The Macrobiotic Diet

The term macrobiotic is derived from the Greek words ‘makros" which means "large" and/or "long", and "bios" which means life. Thus, macrobiotics can be translated to "long life".

The Macrobiotic Diet was developed by George Ohsawa, a Japanese educator, who believes simplicity is the key to optimal health.

Ohsawa’s original Macrobiotic diet has 10 extremely restrictive stages (the final stage is composed only of brown rice and water). Due to its extremely restrictive nature, macrobiotic diet counselors no longer recommend Ohsawa’s version.

Michio Kushi exopanded Ohsawa’s theory and opened the Kushi Institute in Boston in 1978. He published many books on the subject and became responsible for spreading the macrobiotic diet theory in North America.

Why people follow the macrobiotic diet

People who are interested in this diet seek a healthy way of eating that integrates physical, spiritual and planetary health.

The macrobiotic diet is a predominantly vegetarian diet. It emphasizes whole grains and vegetables, thus it is low in fat and high in fiber. It’s also rich in phytoestrogens from soy products.

Low-fat, high fiber diets are usually recommended for cancer and other chronic diseases. Phytoestrogens in the diet may help protect and reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers such as breast cancer. Further research is needed, however, regarding the diet’s effectiveness in treating and/or preventing cancer.

People with cancer and AIDS, or other serious medical conditions should seek proper medical care and not rely on diets that they’ve heard can cure their disease. But research is needed to support such claims.

Macrobiotic Diet Guide:

Whole grains

– 50-60% of each meal.

– rice, whole wheat berries, barley, millet, rye, corn, buckwheat.

– flour products such as rolled oats, noodles, pasta, bread and baked goods can be eaten occasionally.

Vegetables

– 25-30% of each meal.

– up to 1/3 of vegetable intake can be raw.

– other vegetables may be sauteed, baked, boiled or steamed.

Soup

– 1-2 cups per day

– Commonly used soups are miso and shoyu which are made from fermented soybeans.

Beans

10% of daily food intake.

– beans may include tofu, tempeh and natto.

Animal products

small amounts of seafood may be eaten several times a week.

– meat, poultry, eggs and dairy are typically avoided.

– fish and seafood are eaten with horseradish, wasabi, ginger, mustard, or grated daikon to detoxify the body from the effects of fish and seafood.

Seeds and nuts

– seeds and nuts should be eaten in moderation. They may be lightly roasted with sea salt or shoyu.

Local fruits

– may be consumed several times a week.

– may include apples, pears, peaches, apricots, grapes, berries, melons

– tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple and papaya are usually avoided.

Desserts

– may be eaten about 2-3 times a week.

– people in good health can enjoy desserts.

– opt for naturally sweet foods such as apples, squash, adzuki beans, and dried fruit.

– if you must put sweeteners, opt for natural sweeteners such as rice syrup, barley malt, and amazake.

– avoid sugar, honey, molasses, chocolate, carob, and other sweeteners.

Cooking Oil

– One of the most common used oils is dark sesame oil.

– other oils that may be used are light sesame oil, corn oil, and mustard seed oil.

Condiments

– condiments that may be used include condiments and seasonings include natural sea salt, shoyu, brown rice vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, umeboshi plums, grated ginger root, fermented pickles, gomashio (roasted sesame seeds), roasted seaweed, and sliced scallions.

These guidelines however, are standardized. Macrobiotic diet guidelines may be individualized based on factors such as climate, season, age, gender, activity, and health needs.

Strengths of the Macrobiotic diet

The macrobiotic diet gives emphasis on eating foods that are not part of the typical North American such as high-fiber beans, whole grains and vegetables. It is low in meat, dairy products and sugar.

The diet is also low in saturated fat and high in phytoestrogens that experts believe can help balance female hormone levels, help with menopause, premenstrual syndrome, lower risks of breast cancer and endometriosis.

Precautions and possible side effects

Some nutritionist consider the macrobiotic diet to be too restrictive and lacking in essential nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Due to low meat content of diet, there may also be protein inadequacy which may lead to lack of energy.