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Macrobiotic Diet 101 | Everything you need to know about macrobiotics!

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Everything you need to know about the macrobiotic diet + macro recipes on Gourmandelle.com

As you may have heard, 10 days ago I started the Ohsawa diet in order to cleanse and purify my body. I needed it badly..I was super cranky all the time, over-stressed and everything annoyed me. So, I thought a good detox will cure all that.

I heard about the Ohsawa diet and decided to give it a try. Of course, I was a bit skeptical at first as I never considered cereals to be that good for your health and I was actually afraid I’ll gain weight by eating all those carbs. Well, I was wrong. I lost 4kg. I had 57kg when I started this and now I have 53kg. For a long time I wanted to achieve this weight goal but as I told you before, diets aren’t really my thing. I didn’t even put an effort to it. I heard that the Ohsawa diet is great because it also helps you achieve the ideal weight. For example, if you are overweight you can actally lose up to 1kg each day until you have a normal weight, If you have a normal weight you will maintain it and if you are underweight you’ll actually gain weight. The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to starve yourself. You can eat as much as you need. You’ll feel full after small portions anyway.

The 10-days Ohsawa diet is hard to keep at first. You have to eat only cereals, like brown rice, whole wheat, millet and buckwheat, for 10 days. You’ll crave other stuff too. For example, I craved fruits and veggies the first days but managed to keep the diet until the end. The cravings will disappear after the 3rd day or so.

I decided to begin a macrobiotic diet, actually more like a macrobiotic lifestyle. I think it’s a wonderful diet and I really believe in its principles. I also found so many great macrobiotic recipes and I was amazed by how delicious they look. I can’t wait to give them a try. Now that I’ve shared with you my Ohsawa experience (which I strongly recommend!!) I will also tell you everything you need to know about how to begin a macrobiotic lifestyle.

A little bit of history

The macrobiotic diet first appeared around the end of the last century, when a Japanese army doctor (Sagen Ishizuka) established a theory of nutrition and medicine based on the traditional Oriental diet. He suffered from multiple illnesses and studied both Western and Eastern medicine. He then complied the information and his conclusions in two books Chemical Theory of Longevity and Diet For Health. Ishizuka criticized the adoption of the Western modern medicine and nutrition principles, and strongly recommended the Japanese traditional diet – whole, unrefined foods, with almost no animal foods.

Suffering multiple “incurable” diseases from a young age, George Ohsawa learned about the macrobiotic diet from two of Mr. Ishizuka’s disciples and managed to completely restore his health. He then wrote more than 300 books and articles about the macrobiotic diet. 

Macrobiotic diet basics

The word macrobiotic comes from “macro” which means big and “bios” which means “life”. So,  macrobiotics can be also called the art of a great life. Macrobiotics is not actually a diet and it’s more a way of life. It includes also the spiritual part of living and it teaches us to see the bigger picture, to consider the ups and downs in life as gifts given to us in order to become better beings.

One of the important nutrition principles in the macrobiotic diet involves consuming foods that are rich in nutrients and have balanced yin/yang properties. The macrobiotic diet contains foods like whole grains, beans and bean products (like tofu), organic vegetables (local and in season), soups, sea vegetables, desserts (sweetened with rice syrup, barley malt, fruit and sometimes maple syrup), a little fish, a little fruit, pickles, condiments, nuts, seeds and non aromatic teas. However, having a macrobiotic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’ll never eat chocolate again or never have a margarita! :) Of course you can have a nice slice of chocolate cake from time to time or indulge yourself with a delicious alcoholic cocktail. The important thing is to always remember that moderation is key. 

The macrobiotic meal

1. Grains. Grains are the basis of a macrobiotic meal. Grains should make up 50-60% of your meal. Brown and wild rice, barley, millet, whole wheat etc. are recommended.

2. Vegetables. Veggies are the next most important part of your macro meal. Cooked and raw veggies should make up at least 30% of your plate. Leafy greens are strongly recommended (except spinach which is very yang and should be ocassionally consumed). Local and in season veggies are also preferred. When eating you’ll have to keep in mind the yin/yang properties of certain vegetables. This is not hard to learn.

3. Beans. Beans, especially fermented bean products like tempeh and miso are important to your meal. Beans should be about 10% of your meal. Tempeh, whole beans or legumes like lentils, chickpeas and more should be on your plate. Tofu is also a good choice as it contans natural probiotics and aids digestion.

4. Fruit. This may be a shock to you but actually fruits should rarely be eaten in a macro diet. They’re perfect as snacks or desserts but should not be eaten more than 3 times a week. Tropical foods, like bananas or pineapple, should be avoided.

5. Sea Vegetables (Seaweeds). Another important part to your macro meal would be are sea veggies. Dulse, kelp, kombu, arame and more are healthy choices for your meal. Sea veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals and excellent for health.

6. Soup. Soups are a very important part of a well-balanced macro diet and should be eaten daily. Soups that contain grains, veggies, sea veggies and beans are an ideal macro meal in a bowl. Miso soups are pretty popular.

7. Fermented Foods. Tempeh is ideal but you can also try pickled veggies which bring lots of good probiotics in your diet.

8. Condiments/Oils. Oils like sesame oil and corn oil are the best (be careful, corn oil mustn’t be GMO) Miso paste, sea salt, brown rice vinegar, tamari, tahini, brown rice syrup, veggie broth, dried mushrooms etc. are also welcome.

9. Fish. The macrobiotic diet allows you to eat white meat fish 1-3 times a week. Of course, if you are vegan or vegetarian you can just skip it, it will not affect the diet in any way.

10. Whole Foods. The less processed foods are, the better. This is one of the most important principles in the macro diet.

Macrobiotic Diet Food Pyramid Gourmandelle.com

For a better understanding of the macrobiotic diet, here are the three categories of macro foods, from most frequent to less frequent.

1. Main foods: whole grains, veggies, beans

2. Secondary foods: fruits, beverages (teas, veggie juices), oils, nuts, seeds, fish

3. Pleasure foods: Eat whatever you want, with moderation.

Best to avoid foods

  • Any food containing white, brown, or any other refined sugar
  • Artifficial sweeteners
  • Fruit juice
  • Milk, cheese, cream, butter, ghee, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Refined oils
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Heavy use of spices
  • White rice and white flour
  • Foods containing chemicals, preservatives, dyes, and insecticides 

Here is a list with Yin and Yang foods. As stated above, it is best to consume foods that have a balanced Yin/Yang energy. Extreme and very Yin and Yang foods should be avoided. Yin and Yang Food Chart

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang Balance

Yin and Yang are at the base of the macrobiotic diet. As Wiki says, in Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as female and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, life and death and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept.

In the macrobiotic diet, it is believed that if we eat foods that are whole, local and in season, our bodies will get the ideal yin and yang needed. It is also encouraged not to eat foods that are either too yin or too yang as it may perturbate our inner balance. The perfect foods to consume are the ones which have a good yin/yang balance. Yin attracts disease; a body with too much yin energy is an ill body. Yang on the other way cures disease but is interrelated with the yin energy of the body. A balanced body is a healthy one.

The real life pyramid 

Macrobiotic nutrition principles

  • Enjoy eating and be thankful for your meals.
  • Eat seasonal and local foods.
  • Be mindful of quantity and quality.
  • Avoid dietary extremes.
  • Chew your food thoroughly.
  • Reduce the volume of what you eat. 

Macrobiotic lifestyle principles

  • Be generous..
  • Be responsible and admit faults.
  • Discover life via personal experience.
  • Develop your intuition.
  • Be friendly.
  • Respect all living beings.
  • Be mindful of ecology.
  • Practice economy of life.
  • Have sense of humor.
  • Practice self-reflection.
  • Perfect the art of living.

 Macrobiotic Recipes on my blog

I recently created a new PinBoard on Pinterest with macrobiotic recipes. There are so many delicious and healthy macro meals you can try. Take a look and if you want, follow me in order to receive more yummy macro recipes.

Macrobiotic Recipes PinBoard

Macrobiotic recipes Pinterest Board Gourmandelle

Download >>> Free Macrobiotic Meal Plans

Books and Ebooks

I strongly recommend you to read these books. I absolutely loved them and I think they’re very useful if you want to start a macro diet.

The first book you should read is Zen Macrobiotics by George Ohsawa.  It is very easy to understand and you’ll love the way it is written. It offers you the basic knowledge you need in order to change your diet.

The second book I recommend is The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health: A Complete Guide to Naturally Preventing and Relieving More Than 200 Chronic Conditions and Disorders by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack. This one is very useful if you want to treat existing illnesses.

And last but not least, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford, which is more like an encyclopedia rather than a simple book. I LOVE it! It offers absolutely everything you need to know about healthy eating, whole foods and more. It is golden! I haven’t finished reading it all yet. It’s that kind of book you’ll get back to everytime you want to know somethng.

Free ebooks:

Macrobiotica Zen – George Ohsawa (romanian)

Kushi Macrobiotic Dietary Recommendations (english) 

Books:

Macro Blogs I Like

(I will update this list everytime I find a new blog. Suggestions are very appreciated!)

She Cooks Macro

The MacroChef

Food Products Recommendations

Vegis

Look forward to reading your comments and your opinions on this! Also, if you have tried macrobiotics before please share your story with us! Thanks!! 

Cooksnaps
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About Ruxandra

Freelance graphic/web designer and architecture student with a passion for nutrition, healthy eating and blogging. | Studenta la arhitectura si web designer cu o pasiune pentru nutritie, alimentatie sanatoasa si blogging.

29 comments

  1. Hi. Do you have any suggestions for someone like me who is allergic to most grains. They all pose a problem for me. Quinoa is ok but I dont digest it well. Thanks for input:)

  2. Do you have any suggestions for me? I want to follow this way of life. But I cross react to most grains as if they’re gluten. Do I just up the veggies and beans?

    • Hi Angie!

      I am gluten intolerant too, so I don’t eat any cereals containing gluten. However, I keep a mostly vegan diet with macrobiotic principles.

      Are you able to eat grains like millet or rice? These two are my favorite grains I eat. I also eat quinoa and certified gluten-free oats. Other than this, I try to eat as many root veggies and greens as I can (these are very recommended in the macro diet). I also try to eat fermented foods daily (pickles, pickled veggies, tofu sometimes, etc.). All the other macro principles apply.

      Don’t worry about not eating other cereals such as wheat, barley or rye. These are actually pretty poor in nutrients compared to the other gluten-free grains you can eat.

      Hope this helps! If you have any other questions, let me know!

      Hugs! :)

      • Sorry I ju st seen your reply. I cant tolerate rice. They cross react with gluten for me. I stay hungry trying to get enough calories from veggies. No fruit either here during to the sugar issues. Thanks for responding!

        • Hi Angie,

          Sorry for the late response. My advice for you is to try a grain-free macro diet then. Eliminate all grains, but follow the rest of the principles. Eat lots of fermented foods daily and have a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet. Also eat lots of root veggies, beans, legumes and greens. How’s millet for you? If it’s ok, you can include millet in your diet too.

          Hope this helps! :) Let me know if you have any other questions. I will gladly answer.

  3. Thank you for writing this article. I use to follow a macrobiotic way of eating, as I was constantly struggling between an overly yang and then ying eating patterns. When I ate in this more centered and cleaner way of eating and stuck to it most of the time, I felt much more centered and at peace with myself physically and mentally. I am definitely going to give your program a try and get back to a more balanced state of being. Thanks again!

    • Hi Margie!

      Exactly! That’s the way I feel too when eating macro foods. This diet balances your energies and makes you feel Zen :P I’m so glad the macro diet helps you too.

  4. I’ve been eating in the yin style for 4 years now and have heard that you can become to yin. I believe this is starting to happen. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Brandy,

      I incorporate macro principles in my diet, but I cannot say I am fully macrobiotic. As I understood, it is not recommended to eat only yin foods or only yang foods. The macro way is the balanced way. More balanced yin/yang foods are recommended in this diet.

      Yes, you probably are to yin now. You should eat strong yang foods for a while and then switch to a macrobiotic diet, which in fact is a yin/yang balanced diet.

      Hope you’ll feel better!

  5. Hi – loved this article – very helpful. For the 10 day detox where all you ate were whole grains can I ask: how much and how often did you eat? Did you calorie count at all? Thanks – I want to give this a go but I want to do it right and have all the facts first!! :)

    • Thank you Ellie!

      I ate as much as I needed. You’ll see that you’ll feel full with very little amounts of food, that’s because the cereals contain lots of fibers. I didn’t count calories. The calorie intake is relatively low anyway. I’ve tried this detox 2 times now. I recently discovered I am gluten intolerant, so the second time I ate only the GF cereals. I would recommend you to avoid wheat and eat only the other GF cereals, like rice, millet or buckwheat. You can also eat GF oats. That’s just a personal suggestion of course. :)

      Hope this helps. Keep me updated on the detox process! :D

  6. I’ve been looking all over the internet for a good explanation and introduction to Macrobiotic diet and lifestyle, this is exactly what I was looking for! I’m sold, can’t wait to start trying it! Thanks so much, saving this in my favorites for reference.

  7. Macrobiotic products are enriched with nutrients and which we get from nature. But still people loves to eat junk food which can harm their body . So, be conscious about your diet and eat the organic food. We can also eat Non-veg but that should be roasted. Include some liquid like soups in your daily diet plan.

    • Thanks for your tips Ashley! Soups are a bit problematic for me..I know I should eat miso soups but I really don’t like miso paste. I think I’ll just stick to my creamy veggie soups :D

  8. its wonderful to see the interest and experimentation you are doing it was a great site thankyou Claire.

  9. I was pretty pleased to find this site. I wanted
    to thank you for your time for this fantastic read! I definitely liked every bit of it Very nice article I am glad I found this info on the net and I will tweet this on my social network.

  10. Very nice, simple explanation and presentation of basic Macrobiotics…very well done!

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