The macrobiotic diet was developed by George Ohsawa in Japan. Michio Kushi, a Japanese-American who wrote many books on the health benefits of the diet, is responsible for bringing the macrobiotic diet to the United States. Although it was very popular in the 1970s, it has gone in and out of fashion over the years. It is a mostly vegan, high complex carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Because the founders of macrobiotics are Japanese, many of the foods included in the diet may be unfamiliar to those used to a typical American diet.
Eating a diet that is based on seasonal foods, produced without hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, artificial flavors and colors is one of the many principles of the macrobiotic diet. It is a mostly vegan diet based on eating whole, unprocessed foods. A standard macrobiotic diet is composed of 40 to 60 percent whole grains, 20 to 30 percent vegetables, and 5 to 10 percent beans and sea vegetables. Whole grains such as brown rice, millet, whole oats and quinoa are eaten daily. Vegetables can come from leafy greens such as kale and collard greens, root vegetables such as burdock root and carrots, and other vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. Sea vegetables such as hijiki, nori and dulse are also consumed daily as condiments and in soups. Beans such as lentils, edamame, black beans and aduki beans are eaten with grains to form a complete protein. Condiments such as sea salt, soy sauce and tamari are allowed. Vegetables can be dressed with sesame oil or sauteed in olive oil.
Foods To Eat Occasionally
Foods that are allowed weekly or occasionally include fish and seafood, fruits, seeds and nuts. Desserts made from whole-grain flour such as stone-ground wheat and sweetened with apple butter, fruit juice or barley malt are also allowed on occasion. Cereals such as oatmeal and whole-grain, juice-sweetened granola can be enjoyed occasionally. Fruits should be seasonal and fish should be mostly wild-caught.
Foods to Avoid
Red meat, poultry and eggs are avoided or eaten very rarely on a macrobiotic diet. Also, coffee, alcohol, chocolate, tropical fruits, hot spices, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors are completely avoided. Since the diet requires eating fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, canned foods and packaged foods are also avoided.
Benefits and Risks
While there are many claims that a macrobiotic diet can cure and prevent cancer, there is no scientific data to support this. Because the diet is mostly a vegan diet, people with high cholesterol would likely benefit. Also, because the diet is restrictive in variety, weight loss may result. Eliminating all processed foods, alcohol, sugars, and artificial colors is something that most people would benefit from. A macrobiotic diet may not be advisable for children and teens according to research from the American Society of Clinical Nutrition. The diet poses a risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency for children.
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