With so many diets out there, it may seem like the macrobiotic diet is just another trendy diet. The reality is, however, that the macrobiotic diet has actually been around for decades, dating back to the ’60s.
Macrobiotic Diet Plan
The macrobiotic diet plan, not to be confused with the macro diet, is holistic in its theory and concept, encouraging followers to eat mindfully, slowly, and maintain overall clean eating habits and a clean lifestyle.
People following the macrobiotic diet plan are encouraged to pay attention to the quality of their food, choosing organic and locally grown foods. When eating, they are told to chew their food very well before swallowing. They’re also recommended to stay active and move throughout the day and keep an overall zen outlook on life.
Many people have been drawn to the macrobiotic diet plan for its all-encompassing approach to being healthy and creating a balanced life. Weight loss and cancer prevention are also two of the common reasons an individual might decide to follow a macrobiotic diet, although there is no scientific evidence to back up the diet’s effects on preventing cancer.
The diet can seem simple enough to follow, but in reality, a macrobiotic diet plan can require some serious effort to adhere to because of its specific rules. Not only that, but the macrobiotic diet plan can be restrictive since it eliminates certain foods from the diet.
Macrobiotic Diet Foods
In general, the macrobiotic diet plan suggests that the majority of the diet consist of whole grains such as brown rice, barley, millet, oats, and corn. This should make up about 50% to 60% of the diet, while another 20% to 30% should be made up of locally grown vegetables. The remaining 10% or so should be reserved for beans, tofu, tempeh, or miso.
Fish and seafood, as well as fresh fruits and nuts, can be enjoyed throughout the week, while rice syrup can occasionally be used as a natural sweetener.
Foods that you want to avoid on a macrobiotic diet include:
- Poultry and meats
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Fruit juice
- Tropical fruits
- Certain veggies like asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini
- Spicy ingredients (i.e. chili peppers)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Caffeinated beverages
Essentially, any food that is processed or refined should be avoided. While the diet is mostly plant-based in its approach, there are rules about how to prepare these plant-based foods, such as steaming and boiling foods vs. frying or sautéeing them in traditional cooking oils.
There are also some guidelines that the macrobiotic diet suggests in regards to eating, in general. For instance, individuals on the diet should only eat when they are hungry. They should ensure that they are relaxed and maintaining good posture when they’re eating, and they should chew properly (about 50 times per mouthful) for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
Macrobiotic Diet Benefits
While there isn’t any scientific proof that a macrobiotic diet can prevent or cure any diseases, individuals on a macrobiotic diet generally reap benefits similar to those offered by a plant-based diet or high-fiber diet.
For instance, because the macrobiotic diet restricts the consumption of animal products and animal fat, the macrobiotic diet can be a potentially helpful approach to preventing heart disease or high cholesterol.
The macrobiotic diet also restricts sugar consumption and places an emphasis on eating whole grains. This can be beneficial for some people who are managing diabetes and looking to avoid foods like white bread or pasta. That said, eating whole grains (vs. completely avoiding grains in all forms) may not be the best approach for all people managing diabetes, so it is advisable to consult a doctor before taking this approach for diabetes management.
Another proposed benefit of the macrobiotic diet is its potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer. While more evidence is needed to confirm this potential health benefit, the idea behind this suggestion is founded in the diet’s abundance of phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are natural chemical compounds in plants, and since the macrobiotic diet suggests eating a good portion of vegetables, it’s believed that the phytoestrogens from the veggies can help reduce the amount of estrogen circulating in some women’s blood, thereby reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Macrobiotic Diet Side Effects
While the macrobiotic proposes certain health benefits, many of these benefits are not scientifically backed up with sufficient evidence. Therefore, the benefits of this diet may not outweigh the cons of the diet, which is that it’s largely restrictive with what you can and cannot eat.
If you enjoy spicy food, a morning cup of coffee, or like to eat any of the food groups that are banned in this diet, you’ll probably feel deprived on a macrobiotic diet and be unlikely to stick to it.
Not only that but any diet that restricts certain food groups always brings up the possibility of developing nutritional deficiencies. While giving up sugar may not create a nutritional deficiency, the lack of animal products in the diet could mean you’re missing out on potential nutrients like protein, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
And while weight loss is always a possibility when you’re shifting to a mostly plant-based diet like the macrobiotic diet, it’s not guaranteed. It’s important to note that if you’re eliminating meat from your diet, you should be replacing that meat with vegetables rather than starchy carbs like rice, potatoes, and pasta, which can lead to weight gain.
Is the Macrobiotic Diet Right for You?
Whenever you are thinking about incorporating a new diet into your life, it’s important to discuss your health concerns and dietary approach with a medical professional. The macrobiotic diet is generally considered a complementary therapy for helping health conditions rather than a treatment or cure.
A macrobiotic diet can certainly help you clean up your diet with its high-fiber, low-sugar, no-processed food approach. The key is to plan your diet thoughtfully with nutritional needs in mind and ensure that you are obtaining necessary vitamins, minerals, and dietary components, such as protein, fat, and carbs through suitable alternatives.
Overall, if you maintain sufficient exercise, carry out a thoughtful and well-planned approach, and seek professional advisement, the macrobiotic diet may be the successful lifestyle change you’ve been looking for to become a healthier you.