Following a Macrobiotic diet is different from many other popular diets because its focus is not entirely on weight loss. Instead, it involves a combination of Buddhist spirituality and certain dietary principles in order to achieve balance and harmony, enhance physical and spiritual health, and promote longevity.
Founded by Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, the Macrobiotic diet aims to avoid certain products that can be considered toxins to the body, especially meats and animal products, instead focusing on increasing the intake of locally grown foods and whole grains.
His philosophy was ‘to eat a simple, healthy, balanced diet in harmony with nature’. Introduced in the United States in the 1960's, the diet popularized in the 1970’s by one of his pupils Michio Kushi (Founder of Erewhon) and the 1980's after Anthony Sattilaro's publication on self-healing prostate cancer. Without sufficient evidence that the diet can prevent and cure diseases, other research notes the diet may promote health benefits such as lowering risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
How it works: The Macrobiotic diet is said to vary greatly from one person to the next, largely due to geographical factors and differing life circumstances.
The specifics of the diet are said to be based on the Chinese principle of balance known as yin and yang, and the majority of one’s focus should remain on foods that are the closest to being in balance, such as whole grains. The Macrobiotic diet prioritizes plant foods over animal products, and meats are typically avoided as much as possible.
A general guideline to the Macrobiotic diet is as follows:
- 40-60% well-chewed, whole cereal grains, such as brown rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, etc.
- 25-30% vegetables, preferably locally grown
- 5-10% beans and legumes
- 5% soup, preferably miso
- 5% sea vegetables, such a seaweed
- 5% processed foods
The diet is typically prepared with specific tools made with materials such as glass, wood, or stainless steel and avoids the use of microwaves or electricity. Another integral part of the diet is mindful eating. This is accomplished by chewing food at least fifty times as a standard. Other contributions to the diet include healthy exercise and meditation. It is not recommended for pregnant women or children as it may not provide protein and nutrients necessary for growth.
Benefits: According to many practitioners of the Macrobiotic diet, there are anti-inflammatory properties that can work to prevent against chronic diseases and promote longevity.
In addition, the increased intake in non-processed foods leads to better nutritional choices and can have a positive impact on overall health due to the increased focus on nutrient-dense foods like whole grains and vegetables.
But the main benefit of the Macrobiotic diet is its purported impact on spiritual health. Those who follow the diet are meant to find better balance, not only nutritionally, but internally and spiritually as well.