Beyond watching or losing weight, a macrobiotic diet focuses on helping one live a balanced life. The diet has a combination of certain dietary principles and Buddhist spirituality that aim to impact the dieter’s physical and spiritual wellness. Some of these principles include regular eating, extreme food chewing and keeping a positive perspective on life.
Macrobiotic, as a word, was coined from parts of the words macro, meaning big, and biotic, which stands for life. So, the combination represents a big view of life. Macrobiotic diets became popular in the 1970s, and according to George Ohsawa’s philosophy, the diet’s essence is to bring vitality and promote a balanced lifestyle. The philosophy evolved from Ohsawa’s search for another way of eating due to his sickness (7).
Macrobiotic diet definition
What is a macrobiotic diet? This diet combines the concepts of Buddhist spirituality with some dietary principles to promote wellness spiritually and physically. It also employs the Asian yin and yang principles, which implies that when you serve a ”yang” food like grain, you should combine it with a ”yin” food like vegetables to balance out the diet (7).
Part of the goals that macrobiotic diets try to achieve is the avoidance of toxins, which are found in oily foods and dairy products. The main foods in this diet include locally grown fresh veggies, whole grains, beans, and sea veggies. At the same time, seasonal fruits, seeds, nuts, and eating white fish two to three times weekly, can form part of this amazing diet.
Some who pursue better health have found this diet useful. It is a primarily plant-based diet, and research has shown that plant-based diets may help maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of several diseases (3). In essence, the macrobiotic diet helps to obtain a natural and calm way of life, even though there is no scientific proof that back this specific diet’s health benefits.
What do you eat on a macrobiotic diet?
The focus of macrobiotic eating is put on organic, natural food. It also leverages organic whole grains, which are expected to constitute about 50 per cent of everything you take daily. So, your macrobiotic diet food list can include the following (3):
- brown rice
If you are taking vegetables that are locally grown, depending on what is in season, you can consume any of the following:
Bear in mind that any of the vegetables listed above should make up one-third of whatever you take daily. Other food that you may add to you daily menu include:
- soy products (e.g. miso)
- sea vegetables (e.g. seaweed)
- vegetable oil
- natural seasonings (e.g. naturally processed sea salt)
Food that you steam or sauté can also be eaten. Then, any soup that you make with the following ingredients will not be a bad idea:
- soy products (e.g. miso and tofu)
- sea salt
The point is 50%-60% of foods to eat daily should be whole grains, and as for the veggies, it should be within 25% and 30%. As for beans and sea veggies, and soups, the composition should be between 5% and 10% (4).
Food to avoid
It is not advisable to eat vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and eggplant (3). Processed foods like cookies, store-bought cakes, and white bread; dairy products, eggs, poultry, and refined sugars are not encouraged. Also, avoid taking fruit juice and tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapples if you want to get the best result.
Beverages that have strong alcohol, things preserved or processed chemically, coffee, and soda should not be considered. Besides, avoid food that has artificial ingredients or seasonings like oregano and garlic.
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Macrobiotic diet recipes
Part of what has encouraged dieters to stick to Macrobiotic diet plan is the fact that it is easy to follow. So, if you want to try out this diet, here is a sample meal plan (menu) (4):
- Oatmeal (2 cups)
- Whole-wheat sourdough bread (2 slices) and add with two tablespoons of apple butter
- Bancha tea (Japanese green tea)
- Tempeh-sauerkraut sushi and cucumber sushi
- Bancha tea
- Boiled salad (dress with tofu)
- Mix roasted almonds, raisins and sunflower seeds (1/2 cup)
- Miso soup (1 bowl)
- Rice and baked sole
- Grated daikon (1/4 cup)
- Watercress (boiled) and carrots with umeboshi-scallion dressing
- Pear sauce and couscous cake
- Grain coffee (1 cup)
How it works
To get the best of your macrobiotic diet, a few principles that you cannot overlook when preparing your meal are the following (1):
- Don’t use microwave ovens or electricity for cooking.
- Purify the water you drink or use for cooking always.
- Use pots and utensils made of stainless steel, glass, wood, or ceramics for cooking and storing your food.
- Prepare your food in a peaceful and calm environment.
Can you use the macrobiotic diet as a cancer treatment?
Although no scientific evidence has proven a macrobiotic diet’s ability to cure cancer, some cancer patients use the plan to complement their healing process (1). They believe that as they stay away from meals that have toxins and other dairy products, it can have a positive impact on their general wellbeing.
Pros and cons of macrobiotic diet
Some of the benefits involved include:
Minimises the risk of disease
Plant-based diets like this one can significantly help reduce one’s risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (5). Women who work with the plan may be less prone to breast and other cancers as well. This is partly due to the fact that the diet, which is composed of plants, has anti-inflammatory power.
Promotes healthy heart
Low fat and plant-based diets can reduce cholesterol and blood lipids that manage blood pressure.
Macrobiotic diet weight loss is another benefit that is reportedly possible. If you replace high-fat meats and processed foods with vegetables, chances are it can help you burn some calories. Apart from that, the fact that it emphasizes whole grains and bean products are possible factors that can aid in weight loss (2).
Beneficial for type II diabetic patients
Considering the emphasis on high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, patients who have type II diabetes and those who experience deficient blood sugar levels four hours after eating (known as reactive hypoglycemia) will find it beneficial (6).
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Challenging to maintain
The fact that you have to prepare your food from scratch and also get locally grown ingredients is a significant challenge associated with this diet.
Inadequate Vitamin Intake
There have been debates on whether this diet grants the necessary vitamins that the body needs to grow effectively. Due to the exclusion of animal products, the likes of zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and vitamins B12 and D are part of what is not assured can be contained in the diet.
Lack of necessary calories for promoting recovery
Another downside of this diet is that the needed variation and calories in the body to quicken recovery for a sick person may not be available (6). At the same time, it may hinder proper growth and development, especially for children.
If you want a balanced and healthy lifestyle, a macrobiotic diet is worth pursuing, considering the reports given by those who have tried it. However, you should really mull over the pros and cons of following the plan and speak to a licensed healthcare provider before you incorporate it into your daily life.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Macrobiotic diet (2019, cancerresearchuk.org)
- Macrobiotic Diet (health.usnews.com)
- Macrobiotic diet (2020, webmd.com)
- Macrobiotic Diet Recipes (health.usnews.com)
- The Pros and Cons of a Macrobiotic Diet (2017, purplecarrot.com)
- What is the macrobiotic diet? (2019, bbcgoodfood.com)
- With Macrobiotic Cooking, A Balance of Yin and Yang (1988, nytimes.com)