Macrobiotic diet – all you need to know!
I open my laptop, go to Google and type “best diet for loosing weight in one month”. Before I click ENTER or SEARCH, I just wait for a split of a second. I know deep within whether such a diet will help me or not! But, nevertheless I click and scan the search results. Read through thousands of scripts and articles and in the end tired I go to my snack shelf and munch on some goody in the first jar in the cabinet!
For how many of you this encounter was close enough? The internet is full of these diets and many more, don’t you think? But which one do you pick for yourself? Well, the wait ends soon.
Macrobiotic diets with its brown rice, sea vegetables, beans and yin yang philosophies have been around for quite a while now. The word macrobiotic diet comes from the word “macro”, which means long life. The diet is not just about your weight check, but it is more a way of life. It encourages eating regularly, staying active, chewing your food and maintaining a positive mental outlook. It also teaches us to consider the vicissitudes of life in order to become better human beings.
The macrobiotic first appeared around the end of last century, when a Japanese doctor, named George Ohsawa established the theory of nutrition based on the Oriental diet. Dr. Ohsawa believed that simplicity is the key to optimal health. The early macrobiotic diet suggested by him consisted only of eating brown rice and water. However, due to extreme restrictions, the counselors of the macrobiotic diet no longer recommend the diet.
The macrobiotic diet claims to prevent and cure several diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart diseases. Another aim of the macrobiotic diet is to balance the yin yang, the two complementary energy forms that are present in all foods, people and objects. The two forces must be well balanced in order to achieve health and vitality.
Theory of the Macrobiotic Diet:
The diet is based on the dietary principles of Buddhism, which is based on avoiding toxins that come from eating meat, dairy and oil foods. It emphasizes on fiber rich foods like whole grain, fruits and vegetables. The dietary guidelines of the macrobiotic diet should be individualized on factors like season, age, climate, gender, activity and health needs. However, you can tweak the guidelines according to individual needs.
Yin and Yang:
Yin yang is the basis of the macrobiotic diet. In Chinese philosophy, yin yang was used to describe how opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Most of the natural dualities like cold and hot, water and fire, male and female, light and dark are called as the physical manifestation of the yin and yang concept. It is believed that yin attracts the disease, while yang cures it.
Categories of Foods:
There are three main categories of foods:
1. Main foods:
Whole grains, vegetables and beans
2. Secondary foods:
Fruits, beverages, oil, seeds, nuts and fish
3. Pleasure foods:
Here you can eat whatever you want but in moderation.
Whole grains, beans and vegetables are the mainstay of this diet. The plan recommends eating two to three times a day and stop when you are full.
1. Whole grain:
Grains are the basis of macrobiotic meal. It should make up to 50 – 60% of the meal. Whole grain foods like rye, buckwheat, oats and barley are recommended in this diet. Noodles, oats, pastas, bread, baked goods and other flour products can be eaten occasionally only.
Vegetables constitute an important part of the macrobiotic meal. Cooked and raw vegetables should make up to 30% of the plate. Green leafy vegetables, tubers and seasonal vegetables are highly recommended. Sea vegetables like kelp, arame and Kombu are also healthy vegetable choices. Sea vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent part of the diet. One third of the total vegetable intake should be raw, while the rest should be steamed, boiled, sautéed and baked.
Beans and its products should make up to 10% of the daily meal. Fermented bean products like tempeh, tofu and miso should be consumed while following the macrobiotic diet. Tofu and tempeh contain natural probiotics that aid in digestion.
Fruits are not recommended too much in the macrobiotic diet. You can consume them for an evening snack or dessert, but not as a meal substitute. Local fruits like apples, grapes, apricots, melon and berries can be consumed 3 times a week. Tropical fruits like papaya, banana and pineapple should be avoided.
Soup is a very important part of a well-balanced macrobiotic diet. Miso, vegetables and grain soups are the ideal options. Drink one to two bowls of soup every day while following this diet.
6. Seeds and nuts:
Seeds and nuts must be consumed in moderation. The nuts should be lightly roasted to release the essential fats from them.
Sesame and olive oil are best for dressing the salads. Corn, dark sesame, refined and mustard oil are recommended for cooking, Sea salt, grated ginger roots, fermented pickles, roasted seaweed, sliced scallions, brown rice, vinegar, tahini, vegetable broth and dried mushrooms can be used to flavor the dishes.
A small amount of fish and seafood can be consumed, but only 1 to 3 times a week. Fish and seafood should be ideally prepared with wasabi, ginger and mustard to detoxify the body from the effects of fish and seafood.
9. Whole foods:
Whole foods form one of the most important parts of macrobiotic diet. The less processed food, the better they are. The macrobiotic diet believes that eating whole foods will give your body its ideal yin yang needed.
Desserts are permitted but in moderation. You should not consume more than 2 to 3 servings a week. People who are sick and ailing should avoid consuming desserts. Natural sweeteners like rice syrup, barley malt can be used, but honey, molasses, carob, chocolate should be avoided. Emphasize more on naturally sweet foods like dried fruits, fruits and adzuki beans to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The dieters are supposed to drink only when they feel thirsty. Beverages like soda, coffee and alcohol are strictly prohibited. You can drink lemon water and herbal tea to improve the hydration levels.
Foods to be Avoided:
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, cream, ghee, yogurt and ice cream
- Poultry and red meat
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fruit juice
- Refined oil
- White rice and flour
- Foods that contain dyes, insecticides, preservatives and chemicals
Rules of the Macrobiotic Diet:
- Enjoy what you eat and savor every morsel
- Eat seasonal and local foods in high quantities
- Avoid dietary extremes
- Chewing the food at least 50 times
- Expressing gratitude for the food before you eat is also necessary
Baking, steaming and broiling are the common methods of cooking. Avoid cooking food in pans, utensils and pan from naturally occurring materials like glass. Pots and pans made from materials like stainless steel, ceramic, wood and enameled pieces should be used.
Regular exercise is highly encouraged in this diet. Try to perform 30 minutes of exercise daily in order to obtain maximum benefits.
Pros of the Macrobiotic Diet:
1. Hormonal benefits:
The macrobiotic diet is low in saturated fats and high in phytoestrogen, which balances the female hormones. This helps with menopause, premenstrual syndrome and prevention against breast cancer.
2. Weight loss:
Macrobiotic diet lacks clinical research to support its weight loss potential. However, its ban on processed foods and emphasis on healthy and filling whole grains, vegetables and beans is very likely to yield weight loss. Eating fewer calories than the daily-recommended amount will also prevent weight gain.
3. Cardiovascular benefits:
The macrobiotic diet is likely to give cardiovascular benefits as well. Researchers have shown its positive effects on triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood. Macrobiotic diet is extremely low in calories and high in fiber, which helps to keep the cholesterol and blood pressure in check, thereby keeping heart disease at bay.
Obesity is one the most common causes of type 2 diabetes. The macrobiotic diet helps to lose weight and prevent weight rebound. A study has also found that a macrobiotic diet can significantly lower the levels of a 1C, a measure of blood sugar control.
Cons of the macrobiotic diet:
- The diet is too restrictive and lacks in certain nutrients like Vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin D. Vitamins B 12 is commonly found in animal products like fish and shellfish, which is restricted in this diet. The main sources of vitamin D are dairy and red meat, which are prohibited in the micronutrient diet.
- It may lead to lack of energy due to restricted protein consumption.
- Children, pregnant and lactating women should avoid following this diet.
- Relying on this treatment alone for cancer can have serious health consequences.
- The macrobiotic diet is quite difficult to follow. You have to cook in the macrobiotic friendly way, which involves rejecting microwave ovens and using macrobiotic diet friendly utensils.
Scientific researchers do not support the claims made by the macrobiotic diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is associated with general health benefits and reduced possibility of diseases and cancer. The phytoestrogen content provided by this diet reduces the risk of estrogen related cancer, especially breast cancer.
However, unplanned macrobiotic diet can lead to poor nutrition. The earlier versions of this diet have also posed a danger to life. The current version advocates flexibility, but still discourages meat, refined sugar and dairy product consumption.
People suffering from serious medical conditions like AIDS and cancer should seek proper medical advice before going ahead with this diet or any other diet. Do not try this diet just because it claims to cure several diseases.
Make right and timely decisions before the lack of nutrients and vitamins affects your health. After all, everything we eat is for good health. We hope this article provided you with amazing insights about Macrobiotic diet. Share your thoughts with us and we shall keep you posted with more inputs.