List of foods, benefits and more

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The macrobiotic diet is a strict diet that claims to reduce toxins. This involves eating whole grains and vegetables and avoiding foods high in fat, salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients.

Although the diet is promoted as a complementary therapy for some cancers, there are no scientific evidence proving its anti-cancer benefits. Preliminary research indicates can promote blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes and may reduce inflammation.

Despite the lack of proven benefits, the diet is rich in nutrient-dense foods, so it may be healthy for some people if followed correctly. Like any restrictive diet, it can be difficult to stick to and lead to nutritional deficiencies or eating disorders.

Read on to learn more about how the diet works, the foods it contains, its risks and benefits, and more.

In the 1920s, Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa developed the macrobiotic diet. It is a high-fiber, high-complex carbohydrate, low-fat diet that emphasizes whole grains and vegetables.

The diet encourages the consumption of unprocessed, organic, and locally grown foods. It discourages the consumption of high fat, processed, salty and sugary foods.

This is part of Ohsawa’s macrobiotic philosophy which understand:

  • avoid consumption of food additives
  • avoid exposure to pesticides and electromagnetic radiation
  • exercise regularly
  • avoiding the use of nutritional supplements
  • prepare food using glass, wooden, enamel or steel utensils and pans

Foods in the macrobiotic diet include:

  • Whole grains. About 50% of the diet includes whole grains, such as:
  • Vegetables and seaweed. About 25-33% of the diet consists of vegetables, such as:
  • Legumes. This category represents 5-10% of the diet and includes foods such as:
    • Lenses
    • adzuki beans
    • Chickpeas
  • Various foods. About 5-20% of the diet may include:
    • fruit
    • White fish
    • seeds
    • nuts
    • miso soup

The diet advises against eating processed foods and animal products. Foods to Avoid include:

  • Meat
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • refined sugar
  • animal fats
  • artificial sweeteners or chemical additives
  • Genetically modified food

People who follow a diet low in fat and low in animal products, such as the macrobiotic diet, may have lower cholesterol levels. It could help reduce the risk of heart disease and other medical conditions.

However, people can get these benefits by eating a nutritious and balanced diet. They do not need to follow very restrictive diets, such as the macrobiotic diet, to reduce the risk of disease.

Some studies have investigated the effects of the macrobiotic diet on cancer and diabetes.

Cancer

According to a 2015 study, many elements of the macrobiotic diet have been associated with reduced inflammation compared to a standard American diet. This can reduce the risk of cancer. However, this has not been proven.

The only evidence that the macrobiotic diet may offer an effective alternative cancer therapy comes from anecdotal reports, notes the NCI. It should not be used as a replacement for cancer treatment.

Due to limited research, the NCI says it cannot draw conclusions about the diet’s effectiveness as a complementary therapy.

Type 2 diabetes

A 2015 study reviewed research comparing the effects of various diets on people with diabetes.

The results suggest that Mediterranean, vegetarian and low-calorie diets can help manage type 2 diabetes. However, short- and medium-term clinical trials have indicated that the macrobiotic diet produced faster blood sugar control.

Benefits included:

  • reduce cholesterol
  • blood sugar improvement
  • increased sensitivity to insulin, which helps cells absorb sugar from the blood
  • decrease in blood pressure
  • reduced body weight

It is important to note that research has only shown these improvements in the short to medium term. Researchers don’t know if it’s effective for the long-term management of type 2 diabetes.

A person who strictly follows the macrobiotic diet does not eat animal products, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. The American Institute for Cancer Research warns that the diet may result in low intake of:

  • protein
  • calcium
  • the iron
  • Vitamin D
  • vitamin B12

To prevent deficiencies, those interested in following the diet can consult with a registered dietitian.

Additionally, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) notes that many foods included in the diet are relatively low in calories. Over time, a person who eats this way may lose weight, which may not align with their health goals.

The diet can also be difficult to follow and socially restrictive, so people may find it difficult to eat meals with family and friends while sticking to their diet.

The macrobiotic diet is rich in nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, which are important for health.

It is also rich in natural compounds found in plant foods called phytonutrients. these can offer a variety of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving immune function.

According to CRUK, the diet is healthy if people follow it in moderation.

A macrobiotic diet focuses on foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables.

Although anecdotal reports suggest it may reduce cancer research, there is no evidence for this. Because it is a restrictive diet, following the macrobiotic diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

If a person wishes to follow the diet, they may benefit from consulting a registered dietitian.


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