The Macrobiotic Diet: Pros and Cons (2024)

The Macrobiotic Diet: Pros and Cons (1)Share on Pinterest

What is a macrobiotic diet?

Macrobiotics is a lifestyle stressing balance and harmony. It includes a rigorous diet plan, gentle exercise, and behavioral changes. All are geared towards obtaining a natural and calm way of life. Although no scientific evidence backs up the health claims associated with macrobiotics, many people report enhanced health and greater well-being when following its principles.

Some people turn to macrobiotic diets in pursuit of better health. Others try it when they have a diagnosis, such as heart disease, obesity, or premenstrual syndrome, in the hopes that macrobiotic eating will alleviate their symptoms and support recovery.

Macrobiotic eating places a strong focus on natural, organic food. It also advocates for complete elimination of chemicals and artificial ingredients. This no-chemical rule extends to personal hygiene products, as well as other products used in the home.

The types of foods allowed vary slightly depending on the person. Several factors determine what you eat, including your:

  • existing health issues
  • gender
  • age
  • geographic location

No scientific evidence or research suggests that macrobiotic eating can cure disease. However, macrobiotic eating may provide health benefits to some people when used as a complementary therapy.

The macrobiotic diet is largely vegetarian. It significantly limits animal fat. For this reason, it may be beneficial for people dealing with heart disease and high cholesterol.

Its emphasis on vegetables makes it high in phytoestrogens. These are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants. Phytoestrogens may help reduce circulating estrogen levels in some women. According to a 2001 study, this may reduce breast cancer risk. Updated research needs to be done to confirm or deny these findings.

Macrobiotic eating may also be beneficial for some people with diabetes. This is because it completely eliminates sugary foods and soda from the diet. This diet also puts a strong focus on high-carbohydrate whole grains. Although whole grains have less impact on blood sugar than processed carbohydrates, this may not be advisable for all people with diabetes. However, a 2014 study does confirm that a macrobiotic diet is more beneficial than a standard diet for people with diabetes.

Macrobiotic eating relies heavily upon consumption of whole, organic grains. Whole grains usually make up around 50 percent of each person’s daily food intake. Good examples are:

  • bulgur wheat
  • buckwheat
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • wild rice

Whole cereal grains are considered preferable to whole-grain pastas and breads. That said, these types of processed food are permissible in small quantities.

Certain vegetables locally grown and in season should make up approximately one-third of your daily food intake. Vegetables you can eat daily include:

  • kale
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • pumpkin
  • bok choy
  • onion
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • parsley
  • green cabbage

The rest of your daily food intake may include:

  • pickles
  • beans
  • soy products, such as miso
  • sea vegetables, such as seaweed
  • vegetable oil
  • natural seasonings, such as naturally processed sea salt

Food preparation techniques, including steaming or sautéing, are recommended.

Soup made of the following ingredients can also be a daily staple:

  • vegetables
  • lentils
  • seaweed
  • sea salt
  • soy products, such as tofu and miso

Some foods can be eaten occasionally, or a few times each week. These include:

  • organic tree fruit and berries
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • cucumbers
  • celery
  • lettuce

The following organic foods are meant to be eaten very rarely, or only a few times each month:

  • fish
  • seafood
  • dairy
  • eggs
  • poultry
  • meat

Foods to eliminate include:

  • certain vegetables, including potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes
  • caffeinated beverages
  • alcoholic beverages
  • processed foods, such as white bread and store-bought cakes and cookies
  • any food with artificial ingredients
  • sodas, both diet and regular
  • sugar and products containing sugar or corn syrup
  • molasses
  • vanilla
  • pork
  • tropical fruits, such as pineapples and mangos
  • hot, spicy food
  • seasonings, such as garlic and oregano

You should eat in a focused, thoughtful, and slow manner without distractions, such as the television. You should only eat food to satisfy hunger, and you should chew it many times until it’s nearly liquefied. You should drink water or other beverages, such as dandelion root tea, brown rice tea, and cereal grain coffee, only to satisfy thirst.


  1. Some may find this diet to be too restrictive.
  2. Many of the approved foods are high in salt.
  3. The diet is lacking in certain nutrients.

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Despite its potential benefits, macrobiotic eating isn’t right for everyone. If you love spicy food or can’t live without that first cup of coffee or occasional margarita, you might find the macrobiotic diet too restrictive. It’s also top-heavy in foods that are high in salt. This generally isn’t ideal for those with high blood pressure or kidney disease.

For some people, macrobiotic eating causes too high a reduction in body fat. Because the diet is low in animal fat, fruit, and dairy, it can provide too little:

  • protein
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • calcium
  • vitamins, including B-12

People who adhere stringently to macrobiotic eating often frown upon taking multivitamins to supplement this loss of nutrients.

Macrobiotics isn’t recommended as a substitute for medical care or traditional therapy for anyone dealing with a diagnosis, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

Before beginning a macrobiotic diet, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or a dietitian. If you do decide to try it, you may need to make some changes to your kitchen, including your refrigerator.

The way food is cooked and prepared, and the types of kitchen utensils used, are important. Cooking in microwave ovens or with electricity generally isn’t recommended. Macrobiotic cooking is meant to be a tranquil, soothing experience. It typically involves the use of:

  • natural, untreated wood
  • stainless steel
  • enamel and ceramic pots, pans, and cooking utensils

You should eliminate plastics from the kitchen and replace them with glass or stainless steel.

For those who can avoid nutritional deficiencies, macrobiotic eating can provide health benefits. You should never use it as a replacement for traditional medical treatments. People with specific medical conditions, such as cancer or obesity, should get a doctor’s approval before starting. Those who are simply interested in pursuing better health may also benefit from a doctor or dietitian’s input before starting.

Check out: 20 Healthy meals under 400 calories »

The Macrobiotic Diet: Pros and Cons (2024)


What are the cons of a macrobiotic diet? ›

Side effects

Strict diets such as macrobiotic or vegan diets do not contain dairy or animal products. This can stop you getting enough nutrients for your body to work properly. You can also lose a lot of weight. You might already be weak and underweight if you have cancer.

What are the benefits of the macrobiotic diet? ›

The macrobiotic diet, as its fellow plant-dependant diets, have shown to decrease the risk for heart, chronic and inflammatory diseases. Even though it is not its main goal, the macrobiotic diet could help you lose weight on the sole fact that processed and high fat meats are substituted by vegetables.

What nutrients does the macrobiotic diet lack? ›

Because the diet is low in animal fat, fruit, and dairy, it can provide too little:
  • protein.
  • iron.
  • magnesium.
  • calcium.
  • vitamins, including B-12.

Can you eat eggs on a macrobiotic diet? ›

Foods to avoid on a macrobiotic diet

dairy products. eggs. refined sugar. animal fats.

What are 3 disadvantages of the diet? ›

Biologically, dieting can lead to unhealthy changes in body composition, hormonal changes, reduced bone density, menstrual disturbances, and lower resting energy expenditure.

Does macrobiotic diet help lose weight? ›

If your goal is to lose weight, the macrobiotic diet will likely do the trick too, but don't get caught in the carb trap. Many people replace meat with carbs. Starchy carbs, like potatoes, rice, and pasta, are easy to overeat, packing on the calories and the pounds. Instead, reach for veggies in place of meat.

Can you drink coffee on a macrobiotic diet? ›

Vegetables and whole grains are the centerpiece of the macrobiotic diet. Most foods are processed very little, and eating dairy products, red meat, coffee, eggs, and sugar is discouraged. Vitamins and supplements are also discouraged.

Are bananas macrobiotic? ›

Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, asparagus, spinach, beets, zucchini, and avocados are examples of excluded vegetables. A macrobiotic diet also recommends consumption of locally-grown produce and avoidance of fruits that do not grow locally, such as bananas, pineapples and other tropical fruits.

What is the macrobiotic diet summary? ›

The standard macrobiotic diet avoids foods that include meat and poultry, animal fats (eg, lard and butter), eggs, dairy products, refined sugar, and foods containing artificial sweeteners or other chemical additives. All recommended foods are preferably organically grown and minimally processed.

Is macrobiotic diet anti-inflammatory? ›

However, its plant-focused nature offers anti-inflammatory benefits that may help lower the risk of chronic disease. Research also suggests that a macrobiotic regime may have a positive effect on heart health with studies reporting lower blood lipids and cholesterol plus benefits for managing blood pressure.

What is the main staple of macrobiotic diets? ›

The macrobiotic diet is based loosely on the traditional Japanese diet and it also supports a healthy lifestyle. Brown rice, vegetable soup, vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables are the staples of the diet.

Is peanut butter allowed on macrobiotic diet? ›

This is a toughie – the basic answer is YES, nut butters can be macrobiotic. But the caveat is that nuts (and nut butters) should be eaten in moderation: maybe 2-3 times a week.

What diet is Madonna on? ›

Pop icon Madonna also sticks to a macrobiotic diet on most days, incorporating beans, nuts and veggies like broccoli, kale, pumpkin, radishes and carrots.

Are potatoes macrobiotic? ›

Nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant; also, spinach, beets, and avocados, are not recommended or are used sparingly in macrobiotic cooking, as they are considered extremely yin.

What exercises are allowed on the macrobiotic diet? ›

Macrobiotic experts recommend including both cardio and yoga alongside your diet to experience total physical and spiritual well-being. Enjoy fresh and delicious healthy foods that work in harmony to make you feel immediately renewed and recharged.

What is the difference between Mediterranean diet vs macrobiotic? ›

Unlike the Mediterranean diet, macrobiotics, meaning great life, is considered more of a lifestyle than diet. It is a lifestyle because it uses healthy food choices to assist individuals with finding balance and harmony in their life.

Can you eat pasta on a macrobiotic diet? ›

A macrobiotic dinner should leave you feeling satisfied. As a result, dinner can be simple as a vegetable pasta dish. Or pasta dish with an additional vegetable dish, salad, soup, and/or dessert.

Is macrobiotic a fad diet? ›

The macrobiotic diet is a type of fad diet. Fish provides vitamin B12 in a macrobiotic diet, as bioavailable B12 analogues have not been established in any natural plant food, including sea vegetables, soya, fermented products, and algae.

Can you eat potatoes on a macrobiotic diet? ›

Some vegetables should be avoided: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers particularly for those who have arthritis. Turnips, carrots, celeriac, the large white Japanese radishes (daikon); all these are good. Winter squashes are excellent.

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