Often, when I talk about the macrobiotic diet, people often say, “Gee, I eat lots of brown rice and vegetables. I can’t believe how macrobiotic I am.” This is, mind you, just as they are tucking into their second slice of quiche. Or, they say, “Please don’t feed us organic food for dinner. We want roast beef!” This is usually from a member of my family. And the last usual comment: “Macrobiotic? Oh. You mean you’re vegan.”
There are many misunderstandings of the macrobiotic diet, simply because it is a vegetarian diet, after all, which emphasises the consumption of natural foods and that means, for the most part, organic produce. So, as a matter of linguistic evolution, the three words, macrobiotic, organic, vegan, seem to have come to be used interchangeably.
But there are several key differences and I would like to make them clear here:
Macrobiotics is a system of eating and living, not just a diet which says you can’t eat this, this and this, and you have to eat that, that and that. It is about balancing the foods we eat, eating a certain proportion of various foods each day and indeed, on a wider level, informs a full lifestyle – spirituality, emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing. It covers our place as human beings in the overall circle of life, to borrow a phase from the Lion King.
Veganism, on the other hand, is simply a diet, although many vegans espouse values about sustainable eating that overlap with macrobiotic lifestyle values.
Now, I could eat nothing but vegan chocolate cake and still be vegan, albeit an unhealthy one. (OK, so this is an extreme example but I am trying to make a point.) From a macrobiotic perspective, however, I would be eating myself into a yin funk because this would be an unbalanced diet.
That vegan chocolate cake could be made from organic ingredients, but it still would not be recommended on a macrobiotic diet. Nor would it be considered healthy on any other diet despite it being organic.