What Is the Macrobiotic Diet? A Holistic Health Coach Weighs In

Updated 05/06/19
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It seems like there are always different terms, new tools, and up-and-coming ingredients to know about on the food front. And while all of it can be enticing—after all, who doesn't want to have a pantry worthy of Food 52—it can also be overwhelming. That's why we're particularly intrigued by the latest trend of macrobiotic diets. It sounds like some complicated meal plan, but really, its guidelines are straightforward. In fact, if you have been following other diets like Whole30, you probably already have a few components.

"Supporters of the macrobiotic diet believe that whole foods grown without pesticides contain energy," says Jessica Rosen, a certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation. "That energy is transferred to our bodies when we eat it. Factors like where the food was grown and how it was handled affect the food's energy, which in turn affects us when we eat it."

A macrobiotic diet comes down to three rules, Rosen says. Followers eat in moderation, choose locally grown ingredients that are in season, and refrain from consuming meat. "The majority of this high-fiber diet consists of plant-based foods with the only animal-based foods coming from fish and shellfish," she continues. "The premise of this diet was derived from Zen Buddhism and aims to balance the 'yin' and 'yang' of foods to produce balance in the body. It consists of eating primarily vegetables, whole grains, beans, and small amounts of wild-caught fish, fruit, and nuts."

In order to make this diet as easy to understand as possible, here's what you should keep in mind.

what is the macrobiotic diet
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Yin Foods

"Yin foods are said to be 'passive' and include cold foods and sweets," Rosen says. Examples of yin foods include soy products, crab, fruit, and vegetables. Rosen specifically recommends watermelon, star fruit, tofu, watercress, cucumbers, and cabbage for this category. 

Yang Foods

"Yang foods, on the other hand, are more 'aggressive,' like warm and salty foods," she says. Rosen says that foods high in fat, protein, sodium, and calories are best, and that warm spices like nutmeg and ginger fall into this category, too. "Rice, sesame oil, bamboo, and mushrooms" are also considered yang items to cook with, she says.  

what is the macrobiotic diet
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Proportions

Rosen notes that you should maintain a certain proportion as you eat throughout the day. A macrobiotic diet consists of "at least 50% complex carbohydrates, 15% to 30% healthy fats, and 10% to 20% proteins," she says.

She also recommends that you eat in short windows of time, such as limiting your breakfast to a few minutes a day, to get your body on a regimented schedule. "This is something that should be tested, and ideally should be shortened slowly until you find a window of time that works with your lifestyle," she says.

what is the macrobiotic diet
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What to Expect

As you can tell, this diet is mostly vegetarian, and dairy, poultry, and processed foods aren't a part of it. Rosen also lists spicy foods, refined sugar, and fruit juices as part of the no-go category, too. That can be tough to give up, and it may even be hard for some to physically digest this new routine. But for those who can try it, Rosen offers up its benefits. 

"It is high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and because there are no refined sugars or processed foods, you don't get the insulin roller-coaster effect you would get with simple carbohydrates," she says. "And some say they feel more balanced when combining the yin and yang foods together."

what is the macrobiotic diet
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How to Get Started

Rosen says that you should always do your own research before embarking on a new diet. "I highly recommend looking up macrobiotic recipes to see if the meals look appetizing and will fit into your lifestyle," she says.

"If it looks like something you want to try, start out with replacing one meal a day with a macrobiotic meal. Remember, slow and steady wins the race! If you slowly incorporate one meal a day, then two meals a day, then shorten your eating window, you will probably have more success than if you make all the changes in one big leap," Rosen notes.

Up next: This is the most popular Whole30 recipe on Pinterest (200,000 saves and counting). 

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