Exploring the Macrobiotic Diet

The fourth installment of the series on eating patterns is about the Macrobiotic Diet. Last month, we explored the Paleo Diet and discussed avoiding grains, legumes and dairy. Ranked #27 out of 41 total diets in the U.S News Best Diet Rankings, the Macrobiotic Diet takes a more ‘personal’ approach to eating in an effort to potentially heal and prevent disease.

Macrobiotic Diet: This diet is a more ‘holistic’ way of eating, in which foods are thought to have energy, which can be affected by how and where it was grown, as well as how it was prepared. Individual dieters rely on what their bodies are ‘telling’ them to eat, but overall the diet is largely plant-based with an emphasis on balance, and whole, local foods.   For example, some dieters avoid using microwaves and instead only use cast-iron or other more ‘natural’ cookware and techniques. Also, dieters aim to balance high-sodium foods with high-potassium foods to negate the salt in their food (potassium helps rid the body of sodium), or perhaps combine acidic and less-acidic (alkaline) foods to achieve more balance in their diets.

Nutritional Considerations: The diet consists primarily of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and soy products. Smaller amounts of fish, nuts and seeds are allowed as well. There is a lot of flexibility to adjust within those foods, such as allowing for gluten-free or low-salt restrictions. Red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and processed foods are out. Anytime animal foods are avoided or limited, protein and B12 become considerations, but adequate amounts of each can be consumed with sufficient planning or supplementation. Soy is an excellent source of plant-based protein. Adequate fat may also be a concern, especially since it allows for optimal absorption of certain vitamins. Approved oils, such as olive oil, provide fat, as well as avocado, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters.

Target Audience: Those who feel their food choices have a strong ability to heal or prevent disease, and who are willing to eat a mostly plant-based diet. Adhering strictly to this diet will take increased time to plan and prepare foods, such as shopping at local farmers’ markets and using longer cooking methods (in some cases). Purchasing organic foods may be more expensive, but the increase should be balanced by a decrease in money spent on meat. Some seeking healing through food from serious illnesses, such as cancer, may try plant-based diets. Even obesity or diabetes can be improved by following this diet, as it’s made up of heart-healthy, high-fiber foods.

Foods to Highlight: When following this diet, be sure to meet your protein needs through legumes, soy and fish. Additionally, some whole grains, such as quinoa, are higher in protein than others. Tempeh, a fermented soy product, provides approximately 30 grams of protein per cup, which makes it an excellent source for those avoiding meat. Perhaps more so than foods, this diet highlights the mind-body connection to the diet, as well as how foods are prepared and even how many times they are chewed! (Some dieters believe increased chewing will lead to better digestion.) This diet is more of a lifestyle change than a change in only food.


Holly R. Layer is a Registered Dietitian and a freelance writer.  She teaches fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA and leads nutrition tours at the East Aurora Cooperative Market.  She lives in the village with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native. She blogs at www.thehealthypineapple.com. Questions can be emailed to Holly at eanews@eastaurorany.com. 

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