Saturday, September 19, 2020

Holistic Health: The BIG PICTURE – Macrobiotics


Confusion and Controversy

Writing about the dangers of a high protein diet (see Beware High Protein Diets) brings me to the issue of the small picture versus the BIG PICTURE (Macrobiotics).

There is a lot of confusion, controversy and conflicting ideas in the field of health. Some of these ideas are downright dangerous. Yet they are being propagated by well-intentioned and learned “experts”.

Why? Very often, it is because these people look at just one or two narrow aspects of health. For example, in the case of high protein diets, they focus on weight loss rather than on overall health. They look at the small picture, rather than the big picture.

This is typical of modern-day thinking – even among “holistic” health practitioners who are supposed to be looking at the “whole”. Few actually do.

There are lots of examples:


Concern about osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become brittle due to calcium loss, has led modern nutritionists, dieticians and medical doctors to recommend that people drink more milk and eat more dairy foods like cheese, yogurt and ice-cream.

By making such recommendations, they fail to consider the fact that milk and dairy foods are strongly associated with some very serious health problems, including female cancers such as breast and womb cancers. If you look at world cancer statistics, you will see clearly that milk-producing countries – like England, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, New Zealand, etc – have the highest rates of female cancers.

Dairy foods are also strongly associated with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and also allergies.

And, they don’t really solve the problem of osteoporosis. On the one hand, milk provides calcium. On the other hand, milk is a high protein food and such foods cause the body to lose calcium!


Fear of cholesterol has led to, among other things, margarine being recommended over butter.

Again, this is overall more harmful. The single good point about margarine is that it does not contain cholesterol.

The many bad points include the fact that margarine is a highly artificial food – the making of margarine is similar to the process of making plastic! – and that taking margarine increases the risks of cancer.

In his book, Fats and Oils, Udo Erasmus did a simple but very thorough comparison of margarine with butter. He awarded one point for each positive quality, and deducted one point for each negative. (And where it is not clearly good or bad, he gave 1/2 point.)

His bottom line: Butter scored between -1/2 and -2 1/2, depending on the quality. Margarine scored at least -7!

(I will look for the article I did on this and put it up later.)


Many “holistic” health practitioners recommend that we take vitamin and mineral supplements in order to achieve more “balanced nutrition”. They point out that because of modern farming practices, our foods today are “depleted” of important vitamins and minerals, and therefore we need to make up for it by taking pills.

It sounds reasonable. It even sounds like they have considered the “big picture”.

But if you think about it more deeply, if you look at the even bigger picture, you will realise that taking vitamins and mineral supplements causes greater imbalances instead.

A fruit or vegetable does not merely contain 5, 10 or 100 vitamins and minerals. Recent scientific studies reveal that they contain an entire class of chemicals called “phytochemicals” – the word meaning “plant chemicals”. A single vegetable may contain more than 10,000 different phytochemicals.

So even if you take multi-vitamin tablets, you are increasing your intake of these few vitamins, but not increasing your intake of these thousands of other phytochemicals. You are creating a chemical imbalance!

The imbalance is worse when you take huge amounts of just one vitamin, like vitamin C. Some people take such incredible amounts of vitamin C that, if they were to try and get the same amount of this vitamin from fruits and vegetables, they would need to eat a few hundred kilograms of fruits and vegetables per day.

Such practices are totally unnatural and unbalanced. They might make sense as a temporary measure, like taking medicine for a few days when one is unwell.

But those who do it every day are focusing only on a few vitamins and minerals – the small picture. They are not focusing on the overall diet – the big picture.


Within natural health circles, another group of people focus on enzymes, the “live” element of foods. These are the raw foodists who believe that, because enzymes are all important, we should eat as much raw foods as possible.

And so they advocate diets of mainly – or only – salads and fruits.

Such a diet makes the body very cold.

There is a reason why people in cold climates eat foods that have been cooked a long time, like stews and, for the Chinese, “double-boiled” soups. These foods keep the body warm. It is taking in fire energy, equivalent to “eating fire”.

A raw foods diet can be temporarily helpful in cleansing the body, but not in the long-term.

Some raw foodists can keep healthy – or apparently healthy – on such a diet for many years because of their strong body constitution, unique lifestyle (eg spending long hours in the sun) and other factors.

Also, many of these people had spent their early years eating huge amounts of meat. One raw foodist I know used to eat an entire chicken for lunch when he was younger.

For such people, a diet of fruits and salads balances their past. Even then, they eventually reach a stage where they grow weak.

Others grow weak much sooner. Asians raised on a diet of white rice and vegetables, for example, will not usually be able to tolerate a raw diet for long. They might develop illnesses which, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, are classified as “cold and damp”.

I was on such a diet for a while. One cold rainy night, I ate a salad for dinner and woke up in the middle of the night with an asthma attack!


Likewise, the raw foods people and many others in the natural / holistic health movement focus on cleansing, and some of them recommend drinking distilled water.

True, distilled water is a very powerful cleanser. Initially you will probably feel better after drinking distilled water because of all the toxins being cleansed out. But again, you will soon reach a stage where you start to grow weak!

Distilled water is extremely weakening.

THE BIG PICTURE: Macrobiotics

There are lots more examples of looking at the small picture, at just one or two narrow aspects of health and well-being.

From my studies and research, I find that one of the few health philosophies that look at the BIG PICTURE is macrobiotics. Here’s how:

  1. Macrobiotics considers the effect of eating a particular food, rather than what a particular food contains – ie how much vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, cholesterol, etc.
  2. Macrobiotics takes into account the fact that every person is different and therefore has different needs. It does not prescribe the same recommendations for everyone. Although there are broad guidelines, the details are very much different for different individuals.
  3. Macrobiotics considers such factors as how food is produced, where (under what environmental and climatic conditions) is it grown and so on. For example, soy sauce that is naturally fermented over four seasons has different quality compared with soy sauce that is made in a factory in a few days, even though the factory-made soy sauce may use organic and natural ingredients.
  4. Even though macrobiotics seems to place a lot of importance on diet, it actually covers very broad areas including the environment, climate, the landscape (as in geomancy and feng shui), Northern vs Southern hemisphere and even cosmic forces. It also considers human relationships, exercise, work and other activity, emotions, attitudes and a host of other lifestyle factors.

Of course, macrobiotics is not the only system of health care that looks at the big picture. There are others, including Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

But there are really very few of such systems. If you examine carefully, you will realise that the majority of the teaching and ideas about health adopt very narrow viewpoints. They may be helpful in one or two areas, but they can also be harmful.

Be careful of these. Always look at the BIG PICTURE.

May Ling
Macrobiotics & natural health practitioner of Chinese decent. May Ling provides a Yin-Yang perspective to holistic health and natural healing. Contact:

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