The Macrobiotic Diet: What You Need To Know
Typically, dieting is the first thing people think of when they want to lose weight. Well, with the macrobiotic diet, you get a whole lot more than just weight loss. You get an entire lifestyle transformation.
This compound word is made up of “macro,” or big, and “biotic,” or life. Those who follow this diet have placed their confidence in the idea that food contains life forces that have the power to affect us in either a good or a bad way, depending on where and how they were grown and cooked.
Dieters are encouraged to do the following:
• Reduce animal products
• Eat food that’s locally grown
• Drink only when thirsty
• Consume meals in moderation
• Chew each bite of food 50 times
• Eat three times a day
• Stop eating before feeling full
• Stay active
• Maintain a positive mental outlook
Around the 1900s, a Japanese army doctor named Sagen Ishizuka introduced a method of healing the body from the inside out. His method is intended to help with many health issues, including chronic illnesses similar to those that he’d suffered from for years, and obesity, and diabetes. His method followed a balanced eating regime, which mirrored the traditional Japanese diet. This was something that had gone unnoticed in Western culture, which focused on the treating the symptoms, rather than the disease itself. His regime called for eating whole, unrefined foods, with little or no animal foods.
From this, the macrobiotic diet was born. The main goal of this diet is to create a harmonious entity. Since food is our main source of energy, that’s what this diet focuses on. The main way it accomplishes this is by balancing the yin and yang elements of food, which can be easily identified via a food chart.
Foods that are more yang are salty or spicy. Foods that are more yin tend to be sweet, cold, and feel light. The way to enjoy the ultimate balance is to pair foods so that you end up with an assortment of yin and yang, similar to the balance found in nature. Moderation is also a key to the macrobiotic diet.
Another important factor of this diet is the cookware in which food is prepared. Cooking utensils for this diet should be made from glass or wood. One should avoid cooking with things like non-stick coatings, plastic and copper. One should also avoid electric ovens and microwaves. Foods should be baked, broiled, or steamed.
When this diet first started, people associated the diet with malnutrition and serious nutritional deficiencies since the early adopters used only water and brown rice and avoided animal products at all costs. Nowadays, meals are planned in a more balanced way so you can enjoy all types of food, but within reason. Most dieters feel it’s better if they take supplements and multivitamins to counterbalance the reduced amounts of the following components of a balanced diet:
Pregnant women may face problems with the extreme versions of this diet. Such versions won’t provide the mother or the fetus with the necessary minerals and vitamins essential for a healthy pregnancy or for natural breast-feeding.
Kids and Teens
During the childhood and teenage years, the body requires essential supplements for normal, healthy growth. That’s why it’s better for kids and teens to avoid the macrobiotic diet. It doesn’t provide the necessary nutrients required for normal development.
The macrobiotic diet may cause problems for those suffering from cancer. Instead of easing the pain or healing the disease, it may cause health complications for the dieter. In addition, cancer patients already suffer from a decrease in weight and a loss of appetite, both of which lead to frailty and weakness. Cancer patients require more calories and nutrients than this diet often provides.
What to Eat
The standard belief of the macrobiotic diet is that food shouldn’t be preserved chemically in any way. It should not be processed or refined. As long as you keep everything balanced, you can’t go wrong with a diet that targets whole foods and lean sources of protein, like fish, while reducing sugars and fats.
The macrobiotic diet mainly focuses on whole grains. These make up 50 – 60% of macro meals. Preferably, such grains are organically and locally grown. The best grains include the following:
• Wild and brown rice
• Whole wheat
• Barley wheat
In the macrobiotic diet, 20-30% of the diet should come from vegetables. These should also be grown locally. It is preferable if they are eaten in season. Leafy greens are recommended—but you should minimize your intake of spinach since it’s more on the yang side. Make sure you balance the yin and yang properties of the vegetables used in your macro meals.
In the macrobiotic diet, 10% of the diet should consist of beans and bean products. Some examples of bean products are the following:
• Whole beans
A major component of the macrobiotic diet is soup. Especially soups that contain vegetables, sea vegetables, beans, and grains are the perfect addition to a macrobiotic diet.
Lean protein sources, like fresh fish, are packed with healthy fats and minerals. The macrobiotic diet recommends that you eat fresh fish no more than 2 or 3 times a week. You can forgo seafood all together if you’re a vegetarian.
Sea vegetables are also highly recommended, such as the following:
Since the macrobiotic diet avoids dairy products at all costs, make sure to include some non-dairy foods fortified with vitamin D and calcium in your diet. Both almond and soy milk are great examples of this.
It may seem strange, but this diet tries to reduce fruits as much as possible—especially bananas and pineapples, which are considered tropical fruits. Otherwise, snacking on your favorite fruit is fine as long as you don’t eat them more than 3 times per week.
Fermented foods, like tempeh and pickled vegetables, provide the body with probiotics that aid in the digestive process. They also help flush out toxins from the body.
There are certain oils and condiments you can add to food to enhance their cooking and taste. These include the following:
• Sesame oil
• Corn oil
• Sea salt
• Brown rice vinegar
• Brown rice syrup
• Vegetable both
What NOT to Eat
Since the whole point of following the macrobiotic diet is to stay away from certain foods and beverages that cause an imbalance between the yin and yang—which will lead to many health problems and a weakened immune system—it makes sense that you are advised to stay away from a number of foods.
Here’s a list of what to avoid:
• Dairy; milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ghee, ice-cream
• Processed foods
• Tropical fruits
• Spicy foods
• Strong alcoholic beverages
• Refined sugars; white and brown
• Artificial sweeteners
• Fruit juice
• Refined oils
• White rice and flour
• Foods with dyes, preservatives, insecticides and chemicals
Loaded with nutrients and low in calories, the macrobiotic diet is one of the most balanced diets out there. Since this diet is based on beans, vegetables and whole grains, many experts believe it improves both mental and physical health and prevents disease.
There’s no tangible proof that this diet treats or prevents diseases, but there are studies that have been carried out that show how eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to many positive things, including the following:
• Decreased risk of diseases
• Lowered risk of heart disease
• Lowered risk of cancer
• Reduced blood pressure
• Lowered levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol
• Balanced cholesterol levels in the blood
• Benefits for diabetics because it limits sugary and fatty foods
The main goal of the macrobiotic lifestyle is to lower the negative effects of certain foods while increasing the positive. If you also make sure that you include a regular workout routine, you will have a balanced, well-adjusted lifestyle.
You might also be interested in reading about some of our other featured diets.
About The Whole30 Diet
About The Weight Watchers Diet
About The Engine 2 Diet
About The Flat Belly Diet
About The Raw Food Diet
About The Ornish Diet
About The Volumetrics Diet
About The MIND Diet
About The Macrobiotic Diet
About The SparkPeople Diet
About The HMR Diet