The macrobiotic diet incorporates Zen principles into eating and offers a diet that not only povides food structure, but also guidance about attitude and lifestyle. It is based on a natural, organic philosophy and focuses on eating a plant-based diet that usually includes a minimal amount of fish. The diet originated in Japan and has undergone a few tweaks over the years to provide flexibility for regional, healthy eating.

The diet not only emphasizes certain foods to eat, it offers guidance for pairing those foods. This enables you to achieve a balance of yin and yang at every meal. Food pairings are designed based on characteristics of flavor, such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.

Originally, the goal of the macrobiotic diet was to eliminate foods a little at a time until only brown rice and water were left. The modern version of the diet is more well rounded and is very similar to a standard vegetarian diet. Some believe this plant-based method of eating reduces a persons risk for various health problems, including cancer.

What is Included in a Macrobiotic Diet?

The macrobiotic eating plan is sometimes called flexitarian because it is primarily vegetarian, but does permit an occasional serving of fish. Foods in the plan are locally grown whole foods. The macrobiotic diet is not a raw diet, but cooking methods are limited to steaming, boiling, or baking, and do not include grilling or frying.

The staples of the diet include vegetables, grains, beans, and fermented soy, which make up about 60 to 70% of the menu. Practitioners of the macrobiotic diet are encouraged to get about half of their daily intake of food from whole grains, especially brown rice. Nuts, fruits, seeds, and small amounts of fish are also included and account for up to 30% of the diet. Soups made from the ingredients listed above are also an important part of this diet and are recommended on a daily basis.

Foods not eaten on the diet include anything processed, meats high in saturated fat, most dairy, sugar, refined flour, poultry, potatoes, and chocolate. Caffeine, hot spices, and alcohol are also eliminated. Supplements may be necessary for some people, but in general are not encouraged on the diet unless absolutely necessary to achieve complete nutrition.

Goals of the Macrobiotic Diet

Advocates of this diet plan believe eating this way has a positive impact on health, mood, and overall well-being. Eating fewer processed foods and achieving balance in your diet certainly seems as if it would offer a number of health benefits. Practitioners also seek to become more sensitive to the food they are eating and be conscious of how it affects their lives.

Most health experts agree there are benefits to eating a macrobiotic diet. They believe eliminating processed foods, refined flour, sugar, and excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats has a positive effect on health. Medical studies also show that choosing plant-based foods over processed foods reduces a persons risk for various diseases. Western medicine does not consider a macrobiotic diet is a cure-all, but does recognize that it can be very beneficial.

Macrobiotic dieting has been promoted as a method for controlling the growth of and curing cancer, but there is limited scientific evidence supporting this claim. One medical study conducted at Columbia University in 2001 did note that women eating a macrobiotic diet had lower levels of circulating estrogen, indicating a decreased risk for breast cancer. The study concluded that eating a macrobiotic diet probably carries a reduced cancer risk, but was unable to draw a definitive conclusion about the diets ability to cure or prevent cancer entirely.