Macrobiotics and Tom Brady’s Game Changing Diet (part 1)
Following Tom Brady’s epic New England Patriots Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday numerous articles in the mainstream press reviewed his “bizarre” diet with many refuting or unable to explain his choices based on popular nutritional science. But what some may not be fully aware of is that Brady’s choices closely follow basic macrobiotic dietary principles which modern nutrition increasingly continues to rediscover and validate over time. Here is a list of Brady’s choices and how they correspond to macrobiotics:
1. Organic (Natural) Foods
While “organic” is not a specific food choice but an agriculture method, macrobiotic proponents have, since its beginnings, been advocates of organic and natural methods of cultivation. Most notably among these was Silent Screen legend, Gloria Swanson who, in 1958, lobbied Congress against chemical agriculture before Rachel Carson wrote her seminal book, “Silent Spring”. George Ohsawa, father of modern macrobiotics inspired others in Japan to avoid using chemicals and pesticides and opt for traditional and more natural methods of cultivation. With their Erewhon Natural Food Stores in the 1960s, Michio and Aveline Kushi pioneered the organic and natural foods movement in the US, paving the way for what it is today.
The notion of growing things organically and naturally is simple: to live and be in harmony with our natural environment which also extends to all animal and plant life including the foods that we consume. The further removed our food that agriculture and preparation methods are from the natural world, the more out-of-sync we become and unable to adapt to the ever-changing natural environment. This includes eating seasonally and locally according to geographies and climates.
Chemical and industrial agriculture methods are, perhaps, the largest and most widespread source of environmental destruction in the world today, especially when considering the damaging effects of factory farms which continue as a direct result of our food choices. Choosing organically grown foods and free-range animals products helps prevents this ongoing destruction and is line with macrobiotic principles of being harmony with our environment.
2. 80%-20% Plant to Animal Food Ratio
While everyone, including modern nutritionists, agrees that reducing animal food consumption from today’s standards is healthy and beneficial, where did this 80%-20% ratio come from that Brady uses? Some suggest that it is derived from the economic Pareto Principle where 80% of the results come from 20% of causes.
Macrobiotic principles offer a similar but different ratio based on an entirely different approach than Pareto’s methods through simple observations of nature including that of the human form. That ratio is 7:1 which is the body to head ratio of a human being. It is also observable in ocean waves where the length of a wave is 7 to its maximum height of 1. In macrobiotics this basic 7:1 ratio represents the yin/yang ratio of natural forces that is expressed and observable in all things.
With this 7:1 ratio it is reasoned that in order to remain in harmony with the forces of nature that produce this ratio then macrobiotic theory suggests that the food we ingest and have traditionally subsisted on reflect this ratio such that plants, being yin in nature relative to animal, should be consumed in a general proportion of 7:1 – in order to maintain our human form. This 7:1 ratio in our food extends beyond plant and animal foods and is, theoretically, reflected in our nutrient intake like so:
Thus, according to macrobiotic theory, for the average human, the 7:1 ratio of plant to animal food would be 87.5% to 12.5% which is less animal food intake than Brady’s 80%/20% rule. However, given his strenuous physical lifestyle he can afford to increase his animal food intake to 20% to maintain muscle strength. For those who lead a less physically active life that ratio can ideally be at 12.5% or less.
It should be noted that these ratios are theoretical suggestions only and should not be taken as strict rules or gospel. They can and should be studied and applied with a spirit of exploration and discovery through experiential trial and error to understand what works best for each person and how the universe actually works. Clearly, the 80%/20% rule has been working out for Tom Brady so far, but this will be different for every individual person and will probably change over time even for Tom Brady himself.
More importantly, it should also be noted that any rule, macrobiotic or otherwise, is subject to and superseded by the larger, dominant universal macrobiotic principle that everything changes. Everything changes from moment to moment and this change can only be understood experientially and not theoretically. All rules and theories are derived from what we experience. They are all relative and will eventually become obsolete either in time or in place or both and the only single standing rule that remains constant for all eternity is that everything changes in the universe, which is the foundation of all macrobiotic understanding.
3. No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG.
Central to macrobiotic dietary principles is the consumption of WHOLE foods, as opposed to partial and highly processed foods. The macrobiotic rationale is that plants and animals, in their most natural state, have found a harmonious existence with the natural forces of their environment. In this way and as food, they are most complete in value in their whole, natural state. Thus in macrobiotics, it is preferred to consume an entire carrot including the skin and the leafy green portion. It is preferred to eat whole brown rice instead of white rice. It is preferred to eat the whole fish instead of only part of it, and so on. By eating only part and by further refining and processing foods to a state far removed from its natural state then by eating them we risk lacking the essential and balancing nutrients that made us originally whole human beings.
If you compare complex carbohydrates and sugar to materials we use to burn and create heat and energy then the difference between eating whole grains versus white sugar is a similar to the difference between burning firewood and using gasoline. The difference between whole grains and refined grains, like white rice and white flour, is the difference between burning firewood and paper. With gasoline the fire is explosive and burns rapidly. With paper, the fire burns also quickly relative to wood. Similarly, in the body, sugar burns explosively and rapidly giving a person a quick high burst of energy only to soon come crashing down. Whereas a body nourished on whole grains will burn slowly, like a piece of firewood and will give off continuous energy and heat for a steadier and longer period of time.
In this way, eating refined sugar and grains consistently everyday, giving us rapid highs and lows, eventually taxes the body and leads to blood sugar problems, hypoglycemia, obesity, depression and diabetes. This also applies to other refined products and chemicals like MSG, alcoholic beverages, food supplements, medications and recreational drugs. Over-consumption of all of these extreme foods can create drastic imbalances in the body. Conversely, these highly refined products can also be used to address other types of extreme situations as well which is why they can be effective as temporary medicines. But for everyday consumption and to ensure steady, long-lasting energy that a professional athlete like Tom Brady requires, then there is nothing better than eating whole grains as a regular staple and source for carbohydrates.
(To be continued….)