The macrobiotic diet is largely a vegetarian lifestyle known to promote longevity and improve health. The diet is focused on vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. While most people follow this diet to improve physical health, it’s known to boost spiritual health and positively affect the environment.
In the 1920s, George Ohsawa, a Japanese actor, developed the macrobiotic diet. In the 1970s, Michio Kushi promoted the diet and made it more popular. Michio Kushi was a student of Ohsawa. He also founded Kushi institute and Erewhon Natural Foods. The origin of the word “macrobiotic” can be traced back to green and means long life.
Most adherents to this macrobiotic diet follow an individual eating plan depending on many factors such as health needs, activity, sex, age, season, and climate. The main concept is to find the right balance by eating the foods the body needs. The macrobiotic diet counters the more acid foods such as refined grains with the more alkaline ones such as legumes and vegetables.
Although it’s created to be a lifetime diet, the macrobiotic diet challenges and restrictions might prove too challenging for people to continue with it long term. The 2020 US News & World Report Best Diets ranked the macrobiotic diet #24 in their list of the best diets and scored 2.9 out of 5.[i]
What You Can Eat
High in fiber and low in fat, the macrobiotic diet predominantly emphasizes picking plant-based foods over processed foods and animal products. Ohsawa’s version of this macrobiotic diet involved 20 progressively restrictive phases, with the final phase comprising only water and brown rice. Nevertheless, this was a dangerous approach that proponents of this diet no longer suggest.
It’s essential to avoid the processed foods and instead stick to whole foods while following the macrobiotic diet – choose local and organic foods whenever possible. Proponents of this diet utilize low-fat cooking techniques, especially water-based methods like boiling, steaming, or braising.
The key to this diet is to ensure you eat only 2 or 3 times each day and stop eating before you start feeling hungry. Whenever you eat, it’s essential to slow down a bit and eat mindfully; this helps prevent overconsumption. Porter also claims that thoroughly chewing each food mouthful will help the digestive process.
Complex carbs like whole grains need a specific enzyme in the saliva to be absorbed completely. Porter states that trying to chew every mouthful 50 – 100 times. It might seem challenging, start with about 20 – 30 times per food mouthful and work from there.
In many cases, millet, buckwheat, barley, and brown rice make up approximately 50% to 60% of every meal. Furthermore, some flour-based products such as bread and pasta might be consumed occasionally as part of the macrobiotic diet.
Veggies typically contain about 25% to 30% of the recommended daily intake in this diet, and about a third of your vegetable intake should be raw. Else, the vegetables should be sautéed, baked, boiled, or steamed. Some proponents of the macrobiotic diet recommend avoiding zucchini, beets, spinach, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes, even though they aren’t strictly disallowed.
The macrobiotic diet involves eating one to two bowls or cups of soup every day. In many cases, followers of this diet pick soy-based soups such as miso.
Beans comprise approximately 10% of the diet. It includes soybeans that can be consumed in the form of natto, tempeh, and tofu.
People following the macrobiotic diet utilized unrefined vegetable oil and dark sesame oil for cooking and flavoring. Also, the diet allows mustard seed oil, corn oil, and light sesame oil.
Although dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat are included in the macrobiotic diet. Seafood and fish are consumed with grated daikon, mustard, ginger, wasabi, or horseradish.
What You Cannot Eat
Following are some of the foods and products that are strictly prohibited while following this diet.
Besides high-quality, well water or spring water, the macrobiotic diet allows dandelion root tea, roasted barley tea, roasted brown rice tea, steam tea, and kukicha twig. However, sweetened drinks, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol aren’t recommended.
Sweeteners And Sugars
Naturally sweet foods like dried fruit, adzuki beans, squash, and apples make great macrobiotic diet desserts. Nonetheless, you should avoid carob, chocolate, molasses, honey, and sugar. Instead, try amazake, barley malt, and rice syrup.
Does The Macrobiotic Diet Aid In Weight Loss?
Although the macrobiotic diet doesn’t have strong clinical studies investigating its ability to help consumers lose weight, the diet’s ban on processed foods and continued emphasis on filling foods, bean products, and vegetables will most likely result in weight loss.
It’s all based on building a calorie deficit, eating fewer calories than the recommended maximum, or burning off extra calories by exercise, and you’ll be surprised by how the numbers drop quickly. How fast and whether you keep your weight off is all up to what you eat.
Also, this eating plan shares doctrines with vegetarians, and vegetarianism tends to eat few calories and weigh much less than other meat-eating peers.
The macrobiotic diet might provide health benefits and may aid weight loss, but it’s possibly low in many valuable nutrients. Furthermore, using this diet to self-treat, the chronic condition could harm your wellbeing if it means delaying or avoiding medical care.
If you’re looking to try out this macrobiotic diet, you should first consult a doctor for more guidance – particularly if you have an underlying health condition like heart disease or diabetes.
What Are The Rules Of The Macrobiotic Diet?
The macrobiotic diet is a huge departure from the standard American diet, eliminating many foods – namely animal products that might cause many dieters to go back to normal diets. Nevertheless, you are free to slightly change guidelines to help keep a stronghold on the wagons.
Following are some of the rules you should follow while on the macrobiotic diet?
- Focus on eating whole, organic grains – they should make up about 50% of your daily food intake: these wild rice, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and bulgur wheat. Choose whole cereal grains instead of bread and whole-grain pasta.
- It’s recommended that you eat vegetables that are in season and grown locally – these should make up about one-third of the RDA. Veggies you can eat every day include green cabbage, parsley, carrots, radishes, onion, bok Choy, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.
- Besides 1/3 of vegetables, other foods you should eat while on this diet include vegetable oil, sea vegetables (seaweed), soy products (miso), beans, and pickles.
- Food preparation methods, including sautéing and steaming, are highly recommended.
- Soup made from ingredients such as soy products (miso and tofu), sea salt, seaweed, lentils, and vegetables.
- Foods such as lettuce, celery, cucumbers, nuts, seeds, and organic berries, and tree fruit should be eaten occasionally.
- Eat meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, seafood, and fish rarely, few times a month.
Potential Health Benefits
Although scientific research for some of the health benefits that the macrobiotic diet claims to offer are limited, initial research shows that following this macrobiotic diet might provide numerous health benefits. However, some of the health benefits you’ll get from this diet include:
Prevention And Treatment Of Diabetes
In a 2014 report, researchers investigated the findings from 21 day long studies. The researchers found that adopting the macrobiotic diet helped reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and improved control of blood sugar in adults living with diabetes.[ii]
Furthermore, a study conducted in 2015 showed that this diet might help minimize levels of some markers of inflammation and insulin (two significant factors in the progression and development of diabetes.[iii] Also, it might help aid weight loss.
Decreased Risks Of Certain Types Of Cancers
Research shows that consuming the macrobiotic diet might help to decrease the risks of certain types of cancers. Nonetheless, no long-term clinical trials have been undertaken to determine this relationship.[iv]
Furthermore, lifestyle factors like eating processed foods, avoiding smoking, reducing stress, getting regular exercise, and eating red meat also play a significant role in the reduction of cancer in some people.[v]
Sample Shopping List
Closely complying with the macrobiotic diet could be challenging, mainly because it’s hard to determine the right foods for you. And after you do, some of these foods might be difficult to source as well as expensive. The shopping list below provides recommendations for getting started with this macrobiotic diet.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an exclusive shopping list; you might find other types of food, which are more suitable for your preferences and tastes. Some of the foods you should consider including on your shopping cart include:
- Teas (dandelion root, brown rice, roasted barley)
- Condiments and seasonings (sesame seeds, roasted seaweed, fermented pickles, ginger root, umeboshi plums, umeboshi vinegar, and miso paste)
- Unrefined vegetable oils (mustard seed oil, corn oil, light sesame oil)
- Fish (smelt, trout, herring, haddock, halibut)
- Beans (tempeh, adzuki, beans, natto, soybeans)
- Fruit (melon, grapes, berries, peaches, pears, apples)
- Cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy vegetables (lotus root, cauliflower, broccoli, seaweed, bok Choy, kale)
- Whole grains (buckwheat, barley, quinoa, brown rice, bulgur wheat)
Also, you should consider buying the following food products occasionally; you need to eat them a few times each week.
Sample Meal Plan
Meals users are supposed to eat on the macrobiotic diet could be time-consuming to prepare. The 3-day meal plan below offers recommendations for getting started with this diet. Users can opt to accompany their meals with tea or water.
Keep in mind that this sample meal plan isn’t exclusive and doesn’t comply with some of the highly stringent cooking techniques associated with this diet. Also, it includes cooking techniques specifically related to this diet. Also, it includes slightly processed foods such as tofu. If you opt to follow the macrobiotic diet lifestyle, there might be other preparation techniques and meals that work better for you.
- Breakfast – one cup of miso soup that is simmered with half a cup tofu, kombu, and dashi
- Lunch – ½ cup of edamame, one cup barley, one and a half cups of steamed vegetables (lotus root, carrots, kale)
- Dinner – 3 ounces miso halibut, ½ cup oyster mushroom stir fry, and bok Choy
- Breakfast – one cup of cooked buckwheat grouts topped with one cup of mixed berries
- Lunch – one cup of seaweed salad and pickled burdock root, one cup of brown rice, and ½ cup natto
- Dinner – vegetables, brown rice, seaweed, adzuki beans, and tofu
- Breakfast – one cup savory breakfast cup with 1/3 cup of pickled vegetables, soy sauce, sprouts, seaweed, avocado, and brown rice
- Lunch – one cup of kinpira gobo, one cup of herring bean salad
- Dinner – one cup broccoli stir fry with no sugar and half a cup of pan-seared tempeh
- Breakfast – two cups oatmeal, Two slices whole wheat sourdough bread with two tablespoons apple butter bancha tea
- Lunch – bancha tea, boiled salad and tofu, tempeh-sauerkraut sushi, and cucumber sushi
- Dinner – one cup grain coffee, pear sauce, and couscous cake, ¼ cup of grated daikon, baked sole and rice, one bowl miso soup
Pros and Cons Of The Macrobiotic Diet
The macrobiotic diet is likely to be effective and safe for many people, but it has a few downsides you should be aware of. This section reviews the advantages and disadvantages of this diet to inform your final decision about trying it out.
Basically, enjoy all foods included in the macrobiotic diet and feel satisfied with the commitment. It may be worth it for the expected health benefits.
Promotes Longevity And Health
According to the practitioners, the anti-inflammatory properties of the macrobiotic diet might protect against a wide range of chronic diseases and could slow down the aging process. There are a few emerging research to support the claim.[vi]
Keep in mind that the macrobiotic diet is quite low in processed foods, sugar, and fat of all types. The macrobiotic diet is rich in fiber and other valuable nutrients such as vegetables and whole grains. Therefore, switching to the macrobiotic diet might boost an individual’s intake of smart choices. Nevertheless, experts suggest that eating a completely organic diet isn’t necessary.
The macrobiotic diet foods comprise solid nutrition recommendations and standards. Also, the diet recommends limiting salt, added sugar, and processed foods, which is a healthier habit for anyone, regardless of whether weight loss is their goal.
Encourages Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
The macrobiotic diet is not a rapid weight loss diet. It’s essentially a combination of healthier lifestyle changes, which are sustainable in the long term to enhance overall wellbeing.
Although the focus is mainly on promoting good health, the macrobiotic diet also encourages followers to consume more vegetables. Other healthier lifestyle behaviors promoted on the macrobiotic diet include reading food nutrition fact labels, eating slower, and drinking enough water.
Includes Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
To effectively lose weight, you should drink fewer calories than your body burns. That is the main approach to quickly losing weight. Nonetheless, the macrobiotic diet is not all about losing weight.
To effectively reduce levels of bad cholesterol in your body and decrease risks of cardiovascular disease, specific foods should be drastically reduced or complexly eliminated.t the macrobiotic diet encourages nutrient-rich whole foods such as seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, which are lower in saturated fat and calories.
Sustainable long-term the macrobiotic diet was created as a long-term eating plan to promote good health. While users may start seeing results later in the months to come, they can abruptly enhance their heart disease marketers and cholesterol levels if they stick to this diet in the long run.[vii]
Essentially, the macrobiotic diet might be complex and takes lots of time to properly balance all the lifestyle and nutritional factors, which go into the macrobiotic diet, particularly because of the fact that the interpretation and implementation vary.
Since the macrobiotic diet doesn’t include many animal products, it might be lacking in some valuable nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B12, and protein. It’s for this reason that health experts caution that it might be very restrictive for some.
Is The Macrobiotic Diet A Healthy Option For You?
You might have realized that there are some similarities between the macrobiotic diet and other vegetarian diets. In the same way as the macrobiotic diet, the pescatarian diet is high in fiber and low in fat, featuring lots of vegetables and some fish. The Okinawa diet is also similar since it’s mostly vegetarian but allows some seafood and fish.
The doctrine of the macrobiotic diet is pretty unique since it tries to create a balance between a healthy lifestyle and great foods. In the same way as the whole foods diet, this diet cuts back on processed foods. However, the macrobiotic diet is more restrictive and removes animal products except for most sugars and seafood. The high restrictive nature of this diet might be the main reason why it’s difficult to comply with this diet.
The United States department of agriculture recommends a balanced mixture of dairy, grains, vegetables, fruit, and protein for great health.[viii] However, although the macrobiotic diet includes most of these foods except dairy, it differs from the USDA dietary guidelines when it comes to its proportions.
For instance, the USDA recommends about one-third to one-fourth of a healthy diet comprising grains, and at least of the grains should be whole. However, the macrobiotic diet only allows whole grains and recommends that they should comprise over half of the consumed calories. Furthermore, the diet restricts fat and protein sources; hence careful attention should be exercised to ensure enough protein and fat consumption.
How Much Does The Macrobiotic Diet Cost?
Buying enough whole grains and produces as required when following the macrobiotic diet can get expensive. However, since no animal products are involved except seafood, bypassing the butcher will also keep the prices lower and more reasonable. Furthermore, bean products and whole beans are some of the most affordable food choices you’ll ever find out there.
So, overall, the macrobiotic diet shouldn’t make you break the bank. When it comes to fresh produce and vegetables, you can save on costs by getting your products from the farmer’s market.
What is the Main Health Benefit of the Macrobiotic Diet?
What Foods Should You Eat on the Macrobiotic Diet?
Is the Macrobiotic Diet Dangerous?
Are Eggs Part of the Macrobiotic Diet?
What are the Healthiest Diets?
Why is the Macrobiotic Diet Not Healthy?
- [i] U.S. News & World Report. Best Diets 2020. Macrobiotic Diet.
- [ii] Porrata-Maury C, Hernández-Triana M, Ruiz-Álvarez V, et al. Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diet and type 2 diabetes mellitus: Pooled analysis of short-term intervention studies. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2014;30 Suppl 1:55-66. doi:10.1002/dmrr.2519
- [iii] Soare A, del Toro R, Roncella E, et al. The effect of macrobiotic Ma-Pi 2 diet on systemic inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes: A post hoc analysis of the MADIAB trial. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2015;3(1):e000079. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2014-000079
- [iv] Lanou AJ, Svenson B. Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: an analysis of recent reports. Int J Cancer Manag. 2011;3:1. doi:10.2147/CMAR.S6910
- [v] Khan N, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Lifestyle as risk factor for cancer: Evidence from human studies. Cancer Lett. 2010;293(2):133-143. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2009.12.013
- [vi] Harmon BE, Carter M, Hurley TG, Shivappa N, Teas J, Hébert JR. Nutrient composition and anti-inflammatory potential of a prescribed macrobiotic diet. Nutr Cancer. 2015;67(6):933-940. doi:10.1080/01635581.2015.1055369
- [vii] Fallucca F, Fontana L, Fallucca S, Pianesi M. Gut microbiota and Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes. 2015;6(3):403-11. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i3.403
- [viii] U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.