The macrobiotic diet may be used in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
What is a Macrobiotic Diet?
The macrobiotic diet is for weight loss and “achieving balance”. It consists mainly of vegetables, whole grains, and beans. It can be a vegan diet, although some people may include (fresh) seafood and fish. Most of the diet contains whole grains, such as oats, corn, brown rice, and barley. About a third of the diet is meant for “locally grown vegetables”, and the rest is for beans, tempeh, sea vegetables, miso, or tofu. Pickles, nuts, rice syrup, and “locally grown fruit” are also allowed in this diet. Macrobiotic proponents avoid most meats, eggs, dairy, poultry, refined sugars, and processed foods. This diet also discourages fruit juice, tropical fruits, and even certain vegetables, such as eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, and asparagus. Spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and soda are not included the macrobiotic diet.1 The macrobiotic “approach” isn’t just a diet as much as an overall philosophy of eating “whole, ‘living’ foods that (put) you in harmony with the world around you”. Weight loss can be achieved, and there are potential cardiovascular benefits, such as lowered triglycerides and cholesterol, due to the high fiber and low saturated fats. It may also help in controlling diabetes. For those who don’t eat fish, and for those who don’t get enough sunshine, it is important to make sure that enough B-12 and vitamin D are consumed.2 The philosophy behind the macrobiotic approach is the belief that food affects “health, well-being, and happiness”. Japanese macrobiotics focuses on the yin and yang (balance), where foods “have both properties, with one dominating”. Yang is hot, heavy, and dense, whereas yin is diffuse, light, and cold. Macrobiotic foods have the yin and yang most in balance. Nightshade vegetables are generally avoided on the macrobiotic diet because they are too yin and contain “the alkaloid solanine, thought to affect calcium balance…inflammation (and) osteoporosis”. Nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Beets, spinach, and avocados are also considered “extremely yin”, and are also avoided or used very little.3
Macrobiotic Diet in CAM
Aside from seeking weight loss, those following the macrobiotic approach look to the diet as incorporating “physical, spiritual, and planetary health”. It is a high fiber, low-fat, diet, with soy phytoestrogens. Some people eat meat, but this diet can also be practiced in a vegetarian or vegan manner. There are claims that the macrobiotic has a role in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in fighting cancer. In addition, the phytoestrogens may help to “balance female hormones” in order to prevent endometriosis and breast cancer, as well as the symptoms of PMS and menopause.4 There are particular ways to cook and consume food in a macrobiotic diet. Only certain materials are allowed in cooking, such as enamel, ceramic, wood, glass, and stainless steel. Microwaves are not generally used. Food is chewed thoroughly, as well. The macrobiotic approach is considered part of a spiritual and philosophical system. The American Cancer Society notes that while “there have been no randomized clinical studies published” to show that the diet cures or prevents cancer, they do “recommend eating…vegetables and fruit, choosing whole grains over processed and refined foods, and limiting red meats and animal fats”.5
Learn more about the foods in a vegan diet.