Macrobiotic Diet

Have you been keeping tabs on all the Hollywood diets lately? Ranging from the South Beach diet to the Atkins Diet, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of them all! You may also have heard about the Macrobiotic Diet, which has advocates including Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna. The macrobiotic diet is a very strict diet regimen, which can help you to lose weight quickly and achieve natural balance in your body. But what exactly does the diet involve? And is it safe to follow?

What is the Macrobiotic Diet?
The macrobiotic diet is part of an overall health and wellness philosophy originating in the Far East. It is believed to help men and women achieve a natural balance in their lives, allowing them to live longer and more actively. The term macrobiotics was first used by the Ancient Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, and literally means "great life." Proponents of the macrobiotic lifestyle emphasize living close to nature and consuming a simple and natural diet.

In the 1920s, the Japanese philosopher, George Ohsawa created the first macrobiotic diet. In an attempt to cure himself of disease, Ohsawa began consuming a strict diet, made up of brown rice, sea vegetables, and water. Ohsawa soon believed that this diet helped to cure him of his disease, and began creating ten different versions of his macrobiotic diet, which focused on consumption of whole grains, low-fat foods, and certain fruits and vegetables.

The Concept of Yin and Yang
George Ohsawa�s macrobiotic diet is based on the Japanese concept of yin and yang. This concept dictates that all parts of life are governed by two oppositional forces, known as yin and yang. In order to maintain a natural balance in life, these two forces must be kept in balance, particularly through diet.

The macrobiotic diet focuses on eliminating foods that have large amounts of either yin or yang in them, in favor of foods with more balanced levels of these two forces. All foods are classified according to their taste and texture: yin foods tend to be more sweet, while yang foods tend to be salty. Followers are then asked to eat only those foods that have the greatest balance of yin and yang.

What Foods Can You Eat on the Macrobiotic Diet?
The macrobiotic diet is easy to follow once you know exactly what you are allowed to eat. The diet divides daily intake into different food groups. You should eat more of some of these food groups than others:

  • Whole Grains: Whole grains make up between 50% and 60% of the macrobiotic diet. These are believed to have the best balance of yin and yang levels and include brown rice, barley, whole wheat, corn, and oats.
  • Vegetables: Raw and cooked vegetables comprise between 25% and 30% of daily intake on the macrobiotic diet. You should eat vegetables like cabbage, kale, collards, bok choy, and broccoli on a daily basis, while eating mushrooms and celery a few times a week.
  • Beans and Sea Vegetables: Beans, like lentils and chickpeas, and sea vegetables, like nori, can make up 5% to 10% of the macrobiotic diet.
  • Soups and Broths: Soups and broths that are bean or vegetable-based can also make up 5% to 10% of your daily macrobiotic diet.

Additionally, the macrobiotic diet allows you to eat small quantities of fish and seafood several times a week, and also permits a few servings of nuts per week. Moreover, the diet emphasizes the use of all natural foods that are locally grown.

What Foods Should You Avoid on the Macrobiotic Diet?
Unfortunately, many of those foods that you likely love are strictly forbidden on the macrobiotic diet. This is because they are too high in either yin or yang properties, and therefore will throw your natural balance off course. In particular, you should try to stay away from:

  • processed foods
  • refined foods (like sugar and white flour)
  • animal products, including red meat, poultry, dairy products, and cheese
  • chocolate
  • soda
  • caffeinated products (especially coffee)
  • tropical fruits

Health Benefits of the Macrobiotic Diet
There appear to be numerous health benefits that the macrobiotic diet can offer. When paired with a healthy fitness routine, the macrobiotic diet can help you to lose excess weight. And, because this diet focuses on foods that are low in saturated fats and high in fiber, it can also help you to lower your risk of:

There have also been some claims that the macrobiotic diet helps to improve symptoms of certain illnesses, including cancer and AIDs. However, these claims have yet to be scientifically proven.

Is the Macrobiotic Diet Safe?
Many nutritionists and health care providers express concerns over the macrobiotics diet, particularly if it is followed strictly. Extreme macrobiotic eating can be very low in calories, posing a risk for starvation. The diet is also very low in essential vitamins and minerals, including:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • vitamin D
  • the B vitamins

For this reason, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not follow a macrobiotic diet. Those who do choose to follow it should consult with their health care providers about taking additional nutrient supplements. They should also try to follow a moderated version of the diet, in order to be sure that they get all the calories and vitamins they need to maintain a healthy body.

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