The macrobiotic diet that originated in Japan towards the end of last century is a type of diet that claims to bring a balance and harmony to life. The word macrobiotics is derived from the Greek words macro and bios, which means long life. In addition to cleansing and purifying your, body, this diet is believed to help you live a long life with optimal health. A macrobiotic diet is generally based on vegetarian food and largely consists of cereals, whole grains, and cooked vegetables. There are several extreme versions of this diet and many of them are no longer promoted. A macrobiotic diet is not just a diet but is a way of life. According to ancient Asian spiritual traditions, yin and yang are the two elementary and complementary forms of energy that are found in foods, people and all objects. A macrobiotic diet is thought to offer a balance to these energy forms, which is needed for obtaining great health and vigor.
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What does a macrobiotic meal consist of?
A macrobiotic diet includes a combination of basics of Buddhism and simple dietary principles that suggest avoiding the intake of certain food items that can bring about a toxic effect in your body. This diet involves eating foods that are highly rich in nutrients and help to balance the yin and yang energy forms. These foods consist of whole grains, rice, beans, bean products, sea vegetables, fruits, vegetables, soups, nuts, seeds etc. Given below is a list of the main foods that constitutes a macrobiotic diet.
Grains – Whole grains make up a majority of the foods in a macrobiotic diet. These grains may include brown rice, barley, millet, buckwheat, whole wheat berries, rye, corn, and other whole grains. Noodles, pasta, rolled oats, bread, and baked goods can also be eaten once in a while.
Vegetables – Vegetables constitute the next most important part of the macrobiotic diet. According to this diet plan, 25 to 30 percent of your daily intake of food should consist of raw (one third portion) or cooked (boiled, steamed, sautéed and baked) vegetables. Local and seasonal products and leafy vegetables except spinach are strongly recommended. Since spinach has more yang properties, it should only be consumed occasionally.
Fruits – Local fruits such as apples, apricots, berries, grapes, pears, peaches, melons, and other fruits are recommended to be eaten up to three times a week. Tropical fruits such as mango, banana, pineapple, and papaya should be avoided.
Beans – In a macrobiotic diet, beans constitute 10 percent of the daily food intake. This includes whole beans or legumes like lentils, chickpeas etc or bean products such as tempeh, tofu, miso, and natto.
Soup – Soups are considered to be a very important part of a macrobiotic diet and it is recommended that you take one to two bowls of soup daily. Although miso and shoyu soups are consumed commonly, soups containing veggies, sea veggies, grains, and beans are also perfect to be included in a well balanced diet.
Seeds and nuts – Nuts and seeds can be consumed after roasting and salting them. It is important not to take too much of nuts and seeds. Moderation is the key. It is recommended to take 1 to 2 cups per week of seeds like sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts like almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, etc.
Sea vegetables – Sea vegetables or sea weeds are yet another important part of the macrobiotic diet. These vegetables improve your health as they are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Kelp, kombu, dulse and arame are some of the healthy choices of sea vegetables that you can include in your diet.
Condiments and seasonings – This category includes shoyu,,natural sea salt, umeboshi vinegar, brown rice vinegar, grated ginger root, fermented pickles, roasted sesame seeds (gomasio), vegetable broth, tahini, tamari, sliced scallions, dried mushrooms and roasted seaweed.
Cooking oil – The most commonly used cooking oil is unrefined vegetable oil. Other choices of oils include dark sesame oil, light sesame oil, mustard seed oil and corn oil.
Fish – White meat fish can be incorporated one to three times per week in a macrobiotic diet
Health benefits of macrobiotic diet
Being a diet plan based on mostly healthy food items such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the macrobiotic diet is associated with many health benefits and a lower chance for several serious diseases. The following are some of the health benefits associated with eating a macrobiotic diet:
Macrobiotic diet keeps you healthy
A macrobiotic diet is believed to provide a cleansing effect by removing toxins and impurities from your body. It helps to maintain a proper pH, thus lowering the risks of unwanted inflammation and diseases. Being a nutrient rich diet that is high in fiber and low in fat, cholesterol, and sugars, this diet helps in preventing many serious health problems like obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, inflammation etc.
Macrobiotic diet aids in weight loss
Although clinical studies are lacking as to whether a macrobiotic diet can promote weight loss, the mere fact that this diet emphasizes on healthy foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and bean products makes it a potential weight loss diet. These are low fat, high fiber foods that do not add extra calories to your diet and hence prevent the storage of fat in your body.
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Macrobiotic diet for beautiful skin
Eating a well balanced diet is very important for keeping the skin healthy and beautiful. Macrobiotic diets include foods that maintain the proper balance of nutrients that is needed for the skin to remain healthy. This diet eliminates those kinds of foods that can cause allergic reactions and inflammation. The unsaturated oils from seeds, nuts, fish and good quality oils helps in improving the quality of the skin. Green leafy vegetables, fruits, vegetables, fish skins, and soya products are predominantly high in collagen, which is needed to keep your skin elastic and flexible with reduced sagging skin and appearance of wrinkles. Eating a macrobiotic diet ensures that your skin gets a steady supply the various nutrients needed for optimum health.
Macrobiotic diet and anti-aging effect
A macrobiotic diet slows down cellular aging by supplying your body with the essential macronutrients and keeping it healthy. Most of the foods recommended in this diet are rich in antioxidants that neutralize the oxidative stress caused by the free radicals, thus inhibiting the process of aging.
Macrobiotic diet improves digestive health
The high fiber content in almost all the foods recommended by the macrobiotic diet makes it ideal for enhancing your digestive health and preventing digestive disorders like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. A macrobiotic diet has been considered to preserve intestinal health by promoting the growth of gut friendly bacteria.
Macrobiotic diet solves hormones problems in women
As mentioned earlier, the macrobiotic diet is low in saturated fat and high in fiber content. It is also high in phytoestrogens, which are found to be helpful in balancing female hormones during menopause. These phytoestrogens also reduce the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and help in preventing endometriosis and breast cancer.
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Macrobiotic diet and cardiovascular benefits
Macrobiotic diets are low in saturated fat and high in fiber, and hence are considered to be a heart-healthy diet. According to one study, a macrobiotic diet might help in improving the ratio of HDL or good cholesterol to LDL or bad cholesterol. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have reported that a macrobiotic diet can significantly lower the cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as lower blood pressure.
Macrobiotic diet improves energy levels
Macrobiotic diet is based on foods such as whole grains and vegetables that are full of complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are absorbed slowly into your bloodstream, which reduces the immediate need for insulin. As a result your body gets increased energy that stays consistent for a long period of time.
Macrobiotic diet may prevent cancer
Since a macrobiotic diet emphasizes on nutrient-rich foods, it is considered to be beneficial in the prevention of cancer. This diet is high in phytoestrogens, which are plant derived estrogens that have the potential to reduce certain types of cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. High levels of estradiol have been associated with increased risks of breast cancer. According to a study published in the Journal Cancer Research, women who were on a macrobiotic diet had lower levels of estradiol in their bloods when compared to women who were on a typical American diet. Moreover, macrobiotic diet is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, which also helps in lowering the risk of cancer. This diet also restricts the intake of certain foods such as processed and refined foods, eggs, animal fats, and dairy products. Avoiding the consumption of such foods has been found to decrease the risk for cancers including colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer. Macrobiotic diet also focuses on natural organic foods which are safe from the exposure of pesticides.
People are always looking for healthy and natural ways to improve their life and overall well being. The macrobiotic diet is a low fat, low sugar and high fiber diet plan that mainly emphasize on the consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. It eliminates highly refined and processed foods and hence is a healthy way of eating. Not only does a macrobiotic diet change the way you eat, it changes the way you live.