What is a macrobiotic diet?
At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans must be individualized and take the whole person into account. Before starting a new diet plan, consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.
The macrobiotic diet is a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that is said to boost health and promote longevity. It focuses on whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. While many follow the diet to promote physical health, it is also said to improve spiritual health and have a positive effect on the environment.
George Osawa, a Japanese teacher, originally developed the macrobiotic diet in the 1920s. The diet became popular during the 1970s by Michio Kushi, who was a student at Osawa and founder of Erewhon Natural Foods and the former Kushi Institute. The word “macrobiotic” is originally Greek and translated as “long life.”
Many macrobiotic dieters follow an individualized meal plan based on factors such as climate, season, age, gender, activity and health needs. The idea is to find balance by eating the foods your body needs. The macrobiotic diet combats acidic foods (such as refined grains) with alkaline foods (vegetables and legumes), for example.
Although it is designed to be a lifelong diet, the limitations and challenges of a macrobiotic diet can be very difficult for many people to maintain in the long term. The Best Diets of 2020 ranks the United States and the World Report the macrobiotic diet 24th in the best diets overall and gives it an overall score of 2.9 / 5.1 Learn more about the benefits of this eating plan and whether it is a healthy choice for you.
What do the experts say
“The macrobiotic diet focuses on achieving a balance between yin and yang and encourages grains, vegetables, beans, and seaweed. These foods provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, experts warn about the dangers of nutrient deficiencies from eliminating other healthy foods.”
—- Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH
What can you eat?
The macrobiotic diet, which is low in fat and high in fiber, emphasizes choosing plant-based foods over animal products and processed foods. The Osawa version of the macrobiotic diet included 10 restrictive, progressive stages, with the final stage consisting solely of brown rice and water. However, this dangerous approach is no longer recommended by most proponents of the diet.
It’s important to avoid processed foods as much as possible and stick to whole foods on a macrobiotic diet – preferably organic and sweetened, whenever possible. Proponents say the use of low-fat cooking methods, especially water-based methods such as steaming or boiling.
Following a strict macrobiotic diet they only cook in stainless steel, enamel, wood, glass, or ceramic cookware, and avoid cooking with electricity (such as microwaves or electric ranges), although it is not necessary for everyone to adhere to these restrictions and still benefit .
What you need to know
The macrobiotic diet is about balancing yourself with the natural world, so it is important that you work with it easily and learn recipes that you will enjoy. “It took me three years to go from binge-eating to macrobiotics to eating three macro meals a day – happily and consistently,” says Jessica Porter, author of The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics.
Porter encourages experimentation with the macrobiotic diet. “Learn about the effects different foods have on you. Maybe you need Twinkie’s hangover to really appreciate brown rice humming. By doing this research, your body will start choosing what it prefers in the long term,” she says.
The key to the macrobiotic diet is to eat only two or three times a day and stop before feeling full. When you eat, it is important to slow down and eat vigilantly, which will help prevent overeating. Porter says chewing every bite of food well will also aid in the digestive process.
“Complex carbohydrates (like whole grains) need a specific enzyme in your saliva for it to be fully absorbed,” says Porter. She suggests trying to chew each bite 50 to 100 times. If this sounds daunting, start with 20 to 30 times per mouth and build from there.
What do you want to eat
Some spices and seasonings
Water and some tea
What not to eat
Meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products
Fish and seafood (excess)
Most sugars and sweeteners
Seeds and nuts (excess)
Alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and sweetened beverages
In most cases, whole grains like brown rice, barley, buckwheat, and millet make up about 50-60% of each serving. Additionally, flour-based products such as pasta and bread can sometimes be eaten as part of a macrobiotic diet.
Vegetables typically make up 25-30% of the daily food intake in a macrobiotic diet, and up to a third of your total vegetable intake can be raw. Otherwise, the vegetables should be steamed, boiled, baked or sautéed. Some proponents of the diet recommend avoiding potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, spinach, beets, and zucchini, although they are not banned entirely.
Beans make up about 10% of the macrobiotic diet. This includes soy, which can be eaten in the form of products like tofu, tempeh, and natto.
A macrobiotic diet involves consuming one to two cups or bowls of soup each day. In most cases, diet practitioners choose soy-based soups such as miso.
People who follow the macrobiotic diet generally use unrefined vegetable oil for cooking and dark sesame oil for flavor. The diet also allows light sesame oil, corn oil, and mustard seed oil.
Spices and seasonings
To add flavor to food, people who follow a macrobiotic diet tend to use sea salt, shoyu, brown rice vinegar, ombushi vinegar, omboshi peach, grated ginger root, fermented pickles, gomassio (roasted sesame seeds), roasted seaweed, and chopped green onion. .
Besides high-quality spring or well water, the macrobiotic diet includes roasted kokicha tea, stem tea, roasted brown rice tea, roasted barley tea, and dandelion root tea. Alcohol, caffeinated and sweetened drinks are not recommended.
While meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are usually avoided in the macrobiotic diet, a small amount of fish or seafood is usually consumed several times per week. Fish and seafood are usually eaten with horseradish, wasabi, ginger, mustard, or grated daikon.
The local fruit can be eaten several times a week on the macrobiotic diet. This may include apples, pears, peaches, apricots, grapes, berries, and melons. Tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, and papaya are usually avoided (unless you live in the tropics).
Seeds and nuts
The seeds and nuts can be lightly roasted and seasoned with sea salt or shoyu. Nuts and seeds are calorie-dense, containing 150 to 200 calories per 1 ounce. It can be easy to overdo it without realizing it. A 1-ounce serving is roughly 1/4 cup.
Sugars and sweeteners
Naturally sweet foods (such as apples, squash, azuki beans, and dried fruits) make good macrobiotic desserts. Avoid sugar, honey, molasses, chocolate and carob. Try rice syrup, malt barley, and amazaki (a sweet rice drink) instead.
Shopping List Form
Sticking closely with a macrobiotic diet can be difficult, in part, because it’s hard to decide which foods are right for you. And once you do, some of these foods can be very expensive and difficult to obtain. The following shopping list provides suggestions for starting the macrobiotic diet. Note that this is not a final shopping list, and you may find other foods better suited to your tastes and preferences.
Whole grains (brown rice, barley, buckwheat)
Dark leafy and cruciferous vegetables (kale, bok choy, seaweed, broccoli, cauliflower, lotus root)
Fruit (apples, pears, peaches, berries, grapes, and melons)
Bean products (soybeans, natto, azuki beans, tempeh)
Fish (halibut, haddock, herring, trout, scent)
Unrefined vegetable oils (light sesame oil, corn oil, mustard seed oil)
Spices and condiments (miso paste, ombushi vinegar, omboshi peach, ginger root, fermented pickles, roasted seaweed, sesame seeds)
Tea (roasted barley, brown rice, and dandelion root)
Sample meal plan
Meals on a macrobiotic diet can take a long time to prepare. The following three-day meal plan offers suggestions for starting the macrobiotic diet. You can choose to accompany your meals with water or tea.
Note that this plan is not exhaustive and does not adhere to some of the strictest diet-related cooking methods and includes minimally processed foods like tofu. If you choose to adopt a macrobiotic lifestyle, there may be other meals and preparation techniques that will work best for you.
Breakfast: a cup of miso soup cooked with dashi, a combo and half a cup of tofu.
Lunch: 1 1/2 cups steamed vegetables (cabbage, carrots, lotus roots); 1 cup barley 1/2 cup edamame
Dinner: 3 ounces of boiled halibut miso; 1/2 cup fried bok choy and oyster mushrooms
the second day
Breakfast: A cup of cooked buckwheat (“Kasha”) topped with a cup of mixed berries
Lunch: 1 cup of seaweed salad with pickled burdock root. 1/2 cup natto 1 cup brown rice
Dinner: Macrobiotic “Buddha Bowl” with tofu, azuki beans, seaweed, brown rice and vegetables
Breakfast: 1 cup of a delicious breakfast bowl with brown rice, avocado, seaweed, sprouts and soy sauce (eggs optional); 1/3 cup pickled vegetables
Lunch: 1 cup Kinberra gobo (quick-fried burdock root and carrots); 1 cup herring bean salad
Dinner: 1 cup of broccoli stir-fry (without sugar); 1/2 cup roasted tempeh