Macrobiotic Diet: Definition, Benefits & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Some diets are definitely better for you than others. Is the macrobiotic diet one of them? Is there any science to back up this diet's claims? Find out what the macrobiotic diet is about in this lesson.

What is a Macrobiotic Diet?

What if you could eat your way out of cancer and heart disease? Would you?

Well, there is a predominantly vegetarian, whole foods diet mixed with some Far Eastern philosophy about the balancing energies of yin and yang that supposedly can cure or prevent cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, and plenty of other ailments. It's called the macrobiotic diet. The term is derived from the Greek macros, meaning large, and bios, meaning life.

There's a lot more to this diet, including the way you should grow and cook your food as well as how you should eat it and the outlook and attitudes you should have on food itself. However, this lesson's focus is on the potential benefits of the macrobiotic diet and some examples of its main ingredients.

The Benefits of a Macrobiotic Diet

Proponents of the macrobiotic diet claim many benefits. The most famous one is that sticking to this diet can prevent or treat cancer. Another claim is that it can prevent or treat heart disease. The man who is credited with the modern practices of a macrobiotic diet, George Ohsawa, was a Japanese writer and lecturer who lived from 1893 to 1966. He claimed such a diet cured him of tuberculosis, a pulmonary disease caused by an infectious bacterium.

George Ohsawa, 1920
George Ohsawa

Other claims include a reduction in high blood pressure or cholesterol, and the prevention of diabetes.

Are these statements actually backed up by science? Well, yes and no. The non-nutritional aspects of the macrobiotic diet, such as cooking with gas instead of electricity, have no medical proof when it comes to such actions preventing or curing any disease. Claims of this diet treating cancer or beating back infectious diseases have not been backed up by science either. Claims that poultry may make a person irritable, while seeds make someone's voice pleasant, are also unsupported by science.

However, science does have plenty of evidence that shows that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in meat, which is what part of the macrobiotic diet is all about, can indeed help lower the chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other serious problems.

Examples of a Macrobiotic Diet

Some examples of what a person on a macrobiotic diet may eat include:

  • Beans
  • Whole grains such as brown rice
  • Vegetables, including sea vegetables like seaweed
  • Fruits, especially if they are organic and locally grown
  • Nuts and seeds
  • On occasion, fish

What a person should definitely avoid when on a macrobiotic diet includes:

  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Processed foods
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined salt
  • Coffee or caffeine in general

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