The Macrobiotic Diet

The Macrobiotic Diet

The Macrobiotic Diet is a powerful and effective way of life.  There have been many, many people that have said they have been “cured” of so many ailments, including various forms of cancer.  The reason for this is because this “diet” balances the body and makes the blood more alkaline, which does not leave a room for disease.  The macrobiotic diet focuses on foods typically lacking in most American diets and creates a perfect and needed balance.

Today, the Macrobiotic Diet is now considered a Japanese diet based on a Scholar by the name of George Ohsawa.  This diet is based on a Buddhist philosophy of Yin & Yang, balancing opposites and that health was the key to peace. The two who are credited with the popularity in the United States are Herman Aihara and Michio Kushi!  By returning to a traditional diet of whole, natural foods, the belief is that humanity would regain its physical and mental balance, and become more peaceful.

A macrobiotic diet is a life philosophy that not only incorporates a natural, organic, and plant-based diet (mostly), but takes all aspects of life into account including: season, climate, ancestry, activity, traditions, and personality.

“Incorrect dietary practice lies behind virtually every problem we might encounter…” (Kushi).  Foods are classified into yin (expansive) and yang, (contractive).  Foods are also paired based on their sour, sharp, salty, sweet, or bitter characteristics.  The Yin foods are cold, sweet, and passive, while the yang foods are hot, salty, and aggressive. (Zelman).  Food has an energy field, and that food expands or contracts, heats or cools, acidifies or alkalinizes (Colbin).

There are Seven (7) Macrobiotic Principles, by Herman Aihara: (Colbin)

1)    Ecology, eating naturally cultivated, unsprayed, locally grown foods

2)    Economy of Life: Eating whole foods.  Avoiding partial, refined & processed foodstuffs (which technically includes even products like wheat germ, bran or vitamins).

3)    The Yin-Yang Principle: The theory of balancing opposites

4)    Art of Living: To be responsible for our own life and health, which is always changing, and which we must always be ready to change and adapt; flexibility. Aihara states “No absolute rules exist”

5)    Appreciation or gratitude: This is the root of freedom and happiness.

6)    Faith: Having faith in the wisdom of nature because the balancing of opposites manifests itself as universal justice.

7)    To live in the Order of Nature and the enjoyment of life.

They are categorized as follows:

Expansive, Cooling Contractive, Warming
salad Grains
fruit Beans
apple juice baked, deep-fried foods
lightly steamed foods salty condiments (miso, tamari, etc)
oil broiled, baked fish
seaweeds Tempeh
raw, steamed fish
Alkalizing Acid-forming
vegetables grains, flour
sea vegetables Beans
salt, condiments Oil

A breakdown of a typical Macrobiotic diet is as follows:

  • Whole grains, especially brown rice: 50%-60%
  • Vegetables : 25%-30%
  • Sea vegetables 2-4%
  • Beans: 5%-10%
  • Fish, fruit (cooked), nuts, seeds, miso soup (soy): 5%-20%
  • Soup (made from ingredients above): 1-2 cups/day
  • Unrefined oils
  • Fish 1-2x/week.

The Macrobiotic Diet forbids processed foods, most meats, dairy, coffees, aromatic tea (including even chamomile and mint), alcohol, chocolate, refined flour, refined sugar (sugar, honey, corn syrup, sugar substitutes), tropical fruits, very hot spices, chemicals, preservatives, artificial additives, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers), canned & frozen foods. Excluded foods are considered to be extreme, over stimulating, or too concentrated and therefore not capable of achieving balance. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not suggested.

This meal of whole grains, beans, soy products and fresh vegetables is very similar to a vegetarian plan, but it also consists of a small amount of fish, and a small amount of nuts, seeds, and fruits.  One must eat locally grown foods, in their natural state, selected, cooked, cut and seasoned in a certain way…

Other components to the program are to keep balance in your life by: living happily, keeping active, expressing gratitude, chewing well, and ‘early to bed, early to rise’.  Also, avoid synthetic clothing, aluminum, Teflon and microwave ovens. (Colbin). Eating natural food, closer to the earth, brings about a healthier “body and soul” Zelman writes in an article on WebMD. “One of the objectives is to become more sensitive to the food you eat and how it affects your life” she says, which “will enhance your life and health.”

Adopting the macrobiotic diet takes a great deal of dedication and commitment, and it requires a major lifestyle change, that may not be for everyone…. however once a person is committed to this way of life, they tend to maintain this throughout their days with possible variation as they regain health. This diet can be very restrictive, almost “alien” in some cases.  It may seem unrealistic, limiting even fruits.

Additionally, a person may be inclined to consume too much salt, miso, shoyu, tamari, spices, and grain, and not fish, beans, and vegetables, which would cause a condition of over-acidity and minor protein deficiency (Colbin). Also, it could cause over eating from a “reaction-craving” standpoint.  Some women have gained weight on this “diet”.  Also, some men have lost too much weight and are constantly hungry because they don’t metabolize the grain protein and nutrients well enough.   

There is a very high success rate of achieving balance and overall health through the Macrobiotics way of life. The benefits are that this diet is a very alkalizing diet that balances the body and soul.  It considers individual circumstances and eating within your environment.  It tends to be nerve-calming and provides energy and balance. Many have reported a feeling of a “new, holistic view of life” after consuming whole foods.  Most notably, the disappearance of multiple illnesses.

The macrobiotic diet is low in fat, high in fiber and rich in phytoestrogens.  However potential nutritional deficiencies can occur – “Nutrients of concern are vitamins D and B12, iron, protein, and calcium if you are not careful,” as stated in the WebMD article (Zelman).  Whenever you eliminate food groups, it can create deficiencies and affect your health. Her advice: Good nutrition should be considered first, before balancing for yin and yang.

The cost of food is moderate.  It is not overly expensive.  Beans, grains & local fruits are fairly inexpensive.  Seaweeds, fish and soy products can be a little more.  Overall however, organic costs more.

Extreme behavior can cause “everything turns into its opposite” (Colbin, Pg 130) – even balance needs balance!  If this diet becomes too contractive, then use this diet as a basis and add in other more realistic foods.  If this diet is being used strictly for a specific aliment, then it should be followed exactly for best results.   Listen to your body, it knows.


Food and Healing, Annemarie Colbin, 64-66; 125-131

Macrobiotic Diet Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Guide to Standard Macrobiotic Diet, Michio Kushi (1995)

Michio (

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