing “macrobiotic” food a little “fussy” while raising my teenage boys (who would not eat most of the foods), I strayed from this lifestyle with the intent to prepare more macrobiotic meals when my sons leave for college. However, I still incorporate much of what I’ve learned about macrobiotics into my vegan lifestyle; for example, I tend to stay away from coffee, refined sugar, refined white flour, white potatoes and eggplants since they never agreed with me anyway. My kids love udon noodles in a hot bowl of dashi (a macrobiotic meal) so it is a staple dish in my home. I often prepare my other favorite macrobiotic meals such as azuki beans with kabocha squash, nishime (ie.the slow stewing of layered vegetables in a pot with a small amount of water) and mochi (ie.pounded sweet brown rice) baked in the oven.
Learning that so many people used macrobiotics to treat and/or recover from serious illnesses fascinated me. In this regard, I suggest that you read “Recalled By Life” by Dr. Anthony Sattilaro and “My Beautiful Life” by Mina Dobic. I also suggest that you buy the wonderful cookbook called “Cooking The Whole Foods Way” by Christina Pirello who was diagnosed in 1984 with terminal cancer and recovered with the help of a macrobiotic diet. Today, she is a great vegan cookbook author, vegan chef and has her own show on National Public Television called “Christina Cooks.” For a funny and informative read, I suggest Jessica Porter’s “The Hip Chick’s Guide To Macrobiotics.”
Although I have never adhered to a strict “raw” foods diet, I do tend to eat more uncooked vegetables and fruits in the summer. I also like to juice. Many aspects of the “raw” foods movement make sense to me and, if you are interested, I suggest seeing the documentary “Supercharge Me! 30 Days Raw” (which I have never seen but I heard it was good). I also suggest that you try the wonderful raw foods restaurant “Pure Food and Wine” located in Gramercy Park in NYC which I have been to many times and love!!!
In conclusion, what do you think the answer is to the title question of this post (“macrobiotic, raw or just plain ol’ vegan?”)? For me, I think the most sensible answer is “all three.” While I incorporate many aspects of macrobiotics and the raw foods movement into my vegan lifestyle, I remain just a “plain ol’ vegan”!! Well, not really “plain”…I am a “princess”, afterall!!