Macrobiotic diet

Health Hub staff
Monday, January 3, 2011
Grains. Image: Getty
The macrobiotic diet emphasises wholegrains, and these should make up 60 percent of most meals.
Health Hub staff
What is the macrobiotic diet?
The original macrobiotic diet was invented by a Japanese man, and it had incremental steps in it, the last being to eat only brown rice and water. As most people would agree that this is not a healthy diet, modern-day devotees such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna have embraced a modern-day version of it that includes fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and soy products. The key is high-fibre and low-fat.

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How would I follow a diet like this?
The macrobiotic diet emphasises wholegrains, and these should make up 60 percent of most meals — foods like barley, brown rice and rye. Added to this are plenty of vegetables, some raw and some cooked (30 percent). A couple of bowls of soy-based soup add to the mix (think miso), as do cooked beans or tofu products. Occasionally, a couple of times a week you can eat fish or seafood, but these should be eaten with wasabi (Japanese horseradish), ginger or mustard to help you "detoxify" from them. Nuts and seeds can also be eaten from time to time — but don't be under the illusion that you can down a bag of salted, roasted peanuts. You can't.

Can I eat dessert?
It depends on what your definition of dessert is. Unfortunately processed foods are out altogether, as is chocolate or even carob. You can have fruit such as apples, pears, melons and grapes a couple of times a week though. Better kiss that cheesecake goodbye.

What can't I eat?
Meat, processed foods, dairy products, eggs, sugar, poultry products and fried items (though pan-frying in a little sesame oil is okay).

Is the diet healthy?
In some ways a macrobiotic diet can be very healthy, making the most of low-fat and high-fibre foods such as beans and vegetables. It certainly won't harm you to include more of these items in your diet. Many nutritionists believe, however, that the diet is too low in calcium, iron, protein, magnesium and B group vitamins, leaving you feeling pale, lacklustre and generally in need of more energy.

Will being macrobiotic help me to lose weight?
Some experts suggest that the low-sugar nature of the diet means that there are fewer insulin surges in the body, which can eventually make you put on weight. Certainly Gwyneth and Madge don’t have an inch of spare flesh on them, but then not many people in Hollywood do and they're not all on a macrobiotic diet.

One problem with "going macrobiotic" is that the diet is quite restrictive and this may make you more likely to stop following it closely in the medium to long-term, no matter what its effects. Also, no diet is a miracle worker — coupled with what you eat is the need to do regular physical activity. Although the truth is boring and very unsexy, it is the only way to lose weight on a long-term basis. Roll out your yoga mats and get going.

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