What It Is
A macrobiotic diet isn't simply a diet
plan. It's a way of life. If you're drawn to the concept of eating a
natural, organic, plant-based diet (with a little fish) and embrace a Zen-like
spirituality in both your life and food selections, then a macrobiotic diet may
be for you.
Originally from Japan, the principle behind the macrobiotic diet combines
tenets of Zen Buddhism with a Western-style vegetarian diet. Much more than a list of recommended
foods, it is all about a spiritualism that transcends lifestyle, attitude, and
diet practices. The word "macrobiotic" comes from the Greek and essentially
means "long life" or "great life."
The macrobiotic diet regimen supports an Eastern philosophy of balancing
foods to attain a balance of yin and yang. To achieve that balance, foods are
paired based on their sour, sharp, salty, sweet, or bitter characteristics.
Yin foods are cold, sweet, and passive while yang foods are hot, salty, and
aggressive. Some foods are prohibited because they contain toxins or fall
on the far end of the spectrum, making it difficult to achieve and respect a
Early versions of the macrobiotic diet included several stages that became
progressively more restrictive and ending with a diet of brown rice and water
-- considered the ultimate in yin and yang. Today, the Americanized version is
a modified vegetarian plan.
Although not scientifically proven, a macrobiotic diet of wholesome,
nutritious foods may protect against cancer and other chronic
What You Can Eat
Practitioners of the macrobiotic diet prefer locally grown, natural foods
prepared and eaten in the traditional manner, such as baking, boiling, and
steaming. Lots of grains, vegetables, beans, fermented soy, and soups
-- supplemented with small amounts of fish, nuts, seeds, and fruits -- are
the basis of the macrobiotic diet
menu. Other natural products, however, may be included to accommodate
individual needs or during dietary transition.
It is essentially a "flexitarian" diet
plan -- a mostly vegetarian diet that allows you to eat occasional meat or
fish -- with rules governing eating, cooking, and lifestyle practices such as
eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly.
Foods should be consumed in their most natural state and processed foods are
not recommended. Other excluded foods are fatty meats, most dairy, sugars,
coffee, caffeinated tea, stimulating beverages, alcohol, chocolate, refined
flour, very hot spices, chemicals and preservatives, poultry, potatoes, and
The diet also allows you to consume certain fruits
and vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in limited
quantities. Excluded foods are considered to be extreme, overstimulating, or
too concentrated and therefore not capable of achieving balance.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are frowned upon, yet seeking nutritional
balance may be impossible without them, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a
spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Consult a registered
dietitian to help you balance the yin-yang and nutritional completeness of your
plan. Otherwise you could end up with nutritional deficiencies," she
Here's a breakdown of a typical macrobiotic diet:
- Whole grains, especially brown rice: 50%-60%
- Vegetables (and seaweed): 25%-30%
- Beans: 5%-10%
- Fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, miso soup: 5%-20%
- Soup (made from ingredients above): 1-2 cups/day